Design Discussion about LCGs (Living Card Games)
Jamey discusses Living Card Games (LCGs)–also known as expandable card games–in this week’s video. Games mentioned in the video are Arkham Horror, Lord of the Rings, Marvel Champions, Legend of the Five Rings, Netrunner, Game of Thrones, Keyforge, Star Wars Destiny, Overpower, VS, Star Wars, Call of Cthulhu, Ashes, Doomtown: Reloaded.
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Also coop is better imo. My wife and i love the story driven nature of Arkham LCG. And it’s a great to bond as a couple over a good story drive coop
What if you set that the story arc was to be competed over a 4 pack campaign. And the out come of arc 1 affects the next story arc
For me solo is crucial. These are a huge investment, if also I am dependent on a group… That's too much. Soloing is the only thing that makes LCGs doable.
$20 for FFG LCGs is expected because the number of packs tends to prevent the economy of scale, maybe? Plus, FFG does pay a lot for the art and/or license
Some competitive LCG-like games you can look at are Ashes and Summoner Wars, both from Plaid Hat. They haven't done as well in sales as FFG's competitive lines and that's likely because PHG is a smaller studio, but SW is one of the early LCG-style games that is still popular. As you said, co-ops are a lot more successful thus far
I really like Arkham Horror LCG but the pricing is just horrible. FFG is so greedy in it's games I feel. You also (from what I've heard of) need two base games to really do deckbuilding correctly in that one. Two base packs, first expansion and six smaller packs so one complete "cycle" can be up to 160-180 dollars which is insane.
To me, a key feature of an LCG (or expandable game that I would consider within this category) is deck customization. It's basically a TCG/CCG but with fixed card packs. The idea of expanding my collection and flexing creativity, expression, and strategy through deck construction is the key feature that separates this category of games from something like Smash Up or a deck-building game.
If your "LCG" features "Smash Up deck construction," it would be a tough sell for me to consider it part of the LCG category.
I also wonder how Stonemaier would handle an "LCG" since you only do games for 2–5+ players. Co-op LCGs can work because the most invested player can build the collection, construct the decks, and then share with friends. If it's competitive, I'll have less incentive to build powerful decks for four friends and then enter a chaos-multiplayer scenario against my own decks. The other players will feel less invested as well. If the "deck construction" is simply Smash Up, that alleviates this issue, but it also means I probably wouldn't consider it an LCG anymore.
The following is based solely on my limited experience with LOTR:LCG. I tried to organize my thoughts per keyword at video's end… (PRICE/RELEASE) the $30-$35 for a deluxe (core/expansion) is pretty standard with 2 per year or so. I am much more a fan of the $10-$15 packs (adventure/scenario) pricepoints being a more regular release per quarter.
(COOP/COMP/SOLO) I love the aspects of Cooperative play since a normal playthrough lasts from a few turns to 1 hour attempts at certain points. I know my friends would rather play WITH me than AGAINST me for that sort of duration, especially if its something we are all investing in. I think there is space in LCG's for a Competitive Solo experience… where you could play as a community and beat the LCG as you go together without having to play AGAINST or WITH someone each time. This is one of my favorite things about the LOTR:LCG, they provide the most satisfying solo experience through scenarios you can play with or without others IMO.
(DECK CONSTRUCTION) I love that deck constructions are flexible in LOTR:LCG, but then certain scenarios require specific cards to be used. It does get overwhelming if you are far behind in releases, especially when packs are stuck behind the print run walls or hiked up costs.
(IMMEDIATE EXPANDABILITY) Even though Keyforge is not technically an LCG, I love the quick buy & play factor. That instantly influenced me to buy the first set to play with my friends for a minimal cost.
(LONG TERM) The long term commitment for most LCG's is very draining on finances and time as a player, especially when older cards get power-crept or when there is no possible way I can play with every card every time I go to play the game. Time is the major factor why I do not play it or any LCG now. I devote most of my extra/free time after family and responsibilities to Game Design and the research/playtimes that support it. I do not normally have time or the desire to go through all the setup of an LCG just to lose right away OR to only get one playthrough before I am out of time for the day.
(THOUGHTS/EXPERIENCE) Now per your "3 year window" restricted LCG cycle, I think this would give players the confidence to invest in your LCG knowing how much things will be priced ahead of time. I would love it if I could have a complete collection of an LCG (or a complete "faction" sort of deal) without shelling out my entire life savings & committing every second of my free time just to own, play and halfway enjoy it. I have learned to accept and appreciate that most LCG's are completely out of reach for me at this point in my gaming life. However, if I learned that purchasing X version of the LCG gave me access to a deep, enjoyable experience with my choice of content (meaning I could add/subtract what I desire) per my personal gaming experience (Example: Buy the Solo & Coop version because I do not personally desire the Comp/Multi/Tourney version) and it was maximized within my time/money/energy boundaries, then I would be the first one in line for the new LCG. [P.S. – I would even be open to subscribing to all PnP versions to keep my LCG heart beating and save on any printing/shipping costs for a discount.] Hope this helps!
