What are LCGs?
Quite simply, a Living Card Game (LCG) is a term coined and trademarked by Fantasy Flight Games to describe several games in their expanding library of card games. Unlike a collectible card game, LCGs are sold in set, predefined boxes and packs. There are no random cards or rarities so players will all get the same exact cards in each release. Since, Fantasy Flight owns the market in LCGs, all the games listed below are or were published by them.
With any game, and LCGs are no exception, there are advantages and disadvantages to owning them.
- A core set can be purchased to get a sense as to whether or not the gamer will like the game and its mechanics. As the game progresses through additional expansions, the game usually gets more complex with new rules added. A progressive model instead of throwing all the rules at you at one time.
- Lots of new content. Game play could become stale if you kept playing the core set over and over again. With scheduled releases of new expansions and scenario packs, the game continues to be fresh by adding in new character cards, locations card, enemies and villains to defeat, new equipment and items to be acquired, as well as new stories and adventures.
- With the each expansions released on a scheduled, gamers can better budget their purchases to stay on top of new content.
- All that content can be pricey. If you always want the newest cards, the newest set, the newest adventure, LCGs can be a “money sink.” Owning an entire set of an LCG can cost in the hundreds (even thousands) of dollars when all is said and done.
- As stated earlier, buying just a core set to test out the waters, may not necessarily get you the full experience. Often times, two core sets are required for larger player counts. But once underway, expansions and packs do not require multiple copies of each.
- Game longevity is always in question. How long will a LCG continue to be made? In my list below, one of them is no longer printed as the license to the publisher expired. So, if that theme interests you, it may be very difficult to acquire. Your best bet might be to go to a local gaming group and see if anyone owns it, play it, and then take things from there.
- The more cards you have the more organization you will need. Often times this equates to more set up time as you build your decks for the play session or “just because.” Part of this deck construction, for many, is a core part of LCG gameplay.
- Storage space can be an issue. An LCG can take up a lot of space and may require some sort of storage solution which may or may not add costs to the game play. Some gamers relish in the idea of organizing their massive LCG collections. A game, or activity, in and of itself.
All that being said, here are what I consider to be my Top Living Card Games:
1.) Marvel Champions
Every game of Marvel Champions invites you to play as an iconic Marvel hero, complete with their own 40-50 card deck. Just one Core Set allows four players to team up with their own heroes, and gives you a complete playset of cards right out of the box! Once all players have selected their hero, they choose a scenario—taking on a nefarious Marvel villain and their matching scheme. Although each villain brings their own allies and tactics to the scenario, these scenarios can also be customized with additional modular encounters to increase the challenge of a fight or mix up the forces arrayed against you.
Each villain and scheme has multiple forms, shifting the momentum and the rules of the fight as the villain continues to enact their plans and the heroes attempt to defeat them. Let the scheme advance enough times and the heroes will lose the game. But if you can fight through the villain’s various forms and completely deplete their hit points, your team of heroes emerge as champions!
With all the Marvel content in movies and on Netlfix, it’s no surprise this game is as popular as it is. Even though a completionist can get every hero and eery pack as the game evolves, some may only buy the superheroes they like and skip others as this will not affect game play. The story building here is weak but for a tense, action-filled experience with your favorite Marvel hero, you can’t go wrong here.
2.) Arkham Horror
In Arkham Horror: The Card Game, after you’ve assumed your role as investigator and prepared your deck of resources, you’re ready to embark upon a series of strange and mysterious adventures.
Instead of trying to defeat other players, the goal of Arkham LCG is to successfully unearth the secrets of the Ancient Ones, their minions, their cults, and the unfathomable evils that they’re perpetrating within the streets of Arkham. In order to do this, you must find a way to gather enough clues that you can solve the mystery immediately before you. This is done by exploring locations, discovering the clues they hold, and using those clues to advance the act deck.
However, you have to move quickly, because you and your companions aren’t the only active parties in this game. In addition to the act deck, there is also an agenda deck. While you and your companions are conducting your investigation, the forces of evil are advancing their agendas.
Based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, this game has lots of story building as you progress through each adventure. The art is fantastic and evocative of Lovecraft and horror, and may not be necessarily suited to small children who may look over your shoulder. So, be aware of that. I am personally a big fan of Lovecraft and his work, so this game was great for me. There is a lot fo content here and it will take me a long time to get through it all.
3.) Lord of the Rings
In The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, you and your friends take on the roles of heroes attempting to complete dangerous quests. Instead of directly retelling the classic stories that have previously been narrated, this game provides you with a variety of elements—characters, settings, enemies, events, items, artifacts, scenarios—that allow you to embark upon new adventures and share new experiences with these beloved characters during this ominous period of Middle-earth’s history.
Unlike most card games in which the players compete against each other, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative game in which you and your friends work together, competing against a scenario that is run automatically by the game. In each game, you attempt to overcome the particular encounters, enemies, and challenges of the scenario, against which you either win or lose together. Accordingly, each player gains the freedom to choose which role he will play and how he will contribute to the group’s overall success.
My first foray into LCGs was Lord of the Rings. While I enjoyed it, I am not that big a fan of fantasy although I do like LotR. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know. If you love fantasy, then this game is for you. There is so much content here it is insane. This game was the basis for everything that came after from Fantasy Flight but still rock solid.
For more information on any of these games, you can check out the links below at the publisher’s web site.