The Collectable Card Game
Over the past few years, traditional wargaming has had to
endure the onslaught of the collectable card game phenomenon. Prospective
panzer pushers are, instead, spending big bucks to get into tapping lands for
mana, conducting cyber-espionage against evil corporations, or to boldly go
where no man has gone before. Wargamers have largely pooh-poohed the whole
idea, but there's no denying the explosive growth in popularity of these card
games or the money that has been tied up in them. There are some younger
players of these games who have been sufficiently corrupted as to think that
"GMT" is really an anagram of "M:TG". The fact that some of these games are
actually (*shudder*) fun to play just compounds the problem.
What wargaming needs is a way
to compete on the card games' own turf. With that in mind, I humbly (and with
tongue planted firmly in cheek) present a prototype idea for reaching out and
appealing to the unwashed masses (and to anybody at Wizards of the Coast who
might be trolling for new ideas):
"GROGNARD" -- The Collectable Card Game (GCCG)
Copyright 1996, Mark L. Bakke
GCCG is a card-based game for two players that simulates the progression from
"gamer" to "Grognard". Each player supplies his own deck of GCCG cards. GCCG
decks come in two favorite Grognard colors - OD Green and Commie Red. Each
player must supply a deck of opposite colors. The colors serve only to identify
which cards belong to which deck and have no effect on play. This is necessary
since the Game Deck for GCCG is created by taking each player's deck and
shuffling them together to create one large deck. This is meant to simulate
the contributions that all wargamers make towards the advancement of the hobby
at large. It also helps to balance a game as one player can not use his own
dominating "killer" deck to win. At the end of the game, the cards can be
easily sorted out and returned to their owners. No cards are "won", "lost", or
"anted" in GCCG. However, side bets are fine.
GCCG provides players with three different paths by which they can attempt to
become "Grognards". These paths are "Player", "Collector", and "Designer".
Different strategies apply within each path and players may also attempt to mix
and match achievements along two or more paths. Achievements are generically
awarded with "Grognard Points" (GPs) and the game is won by the first player to
achieve the required number of GPs. GPs can be earned by gaining experience and
high ratings in game play, by amassing a valuable game collection, and/or by
designing a successful new game. The player must make many decisions along the
way and must also contend with Random Events and with an opponent who may want
to slow him down. Many of the game rules may be superceded or modified by the
effects of card plays. Throughout these rules, the pronouns "he", "his", and
"him" are used to refer to a player. These should be inferred to be
gender-neutral and are not meant to exclude either of the females who might be
likely to play this game.
2.0 Game Set-up
Each player contributes his own differently-colored deck. Starter and Booster
packs for GCCG come with two identical sets of cards - one set in each of the
two game colors. There are 60 cards of each color in a Starter pack and 15 of
each in a Booster pack. A complete set of GCCG consists of approximately 300
cards of varying rarities. If players buy Master Packs, they will also get an
adequate supply of dice, markers, counters, and other play aids for the game.
If no Master Pack has been purchased (shame on you!), players will need to
supply these items. Players will also be required to supply their own beer and
The decks are shuffled individually and each player receives 4 cards from his
own deck. The remaining cards in the two decks are then shuffled together and
one player cuts the combined deck (henceforth, referred to as the "Game Deck").
Each player rolls one six-sided die ("d6"), rerolling any ties. High roller
will be the First Player and draws the top card from the Game Deck. Draws
alternate until each player has added 3 more cards to his Hand, for a total of 7
cards. Each player then examines his hand and discards two cards face-down to a
Discard Pile known, in game terms, as the "Flea Market". Cards in the Flea
Market may be examined and obtained as a result of certain Actions. The game
begins with each player having five cards in his Hand. This represents the
initial possessions that contributed towards his heroic decision to pursue the
goal of becoming a Grognard.
