Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / Star Wars Customizable Card Game

Go To

First made available in 1995, the Star Wars Customizable Card Game was one of several Follow the Leader games released in the wake of Magic: The Gathering and the (practical) invention of the Collectible Card Game. Unlike most of those other games, however, SW:CCG was actually good and enjoyed a decent player base, coming in second only to Magic itself on the popularity (sales) charts. Decipher managed to release expansion packs for Episodes IV, V and VI, and then spent some time in Star Wars Legends, which at the time had just received an infusion of popularity from the release of the The Thrawn Trilogy. Yes, there is a "Grand Admiral Thrawn" card. They were working their way through Episode I when the game was canceled (more on that later).

The game reproduced, guess what, Star Wars. Players built a deck that was affiliated with either the Light Side or the Dark Side, and duked it out to see who'd win. Unlike Magic, physical location was represented: each "Site" card had an assigned place on the "Space Line", and there were rules about moving to and from various places. Mana was also handled differently: each Location would passively generate a certain amount of "The Force" every turn, which each player could activate at the beginning of each turn and then depleted in order to: deploy characters, ships, creatures and weapons; move between locations; attack the enemy; pay damage penalties from battle, and; draw cards (you drew from your Force pile).

The "Force Pile", plus its two attendant graveyards, the "Used Pile" and the "Lost Pile", was the real heart of the game, and created all sorts of cool loopholes.

  • The objective of the game was to force your opponent to discard all his remaining deck to the Lost Pile. Abilities that attacked it directly were critical to success.
    • One way to do this was to "Force Drain", which you could only do if you had characters at a Site that had Force icons of the other side, but no characters of the other side there. This allowed Cherry Tapping by spreading your forces really thin... with the caveat that your opponent could probably break those defenses pretty easily, and start Force-draining you in return.
    • Another way is to engage him in battle. All character cards come with four statistics: physical "Power", mental "Ability", a "Deploy" cost in Force, and a "Forfeit" value. Ability counts when doing things like trying to aim a blaster, but a "vanilla" battle is resolved by comparing the total Power on both sides. Whoever has the lower total can discard either Force (from hand or deck) or enough characters that the total Forfeit covers the deficit.
  • invokedAs mentioned, you drew cards into your hand from the Force Pile, as many cards as you wanted... but you couldn't put cards back out of your hand (unless you had a specific Event in play), and drawing too many could leave you "Force screwed", with cool cards in hand but nothing to purchase them with.
  • When you used Force to do something, it went into the "Used pile", which would eventually cycle back under your deck; some Interrupts (read: spells) went there quite specifically for re-use, while others went to the Lost pile.
  • When you drew Destiny, it went to the Used Pile, meaning there was a built-in Luck Manipulation Mechanic as you cycled Force to get that high-Destiny card back to the top for your next important endeavor.
    • Destiny was another signature mechanic, and a brave attempt to avert Bribing Your Way to Victory. Whenever a character attempted to aim a weapon, resolve an event that involved random chance, or even just win a fight, The Force was allowed to intervene, in the form of drawing the top card of your deck and checking its "Destiny" value. Rarer / more powerful cards always had low Destiny values—for instance, Luke, Han and Leia were always Destiny 1 (with one exception, an ultra-rare Game-Breaker version of Luke). In the Star Wars setting, Underdogs Never Lose because the Force is with them; Decipher built this into the game's rules by putting higher numbers on weaker cards.

As you can see, we are talking about Loads and Loads of Rules here. Magic was the game Pokémon players went to when it got too simple; Star Wars was where Magic players went if they thought it was too simple. Nothing has really replaced it in the realms of Nintendo Hard CCGs. Of course, that difficulty curve worked against it; it was expensive to get into, hard to play properly, and required you to bring at least two decks to a tournament, since you couldn't guarantee whether you'd be playing Light Side or Dark Side in any given match.note  Nonetheless, the game's popularity suggests that the audience liked it anyway.

The game was notable for its madcap sense of humor; much of the game seem to have been written by a Deadpan Snarker. I mean, come on, [1]. As did [2]. (No, you're not seeing things, all the text is printed upside down.) And this is just from the "Dagobah" expansion.

The SW:CCG sidesteps The Problem with Licensed Games, as did the Star Trek Collectible Card Game and The Lord of the Rings Movies CCG. All three were made by Decipher Inc. However, Decipher's next two Star Wars games, the "Young Jedi" CCG and the "Jedi Knights" TCG, both fell squarely into The Problem with Licensed Games. This probably has something to do with why Lucasfilm revoked Decipher's license at the end of '01. Expansions for Episodes II and III were never released, though the "SW:CCG Players Committee", an unofficial fan group, has kept the game alive, updating old cards to work with power seep and, in some cases, creating entirely new ones (such as a card for the main character of The Force Unleashed). A similar committee has done the same for the Star Trek CCG since its cessation in '07.

