MMO Family: Clone Wars Adventures' tale of two card games

MMO Family  Clone Wars Adventures' Tale of Two Card Games
Even though Clone Wars Adventures is a kid-friendly MMO, I've always been a fan of the title, partially because it sort of came out of nowhere and launched soon after it was revealed and partially because it's done a terrific job of matching content and itemization with the TV series. The Darth Maul content update was a household favorite, particularly because the pint-sized players in the family got a chance at going face to face with one of Star Wars' major baddies after seeing him on the animated show. Talk about an epic moment for a CWA fan!

The most recent update, though, left me scratching my head a bit. Clone Wars Adventures has had a trading card game called Card Commander for quite a while. Recently, though, SOE added a completely new trading card game called Card Assault. What's the new game like, and why would an MMO have not one but two card games? This week's MMO Family will take a look at the new game and theorycraft on why we're neck deep in cards!

A tale of two card games

Before we look at the new game, let's look at the original one, Card Commander. If I had to describe the rules of the game, I'd say the the Twitterized version is that it's like rock, paper, scissors with boosts here and there. There are three colors of cards, and what color you put down determines who wins that round: Blue beats red, red beats green, and green beats blue. You have four bases, and once someone defeats all four, the match is over. There are some twists, however, because you can't build your own deck as you can in many other TCG games. Your deck is whatever you own, and the only way to increase the chances of being able to play your strongest cards is to purchase special holocrons that you can use to mark certain cards for play. There are a few cards that have special conditions on them, but overall, the game is pretty simple to learn and actually has a fair amount of chance in it. I curse in space every time someone plays a two-point blue against my 11-point Cad Bane when he's marked as one of my bases.

MMO Family  Clone Wars Adventures' Tale of Two Card Games
The game is fun, but it can be frustrating if you don't buy holocrons and leave things to chance, so there's a soft nudge in the "pay-to-win" direction. But there are tournaments and several campaigns, both of which offer some neat-looking gear rewards.

Card Assault

But just like that, Clone Wars Adventures has launched a new card game that is a bit more complicated and requires a bit more strategy. If you've played the Free Realms Trading Card Game, you'll recognize the rules right away because it's basically the same game, only with lightsabers and wookies. Players can pick and choose from their card collection to build a deck and then face off against an opponent to try to outscore him round by round. Cards have a base value but also have special abilities to boost your chances or harm your opponent, as in many other trading card games, so there's much more focus on choosing your cards wisely and looking at building toward a strategy. You can defeat an opponent easily with the right combination of cards and a well-played hand, so not as much is left to chance compared to Card Commander. For younger players, this might lead to frustration, since it's a game that can be played on multiple levels, but at the same time, the mental challenge pushes kids harder to think about their cards and treat it more like a chess match.

How many TCGs does it take to support an MMO?

I have to admit, I did a bit of head-scratching at the addition of a second trading card game to Clone Wars Adventures, and it has as much to do with Free Realms, its sister MMO, as anything else. Originally, Free Realms had the TCG and Clone Wars Adventures had Card Commander, the "rock, paper, scissors" version. Then, about a year ago, Free Realms added a new game called Treasure War, which was (you guessed it!) a "rock, paper, scissors"-style trading card game modeled after CWA's version. Meanwhile, CWA went from the more simple card game to include a much more challenging TCG, which is similar to Free Realms'. Confused? So am I, but the long and short of it is that both MMOs now have two trading card games: one simple and one more complicated.

MMO Family  Clone Wars Adventures' Tale of Two Card Games
I'm not exactly sure why two MMOs need a combined four TCGs, but my tinfoil hat is screaming for attention, so I'll put it on for a minute or two. The first is that the TCG team needs more work, and to that I say, "Hooray!" because at one point it was unclear whether layoffs might affect the future of trading card games in SOE titles (although if the studio is running short on images for its cards, let me be the first to suggest a Massively Staff card pack, similar to the ones done a few years ago featuring well-known SOE fans).

The other theory to explain the many TCGs is the loot factor. Each of these card packs gives a chance at tradeable loot, and if past history with Legends of Norrath is any indication, some players will pay a pretty hefty price for certain loot cards. Clone Wars Adventures didn't really have loot cards with Card Commander, but the new game gives one loot card per pack purchased. Then again, Free Realms' Treasure War card game was added second and didn't have any loot cards in the packs, so I'll take off my tinfoil hat now.

I can't say this week's column is a rant as much as a minor whimper. I really like the new CWA TCG, but if I had a choice, I would have preferred a content update with more open-world combat and memorable face-offs like the one against Darth Maul. The show has a great storyline, and I think the game shines the most when it's true to that. As for the card games, both versions are fun for different reasons, and if there's a way to make the distinction more clear in both CWA and Free Realms, I think it will help the players even more. In the meantime, I'll be busting a move in-game with my R2-D2 disco DJ and my new gear from Card Assault.

The MMO Family column is devoted to common issues with families and gaming. Every other week, Karen looks at current trends and ways to balance family life and play. She also shares her impressions of MMO titles to highlight which ones are child-friendly and which ones offer great gaming experiences for young and old alike. You are welcome to send feedback or Wonka Bars to karen@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.