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Thinking About Leaving the Big Three Card Games?

Here are the “Big Three:”

Magic: the Gathering

Pokemon Trading Card Game


These games have been around through the developing years of my generation. Once scrappy little games that sparked imagination, they are now the dominant games in the genre, and with that comes all the corporate trappings that tend to lose consumer confidence.

Cheaper cardstock, lack of innovation, spikes in the secondary market making them unrealistic to approach. These normally drive people away, but what other games take up the ad space of these guys? What if you only like to draft? Or play Commander? Or sealed? What if the lore behind the cards is what hooks you in? Where do you turn?

I will present you with a few options based on playstyles.  I can’t cover everything, as I haven’t played every format of every card game ever, but here are a few options to fill that hole that can be left in your heart when you leave one of the “Big Three.”

If you love to draft, might I recommend Hero Realms?

Hero Realms is a fantasy multiplayer deck-building game.

Basically, you duke it out with your opponent/opponents, by collecting resources to purchase cards and dealing damage to them. You can get the base game for around 20 bucks with deals all over the place for much less.

There are also custom Hero decks that you can purchase to add to the experience, as well as Boss decks which you can pick up to go on a co-op adventure akin to traditional tabletop dungeon delving with deck-building. The game is extremely affordable, and a lot of fun to play.  With the Boss decks, you get the added bonus of combining draft with MTG’s Archenemy supplements.

Want to watch cute monsters fight each other?  Ever hear of Lightseekers Trading Card Game?

Lightseekers is a simple trading card game with a toy line, booster boxes, specialty box products, a digital platform that scans all of your physical cards and adds them to your collection.

It’s got everything you might want. It’s obviously not as cheap as something like Hero Realms, as trading card games will always have an intrinsic secondary market value, but the digital version of the game is free, and can be played on anything from your PC, to your phone, to your Nintendo Switch. It’s extremely accessible to new players and seasoned veterans of cardboard crack.

Gotta have that lore?  Warhammer: Age of Sigmar-Champions might be just the game you’re looking for.

Made by Playfusion, the same company that made Lightseekers, Warhammer plays in a similar style, but with added complexity and the well-known miniatures IP to back it up. There are books, video games, inserts from the miniatures, and variety of YouTube channels to satisfy your itch.

The game itself is solid but like other games on this list, I fear it may not be long for this world as it doesn’t quite have the fan support it needs to keep running, which is a real shame because the gameplay and the story are both excellent. If you have a friend, pick up a couple of starter decks and get some games in. It’ll be worth it.

Building sealed decks your jam?  Then you need Keyforge in your life.

Keyforge is a fairly new game from Fantasy Flight Games, and is one-of-a-kind. Each pack contains 36 cards. Those cards cannot be separated, and that is your deck. You learn that deck and play it until you decide you want to try another deck.

Every deck is unique in name, card back, and card selection. Created by the legendary Richard Garfield, the first set, Call of the Archons, has been widely praised for its originality, but the second set, Age of Ascension, is less so, since many cards from the first set were reprinted, making it not entirely an original expansion, thus disappointing some people. However, if you want to play a game where you can be sure no one has played the deck you’re playing, this is definitely the game you want to play.

Big fan of Commander?  Don’t get flooded. Play Force of Will!

Force of Will has just experienced a rocky change in leadership and personnel, which is hurting the competitive play environment and possibly putting the IP at risk. However, the game itself is nothing short of inspired.

Unlike MTG, where your resources are shuffled into your deck, causing you to run the risk of being “flooded” or “screwed,” FOW has its resources (magic stones) in a completely separate deck, so no matter what you draw out of your main deck, you’ll always have something you can do. With the elimination of the randomization caused by single-deck play, FOW is much more skill-intensive. You’ll never lose a game to someone who is way worse than you due to bad draws, and you’ll never beat someone who should have smashed your face due to lucky pulls.

The real stars of these decks though are the Rulers. The Ruler is the face of your deck and once per game (in most cases) you can cast it into play to help seal your victory. The anime artwork is beautiful, and the cardstock is the best there is.  The foils can still curl, but you’re not going to watch a stack of cards turn into a “U” before your very eyes like other, more expensive, card games.

Obviously these five choices aren’t the end-all be-all of card games. I haven’t mentioned the Dragonball games, or Final Fantasy, or anything by Bushiroad, but these will give you a good start towards some fun games when you leave the “Big Three,” but aren’t ready to leave cards behind altogether.

So, pick up some sleeves and start shuffling. We’ve got things to do.

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