Seeing as how neither Dan nor Patrick will touch anything pony-related with a ten foot science pole, I guess it falls to me to become the resident brony and tell you all about the MLP collectible card game.
The MLP card game, based on the ludicrously popular show “Friendship is Magic” — seriously though, if you don’t know about FiM or bronys yet, just spend some more time on the internet — is a collectible card game for two players. For now. There are fan made rules for multiplayer, but I have yet to try them. Games usually last about half an hour… unless they devolve into a pontified recreation of WWI. The players choose a “mane character” from the show to build a deck around and take turns playing characters, confronting problems, facing off against troublemakers and earning points. First player to 15 points wins.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: the Gathering? Not quite.
A basic MLPCCG deck consists of: A mane character card, a problem deck of 10 problem cards including one starter problem, and a draw deck of at least 40 cards, but 60 is better. You cannot have more than three of any card with the same name in your deck. Each character and attendant cards have their own color and style of play, kind of like Magic: the Gathering. In simple terms:
Fluttershy/Yellow: large numbers of critter companions, the more of them the stronger you get. If you want to win through overwhelming power, start here.
Rarity/White: has very good inter-card synergy, and messes with you opponent’s deck at every opportunity.
Twilight Sparkle/Purple: Gains resources at a frightening rate, allowing for greater tactical flexibility.
Pinkie Pie/Pink: Lots of random abilities that can really throw off your opponent, as well as the ability to mess with your own deck.
Applejack/Orange: Really strong individual characters, many of whom are Stubborn; even when exhausted they still contribute their power.
Rainbow Dash/Blue: Extreme mobility. Blue characters typically have Swift, which reduces the cost to move them from one problem or your home to another.
The important thing to know, however, is that you HAVE to build your deck around two colors. After all, friendship. You still have to choose one mane character to lead your deck, but the color combinations are up to you.
Not all Friendship and Magic
This is kind of where the game falls apart. Thus far there is ONLY the base set, and in order to get a mane character you have to buy that character’s starter deck. Additionally, the base set has a relatively low number of commons and a lot of rares, but boosters give you the same spread as you would find with MtG. This means you end up with lots of the commons that are practically useless to you (because you got all the ones you need in the starter) with just a few rares and uncommons to modify the pre-built deck with. The rares also tend to be extremely powerful (as to be expected) but with fairly low requirements. And because everyone has tons of the same cards, trading prospects are poor at best.
As I touched on before, there are also not enough cards to cover every deck combination you might want to make. You want to make a FlutterDash (yellow/blue) deck? Good luck finding any cards to help synchronize your two colors. Plus, with only six mane characters, you’re limited in your total number of deck archetypes. Compare this to Magic the Gathering where there are perhaps too many different archetypes, and the MLP CCG starts to look pretty shallow.
Playing the game
The actual game itself is pretty fun to play, especially when your favorite character gets stuck in (Fluttershy getting boosted to seven power and being able to take a pack of timberwolves herself? It can happen) and games tend to go quickly. Usually someone wins before they even realize it because they’ve been wrapped up in the minutia of the game itself. Your first turns are over pretty quickly, but as the game goes on you have more and more action points (plus they can be saved from one turn to the next) which suits the greater number of resources you have to manage.
Wrapping it up
So in the end, you’ve got a game that’s fun to play, but doesn’t have a lot of options for customization or deck building. Luckily, the first expansion set is due to come out this April, which will hopefully fill some of the gaps. They’ve already announced two new mane characters (including everyone’s favorite princess, Luna) which should serve to expand the number of deck archetypes. To sum up, here’s what I’ll say to those of you who haven’t already bought in:
If you want something to have to play at conventions and meet-ups, go ahead and buy your favorite character’s starter deck, and stick with that.
If you are looking for a pony-themed CCG and want to build and tune your own decks, trade around, and play competitively? Wait until the expansion comes out. That way, you’ll have more options for decks and trades.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my Shylight Sparkle deck needs some tweaking.