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Ode to a CCG: Decipher's Star Wars

StericaSterica YesRegistered User, Moderator mod
edited May 2007 in Critical Failures
Oh, Star Wars CCG, how you were loved. While you were taken away from us far too soon, we shall remember the good times with a thread.

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What is this?

It's a Customizable Card Game based on some relatively unknown movies made by some flannel-loving nerd.

It's Star Wars! In card form!

While Wizards of the Coast (WotC) ruled the card scene with the juggernaut Magic, Decipher decided to challenge their rule. Star Wars gave Magic stiff competition, being pretty much just as frozen in the number two spot as Magic was stuck at number one. Some might chalk this up to Star Wars being based on a popular franchise compared to Magic's generic fantasy background (and not based on any established properties), but Star Wars (SW) was a damn fine game.

It wouldn't be until 1999 when WotC found a way to "deal' with the competition. Of coruse, it wasn't their own creation but their gain of the translation/printing/etc. rights for the Pokemon Trading Card game. Just like Star Wars, Pokemon was based on the insanely popular Nintenod franchise (though I say the card game is inferior to both Magic and SW). The video game and anime had recently the USA, and the Pokemon craze was just starting. The Pokemon TCG sold out everywhere, and SW would eventually fall to third. Even Magic would finally lose its throne to the critters.

But being third does not kill you off, and business continued as usual. Decipher responded to Pokemon with its own simpler CCG Young Jedi that was based on the prequel trilogy. A smart move, as the only thing that would beat Pokemon would be brand new Star Wars moviews. Too bad the Phantom Menance well, uh, sucked. But Young Jedi was still game, which is another thread for another time. A THIRD SW CCG would be created, Jedi Knights, but that also is not the topic of this thread.

Disaster struck in 2001. Decipher lost the Star Wars license, and to WotC of all people. I personally recall something being a bit shady about this...talk about Hasbro/WotC connections and more money to be made off Attack of the Clones merch (after all, we hated Phantom Menance, but we're still big enough saps to toss more money in the franchise). That's all hearsay, however, and the bottom line is that the SW CCG was dead.

...or was it?

Good games get dedicated players, and SW CCG fans proved their dedication with the creation of the Star Wars CCG Players Committee. They are STILL active, six years after the Decipher stopped producing new cards. The Committee releases "Virtual Sets" that players print out and tape to existing cards. The Virtual Cards change are, in essence, super errata to keep the metagame fresh and ever-changing. They also make sure the game stays alive by promoting local tournaments in their respective regions. It's nothing short of amazing and shows what a dedicated community can do.

To end this history lesson, Decipher did try to release a game that was basically Star Wars with Decipher-made characters and stories. It didn't last long, however.

What's good about Star Wars?

When it comes to flavor, Star Wars is king. While not everything is competitive, you can still put together decks with awesome goals. Want to reenact the Battle of Yavin? Want to freeze Han and deliver him to Jabba? Or do you want to use the characters in your own, horrible form of fan fiction? Have the Death Star blow up Hoth? Have Yoda train Chewbaca to be a Jedi Knight? What if Luke did join the Dark Side and decided to help Boba Fett bring in the bounties? They aren't all going to be killer decks, but the fact you CAN do them makes the game awesome for casual play.

Star Wars also advertised itself as being equipment free. Your "life" is counted via your deck. Your resources are determined by location cards and actually counted out from the top of your deck. You spend force and it cycles back into your deck when the turn ends. Even chance is self-contained. Each card has a "destiny" number on it (except locations, which are zero). Need to see if a gun hits its target? Look at the destiny value of the top card of your deck. This was an awesome system that added a wrinkle to gameplay and allowed players to control their luck if they could managed resources well (deck counting was not allowed, but you could keep track if you were good enough). Cards like Vader were badass, but had a measly 1 Destiny. Other cards might have a whopping 6 or 7 Destiny.

