Trading card games. For many of us, our introduction to tabletop gaming began with this genre. It’s easy to see why, too. A starter pack is cheap, the games are highly portable, collecting is fun, and they’re every bit as addictive as actual drugs. Even though I got out of the TCG hobby years ago, I can still remember the sound, the feel, hell, even the smell of opening a new pack of cards.
But unless you’re Magic, Pokémon, or Yu-Gi-Oh, the TCG market is a tough environment for a game to survive in. As evidence, I point to the trail of dead card games over the past three decades. But some newcomers, like Legend Story’s Flesh & Blood, have given people hope again. And there are some newcomers that are hoping to muscle in on the action and give The Big 3 a run for their money.
Ultraman Omnibus – Kickstarter, April 22
The original Ultraman tv series cemented two things in the pop-culture zeitgeist: space-ninja-robots fighting monsters will always be cool, and road-cone orange neck ties are a required accessory for all good guys. Ok, maybe that last one didn’t stick. But it is true that Ultraman was incredibly popular in both the East and West and has gone on to spawn other tokusatsu franchises like Kamen Rider and Power Rangers. Yet despite the popularity of these other franchise, Ultraman himself never went away. Look no further than Argosy’s upcoming card game which features the shiny, alien savior and is based on his latest TV spot from his 2019 Netflix series.
For a long time, the Ultraman TV series used the very simple monster-of-the-week plot structure, but not so the latest iteration. Don’t mistake me, Netflix’s Ultraman still features plenty of bizarre kaiju, but the plot also relies heavily on intrigue and Science Patrol secrets.
Ultraman Omnibus is based on this most recent series and so pulls heavily on its new plot structure, making it quite a bit different from standard head-to-head card battles. And when I say it pulls heavily on plot structure, I mean literally. Each game plays out like an episode of the show, with 1 to 4 players navigating their way to a climactic showdown at the end.
Players start by choosing a hero and an Ultrasuit, then creating a character deck which they will use throughout the game. As they play their way through the Plot, various events will pop up in the form of Beat cards. The core mechanic of the game revolves around matching Atoms, symbols that indicate which cards connect to which. Beats all connect to the Plot, and Assets (characters, locations, abilities, and items) all have Atoms that connect them to various Beats. And like all good narrative games, there are so many possible Plot combinations that playing the same game twice would be pretty difficult. And rumor has it that the Plots of Ultraman Omnibus might soon be able to intertwine with another, very popular Japanese kaiju franchise. More on that when more info is available.
Admittedly, it’s very different from other TCGs, but honestly, the format could use something fresh. Further differentiating it is the fact that the starter comes with most of the available game, but you will still be able to buy card packs for that sweet, sweet dopamine hit. Never watched the show? Don’t worry. Season 2 drops on Netflix April 14, a week before the card game launches, giving you plenty of time to binge.
Runeslingers: The Awakening – Kickstarter, May 17
If you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, then be sure to check out Runeslingers. Unlike many other TCGs, this 2-player deck dueler doesn’t rely on summoned beasts or cute pets to do the fighting for you. Instead, players are runeslingers, wizards who will use runespells and magical items to battle it out directly in a grand tournament of champions. The start of the game consists of players choosing their runeslinger from several available characters. Their stats are all the same, but part of setup is customizing your character by adding a unique Stance (passive character power) and an Ability, giving your character some unique flavor.
Once your character is built, it’s fight time. The goal of Runeslingers will feel pretty familiar: exhaust your opponent’s Power by bringing it from 5 to 0. But unlike other PvP card games where your only job is to bring your opponent’s life down, Runeslingers offers several ways to achieve victory. Yes, each Runeslinger has a starting health of 20, but bringing that to 0 doesn’t end the game. Instead, it just reduces their power by 1 and their health stat resets. But players also lose a power if they ever have 8 Ailments (any number of negative conditions) on their runeslinger or whenever their deck runs out of cards. So many possible strategies means that every turn is a frenzy of players flinging offensive spells, setting up defensive ones, and trying to treat their Ailments with Boons in order to stave off that Power loss.
And while the fun of the gameplay obviously has to be the main selling point of any game, Runeslingers also keeps in mind that collectability is another important aspect for many TCG players. With that in mind, the base set is big with 216 cards, 162 of which are unique. It also includes 54 foil cards which will all at some point, according to the Runeslingers website, be minted. Once that happens, that foil will be out of print forever. So miss this Kickstarter at your own risk.
Scamperland – Kickstarter (Ends April 31)
As a former teacher, I often recommend tabletop games for their educational value. Players are exposed to new vocabulary, must pay attention to the nuance of language, plan long-term strategies, analyze rulebooks, etc. The list just goes on and on. But one thing that is seldom done well is a game whose primary purpose is to educate. Fortunately, there are companies like Edjoyment.
In their first game, Historica, players must travel through time with their squad of historic figures, visiting historic locations along the way, in order to be the first to reach 1600 Player Points. Points can be earned by answering questions about members of their Squad, activating Squad abilities, and by playing various cards. And since it’s a collectible card game, teachers can conceivably give out packs of cards to students as prizes. Finally, something cooler than a neon-colored pencil in the prize bucket!
Scamperland doesn’t look to the past, but to the future where players are human-animal hybrids thanks to a toxic, green ooze called Synth Slime. Considering the world is now basically filled with vicious were-creatures, you don’t want to go it alone. You’ll again assemble a squad of other animal-folk whom you’ll care for with Food and provide Gear to increase their strength. But where Historica focused on teaching history, Scamperland seems to focus on improving language skills through Speech cards. Each of these cards features a higher-level vocabulary word with its part of speech (verb, adjective, noun, etc.) in addition to its in-game effect. And like Historica, it’s also a TCG, so teachers, hit up those grants and get a box for your classroom.
by Zane Messina