3.0 Sequence of Play
A game of GCCG is played in turns which consist of several phases. Each player
performs specific actions within each phase when it is his turn. Phases are
played in order. Units of "Income" and "Time" do not represent any specific
amount of either commodity other than what each player will have available to
invest during his turn. (Some might call this "Design for Effect".) The Basic
Sequence of Play for one player-turn is as follows:
A. Resource Phase
B. Draw Phase
C. Action Phase
- Draw a card
- Resolve any required Random Event(s)
Perform any of the following Actions until your available Time is equal to 0.
Opponent may have the ability to respond to certain Actions during your
D. Marketing Phase
- Buy a Game
- Sell a Game
- Play a Game
- Do Design Work on a Game
- Draw or Discard a Card
- Play a Card from your Hand
- Trade Time for Income
- Check Flea Market/Classifieds
- Surf the Net
E. Victory Check Phase
- Release "Dream Game" or check status of released game design
- Accept auction bid(s) on game(s)
4.0 Player-Turn Phases
- Discard excess cards
- Check to see if you have enough Grognard Points (GPs) to win
4.1 Resource Phase
At the beginning of each player-turn, the active player receives the two most
important resources in the game: Income and Time. "Income" represents the
disposable income that the player has available to invest in his hobby. "Time"
is the amount of free time he has to devote to his hobby. Players spend Income
and Time points in a variety of ways in accordance with the rules for eligible
Actions or to take advantage of special abilities given them by card draws and
plays. Just as in real-life, the players will never have sufficient amounts of
either Income or Time to do everything they want and all sorts of things will
compete for those limited resources. The active player may conduct Actions up
to the limits imposed by his available Income and Time points, or until he
decides to voluntarily end his turn. The opposing player may be able to respond
to certain Actions during the active player's turn.
Once a player's available Time points decrease to 0, he can perform no more
Actions for that turn and his turn ends. Unspent "Income" points may be saved
up for succeeding turns. Unused "Time" points are lost at the end of the
player's turn. "Time Banks", unfortunately, have yet to be invented.
4.2 Draw Phase
The active player draws the top card from the Game Deck. If it is marked "Play
Now!", it must, strangely enough, be played immediately. Otherwise, it goes
into the player's Hand and can only be brought into play during an Action.
4.3 Action Phase
This is the heart of the game system. During the Action Phase, the active
player can choose from a wide range of game Actions - limited only by his
available Income and Time. Actions fall into the categories listed below:
A. Buy Game... The player may spend Income to buy a new game.
The game may be purchased from a retail store (which saves Time) or via
mail-order (which saves Income). Some games are not available from one of those
B. Sell Game... The player may sell one of his games to gain
Income. The game may be sold to his opponent (at a negotiated price), to a NPC
Buyer (at a random price), or at auction (costs Time, but might return a high
price from an avid - or desperate - collector).
C. Play Game... The player may spend Time to play one of his
games to gain Experience (EXP) and/or Enjoyment (ENJ) and to improve his Skill
Level. He may choose to play solitaire, challenge his opponent, play a NPC
Opponent, or enter a Tournament. Games can be "learned" (increasing EXP only),
"played" (increasing both EXP and ENJ), or "competed" (increasing EXP, ENJ, and
Skill). Games rated High in Complexity and/or Innovation may require extra
"learning" and "playing". Games that are part of a "series" may require no extra
"learning" if the player already has EXP with games in that series. "Magazine"
games are unlikely to be used in Tournament play.
D. Design Game... The player may invest Time and/or Income to
do design work on his "Dream Game". Each investment attempts to add or improve
one element of the game's design. When the player deems his game to be
sufficiently developed, he may Release it and take his chances on the Open
E. Draw/Discard... The player may spend Time or Income to
draw a card from the Game Deck. As a part of the same Action, he may Discard
one card from his Hand face-down to the Flea Market.
F. Trade Time for Income... The player may choose to spend
Time to gain additional Income. Sometimes, we work part-time jobs or do other
things to make a few extra bucks.
G. Play Card from Hand... The player may play one card from
his Hand onto his Play, Collection, or Design stacks on the table. Time and/or
Income costs will vary for each card played.