Star Wars drew from the extended universe a lot when it came to background characters. Sadly, once the game finally used up all of the original movies for card material (they even touched upon Shadows of the Empire), Lucas intervened and decided everything Star Wars must be plagued by the prequels and Decipher was forced to do Phantom Menace expansions rather than start going into expanded universe novels/comics/etc. This was such a shitty decision when it came to flavor. Darth Sidious, Senator Palapatine and the Emperor were separate personas. This means all three could be out at once. I recall Palpatine being Light Side, so he could actually get into battles against the Dark Side Darth and Emp. Yes Virginia, the Emperor could fight himself. Not to say that it was poor mechanics wise...just really really messy combining OT and PT together like that.

The game also had a great sense of humor. Lots of easter eggs on the cards. Some subtle, some very obvious and awesome.

What is not so great?

Star Wars has rules. Lots and lots of rules. If you think Magic is bad...stay far away from here. The game required little rules sheets to be collected for each expansion if you wanted to stay on top. Luckily, Special Edition say the first compiling of the rules into one book. While not a huge book (it came packaged in starter kits, so it's not normal BOOK book sized), you will have to play for a bit and sit down and read the thing for a while to memorized all the various rules.

Decipher was also very reluctant to ban cards. Errata was used, but normally sparingly. Decipher instead loved counter cards. I mean strict counter cards. Card X too powerful? Next expansion, Card Y specifically cancels card X. It might also cancel Cards A, B and C so it's not too narrow, but you get the idea.

Later sets also introduced Objective cards which had you reenact movie plot lines for bonuses. Some say this was over restrictive and lead to cookie cutter decks. Others loved getting rewards for playing out the movies.

That's all, folks

A few years ago, you could find special sets of the CCG in boxes that had several booster packs of the various expansions along with some starers and stuff for maybe twenty bucks. Nowadays, however, the game is becoming a bit more rare. You can still probably get a lot of cards cheaply, but expect older sets and sets with fewer printings to be incredibly rare. Nonetheless, this is an awesome game that is a great way to kill an afternoon. I miss the days of using mynocks to defend the Death Star from would-be attackers.

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Sterica on

Posts

  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    This game was so good and so bad at the same time.

    edit: deck counting was allowed, by the way..

    Serpent on
  • DayspringDayspring the Phoenician Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    This was a hugely enjoyable game.
    I think we still have several boxes of it in the attic somewhere.

    Dayspring on
  • GABBO GABBO GABBOGABBO GABBO GABBO Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    This game would have succeeded if they hadn't insisted on changing gameplay with virtually every expansion.
    Also, this was the only game that took longer than Legends Of The Five Rings to play.

    When I sold all my black border rares from the first series I made a nice chunk of change though.

    GABBO GABBO GABBO on
  • GahmriousGahmrious Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    This game was pretty big when I was only 11 years old. I was starting to get into Star Wars around that age and for my 11th birthday I got all kinds of SW stuff. I had already been collecting the cards from decipher, and tried to play but at that age I just didnt really know what was goin on. Anyways I remember getting a Han Solo, Darth Vader and a few other rare cards on that day. I was so fkn happy...

    I still have a large number of black border 1st print cards, and quite a few of those white bordered craps... My old boss tells me he has the entire 1st release set in mint condition (but he actually used to play unlike me).

    If anyone would like to take them off my hands for a price, pm me.

    Gahmrious on
  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Manifest wrote: »
    This game would have succeeded if they hadn't insisted on changing gameplay with virtually every expansion.
    Also, this was the only game that took longer than Legends Of The Five Rings to play.

    When I sold all my black border rares from the first series I made a nice chunk of change though.

    The game had sets coming out for it for about 7 odd years or so, and is still being played competitively for cash prices. I think it did succeed.

    Serpent on
  • GahmriousGahmrious Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Serpent wrote: »
    Manifest wrote: »
    This game would have succeeded if they hadn't insisted on changing gameplay with virtually every expansion.
    Also, this was the only game that took longer than Legends Of The Five Rings to play.

    When I sold all my black border rares from the first series I made a nice chunk of change though.

    The game had sets coming out for it for about 7 odd years or so, and is still being played competitively for cash prices. I think it did succeed.

    Agreed.

