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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.

Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed the article! If you’d like to see some related content, and support Exclusively Games in the process, click on our Amazon Affiliate links listed below to find related products. – EG Staff

Post Comment

  1. James Vasquez on May 15, 2019 at 9:12 pm said

    Edit: I meant Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions, not legends.

  2. Good read, I hadn’t heard of some of these game. Thank!

  3. kdawg862012 on May 15, 2019 at 10:40 pm said

    Nice read, learned about a few more games to pitch to my friends instead of always playing MTG.

  4. I started getting into the Transformers Card game and have been enjoying it after walking from Magic. It reminds me of a faster paced Commander game of Magic, and who doesn’t want to have Optimus Prime duke it out with Megatron, or have them team up against the Constructicons and devastator?

    • James Vasquez on May 15, 2019 at 11:12 pm said

      I’ve never been big into transformers myself, but the game does look like fun. Because I dont have any experience with it and it’s still tied to Wizards of the Coast, I didn’t add it to the list, but I may still take a look.

  5. If you want to play something meta you should check out Millennium Blades, it is a game about people collecting cards in a CCG and build a deck for a tournament.

    • James Vasquez on May 16, 2019 at 4:36 pm said

      That sounds like a fun twist. Is it silly like Munchkin or taken a little more seriously mechanics-wise?

      • The mechanics are solid for what it is. There’s two phases for the game the first phase (usually in real time) is the buying, selling, and trading of cards. The second phase is doing the Tournament. The cards themselves are humorous similar to Munchkin. There’s inside jokes to the CCG community but also to other hobby communities as well.

  6. I saw there was a tcg where you role an apex predator that seemed interesting

  7. Christian Duncan on May 16, 2019 at 12:02 pm said

    I have a few other card games that might be enjoyed by the community. Cardfight Vanguard has a good following, it’s easy to play on your first try.

    Dragonball Super is another game that is really easy to pick up. deck building is easy and customizable by color like MTG.

    Another one last but not least is future card buddyfight. this game while not well known aside from their official YouTube channel is great for children and adults alike.

    • James Vasquez on May 16, 2019 at 8:16 pm said

      Great suggestions! I haven’t played any of them yet but I have been meaning to check them out.

  8. I wouldnt have thought pokemon as one of the big three but I don’t pay attention in that card game I have just gotten into force of will and am loving it right now and keyforge looks really good

    • James Vasquez on May 16, 2019 at 8:18 pm said

      You could almost make the argument that Pokemon is the biggest of the three. Practically every little kid goes through the cards aisle and wants Pokemon cards without knowing how to play. My nine-year old niece likes Pokemon cards for instance, but doesn’t have a clue how to play the game. As far as actual play goes, the competitive scene is pretty large, though not as big as MTG, but it’s definitely more accessible.

  9. Where is the Legend of the Five Rings and other LCGs. Great games not on the list.

    Also, Transformers and Final Fantasy seem to be pretty neat.

    • James Vasquez on May 16, 2019 at 4:32 pm said

      That’s what sequel articles are for. L5R is great, but the complexity is very high even compared to MTG, nevermind that you have to have a good hour and a half set aside for just two players.

  10. Laserwulf on May 16, 2019 at 4:28 pm said

    I love AoS:Champions so much!
    I’ll never stop playing Magic, but AoS:C just -feels- a lot more like you’re the commander of an army, with units that are smart enough to attack on their own once you decide where/when to deploy them. The decks are smaller and you have less decisions per turn (compared to the mid/late game in Magic), but there are so many factors that go into each decision that every turn feels important. It’s like a knife-fight in a phone booth.

    Since AoS:C is basically Lightseekers 2.0, it also has the ability to scan your physical cards and use them in the online version. I figure that’s what will keep the game alive, since the only matches I’ve played were against friends whom I taught, and online opponents. Still, I’ve recreated my physical decks in the app so I can use them on my phone, tablet, Nintendo Switch, PC, or IRL.

    • James Vasquez on May 16, 2019 at 4:34 pm said

      I’ve never gotten in a knife fight in a phone booth so I don’t have the experience for comparison but I like the phrase. Online is where I got most of my testing on the game leading up to this article.

  11. jdtolnay on May 17, 2019 at 5:09 pm said

    Warhammer Champions is pretty cool; definitely a great alternative to Magic due to it’s difference in play style

    • James Vasquez on May 17, 2019 at 8:03 pm said

      It is a mechanically very different game, for sure, but because the Warhammer miniatures have been around for so long there’s also a ton of built-in lore. Plus, the artwork on the cards really pops.

  12. rahmae.web on May 17, 2019 at 8:09 pm said

    I’m surprised Gwent wasn’t mentioned. It’s such a great TCG,

    • James Vasquez on May 17, 2019 at 9:24 pm said

      I wanted to stick to games that had physical cards but I may do a write up on digital card games in the future.

  13. I’ve wondered this myself. Thanks for the post & opportunity.

  14. Nice article very informative.

  15. Hector G on May 19, 2019 at 2:29 pm said

    I would recommend Epic Card Game which was designed by same creator as Hero Realms. It feels more like MTG where Hero Realms is more like Dominion.

  16. Can not recommend Force of Will enough. Great art, great card stock, and fun game. There’s also a small but loyal active community around the game.

  17. asigal55 on May 22, 2019 at 1:11 am said

    I’ve checked out Force of Will and it seems really cool! I like how the resource deck is separated from the main deck. I purchased some cards for really cheap and am now in search of a playgroup.

    • James Vasquez on May 22, 2019 at 7:49 pm said

      The affordability compared to other games is definitely a strong selling point for FOW. If you’ve got a playgroup of MTG friends, you can always try to convince them to try it out with you.

  18. pennywisdom1983 on May 22, 2019 at 6:27 am said

    Thank you so much for bringing attention to Age of Sigmar Champions! You are doing the lord’s work, we need help!

    I hate to say it but my interest in CCG’s has waned dramatically and it’s not because the games or cards lack quality, it’s because I hate investing a lot of time and money into any system that requires a lot of support from hundreds and thousands of other people only to have the system discontinued by the publisher. Any time you start collecting for a new card game, you are just crossing your fingers, hoping there is enough support to keep it alive or else you’ve lost tons of time and money. Other than Magic, the support is almost never there (and Magic is far from the best game out there, in terms of game play). I just hate needing that base and it never showing up, it’s very disappointing.

    Thank you for your great effort in bringing attention to the games that need it, though. If more articles like this existed, I wouldn’t have any complaints!

    • James Vasquez on May 22, 2019 at 5:22 pm said

      There is a disconcerting lack of discussion concerning other CCGs. It definitely harms the games’ abilities to survive. The good news though, is that if you really liked a game and it died, you can usually pick up everything that had come out for pretty cheap and get some games going with your own cultivated play group. This does limit the possibility of creating new ways to play, but if you’re playing a different game every week, you may not feel the need to try variants for a specific game.

  19. I could never give up my Pokémon! Keyforge is a blast though.

    • James Vasquez on May 22, 2019 at 7:48 pm said

      Most people never will, but at least if you ever decide that, for whatever reason, you don’t want to support the game any more, there are a wide array of other options out there.

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