Keeping the Dream Alive

“All good things must come to an end.”

Other than The Simpsons and Keith Richards (both of which will live on to infinity), this is an intrinsic fact of life. So, when our favorite games get the dreaded ax and their producers discontinue support, part of us know it was bound to happen eventually.

Sometimes it’s expected and you’ve been bracing yourself for it. The freight train of commerce barrels through another property that just wasn’t making the profit it used to.  Other times it’s unexpected when you thought the game you love was thriving and growing. Either way, you’re left wondering what to do with all these (now useless) pieces of cardstock you’ve invested so much money in.

Many card games end up being sold to third-party vendors for pennies on the dollar. The mass exodus of players looking to recoup even a small fraction of their first investment, usually to help move on to a new one, is large. In other cases, players hold on to their collections and reminisce. They’ll occasionally pull out their cards and remember a time when life wasn’t so complicated. Then, there’s the third avenue, one that’s been traveled by many but successful only for few: banding together and producing the game on your own.

It takes a certain kind of community to keep a beloved card game going. It requires extreme organization, love, and time. Most often, the idea to save a card game is a dream that dissipates faster than the game they wanted to save. In those glorious instances where it works, though? You can have a growing and thriving community where the game is supported and grown for as long as the community wants it to exist.

We can look to a few notable success stories, the first being Decipher’s Star Wars CCG from 1995. This CCG lasted until 2001 until Decipher lost the LucasFilm license. In a somewhat unique instance, Decipher themselves created a committee of veteran and accomplished players to keep the game going. With the only caveat being that they couldn’t create physical cards or sell anything. Since 2002, The Star Wars Player Committee has produced tons of new “Virtual Sets”, all for free, and their 2018 tournament series is gearing up for their Worlds Event in New Jersey this October.

The biggest success story is probably “Doomtown: Reloaded” and Pine Box Entertainment. “Doomtown: Reloaded” was a somewhat popular game produced by AEG in 2014 as a revival of the previous dead card game, “Deadlands: Doomtown”. It only lasted a couple of years under AEG and was discontinued at the end of 2016. As with the Star Wars CCG, some of the most dedicated players banded together to revive the game; except this time, they organized into their own company called Pine Box Entertainment. They reached out to the original license holder of Doomtown, Pinnacle Entertainment, and asked for their blessing. Not long after, “Doomtown: Reloaded” was reborn and the first new expansion, “There Comes a Reckoning,” was released on Kickstarter on September 5th, 2017. Partnered with Pinnacle, Pine Box Entertainment is in a position I don’t think anyone has been in before. They just finished their 2018 round of popular GenCon events and the game continues to thrive with their passionate community.

Finally, I think it’s good to include the new kid on the block of popular card game deaths. Android: Netrunner was cancelled by Fantasy Flight Games a little over a month ago. This game was beginning to see a resurgence of popularity with the release of a new Core Set and the first LCG to experience “rotation” of its card pool. However, FFG lost the Netrunner license to Wizards of the Coast and any forward momentum was halted immediately. As of now, a fan-run organization called Project NISEI is forming and has already set plans into motion to keep the game going. They’ve announced a new Core Set to help encourage newer players and their plans for a 2019 Organized Play Season complete with fan-created prize support. It remains to be seen if they’ll be successful but I’ve never seen a more passionate group of people come together so quickly.

Honestly, it’s inspiring to see that these games become such a core part of people’s lives that they’ll dedicate their time and money to keep them going, even when it doesn’t mean personal or financial gain. It’s because there’s so much more to it than that.  It’s the community, the comradery, the shared experience of doing something you love. We have so few opportunities to look death in the eye and tell it to go away, to fight and claw and keep something alive. Games like these bring us together and who would ever want to let that die if you could save it?

‘Til next time, continue to rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

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