After recently picking up the Arkham Horror LCG (it’s fantastic by the way, I highly recommend you try it!) and browsing various forums, I became reacquainted with some of the usual grumbles from players regarding Living Card Games (for those not familiar with LCGs, click this link to read Fantasy Flight Games’ explanation of what they are). The main point being raised is ‘needing’ multiple copies of the core set to get the best experience of the game.
As a shameless optimiser, when purchasing Arkham Horror LCG I immediately got myself two copies of the core game, as I wanted to have at least two copies of every card that investigators can use (a lot of cards are 1-ofs in the core set). This would allow me to use the maximum number of copies of a card (two), and build my deck however I pleased.
There is a snag though. While I can build any single deck however I like, I still cannot build certain character combinations without either compromising on card choices, or buying an additional two core sets. This is because each of the five investigators has the ability to include cards from one class other than their own. For example, Roland Banks, a Guardian character, can also take Seeker cards. This means that if you also wanted to build a Daisy Walker deck (who is a Seeker), you would have to compromise on card choices.
If everyone taking part brought decks that they’ve made themselves from their own collection, then this isn’t a problem. However, for Arkham Horror I would assume that a large number of people playing this game will be borrowing a deck from a friend. When that is the case, options become restricted. How about for other LCGs?
The only other LCGs I’ve invested in were Warhammer 40,000 Conquest (R.I.P.) and Game of Thrones 2nd edition, and in both of those you needed three copies of the core set to have a playset of all cards. I didn’t mind doing this as there was very little ‘wastage’. In comparison, in Arkham Horror you get an extra set of all the enemy cards, which you really don’t need (you could set up extra scenarios at the same time, but it doesn’t take long to set one up, so this is really only a fringe benefit. Also, the other players in your campaign could set up scenarios using their collections…).
So, for Arkham Horror at least, when I got my second core set I’ll only be using about half of it. Personally, I don’t mind so much because I’ve fulfilled my urge to have all the cards so I can deckbuild how I like, but realistically that’s about £18 of cardboard sat in a box and unlikely to ever be used. The ‘wastage’ for Conquest and AGOT was not as much as that, but they’re both competitive games rather than co-operative, so the comparison may not be fair (they don’t have entire decks of encounter, act, and agenda cards). So, are multiple core sets bad value?
I’d say maybe. As stated above, I’ve basically wasted £18 on some cards that I’ll never use. It doesn’t bother me overmuch, as I really wanted the extra copies of the cards that go into the investigator decks, but I can definitely see why this upsets some people, particularly those on a tight budget.
However, I understand the reasons why FFG makes the core sets how they are. Firstly, they need to make an introductory product that fits into the £30-40, as this is the price bracket that seems to be on the upper end of what gamers are willing to shell out for a game that they may or may not like. LCG core sets are designed to be an introduction to the game’s theme and mechanics, so therefore need to have a good variety of cards in there (this seems to be why many cards are 1-ofs).
Secondly, the practicality of producing a ‘top-up’ box for gamers that want additional copies of core set cards (the intent being to eliminate wastage), is basically zero. Stores already have loads of SKUs, particularly with LCGs, as their monthly expansions quickly rack up each game’s catalogue of products. Realistically, a top-up box wouldn’t cost only half of a core set, it would probably more like two-thirds, so I’d only be saving about £10. Better than nothing, but not a deal-breaker.
Personally, I’d be willing to buy an LCG core set that had full playsets of the cards but which cost £50-60, but I understand it really isn’t in FFG’s best interests for them to produce an introductory product in that price range. That may sound like I have a full-blown case of Stockholm Syndrome (I do love games by FFG…), but I like to think it’s more because I have an okay grasp of business.
Multiple core sets could be considered bad value (as you are definitely getting some product that you have no need for), but the lower cost of a core set encourages some people to try out a game that they might not have otherwise tried.
Some of these toe-dippers may even become dedicated players, ones who pick up all of the future expansions. This in turn would make the game and the community grow, both of which are good things (as games that don’t sell well don’t get developmental resources committed to them, and they often get discontinued or radically changed *cough* Age of Sigmar *cough*).
I’m not trying to obfuscate it though; the dedicated LCG players are basically being taxed in order for FFG to make their LCGs appealing to new players. You need to decide for yourself if you are happy to pay extra in order to increase the chance that the game you are investing in becomes successful, and stays that way.