So my son, who is 8 years old, is just noticing his friends getting into card games like Pokemon. I collected sports cards when I was his age and still do. I never got into the card games like D&D, Magic, Pokemon, etc.

I'm trying to figure out the balance between what's popular today, fun for an 8 year old to play, and what would be a good investment for him down the road, if he were to collect them as a hobby as well as play.

Can the Card Game Gurus enlighten me as to what card game is popular today, fun for kids, and is a worthy investment at a reasonable cost to my wallet?

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    I feel like this question is pretty vague. As far as the collectible bit, searching boardgamegeek.com for "collectible components" should give you a good survey. But nobody can predict the future value of the investment. A bunch of people at my work still play Magic, and as far as I know the franchise is still going strong (it's pretty active on this site as well). But that's only anecdotal evidence of its popularity. I can't really answer for sure. Dec 18 '13 at 17:23
  • Yes it's vague because I really don't know anything more specific. Dec 18 '13 at 17:25
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    You can buy these "bicycle cards" for about 2$ for the entire set of 52. They even come with 2 bonus "joker" cards. You can literally play hundreds of games with these cards. Some of the games that you can play literally get coverage on ESPN. Dec 18 '13 at 17:29
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    @codeMaverick so Magic and Pokemon involving buying cards, building decks with those cards, and then playing a game using those decks that is a combination of deck building strategy, actual play tactics (working with what you have) and random chance (the deck is shuffled). I sent you here from RPG.SE because your question seemed to be primarily about Card games and less so about Tabletop RPGs. In general though I would say that your criteria of retaining value in terms of monetary value is hopeless as what does and doesnt appreciate is random chance and involves not using the toys. Dec 18 '13 at 18:44
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    Magic cards will by far be the better investment, but beware - Magic is always trying to reprint old cards. Thoughtseize was printed in a recent expansion: its median price was around $60 for the version printed in the Lorwyn expansion. That same card is only worth $40, and the version printed most recently is around $15 to $20.
    – corsiKa
    Dec 18 '13 at 18:49

Collectible Card Games (CCG) wax and wane in popularity....

For example, both Pokemon an Yu-Gi-Oh! cards were extremely popular over a decade ago. There are still sales of these cards and older cards sell well, but both games have shrunk considerably.

The exception: Magic: The Gathering which has had pretty solid sales, organized play, and card values over the course of the last 2 decades. If there are game shops within your area, chances are very high that they sell both new cards (decks and booster packs) as well as buying and reselling cards. There will also likely be organized tournaments and play events at these shops as well.

The Catch

Magic (and CCGs in general) can be described as money pits and aptly so. The pre-built decks you can buy work, but not nearly so well as building a deck using rares and uncommons found in booster packs to fight a specific strategy (or to counter one). They have yearly or quarterly expansions which drive players to continually buy new cards as well. Magic card values also have the usual collectable game catch-22 where they are only worth something if you never play with or even physically touch them which makes collecting for value something of an adult hobby vs. for your son.

The Solution

In recent years there has been a huge trend in Living Card Games (LCG). LCGs work on the same basic principle of deck vs. battles as CCGs except they completely do away with boosters and have a growth and expense rate of expansions for a boardgame. Two very popular and very well reviewed LCGs are The Lord of The Rings LCG and Android: Netrunner LCG.

Android: Netrunner LCG is a 2 player game Cyberpunk dueling deck game with 1 player taking the role of the Corporation (there are different ones, as different decks) trying to complete agendas and make money who is taken on by the other player playing the Hacker (again, different faction decks to choose from) who is seeking to hack into the corporation and expose agendas for money or for fame.

The Lord of the Rings LCG is a cooperative game where players take the role of different heroes from the Fellowship as the travel through Middle-Earth. Players work together to deal with enemies and dangers as they are dealt out. Everyone wins and loses together.

  • Magic expansions occur 4 times a year, in addition to their supplemental products. I also have to disagree with the 'can't touch this' philosophy - virtually all serious Magic players sleeve their cards, and it's even mandated in many tournaments that your cards be sleeved. A properly sleeved card will retain its condition for a very long time, probably longer than you will play the card in standard formats (2 years).
    – corsiKa
    Dec 18 '13 at 18:42
  • @corsiKlauseHoHoHo Thanks for the number of expansions update. I agree that sleeves help protect value, but true, money making value is always tied up in A) Mint condition cards aka never played with even sleeved play. and B) Older, rare and powerful cards no longer attainable like the Black Lotus. geek.com/games/… Given his son's age I wouldn't treat buying a CCG as an investment in terms of money, but rather in terms of how much playtime and enjoyment (bang for buck) he'll get out of them. Dec 18 '13 at 18:47
  • @JoshuaAslanSmith - Rather than comment on the question, Ill comment here since I accepted your answer. Yea, I remember you suggesting this site and thanks for that! So basically what I get is that I shouldn't worry about certain booster packs that give you rarer cards if I were to go with Magic or Pokemon. I'll definitely take a look at the LCGs, that looks interesting. Thanks for your time! Dec 18 '13 at 18:49
  • @corsiKlauseHoHoHo and JoshuaAslanSmith - I would add that since I'm into collecting sports cards, I'm definitely in the know with respect on how to get the most value out of a card. I send all my stuff to PSA and have them graded and cased. That's kind of along the lines I was wondering if any of these card games had a market for that. Dec 18 '13 at 18:51
  • @CodeMaverick He doesn't need the boosters to get into the game or to play it. Magic has a series of decks right now based of greek mythology that are pretty well made and there are even "Duel Decks" as they call them which are 2 decks sold together that are very different and setup to be played against each other to highlight different strategies to beginners. If you don't buy him boosters he probably will buy them with gift money, allowance, pocket change etc. as they are not terribly expensive 1 at a time, but the element of chance in buying them is like gambling-lite. Dec 18 '13 at 18:51

I would go for Munchkin. My 8-year-old nephew LOVES it (I like it too), it has a lot of replay value, and while there are a ton of expansions, they're cheap, cheap, cheap compared to the booster packs you'd be buying for Magic. That said, there is zero collectible element to Munchkin.

Fantasy Flight Games also has a bunch of what they call "Living Card Games", like Android:Netrunner, that have a similar-ish play experience to e.g. Magic, but without the booster pack element.

Dominion was designed by an M:tG enthusiast, as was Ascension. They are very similar, with IMO Dominion winning on gameplay, and Ascension winning on thematic elements and simplicity. My nephew enjoys Dominion...hasn't tried Ascension.

Since you mentioned Magic, I know it's still pretty popular. People at my work play it, and my other, slightly-older nephew just got into it. If you really care about the collectibility, this is probably still the most popular one around; of course, nobody can predict future value.

  • +1 Munchkin was my main thought after MtG. I would say that while the cards themselves aren't collectible... I'm sure associated stuff can be: flynn_the_cat.squidoo.com/munchkin-dice - Buy 2 desks/sets of dice/counters/etc... one to open, one to save unopened in package.
    – WernerCD
    Dec 18 '13 at 21:54

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