Welcome to the first in a series of TCG spotlights!
In this series, we'll be taking a closer look at some of the lesser-known, but amazing TCG's on the market. We'll chat with established members from the communities surrounding these games to get a real inside.
We'll chat about what makes these games and communities different, what makes them worth trying, and overall what makes these games great!
Final Fantasy TCG (FFTCG), plays like the love-child of Magic The Gathering and Vanguard.
With huge numbers reminiscent of many Japanese card games, a come-back mechanic that encourages unique deck building and cures you of the feel-bads, and a resource system allowing for more decisions points than most games, FFTCG is something worth trying out.
I spoke with Jason Zhe and Sam Connor, two FFTCG Judges and community ambassadors. Zhe also creates content for the game via the handle “GrandJason.”
Zhe, a long time veteran of many card games including Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Magic and smaller titles like VS System and World of Warcraft, says that the FFTCG can really hold its own, even when toe-to-toe with the big dogs.
'I wasn't expecting much initially.' Zhe said. 'But after playing a couple of rounds of the game, I really enjoyed how it drew so much inspiration from the source material.'
That said, you don't have to have decades of experience playing tabletop card games in order to enjoy, and be good at, FFTCG.
'It was my first card game,' now-Judge Sam Connor told me. 'I was a bit slow to pick it up, and a bit hesitant to try it out at my locals, but once I got into the swing of things, I fell in love with it. I play for the community, the card options and the artwork.'
'Great use of card artwork from veteran artists like Yoshitaka Amano leave players and collectors in awe.' Zhe added.
In FFTCG, you assemble a cohort of characters who attack (Forwards), and characters who support (Backups), and do battle with your opponent. The aim of the game is to attack your opponent directly, resulting in a card being flipped from the top of their deck and set aside, out of the game. Once a player has seven cards set aside, they've lost.
Of course, it's not that simple. Players use their characters to block incoming attacks, and to team up and do big attacks to overcome blockers- not to mention Summons; one-off cards played directly from hand that effect the game in some way.
Some cards have an EX Burst -an ability that triggers for free when that card is taken as damage. This means that even if you're being attacked and taking hits, you can sometimes get positive benefits which can keep you alive- or even swing the game back in your favour!
'The game plays like a modern reimagining of Magic: The Gathering.' Zhe said. 'The resource system, Crystal Points, gives players the flexibility to both discard cards from hand as well as use Backups to play their cards.'
This flexibility allows you to play high-cost cards 'off-curve' as gambit plays at the cost of card advantage. The system opens up a lot of avenues and decision points.
Is playing two mid-tier cards by turn three better than playing one bomb card on turn one? It will depend on your deck, your hand, and your opponent.
While a love of the source materiel will certainly help your immersion and excitement, particularly when recognising the name of a powerful ability like the Renzenkuken from Final Fantasy VIII, the games doesn't falter if you don't know Tidus loves Yuna, or that Aerith dies (spoilers).
'Players are free to use characters from a wide variety of games -from the main line and spin-off series-, to create custom decks and strategies.' Zhe said of deck building. 'Want to create a deck where you play your ultimate dream team of the biggest badasses from each game? Or maybe even overwhelm your opponent with the cuteness of Chocobos and Moogles?'
'My favourite thing about the game is the amount of arguably stupid deck building ideas that can be accomplished and end up being vaguely successful.' Connor added.
'They are all viable and developed strategies of the game.' Zhe said.
While the meta isn't quite as driven by its structure decks in the same way games like Yu-Gi-Oh! are, FFTCG remains one of the more accessible TCG's on the market.
Last year, I purchased a starter deck and after consulting with the local FFTCG community, made a few tweaks before entering into the regionals at Good Games Melbourne- only to make the cut to top 8!
There aren't many games were you can say that a starter deck plus a few rares will give you a fighting chance in the competitive field.
I should mention, I entered only one event prior to regionals, just to try my hand at the game, and see what all the fuss was about. The FFTCG community were not only welcoming, but assisted me in the tweaks I should make, gave helpful advice without looking down their nose, and in some cases even gifted me cards they thought would go well in my deck.
It was really something else.
'The FFTCG community to date is still the most friendly and supportive community I've ever been a part of.' Zhe said.
'Becoming part of this community was one of the best decisions I ever made.' Connor said.
'Even at the highest level of competition, there is nothing but respectful rivalries.' Zhe went on. 'Many of us compete hard to win, but we all know that it's a game first and can easily share fun experiences both during and after.'
'They're incredibly kind and generous,' Connor added, 'and everyone keeps paying forward that kind mentality.'
Curious about getting into Final Fantasy? Ask your local Good Games store and start playing today!