Hey Jamey, here are my two cents on the subject:
Price: The LCG Model kind of splits up cost of a huge game into partially more acceptable sort of pay rates for people. Most ppl wont buy a game, if they have to pay 300 Euro upfront. Thats the problem with all of FFG LCGs in the long run. If you missed out the starting point, depending on when you wanna join you might look at sth like a 100 to 600 Euro entry fee. Even with LCGs ppl are still collectors, they wanna own all the cards. There is this weak argument with all LCGs that you dont need to buy everything, because you just need to buy the packs needed for the current meta(especially talking about competitive games here)…but that never turns out to be true and ppl stay away from your game. This brings me to my next point, Release schedule and Long-term Commitment: Just dont make you game too big. You need too design your whole game for definitive ending points. So if you wanna start a new LCG plan it and design the whole thing. A good period of time is a year. You get out a pack every month, with a bigger pack (double or triple the volume of cards than a normal pack) every third month. These are also the packs where you introduce new concepts and rules.) So Core Box (Core Rules, a good amount of cards (should be sth. like 5 times the number of a normal pack), 2 expansions for the core rules, another big pack (starting cards for your new concepts and rules) , another 2 normal packs (now of course with more cards focussing on the new aspects you introduced in the last big pack, but also still expanding cards for the core concepts) and so on. And then again, i cannot stress this enough, you end the game, where you have planned it all along. Yes, ppl always want more and publishers/ designers are always tempted to deliver more and keep milking the cashcow, but this will always end in dissappointment and a convoluted mess of a game tournament list restrictions , card bans and all the things ppl hate about LCGs/CCGs. To limit yourself here as a designer is really the most important thing. This way after a year your game is complete and even if ppl wanna jump in later they are looking at a price point of maybe 180 Euro (40 Euro Corebox(just one, dont you ever dare to pull the FFG "you can optionally buy two core boxes, if you really want to…." Thats just nasty and they got alot of shit for it. They maybe got away with it, but they probably also lost alot of customers, especially because the didnt only do it once…) , plus 8 packs at 10 Euros, plus 3 Big packs at 20 Euros).
If your game was really successfull and it was well balanced and thought through to the end, people will be much more willing to spend that amount of money. Also, while you are off designing your next LCG you could offer an all in one Box in the end with a discount of lets say 30 Euro 😉 a few months after the last pack was relased and you sold out on all your produced split up boxes. This way you would get all the hyped ppl who were there from the start, but if your LCG was good, you can still continue to sell it as a grandios complete card game, ppl can maybe buy years after it was first released. Netrunner for example would still be a great grandios card game, ppl could still buy today if they had stopped early enough…and if you could get it for reasonable price.
If your LCG is about to have any form of fighting, it should be competitive…the reason still being you want this to be an expert game and you will never ever create an interesting enough AI (Automaton) for ppl to play against. If you have a marvel license you can get away with random boring Automa fights 😉 AI still just varies between to easy and boring and too hard and boring. Nobody has figured that out yet, ask all AI PC developers….They have been trying for years and invested billions of dollars 🙂
If you are about to create sth really new and special with any other focus than fighting( maybe the first economy based Euro LCG…) you can go cooperative.
As for deckbuilding, why do you have to choose between modular and deckbuilding? Make Sets of modules ppl can just chuck together, but also give ppl the chance to "buy" every single card for their deck, if they are into that. You have to balance you game anyway, so you have to come up with some sort of "value" for a card. So just put that in as your cost to create your deck manually. Done.
I am looking forward for your new LCG, maybe you can be the one, who finally does it right 😉
@6:06 Other earlier LCG’s from FF are the war hammer fantasy and war hammer 40k LCGs. I ran the full life of the 40k one and loved it mostly because the LCG factor allowed for extended world building in that competitive game as opposed to the story development in Arkham. While FF will ride the horse until dead, taking a more auteur approach to LCGs would be fun, designing the game to end at a certain point from the beginning, perhaps even developing divergent story lines that players can choose to explore would be fun.
Let me preface this by saying that I have >15 years experience playing TCGs and only about 1 year with the LCGs so take that for what you will.
The most important question I am always asking myself when thinking about a card game is: Can I play this on a train? If there are lots of tokens (think +1/+1 tokens in Magic or damage tokens in other games) then it won't be feasible to play on a small rattling surface.
Life points for the monsters/heroes/etc themselves are something I abhor. I think this is just bad design. I prefer something simple where you have to have more attack power than an opponents monsters defense value in one turn instead of whittling away at an enemy creature for 3 rounds.
Any great game is simple to understand yet hard to master. In the case of an LCG that means not overloading it with mechanics. Take a look at the history of mechanics in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG if you want an example of what not to do and how power creep can ruin a game in the long run.
Price: I think 30-40$ for a starter deck is a very reasonable price (even 60$ if you produce a box where multiple people can play) and 15$ are very reasonable for smallish expansions (think half a deck worth of cards, depending on whether the standard deck has 20, 40, 60 or even more cards). We are paying for artwork and honoring the design of the game with the purchase because let's face it: If I just wanted to play by myself with a few friends without going to tournaments or something like that then we could just print the cards ourselves on normal paper and sleeve them using leftover sleeves. Perfectly playable at next to no investment. But the enjoyment wouldn't be the same because properly produced cards of a good quality have their own distinct feeling and that's what keeps people from printing them themselves. At least that's my take on the matter.
Release schedule: 1 pack in 3-6 months would probably enough. Depending again on the design. For small expansions (lets say 20-30 cards) every 3 months would probably be good.
Cooperative vs competitive: I want a new competitive game. There are already tons of good cooperative games out there and while I personally prefer the dueling nature of competitive games I also think that the niche is only so big. With the high quality cooperative games out there I don't know whether a purely cooperative game could hold it's own against the strong competition. Also: Clashing head to head with different factions is what made these games fun to me when I started playing them. I agree that it doesn't make sense for more than one player to play the same faction. Take a look at an old classic: Blue Moon Legends. Pick a faction with it's pre-constructed deck and go for it. Very simple. Perfectly balanced once you know how each faction plays (because some are harder to play initially than others).
Deck construction: Modular deck building would be a really good idea to simplify the process. I'd even argue if deck building would be important at all. Again shout out to Blue Moon Legends. Grab a deck and go.
Immediate Expendability: Yes, yes, yes!
