Since I’ve been working at my new job at the Games Shop I’ve been trying to soak up as much information about games I am not so familiar with. It helps me do my job at a more competent level but it’s also rather fun, no real surprise there.
One of the events we regularly host is “Friday Night Magic” and I thought it was about time I actually learn how to play myself so that I could decipher the cryptic language and terminology the players used. I’ve been aware of Magic: The Gathering for many years but dared not step anywhere near it. It is a CCG (collectible card game) and those things are dangerous. Yes, I am fully aware that I spend a lot of money on small plastic figures but I justify that in the facts that A) I know exactly what I’m buying in each box unlike sealed CCG boosters where everything is pot luck and B) I enjoy the gluing/painting/gaming aspects of my models and I get many hours of use from them.
A few years ago I actually dabbled in the World of Warcraft CCG. I will admit that it was very good fun and the system seemed to work excellently. Then I learnt, as I’m sure many others have done before and since, that someone who spends a lot of money on cards usually has the upper hand. I had a couple of games where there was virtually nothing I could do to play competitively and it completely killed the game for me (it didn’t help that said opponent was a complete and utter jerk, but that’s a different story for another time). I decided there and then that CCG’s were dangerous ground and not for me.
A couple of weeks ago Zoso from Killed in a Smiling Accident invited us round for our usual gaming night. I borrowed a friends copy of Descent (which we didn’t end up playing due to my stupidly forgetting the starter quest guide) and some promotional starter decks of Magic, each pack full of 30 various cards and split into the 5 main colours/factions of the game. Luckily Master Tim VanHemlock used to play a bit of Magic in the past and did an excellent job of teaching us the ropes. Within a game or two we had picked up the system which speaks volumes about the essential simplicity of the system and Tim’s superb tutoring skills.
I can see how Magic can be such an addictive game to play as it is very enjoyable. The basic system is so quick to learn and makes sense within minutes, but building a deck that has great power and synergy takes things to a whole new level. I’ve actually recently downloaded the XBL Arcade version and have been having great fun with it, although it can be quite punishing at times for a noob like me.
I am all too aware of how collecting CCG’s can get out of hand and I’ve seen vast amounts of money spent by people whilst working at the Games Shop. I am very glad that my fellows in the gaming group are happy to stick to the promo decks and just play for fun and I think unless you are willing to spend a lot of money, then this is the best way to play these types of games.
I’ll end with a story my boss told me the other day. In the past he and his friends were doing something similar to our gaming group. A bunch of them all bought starter decks and a couple of boosters, swapping around cards to whoever would find them most useful. They’d have a game now and then and enjoyed it. Then one of the friends decided that this was not enough, rushed out and spent over a hundred pounds on boosters etc. He started winning games but then everyone decided to quit:
“But I’ve just spent all this money on boosters!?!”
“Exactly, and it’s not fun playing against you anymore.”