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Living Card Games: A Brief History

Recently I previewed the upcoming expansions for the Arkham Horror LCG called The Scarlet Keys. In it, I wanted to give the reader insight as to what a LCG, or Living Card Game, was. When I began to give the explanation, I felt it would have been too much information for someone to read in one sitting, especially when the main focus of the post was supposed to be about the new expansions. Well, today I am going to take a deeper dive into Living Card Games and give a brief history lesson and what a player or group should expect when beginning one of these games.

The Terms

The term ‘living card game’ was trademarked by Fantasy Flight Games and is used as an alternative to trading card games. You may ask yourself “What’s the difference between a LCG (Living Card Game) and a TCG (Trading Card Game)?” TCGs are traditionally blind or random packs from a booster box. Whomever purchases one or more of these has hopes to pull a specific card from it, with some of us often left vexed leading to the purchase of more. LCGs are different in the sense of you know exactly what you are getting when you purchase a games core set, expansion, or a stand alone add-on such as an Investigator Starter Deck for Arkham Horror. The contents are clearly stated somewhere in or on the packaging. So let’s say you have researched and are looking for a specific card to enhance your preexisting Investigator Deck. You can easily look up where the card you seek comes from and purchase it will little to no hassle, as long as the item you’re looking for is available.

The Games

Chances are you have already seen one of these games as you have looked over the shelves at you local game store. The first LCG to be released by Fantasy Flights was The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game in 2011. Since then, they have gone on to produce several titles in collaboration with well known Intellectual Properties such as Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Warhammer. Their most popular franchise to date has been the Arkham Horror game. However, this is only a taste of LCGs, as even though the term ‘Living Card Game’ may be trademarked to Fantasy Flights, the concept is not.

Okay, so what IS a Living Card Game?

Living card games provide nearly non-linear campaign scenarios for players to explore. I say ‘nearly’ because the path followed is determined by whether or not players succeed or fail tasks given out by a games ‘Agenda’ cards. These cards will determine the path and events that occur as you progress through the campaign. It can either make things easier or throw huge curve balls at you.


When I sat down for my first time with the Arkham Horror, my friend explained what the basis was. I found this explanation to be the easiest. If you have ever played Dungeons and Dragons but found making your own campaigns to be tedious, then the supplemental campaigns made by Wizards of the Coast would be something for you to explore. LCGs live in that same vein. These kinds of games can feel like a Choose Your Own Adventure book of sorts.

The biggest thing to remember is that Living Card Games can be investments, not only financially with the necessary purchases one may need to play a campaign, but time put into it as well. Scenarios can take up to a few hours, but the whole campaign may take up to a few days or weeks depending on the frequency of your groups meet ups. Even then, with every victory, you may feel the need to continue with other campaigns as they are available. In defeat, you may find yourself slipping into insanity with the uncontrollable urge to return to the beginning and defeat your enemies and ensure you’ve conquered the tasks laid in front of you to revel in a VICTORY SO SWEET…but I digress.

Until next time my friends, make sure the path you choose is the right one.

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