Long-term commitment: Well if the game is designed in a great way and there is no power creep then there is no problem even when players come into it late. Also no problem with a set deadline like "3 years and the game is done and no more expansions after that.". That's a good thing! Even though some won't see it that way. The problem with many games is that they don't know when to stop. With every expansion you will lose players. Doesn't have to be much but it will add up over the years. You can decide that you don't care as long as new players replace the old ones (the TCG model) or you cater to your core players and make a great game for the people that supported you from day one as long as it's feasible (probably 3-5 years). I would be much more comfortable knowing the game runs for 3 years than not knowing when it ends.
Solo vs Multiplayer: In my opinion a solo option is not needed but appreciated.
Accumulating Rules: They are the bane of every game and for many TCGs the reason why they have a hard time with player retention after a few years and new players have a hard time picking them up. In my opinion it would be best to add only 1 new mechanic per year and have that used from different perspectives in the expansion packs in that year.
For example a new rule could be that you can also play cards face down. Then you can release an expansion with monster cards that get a special effect when they are played face down first (survive the turn f the opponent) and then are "properly summoned" face-up on your next turn (think flip-effects of Yu-Gi-Oh). Then in the next pack coming out that year you include spell cards that can be placed face down and activated during the opponents turn (this only works if normally spell cards can only be activated from your hand in your own turn). This approach would only really add 1 rule and then show with each new pack how to play with that rule.
One thing I would like to take your attention to is "Shards of Infinity". A competitive deckbuilding game that has 2 ways to victory. You can just crush your opponent with raw attack power and reduce his life points to zero. You could also heavily build up your "mastery" (an extra resource tracked on the same card as lifepoints) and win by achieving 30 mastery and playing one particular card that is present in every deck. The mastery system lets cards gain additional effects once you reach certain thresholds. It might only work in deckbuilders and not "normal" LCGs but it is a very clever system you should take a look at. Maybe you can adapt it to fit an LCG or maybe it's just a curiosity and wouldn't fit a game with pre-constructed decks. I surely have no idea on how to make that system work in something other than a deckbuilder. It's interesing nonetheless.
In conclusion: If you want to make the perfect LCG for myself then make a competitive one with small to medium sized decks (30-40 cards) that can be played on train rides because the design is sleek enough to not need arbitrary tools like +1/+1 counters. The cards should stand for themselves and not need any crutches.
Thank you for the time to read this. I am really looking forward to the game that might come out of this.
I don't know if that's what you were referring to when you said you did not like the skill testing involved in Cthulu themed games, but I think I recently put my finger on what I don't like about Arkham LCG: the game is so long to set up and play, and demanding in terms of deckbuilding and actual play, that I find the skill testing too punishing. You spent an hour setting up the game and playing, you're in a good position and suddenly you fail a major test, and everything goes down the drain, you almost lose on the spot. I get that you have to bet on the right tests, so there is skill involved, but I find it very heavy on the betting, since there is always a small chance on losing the test no matter what. It's very frustrating and it killed the game for me, it's a shame because I really wanted to dig deeper into the story.
After learning about the Flesh & Blood TCG:
Consider the value in simple management: What if you only had 1vs1 unit to worry about? Some of the board states in these games become out of control. You could still add "upgrade" cards to the unit, but they only ever modify that one unit on your side of the field. Pokémon also does this.
Expanding on that: A shared field might also be interesting, like Warhmmar Conquest LCG, Lord of the Rings TCG, Star Wars: Destiny, etc – but those use locations. Imagine if you shared your actual units! LotR also the mechanism where, to play your "good guys", you are giving your opponent resources which they can spend to play their "bad guys".
I have really enjoyed playing Game of Thrones 2.0 and Star Wars Destiny, but inevitably both games seemed to have died a relatively quick death in terms of community. I still play with close friends occasionally, but the competitive community doesn't seem to have legs. I'm not sure why this happens, but maybe others might understand better than I and can share.
I'm a big fan of the Arkham Horror LCG and i could say the immersion factor carries the game. Also the more things you have the more you could replay. In case you don't want to make decks, you have ArkhamHorrorDB online where other ppl put deck builds. The community is great and that's another part of the LCG. If you do it right community could carry it. Thing with all coop games is ease of access, where in competitive you need to have someone close to your skill lvl in order for the play to be gratifying. In case you decide to make an LCG maybe i could be of use, i'm an illustrator https://testosteronman.artstation.com .
I'd love to sit in that chair at the window.
Watched this video when it came out and I had to take a while to process what I wanted to say. I've never played an LCG game before and at the same time I've wanted to try one. Specifically, Marvel Champions LCG. I was excited about this because I for one likes the Marvel IP itself. When I saw the game and they already announced that there are expansions coming already, I had to think about it twice. I'm sure the base/core game is enough but for me coming from a background of a CCG player, I was a little bit on the fence. I spent lots of money on CCG games before and I'm not looking forward to spending more money if I ever buy a LCG game. (1) I do like your idea of having an "ending" to expansions because as a consumer, I'm looking forward to the end of the game. This is not a bad thing but just something that I don't have to stress about of what's coming next and/or if there's another expansion coming. (2) If you end up making a LCG game, maybe have a different expansion, for example, have some foil cards expansion to the regular expansion. (3) Maybe have enough expansion when you announce the release of it. (4) I do like cooperative game a lot but I'm not against competitive game at all. (5) Don't release too much character ability or powers. I got burned out on Marvel Legendary because there was too much expansions that came out and too much abilities to keep track off. (6) Release a base/core game insert that will fit future expansions with sleeves. (7) I enjoy your company a lot and all your videos and customer service and I look forward to an LCG game that you're designing. Hopefully this wasn't that long for you to read.
