Saturday 1 November 2014

The Deck: traditional vs digital collectable card games

Welcome to The Deck, a new section where we discuss anything and everything card game related - CCGs, Living Card Games and everything in between.

I can't for the life of me get into digital CCGs. Oh, I've tried. Actually, the first digital card game I played was the Pokemon Trading Card Game for the Gameboy and I loved that, but I was pretty young and it was Pokemon so what are you going to do? But even back then I much preferred the tactile nature of the actual Pokemon card game, and I still feel that way to this day, although I no longer play Pokemon.

Don't get me wrong - I can see why people love games like Blizzard's Hearthstone. You can get a quick fix of gaming goodness from the comfort of your own desk chair, maybe wearing nothing but a dressing gown and slippers. You can play whenever the urge strikes you and there will always be someone there to play with. The same can't be said for treeware CCGs where you have to get one or more friends around the same table in all your clothing. It's not something you can do when the mood strikes you, and I've never found playing solo variants to most card games as satisfying as playing with a friend (although the Lord of the Rings LCG comes close).

Magic Online by Wizards of the Coast

Digital CCGs are generally cheaper, too. The entry-level game is sometimes free, whereas traditional games have you fork out hard-earned cashola for that starter set. Anyone who has played Magic: The Gathering for a considerable length of time known that you can sink a tonne of money into those cardboard bastards.

So far, these are all arguments for playing digital CCGs, which is why I can totally see why people are smitten with them. But there are plenty of reasons why I like to play on a physical tabletop.

For one, it's much more fun playing with friends in the flesh. The game tends to flow differently: you're not at the mercy of a digital countdown timer or a chatbox. Sure, you could use Voip, but nothing beats sitting with your mates, sharing snacks and having a laugh in-person. Plus, you can't replicate the look on someone's face when they draw the exact card they need to pull off a game-ending combo.

Netrunner by Wizards of the Coast
I personally find it nicer to own physical cards. There's a certain ritual to slipping them into their
protective cases or laying them all out on the floor to build that perfect deck. I love placing tokens on cards when an effect springs up - maybe a coloured paperclip or shiny stone. It makes the game feel less clinical than an online version, where everything is perfect and there's an animation for all tokens. Physical games have a rawness that digital can only dream of capturing.

The we come on to boosters and theme packs. Opening one of these is part of the overall CCG experience and something that just hasn't been replicated digitally. Sure, you can open boosters on the computer, but it really isn't the same as feeling the crisp foil in your hands and slipping out the cards with the glimmer of hope in your eye that you'll find that rare, amazing card.

So that's my two pence. Where do you stand on digital versus traditional CCGs?

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