I’ve only played a few other trading cards games but I’ll give my review of them. In the beginning, around the year 2000, I started playing Yu-Gi-Oh on Gameboy Advance. And while I know Yu-Gi-Oh is reviled in many circles it was a great “starter TCG”. The rules are very simple.
1. You can play a level 4 or lower creature once a turn.
2. The creature can be played face down in defense mode or face up in attack mode.
3. You can play as many trap and spells cards face down as you want.
4. Any creatures higher than level 4 require you to sacrifice one or more creatures in order to summon it.
The rules were very simple and understandable. I figured out that I should have only best level 4 creatures or other creatures that had “flip effects” when they were attacked. Penguin Warrior was insane, he could bounce 2 of your opponents creatures, even the creatures that required you to sacrifice other creatures in order to play them. Overall I didn’t think Yu-Gi-Oh had much tactical depth because the biggest creature always won. (As a side note I enjoyed the cartoon which added interest to the game. It was cool to play Swords of Revealing Light like the TV show.)
Then I stumbled upon a few 9th Edition preconstructed decks. I ended up playing only 3 games but it was enough to get me hooked on Magic Online. (Those 3 games were the only time that I’ve played Magic in the real world.) Magic Online was great except that I was on a very tight budget. I hated rare cards because I owned so few of them.
Some of the Magic Online games were good but others were pitiful, especially when the other guy would disconnect if he was losing. Nowadays “Peasant Magic” seems very strong and I would have enjoyed that format. (Deck construction allows commons and only 3 uncommons, I think.) Peasant Magic is ideal for me and other people who don’t have a ton of money to spend.
I also picked up the 2 starter decks from Marvel/DC Vs. The card art was great and I enjoyed rearranging my creatures depending on if I attacked first or second. You could arrange your creatures into 2 rows and your opponent had to attack the 1st row in order to attack your 2nd row. Marvel/DC Vs is different because you can play any card as a resource (aka. land) and you don’t have colors, instead you have numerous “team affiliations”. Marvel/DC Vs also didn’t have evasion like flying or fear.
In Marvel/DC Vs creatures could attack as a team if they had the same team affiliation which was cool, so you could take down a bigger guy. And in 1-on-1 combat, every creature dealt trample damage, so you were always whittling down your opponent’s life. Each turn you drew 2 cards so you usually had plenty of options.
I didn’t play Marvel/DC Vs much but it seemed like it had tons of potential. The only downside was that the cards seemed less flavorful that Magic. Most of the cards were very wordy and while the card art and name were great because they tapped in the comic geek gene, the cards didn’t really convey what they did like Shock or Giant Growth.
So my TCGs experience has been very limited. Once I learned that Magic was the best of the best, I sort of stopped looking for another great TCG. Magic has so much potential that it makes most other TCGs look downright puny.
I discovered Shandalar, the old Magic PC game, and thought it was great. Playing sealed deck was phenomenal but the cards were very bad. I began working on Forge because I loved playing sealed deck so much.
I also played the horrible Marvel/DC Vs PC game. It didn't have a cancel button so if you clicked on a card, you had to play it. It was downright tortuous for a newbie like myself. No wonder that the online version didn't do well.
What TCGs do you enjoy? I've heard good things about The Spoils.