A couple of thoughts (which oddly enough, come out of thinking about The 7th Continent, which has a modular structure reminiscent of an LCG, albeit one in which the geography library—database really—grows without bound):
* Expandable rulebook—could you print modular rules on cards, but provide a physical album with the base game? The rules cards would then be printed with the knowledge of how the album would be laid out, so then, despite their physical format, they could still refer to section 9, or the diagram on page 3—and could still accommodate larger images when required? Historically there have been binder-based solutions, but this would allow expansions to be compact without having folded rule sheets, and wouldn't commit all rules expansions to being large (or wasting space). It would also allow for in-game rule discovery and resettable choice-based persistence. It would allow expansions to have massive variability in their rules weight (including the possibility of expansions that are entirely devoted to adding a mode, a subgame, or something like a detailed combat or negotiation module). And it would let you use simple framing like “follow the steps on this page in order” for modular updatable content (hm, this might work better with cards turned landscape-wise, if the cards are rectangular).
* You could construct a Laukatish atlas incrementally with a second copy of the same component. (That idea came from looking at the Etherfields KS.)
* If you can get sufficiently transparent sheets—a big if—I could even imagine such a rulebook having a 3D aspect, where you make use of the ability for one partially filled page to overlay another. (Or perhaps I'm getting carried away; rule card replacement might be enough.)
* If you enjoy a puzzle as a designer, exploit both sides of the cards when you do all of the above ;).
* Story arc—I can imagine a structure where a ‘season’ has an opener and a closer which are boxed, have non-card physical components, and contain ‘mandatory’ plot elements, with a sequence of card decks that go in between that are modular and optional (and not necessarily conceptually homogeneous—you could imagine character and scenario packs as separate purchases). I think the modular rulebook would provide enough structure for the modules you have to get integrated intelligently into the finale, though as a game designer you'd want to have a solid prototype of the finale before you started making the modules.
Price: As long as the core box has everything you need at all the player counts, I would generally pay $50 (although $40 seems like a better sweet spot for the market) – having said that, given Stonemaier's track record I would even consider up to $60. As far as expansion packs, I agree that $10-15 seems like the right range. Of course, it also depends what is all included. Is it only cards or are there other components as well?
Release schedule: 3 or 4 times a year seems like enough. Monthly seems like way too much. Also, as a publisher, I would think that having a smaller total number would make it easier to manage the production/logistics.
Co-op/competitive: I enjoy both cooperative and competitive, so long as it well designed and balanced it wouldn't impact my choice.
Tournament Play: No interest for me personally, however if these types of events help generate more lasting interest then I say go for it (if it doesn't force you to subordinate the design to achieve this).
Deck Construction: As much as I relish my memories of scheming deck construction ideas for Magic back in the 90's, I like the idea of modular construction. This was one of the biggest things that soured me on the Arkham LCG – I was trying to put this deck together without any meaningful concept of the rules or strategy, combined with the fact that our friends didn't truly have enough core sets for us to make meaningful choices with what was left since they had constructed their decks in advance. And the modular setup could lead also be a way to introduce new concepts. Say you have a faction deck and a leader deck; could you then add "side quest" decks that give you alternate abilities and way to achieve the victory conditions? (That might be a poor example, but I think you understand where I’m going.)
Immediate expandability: Fabulous! and even better when it's entirely optional (as you have suggested this would be)
Long-term commitment: As both a consumer and a player, I appreciate the notion of a set amount of content. I will know that I will have a set amount of (possible) financial commitment, and I know that it will be completed.
Solo/Multi-player: Not a solo player, but if it can be done well there is (as you know) a not insignificant portion of the community who would be thrilled.
Ever accumulating rules: I agree that this can be problematic and could create a certain overload. As far as how to manage any rules additions, would it be possible to have some blank pages in the rule book that comes with the core game that you could add rules stickers from the expansions (like say Pandemic Legacy)? I don't know how easy it would be to know how many extra pages is enough (and I understand that extra pages is extra cost), but it seems like there might be a solution in there somewhere…maybe?
I would say that while keyforge shares some of the advanatges of LCGs (IE low cost of entry) it is not the same genre and does not serve the same market. Keyforge is aimed people who enjoy the the competitive and exploratory aspects Trading Card Games but can't or won't spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on a competitive deck. Where as I think LCGs operate much more like traditional board games but ones that are perfectly set up for frequent expansions (IE modular parts that can be swapped in and out easily.
LCGs and the reasons I love them. Arkham – it has an amazing story, it does have module stories of 8 scenarios, and you can skip scenarios if you like. It has the most drama out of the cooperative LCGs meaning that you feel like you are up against incredible odds. Dislikes – the deckbuilding is a lot of fun, but also the pool is getting crazy. Setup time is a bit much also, for a dad of 2 very young ones. Marvel – love the deck building as you stated, but its not as simple as combine decks (like the Star Wars LCG actually was). You choose the deck typics, but then actually have to still build out those components (not the main hero, but yest to the Justice/Aggression part & the General card pools), fast to the table, love the interaction that is built into it, and the streamlined rules. For both Arkham & Marvel I LOVE how they bend the rules with new villains, and that's where they add new levels of gameplay and complexity. So the rules to the game are only more complex for specific scenarios, but it adds a ton of flavor to them. LOTR – thing I didnt love about it was that you werent an actual character, you were 3 characters, and the cards didnt then tie to it thematically as well. Keyforge – love the concept of just grabbing a deck and going, also love their tournament formats. Netrunner – the Asymmetrical aspect of a competitive game to me is wonderful. The fact that they had such a balanced yet asymmetrical world was fantastic. L5R – i absoluntely loved this game, but i think SU&SD got it right in their review that it was TOO dense at times for me. I do like that they had quarterly releases that then lasted 6 weeks, which was innovative and cool. So the meta would get flooded with a new pack every week for 6 weeks, then you waited another 6 months or 4 months for the next time it would happen. A lot of excitement in those 6 weeks as no one can get a grasp on what the meta means. Star Wars LCG – never played it, but I feel that it is much more in line with your deck building desires. You made a deck i think of 3 premade decks (or maybe 6?) I love the idea actually of a 30 or 40 card deck that is made up of 6 premade stacks of 5 cards, or 5 premade stacks of 6 cards. That seems really fun to me. Codex – I think this is a card game that is way too under people's radars. Yes it is a DeckBuilder, not an LCG, but I loved how it escalated and evolved during a play. How there was leveling occurring as your "civilization" grew and got stronger. Those are my thoughts! 😉
I have LotR LCG, Star Wars LCG and Arkham Horror LCG. Of those, Arkham Horror is my favorite at the moment. Here are my thoughts on LCG's in general:
