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What is a Living Card Game?
TCGplayer Staff

For the longest time, being a collectible card game meant the same old thing. You would release expansions every so often, and sell booster packs that included a random spatter of cards in that expansion at different rarities. Then you would release a couple starter packs to get the newbies into the game and call it a day. Booster and starter deck size might have varied depending on what game you were, but other than that, every game followed the same formula. Ever since the concept of the collectible card game was introduced in the early 90s this was just how the collectible card game world worked. If you wanted a specific card, you either bought it on the secondary market, or opened boosters until you found the card you wanted and no one thought to question this state of affairs.

Well now it's the year 2008, a new millennium, and certain card game companies are starting to think about collectible card games in a different way. Now, game companies are working on a collectible card game world where booster packs aren't needed, and where collecting works in an entirely different way. One of the recent pushes in this direction was the “Kilo” a massive card pack being introduced by Decipher for their new game Fight Klub, but in the end all this amounts to is a booster pack, but bigger. The first company, however, to truly do work on producing a format that breaks the booster pack mold is Fantasy Flight, creators of the “Living Card Game” a format that their popular products Call of Cthulhu and A Game of Thrones will be shifted into this year.

Living Card Games take what you know about traditional card games and turn them upside down. First of all, LCG starter boxes will contain a large assortment of cards pulling only from cards that have already been released. No new cards will be introduced in starter boxes, and the starter boxes themselves will be limited edition products meant more so for new players to get a head start into a game where their friends have already built up a collection.

Aside from this change in starter packs, booster packs and expansions will also be completely done away with. Instead of releasing massive expansions 3 or 4 times a year, living card games will feature monthly releases of “collector's packs”. Collector's packs feature a fixed and unchanging set of 40 cards each. The packs will include one each of 10 rare cards, and 3 each of10 common cards. The contents of each individual pack do not change so players will always know exactly what cards they are getting when they buy a Collector's pack. Packs will include new cards only, and will continue to be reprinted as long as the game is out. Every month a new pack will come out featuring another assortment of 10 rares and 10 commons.

Reactions to this new strategy of CCG development have been mixed. On one hand, the LCG format makes it much easier to find the exact cards you want. On the other hand, the lack of randomness in pack design makes it questionable as to whether or not the game is truly “collectible”. No matter what, if you need a certain card from a certain pack, you will buy either 4 if it is a rare or 2 if it is a common. This may lead to some card players paying significantly more for their decks than they normally would. In addition, this may adversely affect the secondary market reducing the play of supply and demand on certain powerful cards. Some gamers say that the LCG format will in fact destroy the secondary market, as game dealers will now always have to sell cards at a price less than the price of four “Collector's Packs”. This makes the prospect of powerful rare cards that sell for a high price slim indeed and makes the actual act of collecting the game much less enjoyable.

Still though, the LCG format does bring its advantages to the table. LGC packs are affordable at about $10 dollars each, and they promote more intricate deck building, as obtaining specific cards ceases to be an issue. In addition, the LCG format keeps fans excited about new cards all year round. Just when players get used to the last collector's pack, a new one will come out shaking up the metagame once more.

“[Call of Cthulhu and A Game of Thrones] have always had a strong following… We think this new format will both satisfy old players and keep the games spotlighted for new players,” says Jeremy Stomberg of Fantasy Flight Games. The question largely on everyone's mind, however, is how will this affect the TCG community at large? The trend seems to be that companies are finding new ways to make games “collectible” but does this mean it is the end of the age of the booster pack? Will we see a large paradigm shift away from randomness in order to promote gameplay above collectability? Or will the booster pack still be the flavor of the day for years and years to come?

It's not easy to answer any of those questions, but it is easy to see that times are changing. With Fight Klub's “Kilo”, the Fantasy Flight “Living Card Game”, and even smaller changes to how CCGs are played, such as constructible miniatures games and games with online interactivity. Whether or not this is a new step toward a gaming revolution, or a betrayal of the CCGs trading card roots is yet to be seen. Either way TCGplayer will be there to bring you the latest and greatest in CMG, TCG, and now LCG news.

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9/5/2012 7:19:00 PM 
I really hope more companies would use this system, make the game more about the game and not about the availability price of there product.

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