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Having played numerous (trading) card games such as Magic: the Gathering, the Pokemon Trading Card Game, Duel Masters, World of Warcraft TCG and Blue Moon I have come to the conclusion that Yu-Gi-Oh stands out as by far the worst of the lot. It got and still gets a lot of (in my opinion undeserved) attention and a big following which I think is largely due to the hype created by the (rather cheesy) TV show. Being captivated by the "Heart of the Cards" crowds of kids bought tons of overpriced booster packs and accessories like these ridiculously looking duel disks to battle for their eternal souls, just as "Yugi" and "Kaiba" did every afternoon on their anime TV-show. Not only do I think the Yu-Gi-Oh card game does not in the least deserve the attention it got and still gets, in fact I believe the whole Yu-Gi-Oh franchise, which comprises not only the card game and TV series, but also big screen movies, a myriad of video games on different platforms, action figures and all kinds of random merchandise, is a shameless corporate plan devised for a single purpose: squeezing a maximum amount of money out of the pocket of often very young customers. To prove my point I will elaborate on five major points of criticism I came to after dealing with the game. I have to mention that I actually only played the Yugi and Kaiba Starter decks as well as some of the video games for Gameboy Advance and Nintedo DS, which offered a broad enough variety of cards without having to actually buy any booster packs, so I can safely claim to be in a position to make a judgement. Please do not tell me everything is different in the newer expansions of the game - I simply do not care. Anyways, here we go:
First a Gameplay issue: The resource system - or lack thereof:
Magic has one, Duel Masters has one, even Pokemon has one: I am talking about a resource system. A decent resource system determines what kinds of cards, how many cards or how powerful cards you can play or how you can use these cards at a given time in a game. It adds a big chunk of strategy to any game and limits card choice and encourages efficient deck concepts from the very moment you build your deck. Contrary to most other TCGs, Yu-Gi-Oh (almost) totally lacks a resource system and only has a quite stunted, pseudo resource system when it comes to playing "Monsters".
In Yu-Gi-Oh, you can play as many Spells and Traps as you want, starting from turn one, without having to meet any requirements or paying anything like for example "Mana" in M:tG.
For Monsters it is a bit trickier. There are basically three kinds of Monsters: Up to Level 4 (number of stars printed on the card) you can play them without any cost. For Level 5 to 6 you have to destroy one of your Monsters on the playing field as a tribute, and for Level 7 and up you even have to sacrifice two of your Monsters. (BTW: I always wondered about those random numbers. Why not give them Level 1 to 3 instead?) Furthermore you are limited to only one Monster per turn.
So this means you can play your most powerful Level 4 Monster as soon as turn 1 for no cost whatsoever. And there are quite powerful ones.
What is more: Imagine you wanna summon your über-mighty Blue Eyes White Dragon, which requires two tributes. You sacrifice the two monsters you have on the field in joyful expectation of what pawnage is to come. Then your opponent activates one of his Trap cards that kills off one of your Creatures. D’oh! You are back at the beginning. What kind of resource system is that?
The consequences of the lack of a resource system on deckbuilding and even the tournament scene is even worse! As you can pack any card you want into your deck, without having to worry about mana costs and being limited by colors to invoke Magic: the Gathering again, you are forced to play a certain set of "Power Cards" in order to get a competitive deck. That leads to a rather dull and unhealthy uniformity of decks especially in the tournament scene.
Exactly that problem arose in competitive Yu-Gi-Oh, so they had to issue a rather long list of banned cards, which contained cards whose equivalents in M:tG nobody would even touch. Example: Change of Heart, a Spell which lets you steal one Monster of your opponent for a turn. The M:tG equivalent of that card costs 4 Mana and has probably never been in a tournament deck.
For some, probably for a younger audience, the lack of a resource system may be an upside, not a downside. "I can play my most powerful Monster on turn one without having to worry about any resources, huh?? How cool is that!!"
What makes this design flaw’s repercussions even worse is treated in the next point.
Totally useless vs totally imbalanced and overpowered cards:
In the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG I discovered basically two types of cards: Rather or even utterly useless and underpowered cards on the one hand and totally imbalanced and clearly overpowered cards on the other hand.
There are more crass examples for this in newer expansion sets, but to demonstrate this, I will only use some cards from the first expansion set released in Europe and the US: "Legends of Blue Eyes White Dragon".
First let us look at two Monsters, both require no tribute:
Skull Servant has 300 Attack and 200 Defense.
Giant Soldier of Stone on the other hand, whit no extra cost whatsoever, has a whooping 1300 ATK and 2000 DEF.
Who in his right mind would play Skull Servant? In any deck? This is just one example, but trust me, there are loads of similarly useless cards. In fact they will make up the bigger part of your loot when cracking up a booster pack.
Often, the only difference between weak and powerful cards lies in pricing, and I am speaking of Dollars, not "Mana" or "Energy".
A good example for this are the "Dark Hole" and "Raigeki" both from the set "Legends of Blue Eyes White Dragon".
Dark Hole is a Spell that destroys all Monsters on the Field. It is worth about 12,50 $ (I am using prices from http://yugico.com).
Then we discover the next card on the list, "Raigeki".
This Spell destroys only all your opponent’s Monsters, at no extra cost whatsoever. It’s price: about 30 $.
I know Yu-Gi-Oh is supposed to be for kids and teens, but as far as I can tell it tries to be a somewhat serious game. However, Yu-Gi-Oh displays a dazzling cast of quite ridiculous characters, robbing the game of any consistency and/or common theme.
Only a few graphic examples:
How can a Graveyard be a Creature, and why on earth is a Mammoth a Dinosaur anyways?
Consistency folks, consistency...