1. I refuse to buy a 2nd core set just to "fully experience" the game.
2. Deck construction should be limited. AH is 30 cards, SW is 50. The more cards in your deck the less fun deck construction becomes for me. Also, the total pool of cards, like in LotR, can become daunting.
3. Pure solo is a must. I don't like two-handing. Most people have limited spare time and it seems the added complexity of managing multiple characters also adds to play time.
4. Campaign mode with compelling story is critical. I actually get goose bumps playing AH and sometimes LotR. I don't play SW as much because the story and campaign in AH are so incredible. If SW had these, it would be hands down my ONLY LCG I would ever buy. LotR is better than SW here, but it doesn't make the table as much because its deck construction, with the game's ridiculous amount of cards, causes a lot of analysis paralysis. I have ordered a LotR Saga Expansion which is supposed to be playable with just the core, thus limiting the card pool.
5. Frequency of releases: Monthly is ridiculous. Quarterly seems reasonable. Getting so far behind a cycle discourages me from buying.
6. Subscription option. Like Team Covenant, but from the publisher. This would, I imagine, make it easier for the publisher to forecast demand and provide an adequate print run. Seems like a lot of players are late to LCG's because they don't want to risk spending that kind of money on an unproven game. The result is low to zero inventory which gives players pause in purchasing decisions. That game just lost hundreds of dollars in potential revenue.
7. Better inserts!
I believe the design space of the LCG can be one of its defining features. For example, The Path to Carcosa (Which you should try out if you haven't) which is heralded as a magnus opus is the LCG world does extremely creative and "holy shit" moments in its mechanics – not only being out of the norm compared to previous scenarios but also makes each expansion refreshing in the sense that you get a different game each time (there's literally a scenario that recreates Pandemic in a Arkham shell).
Arkham Horror LCG's design space is, honestly, bonkers with what it can do with its mechanics. I'm usually not thinking what the player cards are but rather what the scenario is like. If you follow the Arkham Horror LCG community they care more about the spoilers to what the scenarios are instead of the player cards in each pack.
What I'm saying is you need to make sure your LCG is refreshing each time you come to play it, not in the sense of what your players can do but rather what you can do for your players.
I have quite a bit of experience with LCGs, here my thoughts on a couple of the points you mentioned.
Many of your thoughts with LCG align with mine, however I will say that the Solo play of these is a real draw. Many would not hit the table nearly as much if it weren’t for this feature.
That being said, am extremely curious how a good competitive LCG would operate. It seems like a solid market to tap into that doesn’t have a true defining title yet. The most difficult thing about a competitive environment is power creep and alienating past factions over time. Cooperative allows for weaker card packs to still be viable as a challenge.
Love the Stonemaier list of games, and always aspired to get into the industry myself.
What gets me in the door for an LCG is a theme that I love (Android: Netrunner, Arkham Horor) and what keeps me there is a tight coupling of theme and mechanics (but also good art is important for both steps). In contrast Legend of the Five Rings' theme and art feels problematic to me and in general I don't know much about the historical period that the game is based on (is it based in history?), so I haven't picked it up to see what the gameplay is like. Netrunner on the other hand is more diverse and relies on cyberpunk tropes to make the theme easier to understand: a dystopian future where vigilante hackers try to disrupt the plans of evil corporations. One the one hand I'm more familiar with these tropes than I am with those in the Lof5R, but on the other everyone has interacted with a large corporation before and people kinda know what a hacker is. In Arkham I might not know what the great evil is, but I do know what a gun does.
What I'm saying is the ease with which I can role play my character is a huge part of my enjoyment and good world building multiplies that. I don't 'get' how to 'be' my character in Keyforge or I think I'll be uncomfortable doing so in Lot5R. So I just don't play those. Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon make it easier because they have TV which teaches the players how to act during a duel or battle. I like bringing that yugioh dueling energy into netrunner and b-rated horror energy into arkham. I'd love it if your LCG let me be a character in your world.
Lord of the rings is modular with a story/quest feel to it.
