When you think of playing cards, most people would say Go Fish, or Solitaire; even Poker or Gin Rummy. In 1993, a small company called Wizards of the Coast decided to gamble on a new idea: A card game that played like a classic fantasy novel, complete with Orcs, Goblins and Elves, crossed with traditional strategy games like Chess and Checkers.
This game was called Magic: The Gathering, and the collectible card gaming industry was born – or should I say, born again?
The Surprising History of Collectible Card Games
The first actual collectible card game, or trading card game – CCG and TCG respectively – was conceived in 1904 in the form of a baseball card game. Sold in packs, just like today’s versions, it never did much.
Enter MtG in 1993 and designer Richard Garfield. These guys saw a hole to fill in the fantasy and board game market and took a chance, releasing a very limited run of Magic cards known as Alpha; closely followed by Beta edition and Unlimited.
The game caught on with a very loyal following and the wildfire quickly spread across the country. Within just a few years, Magic was being played not only in localized tournaments throughout the country, but was beginning to gain attention all over the world. The new genre of competitive and collectible card gaming and trading was here to stay.
How to Play Magic
The idea is very simple, and extremely easy for anyone to catch on to. You have two players, or opponents, each with a deck of cards of their own choosing. The cards are set up strategically to form combinations of plays, or moves, in order to reduce the other players “hit points” to zero. Whoever gets to zero first, is the loser!
Magic specifically uses Land type cards, or “Mana,” to provide the power for other types of cards, including characters, machinery, artifacts, creatures, and even “legendary” class cards, that often are super powerful, but very expensive to play. Cards in a deck or pack that you would buy in the store come in three rarity types – common, uncommon and rare. Today, some TCG’s even have ultra rare “chase” cards that are so hard to find, people pay top dollar to get them.
Magic, given its first, very small print run in 1993, has a few “holy grail” cards, such as the Black Lotus and Time Walk, that command hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in the trading market. Why are they so expensive? The 1993 release of Alpha and Beta editions only had 5000 production “rare” cards. With millions of players, that’s not too many to share around.
Popular Role Playing Card Games Today
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, other companies had the idea to launch their own TCG’s, after seeing the huge success of Wizards of the Coast. Games like Pokemon, Yu- Gi- Oh and Dragonball Z quickly took the Asian markets by storm and moved just as quickly to the United States and beyond.
The principle of all of the games is the same – to use a deck of carefully chosen cards to win. Today, there are still national and international tournaments for most of these card games, where the winners make as much money as some sports celebrities.
In some cases, you can even find these tournaments on TV, and now most of them have online versions as well, complete with the ability to buy packs, decks and individual cards that are just as collectible and rare as the ones you get at a store.
The basic idea of these card games is what is really amazing. JRR Tolkein can really be credited with the first, broad creation of the characters that are still the basis for all Fantasy stories and games today. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins and Dragons, can all be found in some form or another in all of the TCG’s being sold.
The classic pen and paper RPG (role playing game) Dungeons and Dragons – now owned by Wizards of the Coast ironically – was created by Gary Gygax in the early 1970’s, and was founded on the exact same structure and ideas found in the trading card games we are playing now. These games were designed as alternatives to Chess and Backgammon. They teach strategy and thinking ahead, tactics and creative thought, and above all, how to learn from mistakes and to keep trying.
These basic concepts of learning are now a fun way to interact with friends and people from all over the world, and if you’re good enough, to make a living doing it.