H. Check Flea Market... The player may invest Time to examine
cards in the Flea Market and may spend Income to acquire any desirable cards
that are found. Needless to say, you might not always be able to find what
you're looking for at the Flea Market or some sleazeball may have already
snapped up what you were looking for.
I. Surf the Net... The player may spend Time to use his
computer to access the Internet in search of game information, updates, errata,
new scenarios, and other things. He may also scan UseNet, CONSIM-L, and read
E-Mail for hobby information and game auctions. Be careful that the Net doesn't
become an "Obsession"!
J. Other Actions... The player may have a card in play that
gives him the ability to perform other Actions that are not listed above. If
this is the case, he may choose to take advantage of those other Actions. Each
will have its own cost that must be paid.
4.4 Marketing Phase
If the player is designing his "Dream Game", he will eventually get it to the
point where he feels that it is time to test the Open Market with his creation.
The player may then "release" his game. On subsequent turns, he checks the
status of his game to see how it is doing. Game status is affected by such
things as reviews, errata, and, of course, sales. To reflect the level of
control that the player would normally be able to exercise over the Open Market,
almost all results are determined by die rolls, card draws or Random
4.5 Victory Check Phase
The player adds up his current Grognard Points and compares it to the amount
needed for Victory. If he has or exceeds the required total, he becomes a
"Grognard" and lives happily ever after as a revered member of The Hobby. He
can then earn extra Income penning authoritative articles for "The General" or
spend extra Time defending his designs or debating technical minutiae on various
Internet listservers or UseNet groups. In rare cases, a highly successful
Grognard can become an "Expert Analyst" during CNN coverage of a military
conflict in some third-world nation.
5.0 Player Statistics and Card Types
The GCCG player is attempting to guide his game persona along the unpredictable
road that leads towards the Nirvana of becoming a "Grognard". As the game
proceeds, the player will gain points/levels in such areas as Experience (EXP),
Enjoyment (ENJ), Fame (FAME), and Net Worth (NET). These are affected by such
things as playing games, purchasing/learning new games, winning in tournament
play, and amassing a large and/or valuable collection.
Many cards will spawn events that can assist or hinder the player in his goal of
becoming a Grognard. Some example of cards which affect the three major game
Playing Games: Massive Errata, Renegade Cat, Visit by In-Laws,
Internet Access, Gaming Club, Local Tournament, Day Off From Work
Collecting Games: Local Game Store, Auction on the Net, Fresno,
Poulter, Bonus Check, Christmas Gift, BoulderG@aol.com
Designing Games: Inspiration Strikes, Publisher, Reviews Are In,
CONSIM-L, Play-Test, Wife, Market Forces, Famous Designer's Advice
Decks will also contain several cards representing Games which can be purchased
and/or played. Each Game has ratings for such attributes as Subject,
Complexity, Innovation, Price and Designer as well as noting any prerequisites
that must be met before the game can be played (such as "Large Table", "Kids at
Summer Camp", or "Some Assembly Required").
6.0 Playing Games
Games can be played to increase the player's EXP and ENJ levels. Winning
increases the player's Skill Rating and FAME. Winning in tournament competition
can also add Income if "Friendly Side Bet" is in play. Attaining a high enough
Skill Rating at a game can lead to becoming National Champion. Research is
under way to see if a "Tournament Groupie" card is feasible.
Games may be played solitaire, against the player's opponent, against a NPC
Opponent, or in Tournament competition. Each type of play has varying effects
on EXP and ENJ levels. EXP is tracked for each different game that has been
played at least once and is gained quickly at first, but becomes more difficult
to increase as the same game is played more often. ENJ will increase fairly
continuously, but increases will vary in accordance with how the game is played.
As EXP increases for a particular game, t he likelihood of the player's winning
at it also increases. A player's Skill Rating is based upon all of his EXP
points and how often he wins. A player who attempts to gain EXP solely through
solitaire play may be adversely affected by the "Get a Life" card.