I think there are two radically different communities for LCGs: one which basically want a board game that is expanded regularly and has a cohesive narrative with a meaningful sense of progression, and those who want and experience where they can be creative/innovative/expressive in designing a deck or asserting competitive dominance (at lower than ccg prices). It is hard to serve the desired core engagement of these group simultaneously so this should be handled early in design. I have played a lot of CCGs (Magic, Star Wars (Decipher), Star Trek 2nd Ed, Doomtown, 7th Sea, Magi Nation, Afterworld, Ophidian, VS, L5R…) and LCGs (Anachronism, Netrunner, Warhammer 40k: Conquest, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, Arkham Horror, A Game of Thrones, …) and generally prefer the competative version. I feel that the LCGs that are narratively driven are really variants of legacy games with CCG mechanics (and this is a potentially fertile design space). The design space for competitive LCGs, or distributed object games more generally, is rough because of the inherent tension between creativity/customization and balance. Games attempt to solve this radically differently and nobody gets it quite right (and this may not be possible). Most seek to constrain the ability for players to combine cards some of the more elegant solution I've seen that take this approach are Magic's color system which makes generally makes a deck weaker if you try to use too many colors, the modular deck construction system in the Star Wars LCG (you don't pick individual cards you select sets of several cards), Anachronism's small 'deck' size with card types (which you can typically only have one of at a time) making you pick one effect from each heuristic category, and Netrunner's splash cost (by which you can only have a certain number of 'points' worth of out of faction cards), and Yomi which gives you a significant amount of choice in what character you play, but none in your deck in a construction sense (allowing for some of the most exhaustive playtesting I've seen). For a competitive LCG a quarterly release schedule seems to work well in terms of being cost manageable for the bulk of the player base and perturbing the meta enough to stay interesting. Your idea for a definitely end time may undermine the traditional value proposition of a CCG/LCG: that it will be supported as long as there is a reasonably sized player base (making it economically viable to produce) as you are asking a relatively high financial cost if the game will eventually lose its support (production, prize, and competitive). Anachronism is an interesting alternate pricing model in which many inexpensive (~$5) SKUs were made and some players could get started with a single character to play for between $10 and $25 (which comes to $100ish dollars for a tournament stable which was the dominant format). This made the barrier to entry for people who wanted to try it very low (this was the first true LCG and has a lot of interesting and quirky design and I would strongly recommend checking it out as a design exploration).
I am awaiting Marvel Champions in the mail, but it would be great to maybe see a scythe LCG, I just played it for the first time last week and it was great thematically/mechanics COOP would be great too
Wow. You're looking good in that lighting. Hard to focus on the discussion xD
I only play (and love) Arkham Horror and I don't think I will dip into another LCG.
I think they always are a (big) commitment and Arkham is enough for me.
Upgrading your deck for earned experience points in Arkham Horror LCG is the coolest thing imo.
I'm very glad I've found this video, thank you!!!
I've played MTG a lot. However I'm getting burned out/alienated by it because of the cost and keeping up with the newest sets. I really like the Commander multiplayer format and I play it casually.
I've tried a few games of Pokemon TCG and never played any LCG. I've owned Smash Up when it first got out. I hated the game and gave it away. However, I'm looking at LCGs at the moment in order to sink my teeth into a new card game other than MTG.
With that said.
Design: simple rules that rewards mastery. I'd like a "gateway game LCG" that I could easily share with my girlfriend for example.
Components: the cards, nothing else, or minimalist.
Card frame: I can't stress enough how this one is important to me. MTG style as much as possible. It's simple, classic, and a reference for so many TCG/LCG players. Also, keeping the card art/frame/design minimalist will surely help making it a gateway LCG.
Theme: Fantasy. Somehow I feel very attached to MTG that I would like a MTG LCG. I'm not very interested by other themes/genres but I'm open minded.
Number of players: 1-4
Co-op vs competitive: both? No traitor though. Either pick co-op mode or competitive mode.
Tournament play: preferably not, less incentive to "solve the meta"
Time commitment: short. 3 years seems nice.
Deck construction: I'm open to modular deck building as it would make it more of a gateway game, but I would still be open to a mode of the game where you can build the whole deck without being restricted by the modules.
Release schedule: once or twice a year. Makes a great birthday and Christmas gift. Even if my birthday is in January…
Price: 30-40$. Per year. So if you have 2 releases make each 15-20$. At the end of the 3 years, make a big box for 60-80$ with everything. I can't stress enough how important this is for me. If I'm going to throw loads of cash at a card game, it's going to be MTG. Keep this at a low cost and I'll add it to my boardgame collection, right next to Wingspan!!
I'm very interested by what you will come up with. Hopefully you'll keep us posted on the design of this LCG.
OK, I saw this the day it came out, and had some thoughts, sorry if the delay is inconvenient.
1 no card backs? Have an 'upgrade' on the other side? So many people use sleeves anyway…
2 put a QR code, or the like, on the cards, it can be a 'color' humans can't see but cameras can? Then you can look up rules, maybe score your tableau with an app? You were going to number the cards anyway. (you don't have to do the app, just the codes.)
3 big cards good? If this is to be a card game, and the cards are a big deal, they should at least be playing card sized, tarot sized is even better.
4 Make the game longer? If you have a game end trigger, and it can be hit fast, that will really limit your expansion? MTG was disappointing in that the big, impressive dragons and such were too slow to get out for that game, better to keep big cool cards, and make sure the game end is not triggered so soon.
5 Do build a tableau. It is nice to feel like I did something, even if I lost. In a 4 player game, 3 will lose, right? So if you built a nice empire/farm/whatever, that is nice. Empires are better than farms.
6 Scythe seems like a fine IP for this, have big mecs, have a large friendly wolf, get stars, set up some production, acquire land (maybe by conquest, maybe other ways.)
7 Do not give me too much to keep track of, I mean do not have a lot of small in game bonus things that I have to keep track of every turn, or that trigger on other peoples turns. Some of that sort of thing is good to have, so still do it if you want, but if there are a lot then I maybe will need a player board that helps me keep track. (Thanks.)
8 Dominion is worth copying if you can. Maybe let each player pick two or three common cards? This could combine with pre-build decks, or be the whole game. I don't like card streams though, then you introduce a lot of randomness. Too much for me anyway.
9 Limit player targeting. Game balance should not have to come from the trailing players all ganging up on the leader. I think you will, Tapestry had it so you could target someone's land, but very hard to just hit them over and over, that is good/fine.
OK, I should stop there, I do tend to ramble on.
