Monday, October 8, 2012

LCG's: What they are, and why you should be interested!

First off, let me just say I'm a HUGE fan of Fantasy Flight Games' (FFG) "Living Card Game" (LCG) format.  For the sake of those people whom may not know what exactly an LCG is, this post is for you!

Most gamers out there should be familiar with the standard CCG model from games such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-OH, Pokemon, and Legend of The Five Rings to name a few.  Currently, the games that comprise the LCG format are: A Game of Thrones, Call of Cthulhu, Lord of The Rings, Warhammer Invasion, Netrunner, and the soon to be released Star Wars card game.  Both the CCG and LCG  share similarities in the deck building, and competitive gameplay, but it is the financial side of collecting cards where both formats take radically different roads!

4 of Fantasy Flight Games' LCG's. (Netrunner and Star Wars not pictured)

 The CCG model has pre-constructed decks usually from $10-$20, while the primary method of getting the cards you need is either by buying large numbers of  booster packs of random cards for $3-$4 or buying the cards individually at higher prices.  Booster packs can also be bought "by the box" typically for around $100-$150 depending on whether paying MSRP or getting a discount.  There still is no guarantee you'll see the cards you need, in the numbers you need.  Also, games tend to "wipe the slate" so to be speak, by releasing a new core set (yearly in the case of M:TG) and making previous sets illegal for tournament play outside of specific formats.

The LCG format is radically different than the CCG model.  You start with a Core box for around $40 ($25 online) which contains for the most part, a full playset.  You get 3x copies of most cards in the core set, with the exception of unique cards or cards that you can only have 1 of in play at a time.  Usually these core sets alone with allow you to build at least 1 deck for each of the games playable factions.  2 core boxes should suffice for most "serious deck builders" out there that may want to run a duplicate of the more powerful cards, or want to run similar cards throughout each of their decks without having to proxy or card swap between decks.

A "deluxe expansion" from Warhammer Invasion.
This one introduces the High Elves and Dark Elves to the game!

They also handle expansions much differently, and have done away with purchasing large amounts of random booster packs.  To start with, expansions are referred to as "cycles", and are released over a period of 6 months through "monthly packs".  To keep things simple, lets say a cycle contains 120 different cards.  "Monthly Packs" run $15, and just as with the core set, will contain a playset of cards, again 3x copies of each unless the card is unique. The 1st "monthly pack" would therefore contain cards #1-20 of that respective cycle, and the second month another pack would be released which would contain cards #21-40.  (again, these are just made up examples, actual packs may contain more of less cards depending on cycle size)  So, for $15 a month, you guarantee yourself a playset of cards currently released.  After 6 months, provided you purchased each month's pack, you have a full playset of an entire expansion.  FFG also periodically provides "deluxe expansions" for $30 (cheaper online), often times these either focusing on a single faction within the game or introducing a new faction all together!  They can contain anywhere from 60-120 cards, and just as with all their LCG products, will contain a playset.  

A "monthly pack" from Netrunner's "Genesis" Cycle.

So, what does all this mean as a player?  Well for starters, your wallet won't take as bad a beating!  If you play any CCG on the market today, then you should realize that spending $15 a month on a CCG will NOT get you very far.  That's about 4-5 booster packs of random cards a month,  if you are lucky you may get 1 or 2 cards you were searching for.  On the flipside, with an LCG $15 a month is ALL YOU NEED to continue to stay up to date, and own at least 1 of every card currently released.  Furthermore, by using an LCG database such as, you can find out exactly which cards come in any given monthly pack, allowing you to know exactly what you'd be getting BEFORE you buy.  The way in which LCG's are released also puts every player on equal footing with each other as far as access to cards is concerned, no longer will a game's outcome be decided by "who spent the most money to get the best cards" or "who has the most rares available".  With everyone having equal access to all the available cards, games are now won and lost solely on player skill and a person's skill at deck building.  FFG also doesn't "wipe the slate", making whole sets illegal for tournaments, as other companies do.  FFG makes every single core set, deluxe expansion, and monthly packs readily available for new players.  When older packs and sets get difficult to find, they will often issue a reprint, so nothing is ever unavailable for long periods of time.

So there you have it, that in a nutshell is what an LCG is.  Long story short, all the perks and fun of a standard CCG, with the added benefit of a much lower cost and a less random factor.  As an added bonus,  FFG has done an amazing job of incorporating new and interesting game mechanics into their LCG's unlike anything else on the respective markets, making each LCG's gaming experience truly unique and memorable.  I have not even touched on FFG's Organized Play options and support!  I've had the pleasure of playing several of Fantasy Flight Games' LCG's, and will be making more of an in depth review of several of them in the future, starting with my new current favorite, Netrunner.  Hopefully next time you are at your local gaming store, you'll give one these LCG's a second look... they really are (imho) some of the greatest card games currently on the market!

Thanks for reading!

- WuhSawBe -

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