Trading card games, also called collectible card games or CCGs, 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. Typically, CCGs are multiplayer games where a player's goal is to use the deck they have constructed to defeat his or her opponent(s).
Collectible card games began in 1993 with Magic: The Gathering, designed by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast. Magic was designed so that games would be relatively short and easy to setup compared to role-playing games and board games.
While trading cards (for example, depicting baseball 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.
Unlike traditional trading card packs, CCGs invariably offer starter packs that contain a sufficient number and mix of cards to start playing a game immediately. Starter packs typically have 40 to 100 cards and some sort of rulebook helpful for beginners.
A big factor in any CCG is the difficulty in obtaining the more desirable cards in the game. Most of the cards are sold in booster packs of 10 to 15 cards with each pack having:
Apart from single cards, there are often many combinations of cards that interact in useful ways. These "combos" add to the gaming experience by allowing the player to exploit the mechanics of the game to his advantage. One of the most attractive aspects of CCGs is the freedom to design 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.
The act of playing against other decks is the tactical aspect of a CCG, as opposed to the strategic aspect of deck construction. 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.
Most CCGs share a few common features. Many use a turn-based system where players may perform actions only at certain times and in a certain order. There is usually a way to control how cards come into play. This is done with mana in Magic: The Gathering and with energy in Pokémon. There is usually a scoring system (for example, life points) that determines how long the game will last and the ultimate victory condition. Also, most CCGs have gameplay areas analogous to a deck, a discard pile, cards in play, and a hand.
CCGs appeal to a very broad age group, and it is common to see middle-aged professionals and teenagers in animated conversations about their favorite card game.