I really didn't enjoy the deck construction aspect in the Arkham LCG. There were a couple of issues with that. First, it's not that easy to find a group where everyone is familiar with deck construction and that's a HUGE entry barrier to actually enjoy the game. Second, due to the nature of living card games I found the deck construction to be extremely limited even after a lot of expansions were out. The decks for a lot of different characters felt pretty samey. Both those points lead to a bit of an issue. You want, for example, magic players who are familiar with deck construction but those are exactly the type of player who might find LCG deck construction limited and boring.
My background: For the last couple years, I have played SW Destiny several times a week with my 12 year old son at our kitchen table. We have probably played 250 games against each other. All the money that I have poured into the game (even after it was cancelled) has been worth it. I just bought an old copy of Netrunner.
PRICE: your numbers sound good
RELEASE SCHEDULE: I vote for quarterly, but monthly is also good.
COMPETITIVE VS COOPERATIVE: I vote for competitive!
TOURNAMENTS: we never attended them (prob bc of my son's young age), but we follow them, discuss them, and are influenced by them. I'd say optional.
DECK CONSTRUCTION: We love it. We discuss Destiny between games far more than any other game we have. It almost becomes a lifestyle. So immersive.
LONG-TERM COMMITMENT: announcing an end date up front (like 3 years) would avoid backlash from surprisingly ending the game. FFG has taken some heat. So I like this idea.
SOLO VS MULTIPLAYER: don't need solo. Multiplayer is a plus, but two-player is cool.
EVER ACCUMULATING RULES: Yup. As the card pool increases, so do the unexpected interactions. The player community will find ways to abuse cards that you never imagined in all your play testing. You will need an online rule book where you can clarify things, nerf things, buff things, etc. But that's half the fun! It's a "living" game!
I encourage you to play SW Destiny to see the wonderful interaction between the dice and the cards. I would love another expandable card game where the cards interact with another component whether that be dice, or tiles, or a bag of stuff, whatever. Just don't expand that other component too quickly (maybe once or twice per year) because it makes storage even more difficult (like dice storage in SW Destiny). Also take a look at swdestinydb.com and netrunnerdb.com. We use those websites constantly to see decks that other people have constructed which then informs us how to construct our own decks.
So I realize I'm a little late, but I only recently discovered your channel (having an absolute blast with Charterstone, by the way). I'm with you, in the sense that despite the drawbacks that many LCGs have, I'm mystically drawn to them for some reason. I think it's the promise of a deep strategic game akin to MtG (which I love), but without the way-too-manys of dollars behind that. That being said, I find myself without a lot of time or drive to construct decks, so an option for some simpler deck construction would be very welcome. I would also welcome a solo option, because as a husband to a college student and friends with mostly college students, it's hard to get some or any of my friends into a new, untested game. It's one of the things I liked about Netrunner: because the game is fundamentally asymmetrical, two people can use the same core set without stepping on each other's toes. I have noticed that ever-expanding rules can get hard to manage. It's a fun concept, but playing through Charterstone has been a bit cumbersome because some of the rules have changed. It's hard to remember what's what.
I'm late here but just watched….when I heard you talking about diving into lcg, it made me think of what id love to see from you.. My thought was a mix between Res Arcana and Aeon's end. It would be a resource gathering, engine builder that would be played against a villian (similar to a Nemesis in Aeons end) that would accumulate their own points and disrupt the players). Each set would provide a new villian and more resource gathering options(similar to places of power ECT.. In Res Arcana).
It could be played co op/ competitive, where you have to beat the villian's score to win but highest score win wins ;).
Ashes is okay. Its a good substitute for people who like Magic but don't play enough to want to keep flushing money down the drain.
Pixel Tactics is one that I have played that seems pretty unique to other LCGs I have tried. Not alot of expansions to it, and its not all pre-built decks necessarily.
Twice a year seems like a reasonable release schedule for an LCG
Commenting from the future here, I ended up buying into Arkham Horror LCG this year because of the pandemic and I was specificly on the lookout for a good two player experience.
I haven't played a competitive LCG but I do have a whole bunch of dominion which is almost an LCG (the updates come yearly, contain a lot more cards and cost more) any competitive LCG I look at is going to be competing with a game that is superbly designed, easy to teach, doesn't require deck building in advance and hasn't gotten stale after 100s of hours of playing.
One thing that I noticed very early on about AH LCG is that it's broken up into different stories based on different works by HP Lovecraft and Robert Chambers. I could simply pick one of those stories and see how I felt by the end of the one cycle. At that point I more or less have a complete game and if I left it at that It would be something that would stand on it's own as an experience and that I would be happy to drag out and play again with different friends. What hasn't worked out so well is that on account of the pandemic about half the cycle that I planned to collect just wasn't available so at some point (and with feedback from the person I was playing with about what they enjoyed) ended up going for a different cycle that had better availability. I have also been diving into the fan made content for the game which so far has been quite satisfying. It has also turned out that I like the game enough to start collecting the current cycle.
I do really like the way that Arkham Horror sometimes will give you a significantly different experience based on the choices you make. This makes any new playthrough feel interesting as long as there is at least one person playing for the first time that you can get to make the key decisions.
I am curious as too what about the skill checks in AH LCG you did not like. To it seems thematically right for what is supposed to be a horror themed game – you should be reaching into that bag of tokens with a certain amount of dread and I think having the tokens mostly substract from your total really does a good job of capturing that.
If you wanted to look into Arkham horror further and wanted something a bit less Horror oriented I would suggest the first (A) campaign from the dream eaters cycle, It's one delux expansion and 3 packs to make a complete story. Also if you aren't so keen on the deckbuilding aspect then there are now the starter sets.
