Trading card games, also called CCGs or collectible card games, are not played with traditional playing cards, but with sets of cards that can be bought, traded, and combined into sets or decks in various ways. These games are generally promoted by the manufacturer of the cards themselves, and are structured so that purchasing additional cards is to the player's benefit.
Trading cards (for example depicting Soccer players) have been around for much longer, it is the aspect of being able to play with these cards that is unique to CCGs. This makes them interesting to people outside the traditional trading card collectors, although it is of course possible to buy and trade CCG cards just to collect a full set.
Also a difference to other trading cards, CCGs invariably offer starter packs that contain a sufficient number (40-100) and mix of cards to play with them right away.
A big part of a CCG is the difficulty in obtaining the more powerful cards in the game. Most of the cards are sold in packs or 10 to 15 cards with each pack having
- 1 card of a high scarcity
- 2-3 cards of a lower scarcity
- 7-12 cards of the lowest scarcity
This is done to entice the card game player to buy many packs to get enough of the powerful cards. The rarest cards tend to be the most powerful but one should not be deceived by that power. Depending on the exact game mechanics, drawing a powerful card that occurs once in your deck may be a rare event in itself. Relying on common cards where one has the liberty of including them in one's deck a number of times is more safe.
Apart from powerful single cards there are often many combinations of cards that are more useful than each of the cards taken alone, so one often desperately seeks to get one's hands on the missing card in a combination.
One of the most attractive aspects of CCGs is the possibility of designing your own deck according to your own style of play. This is done by researching card effects and putting them together in such a way that they complement each other. Behind the specific card combinations, there is usually some kind of overall strategy that makes the deck become viable. The act of playing the deck against other decks becomes the tactical portion of the CCG with the deck contruction being more the strategic aspect. Some types of decks require a large amount of skill to play and where one person might win consistantly with a certain deck, another might lose because of the way they play. Decks are built from a pool of hundreds of different cards so the combinations and overall strategies are almost endless. Still, decks tend to fall into a few broad categories with variants underneath.
Many CCGs share common features. For example, there is usually a way to control how cards come into play. This is done with lands in Magic: The Gathering and with energy in Pokemon. Each side usually has life or some other score that determines how long the game will last and the ultimate victory condition. Games are commonly divided into turns but it is often possible for an opponent to play cards during "your" turn.
CCGs appeal to a very broad age group and it is common to see middle-aged men and teenagers in animated conversations about their favorite card game.