"Or else what?" I chirped before thinking.
"Or else you'll be our full-time Darkfall columnist," my editor said.
So hey! We're talking about card games today! How about, I don't know, 10 of them?
Magic: The Gathering has been a geek card game staple for two decades now, beloved for its mana wheel, fiendishly complex deck-building, meta-game strategies, and that totally rad artwork. The online version has been around for a good portion of that time, and while it's dealt with many issues pertaining to coding, different developers, and an ever-expanding rulebook, it's still the one place you can go online to get the full buying, pack-opening, trading, deck-building, and card-playing experience. Just be careful: You will go broke if you lack self-control.
2. War of Omens
This Kickstarter project is an interesting mash-up between a CCG and a deck-builder game, forcing players to "buy" their cards each match and develop new decks on the fly. Perhaps the fantasy setting and tri-faction approach seem a little forgettable, but if it plays as well as the devs claim it does, who really cares?
Just be sure not to confuse this with Omens of War. Totally different thing.
The makers of Solforge want you to know that Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield was involved with the development of this mobile-and-PC app. I know this because Garfield is name-dropped all over the Solforge website as if his name alone were a talisman against evil and bankruptcy.
Garfield aside, this TCG launched in 2013 and boasts a smooth multi-platform experience that can be played for free. The team has ambitious plans to grow the title in 2014.
It's an MMO! It's a CCG! It's from the makers of the World of Warcraft TCG! It's a money pit! Wait, that shouldn't be in the official press release, should it? Nevermind! This crowdfunded blend of MMO and CCG already has an ardent following as it's promised classes, dungeons, deck-building, card modification, robust trading, and (drumroll) "the most aggressive organized play infrastructure ever offered for a digital TCG."
I have no idea what that last bit means, but after I read it I was bestowed with the ability to speak to see through time.
5. Card Hunter
Card Hunter is one game that I personally recommend. It takes the aesthetic of a pen-and-paper board game dungeon crawl in a friend's basement and marries it to a deck-building game of sorts. Instead of collecting cards, you collect and equip gear that comes with a handful of cards apiece. Movement and combat is all drawn from this pool of cards, and there's both a single-player and multi-player mode available. It's also kind of funny in a very nerdy way.
6. Legends of Norrath
Legends of Norrath is for gamers who exist in the middle of the Venn diagram of "EverQuest players who just can't get enough of this game" and "TCG fans who like playing with only 16 other people in the world." I kid, I have no idea how many people play this. I didn't even know it existed, although I remember it had a big brother in Star Wars Galaxies way back when. Hey, what ever happened to that game?
What is this now? Don't they know Blizzard has a trademark on "hearthstone?" Don't expect this one to last too long, people!
8. Infinity Wars
In doing "research" for this article (95% looking up animated gifs, 5% reading official websites) I've realized that pretty much all of these games are trying to appeal to a sense of nostalgia among the die-hard CCG crowd. "Remember those card games you used to play at summer camp? Ours is just like those! Except that you have even less of a chance of making out with a hottie when you play ours than you did back in the 8th grade."
So Infinity Wars -- what can be said? Generic title, appeal to days of yore, multi-platform offering, currently in beta. Excuse me, time for more animated gifs!
9. Might and Magic: Duel of Champions
Obviously, standing out from the rest of the crowd is highly important for TCGs. They want long-term loyalty for a river of money to flow from the You Mountains to their Accounting Delta. If you can't boast a unique angle because you're a blatant Magic clone, then slap on a popular IP and hope for the best. Personally, I feel the Might and Magic name has been spread a little thin over the years, but maybe there's enough juice left in it for a good hit.
10. Elemental Kingdoms
The last spot on this list will go to Elemental Kingdoms, which gets a mention not because it drew two random cards from Apples to Apples and went with it for a name but because it's from Perfect World Entertainment, which seems so darn chipper about it. Or you could take Beau's testimony, in which he calls Elemental Kingdoms "almost a unique game." Sold!
Wizard101, Clone Wars Adventures, and Free Realms should all get a special mention here for incorporating card game elements into the larger scope of their gameplay. If you complain about my leaving them out, then I'll know you didn't read to the end of this column!
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.