I just hate the tokens, and all unecessary shit. Would love to see a well designed cardgame like duel masters re-released as a living card game :/
Does anyone know of a living cardgame that only has cards? Without the uneccesarry shit around? Counters, tokens, dice and all that…
Deck Construction is a big thing for me and some of my friends
I'm working on my very first fantasy-themed board game, and am planning to kickstart it and my business this spring/summer. And I LOVE the idea of LCG's, but I've been doing ALL of the artwork for my (art heavy) game for almost 2 years now, and the first thought I had was, "…That'd be so much art… my arthritis…" HAHAHA.
A year later to the party but I'd be very curious about other subscription models. For an LCG tied to an IP for example could you release 1-3 cards in a weekly comic book or similar publication? You could release them separately as completed quarterly or twice yearly decks for those not keeping up with the weekly release. Even if it some sort of perforated sheet with temporary cards to cut out, if you have the whole set of comics you can show Proof of Purch for a free or heavily discounted set of the proper printed deck around the holidays.
The Game of Thrones house intro decks are really nice and allow people who don't want to get into deck construction an entry point into the game. I think that is a really nice product to have. It also goes to your point of immediate expandability. I've never done this, but it's not hard to imagine someone at a game store just buying a deck and sitting down and joining a group of people already playing.
I prefer competitive
Extremely late to the party on this. Just a quick question; did this ever evolve into a game that has since been released? Or is this still in the works? LCG are probably my favorite genre of games and I'm always on the lookout for new titles.
I've only ever played one LCG: Marvel Champions, but I have played a lot of video CCG's like Legends of Runeterra and Hearthstone.
1. Price: I think what you said about the entrypoint is about right. With expansion packs I probably wouldn't pay more than $10-$15. For example for Marvel Champions, they cost around $16.99 here in Canada, which is quite expensive to me. On top of that, one of the villain packs I was thinking of purchasing "Wrecking Crew", had like 4 villians you have to fight at once, and Fantasy Flight literally said in the description that you'd have to get your own health dials. That really rubbed me the wrong way for what it cost ($24 something), and since then I have not bought a single expansion.
2. Timeline: I think quarterly sounds just about right. I think once I get a pack, I'll need to get it to the table a few times and enjoy it enough, before I get the next, and that process alone could take a month or two. I would actually almost have 2-3 packs launch at once every 4 or 6 months, instead of 1 even more frequently. With shipping costs and everything I'd rather pay that all at once, than keep paying that every month for example. If say I get a choice between 3 quarterly, I'd choose any amount I like based on my budget at the time. I'm not entirely sure a subscription model would work for a frequency any lower.
3. Cooperative vs. Competitive: I definitely would say cooperative for a physical LCG for the exact reason you specified. In a video game like Legends of Runeterra, competitive works because you can acquire all the cards in the game for free, just by playing. All purchasable things are cosmetic. (you can also fast-track your card collection if you wish with money) I found the thematic nature of co-op in Marvel Champions very appealing – sitting down with a group of friends to work together and do the best you can to defeat the villian(s).
4. Deck Construction: Marvel Champions nails this element of picking up a pre-built deck and just playing and having a blast. There's a small element of variability, but it's not much of a choice and that's totally fine with me. I also find deck construction is only enjoyable in a video game (Runeterra), because you can hover over keywords and quickly learn what each card does. You can also filter, sort etc much faster and narrow down what you need to build out a deck idea. I just don't think this is going to work for a physical game – it's too much of a time investment for me personally for the same reasons as you.
5. Long-term commitment: Agree with you on the "feeling". I think something feeding this feeling is also the fact that you feel like you miss out when you don't get an expansion or a scenario pack. So it feels like you need to be ready to invest at any time for the next thing that seems to be getting good reception or the next thing that introduces a whole new bag of fun new mechanics or story or what not. I think the key is to make the base game the best version of the entire LCG, and all the additional content that comes later, additional enjoyment, while still introducing small doses of something new. I do enjoy the fact that a LCG is truly living with no end in sight. I can buy packs I like, then eventually get to a point where I just trade out packs I don't play anymore or story packs that I've already played through.
6. Solo vs. Multiplayer: I think having a solo mode is super important for an LCG. This was one of the big upsides for Marvel Champions, it's solo mode is great. The same is true for a video game like Runeterra. I think if deck construction or competitive is an element of the game, solo mode is a must – it gives you a space to practice and experiment. On top of that, if the LCG is turn-based, it can get lengthy, so a solo mode is great when you don't have as much time, or can't get a group together.
7. Ever Accumulating Rules: I just have to say for this piece, look at how Legends of Runeterra does it. It does sound overwhelming as a physical card game.
The biggest let down for me in Marvel Champions was exactly what you said, and most of what Shut up and Sit down covered in their review. It brought a lot of joy in my 3 sessions where my friends brought all the fun of the gameplay, but the whole thing felt "clunky"….. a lot of number crunching. The ending just sucked, and battling every villain till their health meter reduced to 0 just didn't seem that great. Most villains in Marvel have this story arc for sure, but a lot of the great villians we like are the anti-heroes, the ones in the gray areas. I think a villian system that was more story-focused and had different pathways to defeat would be great for that game.
Theme is huge for me. That's why I love almost all the games you publish. I also think in general solid theme is a big component of an LCG. Legends of Runeterra has kept me hooked because of the theme, the immersion and how all the mechanics are so tightly tied to each card, character and the world. The mechanics are also at the same time are really intriguing and innovative. Each play in Runeterra is enjoyable and satisfying because of that main reason, plus also the art, animation and the overall game design. (full disclosure: I used to play a lot of League of Legends a while ago, and so the world of Runeterra quickly captivated me. I have to say though, the artwork in Runeterra captivated me even more on top of that. It's by a design studio called SixMoreVodka. Here's their site, you should check it out: https://sixmorevodka.com/home)
Excited to see what you're cooking up!
Anyone who has a cat who is so comfy and relaxed as yours, is a good person…
keyforge is not an LCG.