In The '90s, not only was the Collectible Card Game experiencing an explosion of popularity (thanks to Trope Maker Magic: The Gathering), but Highlander was running strong, mostly thanks to the series. Thus, it was natural to make a card game based on Higlander, called Highlander: The Trading Card Game.
The game plays like no other TCG before or since, really. Each player takes on the role of an individual Immortal, and fights their opponent in a one-on-one duel. The players take turns playing cards, with the end goal of defeating their opponent and, perhaps, taking their head.
A player starts their turn by "sweeping" cards removed from play (most often last turn's attacks and defenses), then plays a defense against an incoming attack (if there is one). Then they have an opportunity to play their own attack. At any point in these phases, they can play up to one "special" card. Then, if necessary, they adjust their ability, discard down to their ability if need be, then it's the opponent's turn.
Attacks and defenses are noted by a three-by-three grid in the upper left corner, showing where the attack or defense is aimed. For a defense to nullify a given attack, it must cover the appropriate square, and defenses typically cover multiple squares while attacks typically cover one (there are exceptions). There are nine basic attacks (one for each square of the three-by-three grid) and six basic blocks, and you must include at least one of each in your deck. There are also dodges, which tend to be Immortal-specific, cover most if not all of the grid, but usually come with a drawback (some Immortals noted for their agility can have dodges with no drawback, or even supplying advantages).
Special cards include Situations (which can have subcategories like Ally or Plot), Locations, Objects (including armor and personalized weapon hilts), and Events (cool things that can happen during a duel). Another category is Edge cards, which are not Special cards, so don't count against the one-Special-card-per-turn limit, and typically need to be played "in conjunction" with another card for full (or any) effect.
The last grouping of cards are "Pregame Cards", usually a Persona Card that represents the Immortal you're playing, but can be modifiers to that Persona, Weapons of Choice, Quickenings, and so on.
The game still has a small but dedicated fanbase, and a small but dedicated group of developers still working on content for the game, which is in it's third edition. The game's site can be found here.
Contains examples of:
- All Your Powers Combined: Quickenings, Pregame cards usually obtained through tournaments that mimic the Persona powers of other Immortals, such as Luther's ability to block Power Blows without an exertion or The Kurgan's massive strength adding damage to attacks. If your opponent beats you via Head Shot, they get any Quickenings you were using.
- Always Accurate Attack: Some attacks cannot be blocked, others cannot be dodged, and a very rare few cannot be blocked or dodged. However, there are some blocks or dodges that will specifically defend against attacks that cannot be blocked or dodged respectively.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Certain combinations, especially in your Pregame cards, could be really cool. . . if you could implement them.
- Amanda with a Rapier. Three attacks per turn is definitely awesome, but sustaining that barrage from turn to turn requires a deck bloated with attacks or that has little room for anything else (or both). Doubly Awesome (and doubly Impractical) with Seduce, Femme Fatale, and Flurry Strike. Seduce is an Event that makes Amanda's next attack unblockable and undodgeable, Femme Fatale is an Edge that lets Amanda play another Seduce, and Flurry Strike is an attack that does an additional point of damage for every other Flurry Strike played that turn. Play three Seduces via two Femme Fatales followed by three Flurry Strikes, and your opponent is staring down nine unblockable, undodgeable damage. . . at the cost of half your hand being just that combo.
- BFS: The Claymore weapon of choice. You have to discard the top card of your endurance for each attack you play, but your opponent must do the same when they block. It also reduces the size of "standard exertions" by two, so you can make and block Power Blows easier. . . but you're also less likely to find an attack or defense when exerting to look for one.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: The game isn't above taking potshots at some of the less-loved portions of the franchise.
- A Situation entitled "Season Six" with the "Plot?" subtype. The flavor text is an actual quote from the show, and sums up most people's feelings about the Season 5 end/Season 6 start story arc.