Wizards of the Coast were the ones to get the Star Wars license next, and they released a game that was designed by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield to be similar to a tabletop miniatures game. While this was a cool idea, the end result was that dice-rolling was the heart of the damage system, so of course you wanted the rare/powerful cards... and that meant Bribing Your Way to Victory. This, combined with CCG players' general dislike of dice-rolling, led to the game being canceled within three years, though at least it managed to release a set for all six movies before it went. Meanwhile, Decipher revived this game's engine in the "Wars TCG" card game, which basically tanked, probably due to the complete lack of brand-name recognition. As of 2006, the Star Wars CCG and all its derivatives were officially a thing of the past.

This game provide examples of:

  • And Zoidberg: Death Squadron Star Destroyer says "...boasts the finest captains of the Imperial fleet—and Ozzel."
  • Awesome, but Impractical: things like the Executor. The one from Death Star II expansion costs 12 Force, which is 20% of your deck. The one from Dagobah expansion costs 15 Force, which is 25% of your deck.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Zig-zagged.
    • Common cards have higher destiny numbers than rare cards. Epic Events are Destiny 0, and the best cards are usually 1 or 2. This plays into the fact that, for most destiny draws, you want a higher number.
    • On the other hand, core characters, while in play, are ultimately strong enough to overcome the higher-Destiny advantage of a less-rare deck. Sensing the shift in the wind, Decipher eventually released watered-down versions of core characters which could be purchased directly. While you still had to spend money, at least you were spending quite a bit less of it, averting the spirit of the trope if not the letter.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Luke's Dagobah version, Son Of Skywalker, can deploy only to Dagobah or Cloud City. But since it's harder than hell to get off Dagobah (or to move to Dagobah from somewhere else), he's practically useless. Enter the next set, Cloud City, which had Cloud City.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Any card that lets you add two battle destiny certainly qualifies, since these cards focus on characters with ability of at least 3. And most of them were in Premiere or A New Hope. Since you typically have to have two characters (a combination of Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewie), you actually draw three battle destiny. Meaning you can potentially wipe out a third of your opponent's life force.
  • Dual Wielding: IG-88. Also the B-wing, which is potentially triple-wielding, and can fire all of its weapons in one battle, whereas most characters, vehicles, and starships can only fire one per battle.
  • Easter Egg: so, so many of these. A very basic one: Yoda's card is in Yoda-speak.
  • Expanded Universe: Since each card comes with a blurb explaining what its in-universe significance is, and basically every single detail of the movies has a card, a surprising amount of it comes from this game.
  • Geo Effects: Snowtrooper, Echo Base Trooper, Yavin 4 Trooper, Sandtrooper, Death Star Trooper, and Cloud City Trooper all come to mind. Also, Luke Skywalker can activate one additional Force when not on Tatooine.
  • Glass Cannon: The B-wing has five power and two maneuver. Also, Chewbacca has six power and three ability. (A later printing of Chewie gave him a non-standard Defense Value of 4, somewhat reducing the glassiness).
    • Dark Side has Kitik Keed'kak, who has Power of 8, Ability of 1, plus he's instantly lost if at the same site as Light Side character Kal'Falnl C'ndros.
  • Heel–Face Turn and Face–Heel Turn: As the Light Side, you can cross over Vader (with two different cards, one of which is a Non Standard Game Over for the Dark Side). As the Dark Side, you can cross over Luke (with two different cards, one of which is a Non Standard Game Over for the Light Side). You can also steal things. Finally, you can win ships, weapons, aliens, and droids in sabacc (sorta like blackjack). It is possible to win the Executor and Force drain every single Executor site in play.
  • I Have Many Names: Main characters have multiple versions of each of them released, each one suited for different situations. For instance, the following cards are all personas of Luke: "Luke Skywalker", "Commander Luke Skywalker", "Son of Skywalker", "Luke with Lightsaber", "Master Luke", "Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight", and "Luke Skywalker, Rebel Scout". Only one of these cards can be in play at the same time. It is possible to evolve characters by persona replacing one with a stronger card (higher power and ability) of the same character without any mana costs, but must obey deployment restrictions.
    • One and the only exception is Palpatine. The game treats Chancellor Palpatine, Emperor Palpatine, and Darth Sidious as three distinct people, so all three of them can be in play at once! Well, it gives the Dark Side another Sith Master, with the associated extra Force activation.
  • Killed Off for Real: Once a unique character goes out of play, no more copies of that character's persona can be put into play for the remainder of the game. For example, if a "Commander Luke Skywalker" was removed from the game, no player can deploy any variant of Luke Skywalker cards any longer.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules:
    • Exacerbated by the decision not to issue errata or bans, but instead release other cards that would act as "silver bullets" to the problem card. This led to a lot of cards saying things like, "Do this, OR cancel [this card] or [that card] or [some other card]."
    • Brainiac is a huge example, with a destiny of pi and a power of sqrt(3(X-Y)+2(A-B)+pi) where X is the number of cards in your opponent's hand, Y is the number of cards in your hand, A is the number of dark side Force icons, and B is the number of light side Force icons, with a power of 1 if imaginary or fractional.
