The big three collectible card games all have big news this year. Magic: The Gathering preparing for the celebration of its 30th anniversary, Yu Gi Oh! released its latest game adaptation, Master Dueland Pokemon trading card game launches its new range of Paradigm Trigger cards.
These three behemoths began their dominance in the mid-90s. However, not all card games that have been launched alongside them have been so lucky, and a few of them may have had new ones. concepts or brands, but never left the decade. These card games could have been collectible, but didn’t last.
Great Deck! (1994)
Great Deck! was one of the first collectible card games to see a big release. In fact, it was the fourth card game ever released and given that it was superhero focused, it looked like it would be a hit.
Rather than featuring recognizable characters, this game was all about new faces. The art on the cards was done by veteran comic artists like Brian Michael Bendis, but was often poorly digitized or recolored. Combine that with poor balancing (strong cards had no cost) to have one of the least remembered card games of the decade.
Mortal Kombat Kard Game (1995)
Looking at the word “map” with a “K” is probably one of the most inspirational things about this game. Fighting games were booming in the 90s, and mortal combat was one of the greatest of them. It made sense to turn the franchise into card games, which were also popular, but the only problem was that the series’ signature features were missing.
The game contained no gore, although some deaths appeared. Also, all of the card art was flat illustrations of the characters rather than sleek actors like in the games. Those were two big points against him, and the gameplay couldn’t save him. It was basically a speeded up version of Magic‘s rules, but without any of its charm.
Middle-earth Trading Card Game (1995)
Despite the world of Magic initially looking very similar to Tolkien’s works, Middle Earth Trading Card Game was actually quite interesting. Players took on the role of one of five wizarding characters in the setting and consisted of them trying to muster forces to stop Sauron, rather than a traditional player versus player.
Various expansions for the games would introduce various other bits ofthe Lord of the Rings tradition, like Ring Wraiths. Several illustrators who worked on the books were also hired for beautiful card artwork, and tabletop game content from Iron Crown Enterprises was also included. It’s all great, but the unconventional rules meant this one never took off like its contemporaries.
BattleTech Trading Card Game (1996)
Although it’s been around for decades, the tabletop franchise BattleTech has yet to achieve mainstream success, and the same can be said of its card game, despite being created by Wizards of the Coast themselves. The object of the game was to clear the opponent’s cards before their own stock ran out.
The mechanics of the game are very similar to Magic‘s, having different types of cards. While the cards still needed resources, there was a slew of mission cards that made it easier for opponents to attack, and while that made the game easier to play, it contributed to its downfall. Very few rules were written, so players left after expansions made things more complicated.
Babylon 5 Trading Card Game (1997)
This deck of cards does a good job of capturing the details of the Babylon 5 world. Another game with an unorthodox method of play compared to the big three, the game is intended for at least four players (although a modified version allows two players) and has a heavy focus on debate. The cards would introduce political conflicts between the players that they would have to discuss.
This opened up a lot of room for improvisation, like the classic tabletop games of the past. However, the game was still competitive, as active tournaments were held for it, and the game saw several expansions which added both more of the cross-player combat elements and the political maps the game was known for. It remains one of the cult classic games of its time because nothing quite like it.
Jim Lee’s C-23 (1998)
Comic book artist Jim Lee helped create many iconic characters and is an integral part of DC Comics today. In the 90s, he was well known as an independent creator and was able to create this card game using only name recognition. Unfortunately, this did not translate into strong sales.
The game was well regarded for its artistry, as to be expected. What was more impressive was its gameplay, which used a system called ARC. This used four distinct card types to aid in deck building and was also used for the Xena and Hercules card games. As these games have more recognizable brands, they eventually outperformed the poor C-23.
Spellfire: Master the Magic (1994)
Sure, Dungeons and Dragons himself tried to break into the craze for card games. It especially made a lot of sense as the second collectible card game to be released. The game was based on the multiple parameters of the J&D universe and had over 400 cards from the start. Much like its parent game, any number of players could play.
Players control the realms, which cards are played in, and a champion who has special abilities. If a player does not have a kingdom, he loses his cards and leaves the game. Although it was the second TCG in history, it was actually surprisingly different from Magic. Unfortunately, the cost of producing the game proved to be too high and parent company TSR was acquired by Wizards of the Coast, and the game was discontinued.
Star Wars Customizable Card Game (1995) and Young Jedi Trading Card Game (1999)
star wars, being a classic moving franchise, has many adaptations on the table. It has also had numerous card game adaptations, two of which were released in the 90s. Customizable deck of cards came first and has a unique setup requiring two different decks for competitive play. In each game, one player must be on the light side and the other on the dark side, so decks of both archetypes must be built.
Although it is a neat hook, the star wars game otherwise is quite similar to Magic with a finite resource pool. There were expansions that covered most movies, which is more than can be said for Young Jedi. This game mainly covered ideas from the phantom menace, which it was released to promote. While it was generally better regarded in gameplay, it ended when the developer lost the license.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Trading Card Game (1996)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a hilarious and beloved movie, but it doesn’t seem like the immediate choice for a card game. Despite this, the 1996 card game adaptation was popular for almost ten years. That’s because it was the rare card game to cause hilarious antics.
The game involves each player setting out to create Avalon by placing cards. When enough cards are laid, they can go in search of the Holy Grail. All of the maps are themed around various jokes and gags from the film, and the rulebook even encourages players to speak in silly accents to set the mood.
Star Trek Customizable Card Game (1994)
star trek released a few tabletop game adaptations, but the first card game will hold a special place in the hearts of many fans. This game received two editions, with the second edition having so many changes that it is often considered a separate game. The object of the game is to earn 100 points by completing missions and objectives.
The cards in this game represent crew members, ships, and equipment. This allows each player to customize a group of explorers unique to one of the shows. Players could then complete these missions, or even sabotage other players. It’s fun, but it involves a lot of complex systems, which the second edition aimed to remedy. Although it was never the most popular, its customization made it one of the most underrated gems of the 90s.
NEXT: The 10 Best Star Trek Tabletop Games