7.0 Collecting Games
Games which are owned by the player but are never (or rarely) played are
considered to be "collected". A collected game will have a higher net worth
than a similar game that has been played. Collecting valuable games can
increase a player's ENJ, NET, and FAME. Selling them can increase Income.
Players should keep a sharp eye out, however, for the possibility of the
"Poulter" card taking the Income he invests in new games without delivering
anything of value.
8.0 Designing Games
Anyone aspiring to be a true Grognard has a "Dream Game" under development in
his mind. GCCG allows the player to simulate the road from getting the idea for
the game to releasing the finished product into the Open Market. Games under
design have several attributes which the player seeks to increase by performing
Design Actions. Some of these attributes include: Designer, Subject, R&D,
Materials, Marketing, and Print Run. The player can choose to increase any or
all attributes by spending Time and/or Income. The game may be released at any
time of the player's choosing - although this may be modified (usually
adversely) by the effects of a "Publisher" card. Higher attribute levels in a
released game increase the chances that it will become a success. Success is
determined by two factors: Hobby Rating and Market Rating. The Hobby Rating is
how the industry and its pundits react to the design and is primarily influenced
by the Designer, R&D, and Materials attributes. The Market Rating is how
the buying public reacts to the game and is primarily influenced by the Subject,
Marketing, and Print Run attributes. Combining the two Ratings determines the
overall success of the released game. A highly successful game will bring in a
healthy Income and increase the player's FAME. Any released game may see the
designer's Time be affected by a "Rules Questions" or "Respond to Review"
9.0 Game Mechanics
(Designer's Note) -- At this stage of GCCG development, the game's
mechanics are far from being set in stone. It should be noted that unfinished
or untested design hasn't always stopped some other games from being released
into the Open Market. In any case, I present a synopsis of how GCCG is
envisioned to work at this point.
9.1 How to Buy a Game
Game cards drawn from the Game Deck are immediately placed in a line to one side
of the playing table. Place a "Retail" or "Mail Order" counter (or both) on the
game as directed by the card's instructions. At the beginning of the game,
players may only purchase Retail games. Once they have acquired knowledge of
Mail Order, they may use that method to buy games. Mail Order games generally
cost less than Retail (unless the "Fire Sale" card is in play). However, buying
Retail means you acquire the game im mediately while buying Mail Order means you
must wait until after having spent some number of Time points on other Actions
before you can acquire the game.
9.2 How to Sell a Game
A game that you currently own may be sold to the opposing player at any time at
no cost to your Time or Income for any agreed-upon price. Alternatively, you
can spend Time to negotiate with an NPC Buyer if an "Ardent Collector" card is
in play. Finally, you can put a game up for Auction if you have access to the
Net. While you can turn down an insufficient offer from an NPC Buyer, you
commit to selling the game when it is offered for Auction. You might get bare
minimum or your game might be the object of a bidding war that ends up
increasing your Income by a significant amount. If the "Shill" card is in play,
you can try to push up the winning bid at the risk of getting stuck.
9.3 How to Play a Game
Games are rated for various playability factors such as Complexity, Innovation
and whether or not they are a part of a Series. First, any new game must be
Learned. The "Learning Curve" is the number of Learn Actions you must devote to
the game before it can be Played. When you Play a game, you are attempting to
gain EXP and ENJ points. When EXP reaches a certain level, you may Compete at a
game in order to increase your Skill Level. Your Skill Level and EXP determine
how successful you might be in Tour nament Play. The untimely appearance of
"Errata" or "Design Flaw" cards might impose limits on how many points you can
gain or on what levels you might be able to play that game. "House Rules" or
"Beer and Pretzels" cards can rectify things a bit.
9.4 How to Design a Game
The process of designing your "Dream Game" has been highly abstracted in GCCG.
It is represented by investing Time and/or Income to improve the status of the
various factors which contribute to the overall design. The design can improve
quickly at first, but refinement becomes increasingly difficult and costly.