    Gahmrious on
  • DayspringDayspring the Phoenician Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Manifest wrote: »
    Also, this was the only game that took longer than Legends Of The Five Rings to play.
    It's been a while since I touched a CCG but I seem to remember the Babylon 5 card game taking ages.

    Dayspring on
  • LitejediLitejedi New York CityRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    I was by no means a hardcore player, but over four years of high school, I collected about 2,000 worth of these cards (including all but one Reflections I card, damn you Vader!). I wonder how much I could sell them for...

    Litejedi on
    3DS FC: 1907-9450-1017
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  • PsychoLarry1PsychoLarry1 Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Oh Executor, you were so awesome. 12 power, 12 armor, an infinite number of TIEs and pilots, and you can hold your own locations? Yes please.
    I do recall the fun being sucked out of the game when my friend realized that he could field 14 x-wings and take down star-destroyers by using lock s-foils and get them for 1 force each using some other card. Dealing with cheese is never fun.

    PsychoLarry1 on
  • StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited April 2007
    I played a mean Trooper deck back in the day. The best part was that the deck's strength wasn't in pumping up their power, but their forfeit value instead. So even the worst combat losses only results in a trooper or two biting it.

    Sterica on
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  • JacquesCousteauJacquesCousteau Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    I used to buy CCG starters all the time even though I didn't have anyone to play with (like when I was 10). So I'd play with my dad. But we couldn't figure this game out. Does it have the most complicated rule system of all time or is it just me?

    JacquesCousteau on
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  • laughingfuzzballlaughingfuzzball Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    It's more complex than average, but not the most. Middle Earth held that crown.

    It's really not that hard to learn, and more than worth it.

    laughingfuzzball on
  • AegisAegis Not Quite TorontoRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    I have...way, way too many cards from this CCG from my earlier years *looks over to the 3 anthology boxes completely filled gathering gust*

    Aegis on
    We'll see how long this blog lasts
    Currently DMing: None :(
    Characters
    [5e] Dural Melairkyn - AC 18 | HP 40 | Melee +5/1d8+3 | Spell +4/DC 12
  • TiemlerTiemler Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Serpent wrote: »
    This game was so good and so bad at the same time.

    edit: deck counting was allowed, by the way..

    Counting the cards in a stack was against the rules for a while, I think that was changed when the printed FAQ came out in the OTSD packs. Tracking high-destiny cards was a specialty of mine, and I choked many, many Jedis and would-be Jedis with my Darth Vader, Dark Lord of The Sith. To give you an idea how key deck manipulation was to my playing style, one of my signature cards in the final build of my Hunt Down deck was Operational As Planned.

    Favorite deck archetypes...

    Hunt Down & Destroy The Jedi
    ISB Operations w/walkers and star destroyers
    Echo Base Operations w/speeders and space
    Post-DSII Hidden Base w/Strike Planning, Squadron Assignments, Staging Areas

    You have no idea how much it pains me that Episode I cards were released for this game. Wouldn't have been so bad if it went right through the entire prequel trilogy, but being forever stuck with only Ep.I just sucks ass. People might actually have kept playing this if it was the 'Classic Trilogy' CCG while the garbage WotC published had all the lame prequel stuff in it. Oh, well.

    I kept some of my shit around. Those of you with decks, bring 'em to PAX. Let's have a gentlemen's agreement, though. No prequel trilogy material. I think to make it easy, all the TPM stuff has a symbol to that effect.

    Tiemler on
  • StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited April 2007
    To clarify: the game didn't tank because of the Episode 1 stuff, Decipher basically just lost the rights to it and well...that tends to kill your game.

    Going into the extended universe, however, would have been a much much easier. Keep the Prequel stuff to Young Jedi.

    Sterica on
    YL9WnCY.png
  • TiemlerTiemler Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    To clarify: the game didn't tank because of the Episode 1 stuff, Decipher basically just lost the rights to it and well...that tends to kill your game.

    I know. But they knew they weren't going to keep the license before going ahead with the Ep1 sets. Those were a cash-in.
    Going into the extended universe, however, would have been a much much easier. Keep the Prequel stuff to Young Jedi.

    Agreed. Shadows was particularly well-done.