- Blocking Stops All Damage: Not always. Normally, a block will prevent all damage from an attack, even if the attack itself does additional damage if successful (like a Thrust) or the player has an ability to do extra damage (like The Kurgan), because the attack must be successful for the additional damage to kick in, and a blocked attack is not "successful." However, there are Power Blows, normally made through an exertion or a card that makes an attack a Power Blow. If you play a block against a Power Blow, you still take 2 damage (and the attack becomes "successful," triggering an additional damage modifiers, though the block itself is also "successful," negating effects like Head Shot). If you block with an exertion or a card ability that lets you block a Power Blow without an exertion and take no damage, then the attack is not successful, deals no damage, and no additional damage effects trigger. If you play a dodge, you avoid the attack completely and it becomes unsuccessful.
- Breakable Weapons: Rare, but some cards will allow you to break your opponent's weapon instead of just disarming them. A broken weapon cannot be recovered, unlike a disarmed one. In the second edition, Marcus has a special hilt for the Gladius that allows him to break an opponent's weapon every time he disarms them (as a reference to the number of swords Colin went through trying to fight him).
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: The Duncan and Methos Collector's Tins turned those characters into near Game Breakers.
- Methos isn't even playable without the tin, as it's the only place to get his Persona and a bunch of other cards. Methos' Persona power is an arguably better version of Richie's, letting him use other Immortals' Master cards (referencing either that, as one of the oldest Immortals, everyone learned their tricks from him, if only remotely, or that being so old, Properly Paranoid, and a Watcher, he's studied other Immortals enough to use their tricks against them). His own cards are pretty good, too. Tellingly, Methos' Nemesis card is available in a regular set, and prevents Methos from playing Immortal-specific cards at all.
- Duncan has been in the game from the start, but his tin adds lots of Pregame and in-game cards to really bring him to the level of superlative badass he is in the show. With cards from this tin, Duncan is one of the only Immortals who can reliably pull off an unblockable, undodgeable head shot. (Others can, but it usually requires a rather elaborate combo and at least a little luck). Duncan's Master's Head Shot is unblockable if your last successful defense was Jump, and the tin also includes Leg Sweep, which makes your next attack undodgeable and gives you an additional attack with which to play the Head Shot. And Leg Sweep is a Special Attack that cannot be blocked, the Head Shot is a non-Special attack. So all you have to do is Jump over any middle or lower attack, then play Leg Sweep and Master's Head Shot, and if your opponent can't dodge the Sweep, you win.
- Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Your "ability" defines both the amount of damage you can take before being defeated and your hand size. Your deck is also called your "endurance." Running out of endurance doesn't cost you the game, but does cost you five ability.
- Confusion Fu: Sometimes a player can make an attack "hidden." They play it face down, and their opponent has to basically guess what defense to play from their hand against it. If they guess wrong, they either have to let the attack through or exert for a defense.
- Decapitation Required: Zig-Zagged. You can defeat your opponent by running them to zero ability, but there are attacks considered "head shots." If you play one of these and your opponent can't defend against it, they lose their head and the game. It's entirely possible for this to result in winning the game on your first turn if your opponent got very unlucky with their shuffle.
- Defend Command: Defenses, a card type grouped into two specific categories and one rather loose grouping.
- Blocks, noted by a blue grid, are the mainstay, including the six basic blocks you must include in your deck. Beyond those are block that can provide a variety of interesting effects, such a Circular Parry, which can make it easier to Disarm your opponent. As a rule, you cannot play an attack that includes an area on your last played block that turn, though Connor and Duncan ignore this restriction. They can be made Power Blocks with an exertion.
- Dodges, noted by a green grid, are always Immortal-specific. If successful, you evade the attack completely, making them especially useful against Power Blows. Dodges have no inherent attack restrictions, though individual dodges may (such as a Left Side Step stating your first attack must be to the right.)
- Standing Defenses, noted by the card text "This is a standing defense." The most common standing defense is a Guard, a kind of block that covers a full two-thirds of the grid, but you cannot play attacks to areas covered by the guard (no, not even if you're playing Connor or Duncan). Other standing defenses are usually Situations like Continuity, a series of Immortal-specific cards that usually (but not always) let your next few blocks block Power Blows without an exertion. Standing defenses can be kept up indefinitely (or for a period of time specified on the card), dropped at will, or lost if you're tripped or knocked prone.