There can also be pitfalls and pratfalls along the way, such as "Liberal
Anti-War Campaign", "Publisher's Deadline", or even "Throw in the Towel". On
the other hand, you might just get some unexpected help, such as "Flash of
Inspiration", "Speculator Investment", or "Successful Play-Test".
9.5 How to Draw/Discard Cards
You may spend Time to draw a Card from the Game Deck. This represents something
you might run across while window shopping, reading hobby publications, or just
happen to stumble across while wasting your time doing something useful.
Cards which say "Play Now!" must be played immediately according to the
instructions on the card. Any other card is held in the Hand until it is
brought into play - usually by paying the required cost in Time and/or Income.
Cards in your Hand can also be used as Responses to the Actions taken by the
opposing player. For example, if your opponent is about to perform a Play Game
Action that will give him the EXP he needs to enter a Tournament which could
help him get enough Grognard points to achieve ultimate Victory, you might
choose to counter by playing "Piano Recital", "Take Me Out!", or "Visit from
Mother-in-Law" to force him to put his Time to better use...*evil laughter*
Since your Hand is a limited size, you may choose to discard a card by placing
it face-down in the Flea Market. That card may be acquired from the Flea Market
later by your opponent (or you could get it back yourself).
9.6 How to Check the Flea Market
The "Flea Market" is an all-encompassing term for where unwanted cards go into
limbo until a player acquires them. Like a real Flea Market, you can never be
sure of what you might find, what might still be available, or what sort of
bargains might be found. If a player wishes to Check the Flea Market, his
opponent first shuffles all cards currently there. The active player decides
how much Time he wishes to spend checking things out. He then selects face-down
cards at random from the Flea Market and lines them up on the table -- the more
Time he spends, the more cards he can select. The player then states the
maximum amount of Income that he will spend. The player will be limited by the
Income he brings with him to the Flea Market. Sorry, but the Flea Market
doesn't accept the "American Express" card. The player starts turning over
cards one at a time and decides whether or not he wishes to buy them. If he
passes on a card, it is returned to the Flea Market. As soon as the player's
committed Income is reduced to 0, he can no longer buy or examine any more
cards. The remainder are returned to the Flea Market, which is then shuffled.
Up to 2 random cards are then removed permanently (representing some hairy
mouth-breather buying them) and are out of the game.
9.7 How to Surf the Net
Wargaming has always been hampered by an inability to get timely information or
exchange ideas with one's peers - indeed, it's often been difficult even to
*find* other players. The Internet has changed all of that. Now, a wealth of
information is available and more is going on-line all the time. However,
accessing this information isn't free. In real-life, one must buy capable
computers, hardware, and software in addition to paying telephone and access
charges. In GCCG, the player must have a "Computer" in play and must pay a
cost in Income and Time to Surf the Net in search of hobby information. The Net
can produce a great deal of useful information if you are lucky. Of course, as
veteran Netizens know, you don't always find what you need right away or your
favorite Web site hasn't been updated. This will cost extra Time for additional
Surfing the Net can produce information that help you gain EXP in your games,
help you advance your "Dream Game" design more quickly, and give you access to
Auctions. It might also result in Time-wasting "Flame Messages", "Outdated
Info", or "404 - Not Found" hindrances. "BoulderG@aol.com" can result in saving
significant Income while Buying games and is one of the more valuable cards in
GCCG should provide a welcome relief from the glut of mind-fogging,
reality-mangling, wallet-raping, pre-adolescent-infested card games that seem to
occupy most of the prime shelf space at game stores today. I envision GCCG
tournaments which will become the centerpiece of all non-trivial gaming
conventions. I envision Bill Gates leaving Microsoft behind to invest in a
"*real* money-making opportunity". I envision a gleaming spacecraft full of
lust-crazed space babes..., um, *ahem*, sorry about that.
I envision that somebody might get a bit of enjoyment out of reading this and
reflecting upon the state of gaming today. Until GCCG should happen to get
published, when I want to play a card-based combat game, I'll still reach for Up
Front, Rise of the Luftwaffe/Down in Flames, or Dixie.
- END -