CCGaDay Day 1: First CCG Played

Oddly enough, this is a tie for me, between Magic: the Gathering and Star Trek First Edition. Lemme explain.

The summer of 1995, I spent the summer between high school and university staying with friends of the family and working. One weekend they came home with a couple new games to try out. It turned out to be two starter decks each for Magic (Looking at the interwebs it must have been Fourth Edition) and Star Trek. We played a few games, and we ended up enjoying Trek more, and the rest is history. (So yes, somewhere in the universe there's a clean-shaven version of me who's been messing around with Magic for twenty years.)

I suppose I technically played one before the other, but twenty years has muddled my memory, and we played them one after the other anyway. So in my mind they're both my firsts.

What's interesting to me is the why of how I ended up playing Trek over Magic, because it boils down to the initial experience that games provided in the early days.

For folks who weren't around in the early days, the first wave of CCGs had starter packs, but they were effectively giant booster packs. No fixed cards, no real attempt to make sure that they were playable in any way. Magic gave you a bunch of lands in a starter, but that was about the limit of their attempts to make the game playable "out of the box".

I don't remember exactly what was in each set of cards, but I do remember that we did get a Treaty: Romulan/Klingon, along with (fortunately) two different facilities (one would have been Fed, I think the other was Romulan). So, we ended up with a Federation deck vs a Romulan/Klingon deck. Both of them were fairly terrible, although I remember the treaty deck doing well if it could draw the treaty early enough. (Yeah, the good ol' days when you had to *draw* into your treaty). Meanwhile, the Magic deck ended up being a two-color vs a three-color deck, and the lands in the starters didn't line up properly. So our Magic games ended up being a lot of hurry-up-and-wait while you tried to get your lands in the right color - and obviously the three-color deck had a far worse time of it. Bad enough that it wasn't fun to play at all.

So the lesson - which most CCGs have learned, but should be repeated: a game needs a "starter product" (whether you call it a Theme Deck or a Starter Kit or what-not) that a new player can pick up and play out-of-the-box. It's always nice when an established player can walk you through your first few games, but sometimes you gotta start from scratch. And a decent "buy this and start playing" product does wonders for getting isolated players started.