- Discard and Draw: At the end of your turn, you may (but do not have to) draw cards until you have a number in your hand equal to your Ability. Clearing useless junk out of your hand can thus be a frustrating necessity (it's useless because you can't play it, but you have to play it to get it out of your hand. . . and it might only be useless for now). Nefertiri's Persona power lets her draw up to her Ability any time she wants during her turn (a deceptively potent advantage).
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- An Immortal-specific card for Amanda, Distract, is a dodge that covers the whole grid with no penalty. The 1st Edition picture is Amanda in a very skimpy leather outfit, the 2nd is her in a Modesty Bedsheet, the 3rd is her in a bubble bath.
- Amanda also has Seduce, an Event that makes her next attack unblockable and undodgeable.
- Nefertiri also has a Seduce card. It makes her next attack undodgeable and costs her opponent an attack.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Weapons of Choice weren't introduced until the "Arms And Tactics" expansion, the second-to-last expansion of the first edition. As such, most weapons mimicked (or came close) to the Persona powers of some Immortals (or those Persona powers were revealed to be the result of a "built-in" Weapon of Choice). This could result in the ability to dial that Persona's power up to eleven, such as Amanda with a Rapier getting three attacks per turn, or Kurgan with a Claymore making or blocking Power Blows with a 1-card exertion.
- Everyone Has a Special Move: Immortal-specific cards, specific to that Immortal, which come in three flavors: non-Reserved, Reserved, and Signature. Signature means they cannot be included in a deck not using that Persona under any circumstances.
- Non-Reserved cards are usually such basic things as Power Blow, Extra Shot, Combination, some generic dodges, and so on, but even these add to the basic flavor of a given Persona. Amanda, for instance, has no Power Blow, while The Kurgan's only dodge is Back Away.
- Reserved cards really highlight an Immortal's strengths, such as Amanda's seduction and thievery, or Duncan's Master Swordsman abilities, or Corda and Reno's alien gadgets. There are a few ways to include Reserved cards in another Immortal's deck.
- Signature cards are utterly unique to that Immortal, and usually play on their defining traits or represent unique special attacks or defenses they've devised, such as the mystical abilities of Nakano, Kane, Cassandra, and Kantos.
- Fatal Flaw: Nemesis cards, Situations that can only be played if your opponent is using a specific Persona. They usually not only remove the Persona's power, but usually hamper them in some additional way. For instance, The Kurgan adds one point of damage to all his successful attacks, so his Nemesis card reduces the damage of all his attacks to one. The naming of the cards (Kurgan's is "Fade Away") implies they're the result of this trope, though sometimes they present more as a Logical Weakness, such as Roland Kantos' Nemesis card nullifying his Compelling Voice because you plugged your ears (exactly as Duncan did in the show).
- Any card with a title like "Fleche" or "Flashing Blade" is evoking this trope. Usually Edge cards played in conjunction with an attack to make it flashier (and therefore deadlier).
- Most dodges that aren't the basic "Dodge" or "Back Away" will tend to be this by default. Jumps, ducks, sidesteps, backflips. . .
- Many non-basic attacks, such as Spinning Attack, which can be a Power Blow without an exertion if your last successful defense was a dodge. Special attacks (especially ones that have "Master" in their title) tend to have an effectiveness in direct proportion to their coolness.
- Fragile Speedster: Amanda. Her Persona power lets her play two attacks per turn instead of the normal one, and she has more dodges than just about any other Immortal, many of them providing useful side benefits. But her attacks do only one damage instead of the normal two, her Power Blows do two damage instead of the normal four, and if she block a Power Blow she still takes three damage, two if she Power Blocks.
- The Generic Guy: Generic Immortals, for those not lucky enough to get a Persona (or enough Immortal-specific cards to make a Persona worthwhile) with their first few investments of cards. A Generic Immortal could include one of each Immortal's non-Reserved Cards in their deck. So, they could have Connor MacLeod's Power Blow and Back Away and The Kurgan's Power Blow and Back Away, but not two Connor Back Away.