    And did anyone else here really like Jedi Knights? I thought it was cool, although the CGI art was usually dreadful. The nature of the game was all-combat, on just the three principal worlds of the trilogy, with a very elegant system for control of space to make the ground battle unfold easier.

    Incidentally, other defunct CCGs that I kept decks for, and plan to bring to PAX, include the Battletech TCG and L5R. Battletech is mad fun to play sealed, without even examining the contents of he deck first. Shuffle & play. 8-)

    Tiemler on
  • StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited April 2007
    I hear Knights was the same basic model as Young Jedi, but only more complex.

    Despite being based on the more maligned movies, Young Jedi was actually pretty fun.

    Sterica on
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  • TiemlerTiemler Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    I hear Knights was the same basic model as Young Jedi, but only more complex.

    Completely inaccurate. It was between YJ and SW in complexity, and fairly elegant in its own right. Very distinctive mechanics.

    Tiemler on
  • TomantaTomanta Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    I loved this game and collected the hell out of it even if I couldn't find anyone (except my cousin) to play with. I pretty much dropped it after the D*II expansion, but went back a few years later to pick up some stuff I missed cheap. Still missing a lot of the big cards from the premiere set and most of the EP1 stuff :(.

    Still have all my cards, along with a crapload of other CCG stuff I haven't really touched in years. I enjoyed CCGs in general, but SW was by far my fav.

    Tomanta on
  • ClawshrimpyClawshrimpy Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Star Wars CCG was GOOD. so was Lord of the rings, in it's prime, though it was an obvious cash-in.

    Clawshrimpy on
  • CokomonCokomon Our butts are worth fighting for! Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Tiemler wrote: »
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    To clarify: the game didn't tank because of the Episode 1 stuff, Decipher basically just lost the rights to it and well...that tends to kill your game.

    I know. But they knew they weren't going to keep the license before going ahead with the Ep1 sets. Those were a cash-in.
    Going into the extended universe, however, would have been a much much easier. Keep the Prequel stuff to Young Jedi.

    Agreed. Shadows was particularly well-done.

    I remember when Shadows came out on the N64, and Nintendo Power mentioned in a preview that Decipher was going to make a set for it. I remember waiting, and waiting, and waiting...

    Cokomon on
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  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Cokomon wrote: »
    Tiemler wrote: »
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    To clarify: the game didn't tank because of the Episode 1 stuff, Decipher basically just lost the rights to it and well...that tends to kill your game.

    I know. But they knew they weren't going to keep the license before going ahead with the Ep1 sets. Those were a cash-in.
    Going into the extended universe, however, would have been a much much easier. Keep the Prequel stuff to Young Jedi.

    Agreed. Shadows was particularly well-done.

    I remember when Shadows came out on the N64, and Nintendo Power mentioned in a preview that Decipher was going to make a set for it. I remember waiting, and waiting, and waiting...

    They did make a set for it, sorta. Dash came out, as did Xizor... guri,... and so on.

    Serpent on
  • Daemon_AconisDaemon_Aconis Registered User
    edited April 2007
    Tiemler wrote: »

    Incidentally, other defunct CCGs that I kept decks for, and plan to bring to PAX, include the Battletech TCG and L5R. Battletech is mad fun to play sealed, without even examining the contents of he deck first. Shuffle & play. 8-)

    I just have to point that L5R isn't defunct. Though the majority of the cards certainly have cycled.

    Daemon_Aconis on
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  • laughingfuzzballlaughingfuzzball Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    I think Decipher's biggest weakness has been that they can'y ever release things on time. Most companies have more delayed products than not, but I can;t remember any sets that weren't delayed at least once, and a lot were delayed a few times. I'm not sure if they were as bad with other lines, but it was a big problem with SWCCG.

    Most players were more than willing to put up with it, though, because of the general quality of most sets.

    laughingfuzzball on
  • GABBO GABBO GABBOGABBO GABBO GABBO Registered User regular
    edited April 2007
    Serpent wrote: »
    Manifest wrote: »
    This game would have succeeded if they hadn't insisted on changing gameplay with virtually every expansion.
    Also, this was the only game that took longer than Legends Of The Five Rings to play.