    • Just... take a look at the most current comprehensive rulebook that's 158 pages long...
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: as mentioned, because a card drawn for Destiny goes to the Used Pile, it eventually cycles back into your deck, and you can keep an eye on (roughly) where it is and how close you are to drawing it again.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Sabacc games can determine the fate of the universe. Especially if the stakes are the Executor.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Just start a battle with Owen and Beru, and then start one with Luke. Oops!
    • Don't Underestimate Our Chances and You Overestimate Their Chances can be this or Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, depending on the side, when one considers battle destiny.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: Jedi and Sith Masters (like the Yoda card mentioned above) are typically "Immune to attrition," no qualifications. Having more Power than them won't cause them to die in battle; you have to hit them with an aimed weapon, which requires drawing weapon Destiny higher than their ability... which is 7, the highest possible. (Some weapons—lightsabers particularly—allow you to draw two Destiny, but it can still be a long shot.)
  • Nintendo Hard: even many seasoned CCG players could be baffled by the game's complex rules and the intricate strategies necessary to play competitively.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: See the afforementioned "Do X or counter Card Y" cards. So obvious cards of that type cropped up in the very first basic set!
  • Plot Armor: many unique characters, especially major ones, are "immune to attrition (< X)," with attrition being a game mechanic intended to simulate random battle deaths on both sides.
  • Power Creep: averted by releasing multiple versions of each character, each one suited for different situations: for instance, Luke comes in "Farm-Boy / X-Wing pilot," "Hoth," "training-on-Dagobah" and "Jedi-Knight" versions, the last of which is the Ultra-Rare Game-Breaker mentioned previously.
    • Continuity Snarl: "How do we deal with the fact that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are the same person? Obviously, the Light Side and Dark Side shouldn't both be able to deploy one at the same time, but what do we do when they try?" Decipher hadn't figured out an answer by the time the game was canceled, and ultimately no Anakin Skywalker card was ever released. (While they had done Dark-Side/Light-Side versions of Lando that worked just fine, the two cards were explicitly designed so that Light-side players could Heel–Face Turn him at any time; Vader was not.)
      • Continuity Snarl Part 2: The game treats "Senator Palpatine" and "The Emperor" as two different characters, meaning you can have Dark-Side and Light-Side versions in play simultaneously. It was done that way with Palpatine to illustrate his general chessmaster-ness and ability to seem to be in multiple places at once.
  • Power Levels: Ability scores follow a strict system. Those with Force potential but no training are 4s, so Muggles like Han or Ackbar, despite their awesomeness, never get above Ability 3 (and sometimes have alternative defense values to compensate, such as Boba Fett's Armor rating of 5). Soldiers rarely rise above 1, those with command experience are usually 2, creature vehicles (Banthas, Tauntauns) have fractional ability greater than zero but less than 1 and feral creatures and droids have zero. Padawans and others with unfinished training can get up to 5, but 6 is for full-fledged Jedi Knights and/or Sith Lords, and 7 is exclusively Masters.
  • Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage:
    • Sometimes averted, sometimes not. Later in the game you could buy starter packs that had midrange versions of the main characters: Luke comes in "I can haz lightsaber" and "Jabba's Palace" versions.
    • There's the 2 Power, 2 Ability Han and Leia. They don't even have rules text... though they're still Destiny 1. Owch.
    • The 4 Power, 6 Ability Vader with deploy cost 7. He has 5 full lines of drawbacks in the game text - This version can only deployable on Death Star, and if opponent has two or more unique characters in play this becomes a completely useless card. And, when he loses a battle he has a small chance to choke one of YOUR imperials to death at the same site!
  • Uniqueness Rule: The number of versions you could have out is denoted by a bullet point; there are characters that you can have two copies of but not more. Eventually extended to the "Persona" rule, preventing there from being more than one (say) Luke Skywalker on the table at the same time. There are some exceptions; later errata, for instance, now allows both a Dark-Side and a Light-Side Lando Calrissian to be in play simultaneously.
  • Rule of Funny: some cards, like Brainiac, seem to have been written more with this in mind than with actual playability. Not that there aren't cards that are funny and playable: see Human Shield, Into The Ventilation Shaft, Lefty and Swing-And-A-Miss.
  • Sick and Wrong: several of the cards lampshade Twincest, such as This Is Just Wrong and This Is Still Wrong. (Cards featuring Han/Leia smooches get titles like This Is More Like It.)
  • Shout-Out: Two to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: one subtle (check the lower right of the image), one... not so much.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Customizable Card Game, not Collectible.
  • Unobtainium: Good luck tracking down the Ultra-Rare-Foils from the Reflections sets.
  • Villain Protagonist: Since you play as the Light Side and the Dark Side in every game, and if you only win once, whoever had the highest Life Force at the end of the game he won wins, you're this half the time.