- Guns Are Worthless: Downplayed. "Pistol" is a class of Special Attack (not to be confused with "Special card") that does one point of damage, less than the basic sword attacks. It is a Ranged attack, making it useful if the only Dodge you have is Back Away, but it probably won't decide the duel. Paul Kinman's "9mm" is rather more efficient.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Ramirez. Sean Connery did not give permission for his likeness to be used in the game, so making cards for Ramirez was effectively impossible. One card was made (Ramirez's face obscured by Holy Backlight), which is actually pretty good. . . if you can manage to include it in your deck.
- Heroic Second Wind: Subverted. Running through your deck (called "endurance") is called "exhausting," you get to reshuffle your discard into a new endurance, but lose 5 ability, bringing you significantly closer to defeat.
- Heroic Willpower: If a player has no defenses or attacks in their hand, they may "exert" for one. An exertion is taking the top five cards from your endurance and putting them in your discard, when exerting for an attack or defense you can play one attack or defense from the exertion as if it had been in your hand. Some cards will modify the size of exertions, or let you make exertions for other things. Exertions are also made to make Power Blows or Power Blocks.
- Holy Ground: Given its importance to the franchise, appears here. Generally comes in two varieties: a "temporary reprieve" card that lets you avoid all attacks and damage that turn (and ends your turn when you play it, so no attacking back), and an "escape to" card. It loses you the duel, but you get to keep your head.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Unlike most every other TCG, card titles are not unique, but you're still limited to having six cards of any one title in your deck. Probably the biggest offenders are non-basic attacks and blocks. For instance, four different cards called "Circular Parry," covering the upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left sections of the grid. How many of each will you include without going over the limit of six cards called "Circular Parry" in your deck?
- Interesting Situation Duel: Situations can create these, but Locations really invoke the trope. There are even cards to invoke things like Multi-Stage Battle, such as "Skylight," which can only be used to remove the "Rooftop" location.
- Katanas Are Just Better: The katana is the only weapon that has no drawback. But it doesn't have an advantage, either. The only thing the Katana provides intrinsically is the ability to switch between being one- and two-handed. What it does have is a plethora of Weapon-specific attacks, defenses, Edges, and Special cards with which one can puree one's opponent. Most of these will require the katana to be specifically one- or two-handed before they can be played.
- Lethal Joke Character: Richie Ryan. He was still The Scrappy on the series when the TCG was first released, and his Persona power mimicked his newbieness by letting him use one non-Signature card from every other Immortal, similar to a "Generic Immortal." Certain combinations of Immortal-specific cards never intended to work together could turn him into a game-wrecking asshole.
- Loophole Abuse:
- Amanda, by virtue of the fact that "Power Block" wasn't a defined term until the game's second edition. There was only "block" and "block with an exertion." Cards that let you "block a Power Blow without an exertion and take no damage" bypassed Amanda's drawback of still taking damage if she blocked a Power Blow. Such cards were thus extremely useful for an Amanda player, and if they had the Quickening that mimicked Luther's ability to block Power Blows without an exertion, she became a borderline Lightning Bruiser (and she'd cross the border with the addition of The Kurgan's Quickening, cancelling her other drawback of reduced attack damage).
- Also applies to interactions between her Persona power, the Rapier, and the Kurgan Quickening:
- Amanda can normally play two attacks per turn, but her attacks do only one point of damage.
- The Kurgan Q adds one point of damage any successful attack.
- The rapier lets you play an additional attack, but your attacks do one less point of damage.
- Because of a quirk in how the game defines a "successful" attack, the order is as follows: Amanda's default attack damage is set to one, completely ignoring the Rapier's penalty. When that one-point attack becomes successful, the Kurgan Q kicks in and adds a point of damage, making it a two-damage attack, same as everyone else. And Kurgan Q'ed, Rapier-wielding Amanda can fire off three in a turn.
- Melee Disarming: Cards are available to attempt to Disarm your opponent. Being Disarmed prevents you from playing blocks or most attacks, meaning it's a whole lot easier for your opponent to land that Head Shot.
- Mighty Glacier: Slan Quince, Kurgan, Luther, and other Immortals who fit The Brute archetype. Persona powers that tend to emphasize physical strength and no dodges aside from Back Away.
