The day has finally arrived. Earlier this week the girls picked up the “cardboard fever” and started up on a couple of of collectible/trading card games (herein known as CCGs or TCGs): My Little Pony and Pokemon. I’m rather excited for this interest, given my own interest in Yu-Gi-Oh and Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) over the years. Here’s why you should get interested in CCGs too.
Note: I’ve been a judge and in the tournament scene long enough to know that some of these concepts don’t apply at the "top" levels, but hey, I’m talking about some run of the mill fun around here… 8^D
Most CCG/TCGs out there are “deck building” type games. This means that you have a set of mechanics and objectives to play with, but you can have various themes or game styles in which to make that happen. This encourages you to find a style or mechanic that you particularly like or play best with. I often enjoy being the “evil forces of the realm”, so I played with Fiends through Yu-Gi-Oh and Spider Clan in L5R. There appears to be a metal type deck for Pokemon that looks like fun (yes, eventually daddy will get a deck 8^D). I typically preferred a menacing attack over manipulation/control, but all of those options were out there. Once you get familiar with one style, you can apply variants to that or even try out a whole new style. Finding the right cards and playing them out gets all of those good creative juices flowing!
Yep. Manners. Most games require a hand shake at the beginning and/or end of the match. Each player takes turns. Often enough, taking an action requires you to give your opponent an opportunity to make a response to that action. All of this helps develop patience, and generally speaking good manners, especially when you lose a game. If you’re a poor sport, nobody really wants to play with you anymore, and there goes the fun. If you do attend a tournament, you must respect the judges and their decisions, whether you agree with them or not. I met quite a few well mannered young children through my judging days and I think playing these games helped reinforce those virtues.
Managing hit points, damage calculations, cause and effect of battle resources, all of this requires a bit of math. This is great, especially for the younger kids. I remember seeing younger kids doing 4 column addition and subtraction that they might not be touching in school. It's also a little embarrassing (and thus a motivating factor) when a teenager messes up on some simple math in that regard. There are a lot of mobile apps and score counters out there, but nothing compares to a good old scratch pad to help with those calculations. Shoot, if you aren’t keeping up with your math, your opponent might let that math error slip into their favor, or try and trick you out of some points!
What happens when your hoarde of weakling undead minions (power in numbers here) are suddently wiped out and you won’t have anymore for a few turns?! It’s time to strategize! You know your friend well enough that you recognize their play style, but how can you force them into a corner to play another way? Do you make the aggressive attack to wipe out 3 major defenses of your opponent and leave yourself open to potential retribution? I can’t tell you how many times I had these things running through my head before, and after, my games. I’m already seeing some of this strategizing and planning going on in my kids' heads as they become more familiar with their decks, and their opponents. All of it leads to good problem solving skills and resource management down the road!
Overall, these games are about having some fun. Sure I enjoy a good game of Uno or Go Fish like the rest, but CCGs and TCGs add some additional elements into a game that make it fun to play and watch. A lot of times they also try to “cardify” things like battle strategy, or monster battling, or even one on one dueling into a format that is portable and easy to work with. Most games you can pick up relatively fast and play. After that the fun comes from learning to master them.
You can typically pick up a pair of starter decks that have everything you need to play in them for $40 or less these days. You can worry about “booster packs” and “singles” and “premium content” at a later date. Go try something new! I think you’ll enjoy it!