    When I sold all my black border rares from the first series I made a nice chunk of change though.

    The game had sets coming out for it for about 7 odd years or so, and is still being played competitively for cash prices. I think it did succeed.

    Nah. Everything past the 3rd expansion sucked.

    GABBO GABBO GABBO on
  • DJ EebsDJ Eebs Moderator, Administrator admin
    edited April 2007
    I loved this game, but I never really played it competitively. It was mainly me, my brother and my neighbor who played it, and one of my cousins was really big into it.

    I put together a (by my standards) fuckawesome Ewok deck once. And that was the highlight of my deckmaking strategies.

    DJ Eebs on
  • AegisAegis Not Quite TorontoRegistered User regular
    edited April 2007
    This game took up quite a bit of time when I was younger. Most "oh shit" moment I remember was when playing it against some friends, I had Home One out with its ship locations (Yay for a light side counterpart to the Executor) and somehow managed to lose control of the ship locations and nearly the ship itself >< I'm still not entirely sure how that happened.

    Aegis on
    We'll see how long this blog lasts
    Currently DMing: None :(
    Characters
    [5e] Dural Melairkyn - AC 18 | HP 40 | Melee +5/1d8+3 | Spell +4/DC 12
  • Unearthly StewUnearthly Stew Registered User regular
    edited May 2007
    Yeah, I remember my bro. buying a box of Dagobah set. We piled up the card wrappers when we opened a pack. We thought we were done with no Executor, but we found a singe pack underneath all our wrappers. In it? Executor! My favorite combo was darkside stormtroopers with an inturrupt called 'Trooper Charge' or something from the Cloud City set that increased power by 2 each and gave them a colateral value of one each.

    Unearthly Stew on
  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited May 2007
    Manifest wrote: »
    Serpent wrote: »
    Manifest wrote: »
    This game would have succeeded if they hadn't insisted on changing gameplay with virtually every expansion.
    Also, this was the only game that took longer than Legends Of The Five Rings to play.

    When I sold all my black border rares from the first series I made a nice chunk of change though.

    The game had sets coming out for it for about 7 odd years or so, and is still being played competitively for cash prices. I think it did succeed.

    Nah. Everything past the 3rd expansion sucked.

    Something sucking != something not succeeding

    Serpent on
  • TomantaTomanta Registered User regular
    edited May 2007
    Yeah, I remember my bro. buying a box of Dagobah set. We piled up the card wrappers when we opened a pack. We thought we were done with no Executor, but we found a singe pack underneath all our wrappers. In it? Executor! My favorite combo was darkside stormtroopers with an inturrupt called 'Trooper Charge' or something from the Cloud City set that increased power by 2 each and gave them a colateral value of one each.

    I remember Dagobah. I lived about 40 minutes from the nearest store and it would be a week or so before I could get over there. My cousin went there, though, and picked me up two packs to go with his ten or so.

    Got Executor in one of my packs (IIRC, he got nothing big). That was a good day.

    Tomanta on
  • Unearthly StewUnearthly Stew Registered User regular
    edited May 2007
    I bet my decks are still floating around somewhere. I would love to play again; if I remembered all the rules that is.

    Unearthly Stew on
  • TiemlerTiemler Registered User regular
    edited May 2007
    I bet my decks are still floating around somewhere. I would love to play again; if I remembered all the rules that is.

    If you find your decks and are coming to PAX, bring 'em along. Most of the rules are right on the cards, fortunately. A lot of the obscure stuff dealt with cards that nobody used, anyway.

    Tiemler on
  • Unearthly StewUnearthly Stew Registered User regular
    edited May 2007
    Yeah, I'm not going to PAX though. Too broke. I should go about ways of finding people in my area that play.

    Unearthly Stew on
  • TiemlerTiemler Registered User regular
    edited May 2007
    Yeah, I'm not going to PAX though. Too broke. I should go about ways of finding people in my area that play.

    Cardtable files and images exist for SW:CCG, I'm doing a bit of googling to find active groups. Checking out Battletech TCG, as well. Being able to play these again would rule.

    Tiemler on
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