- Nonchalant Dodge: Zig-Zagged. The "standard" dodges most Immortals have are not this trope. "Dodge" costs you an attack (out of a normal one) on your turn, while "Back Away" will not avoid ranged attacks and prevents you from making non-ranged attacks. Immortals noted for more agile fighting styles can have dodges that do fit this trope, either having no drawbacks or providing a bonus (like making your next attack hidden).
- Off with His Head!: The Event card "Head Shot," which you play in conjunction with an upper attack. The attack becomes a Power Blow, and if successful, your opponent loses their head (and the game). Later, more cards were added which make attacks count as Head Shots.
- The Plan: Plots, a subtype of Situation cards. Typically come as three separate cards, and you have to have first in play to play the second, and both in play to play the third. Once you have all three, you gain a powerful but temporary bonus. Such as "The Darkness" Plot letting you make your next five attacks hidden, or the "Destruction" Plot letting you make a future upper attack a Head Shot (which need not be on the same turn you finished the plot, thus you didn't play a special card on the turn you made the Head Shot. . . the primary limitation to making an unblockable, undodgeable Head Shot).
- Popularity Power: Duncan has by far the most Immortal-specific cards, and can built towards pretty much any kind of playstyle a player wants. Mostly because, as the main character of the show, there are more pictures of him to make cards from than anyone else.
- Purposely Overpowered: Master cards, cards with "Master" in the title. Each Persona will state how many Master cards they can include in their deck (typically five, though old or very capable Personas can have more). They're meant to have a huge impact on the game, though whether a specific Master card will do so for a specific deck build is a very good question. Though anything called "Master's Head Shot," "Master's Attack," or "Master's Dodge" is likely to be worth the slot.
- Special Attack: Called such, and noted by a yellow grid (non-Special attacks, including the nine basic attacks, have an orange grid). Special attacks usually require some kind of preparation or setup on behalf of the Immortal, if not the player. For instance, "Pistol" is a ranged attack that can only be played after a Back Away. You cannot play more than one Special Attack per turn, even if you have several abilities to play multiple attacks. Oh, and a Special Attack is not a Special Card, but many will include additional powers if you do not play a Special Card the same turn you play the Special Attack. Special Attacks cannot be made hidden or Power Blows (unless the card specifically states otherwise, of course).
- Sword and Gun: Immortal assassin Paul Kinman has his 9mm, which the player can play basic attacks to from their hand, then play from the 9mm as a ranged attack.
- Sword Fight: The Card Game. The whole ruleset (dubbed "the Swordmaster system" by the developers) is geared to replicating the frenetic activity of two people fighting to chop each other's heads off.
- Unstable Equilibrium: Your Ability determines your maximum hand size, and is also your health. Thus, the more damage you take, the fewer cards you have in your hand to counter your opponent's moves or launch an attack of your own. This makes it harder to avoid damage from your opponent. Typically, being reduced to five or six Ability means it's only a matter of time before your opponent finishes you off. . . unless you've similarly hampered them. Cards that allow you to ignore being forced to discard down to your Ability are very useful.
- Unstoppable Rage: Some Immortals have Persona-specific Reserved "Battle Rage" cards. The card generally functions the same way: it lets you make a ten-card exertion, play up to five non-Special attacks from the exertion and your hand, lose 1 ability, dodges will not avoid consecutive attacks from a Battle Rage. Some Immortals have Battle Rage cards with different effects, such as Ceirdwyn's linking into her Mama Bear personality and her deck's Ally-heavy playstyle, but the common theme is "pump out a shitload of attacks all of the sudden."
- Weapon-Based Characterization: Introduced by name in the "Arms And Tactics" expansion. Weapons of Choice provide a benefit and a drawback. The rapier, for instance, replicates part of Amanda's Persona power, letting you play an additional attack but reducing the damage of your attacks by one. In combination with certain Persona powers, however, the drawback is negligible (such Amanda with a rapier; since her attacks already do only one damage, she gets a third attack for free). Or give a rapier to The Kurgan and play two attacks that do the same damage as everyone else's one attack.