Pumpking, the King of Ghosts
The King of Ghosts. Wow, I was so scared I almost crapped my pants. Spooky stuff...
My all-time favorite! There is even a burger recipe card you need to summon this.
Being a person with some sense of aesthetics, what really bothers me about Yu-Gi-Oh is the card artwork. Most of it stands out as rather cheap and amateurish, compared to for example M:tG, which has unique and artistic illustrations for EVERY card, not only for the most powerful cards like in Yu-Gi-Oh. To illustrate my point, I will do a little comparison:
Here a Yu-Gi-Oh card and a M:tG card released in the same year next to each other:
See any difference? I hope so. This is only one example. I could show you a hundred but that would only unnecessarily elongate this review.
Note the lack of an artist credit on the Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Not worth mentioning I guess...
Part of what makes me think the Yu-Gi-Oh card game was only devised to rob innocent and somewhat confused children off their sparse pocket money, is the absurdly high pricing.
Per booster pack you only get a mere 8 cards at the cost of about 5 €. For comparison: A Magic Booster pack contains 15 cards and costs only about 3 €.
The prices of single cards go up to over 50 $, whereby the rule of thumb is the better a card the higher the price. You may say that is the same for example in Magic: the Gathering, which I think is simply not true. In M:tG you can build winning or even tournament quality decks without using any rare card. There are even formats in which only commons are used.
At the same time the cards themselves feel very cheap. Very thin card board is used and when you rip a Yu-Gi-Oh card (ahhh, what a nice feeling) and then a M:tG card, you will not only feel but see the difference.
If you want to have some fun at a casual level you best go with some of the prebuilt, playable Structure Decks. You will get decent cards at a pretty decent price.
Oh yeah, before I forget it: Why the fudge has the card text font to be super-small? Am I supposed to play with a magnifying glass? And why on earth do the monsters need to have such hilarious stats like 1350 ATK and 1150 DEF. Why not 13 and 11??
Ok, I need to stop...
So, you might ask:
Is there anything good to say about the Yu-Gi-Oh Trading Card Game?
As not to appear unfair, I also have to mention some of the upsides of Yu-Gi-Oh TCG.
Well, the game does have some strategy, although it is rather about who draws and plays his best monsters and spells first and who has the better = more expensive deck. Also, if you are a fan of the TV show or even the manga comic, you will get some enjoyment from immersing yourself in the world of your cartoon heroes, re-enacting the epic card battles as seen on TV. Yu-Gi-Oh does a lot of things, but none better as its TCG competitors on the market. If you like the collectable aspect of the game, you might take a liking to Yu-Gi-Oh. But as the game is even more of a money sink than other contemporary TCGs, prepare to spend a LOT of money.
Verdict: The game basically boils down to this: The kid with the most pocket money wins. Yu-Gi-Oh has some potential and can be real fun for those who enjoy the cartoon or who are fans of anime/manga. But if you are looking for a well balanced TCG with a lot of strategy and variety in deckbuilding, and which is even a lot cheaper, then go for Magic: the Gathering or even Pokemon TCG. If you really wanna give Yu-Gi-Oh TCG a try, get one of the video games. Your budget will thank you...
I give the game two out of ten eternal duelist souls
- Last edited Wed Mar 3, 2010 9:56 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:12 pm
Yes it was just a rant wasn't it.
I like the game, so I disagree with most of your conclusions, but horses for courses and all that.
The only defence I want to put forward is that I do not think there is any need to buy expensive cards to have fun playing YuGiOh. You can put together some mean combinations with common cards. Yes to win tournaments I expect you would need to spend serious money, but I do not play to enter tournaments.
But, you make one point where I am with you 100% and that is the size of the font on the cards. I always thought it was my age, now I know I am not alone.
Although I can understand your side of it from your perspective, I have to strongly disagree with much of what you said in your review.
Yu-Gi-Oh has risen up to be one of my favorite playing card games, held in more esteem than even Magic the Gathering..
I think Yu-Gi-Oh has an excellent power balance with the cards levels and tribute system. Yu-Gi-Oh has many super powerful game ending cards, BUT you have to fight like crazy to get them on the table. It is hard to “cheat” a super creature onto the field in this game as opposed to Magic, where I have seen combo decks fill the board with dragons in only a few turns.
There are a few cards in Yu-Gi-Oh that can sneak a big one in, but the games spell and trap system keeps an efficient balance,
As for the lack of resources, that is a great thing! I would say at least 1/3 of the games I have ever played in Magic the Gathering had at least one opponent get mana screwed as the term goes and has a miserable time playing.
But not in Yu-Gi-Oh… the only element close to that is if you draw a hand of all tribute monsters, and that happens maybe 1 out of every 10 games in Yu-Gi-Oh.
As far as who ever spends the most wins. That holds true to any game. Yes if you are an exceptionally skilled player you can mastermind a common deck that will hold its own. But I have seen magic players make wall to wall rare decks that just decimate the field every time, and not many common cards can help you there.
In Yu-Gi-Oh, most of the most powerful monsters can be felled by a simple common trap, and the same goes for magic, a dragon can be “terrored” just as easily.
It is all in how you make your deck, but I am thankful that I do not have to spend a fortune on Yu-Gi-Oh cards to make a strong deck.
My final point about Yu-Gi-Oh is I think it is one of the more exciting card games out there. The fact that you can have your forces obliterated; only to raise a new army the next couple turns is very exciting. It has a back and forth exciting struggle element that the game really captures.
In may other games you are whittling away at players life points or creatures slowly but surely. But in Yu-Gi-Oh it is a power slugfest where every turn could be your last.
In closing I say that Yu-Gi-Oh is not for everybody, but it definitely has a deeper element of strategy, fun, and competitiveness than you are giving it credit for.
Fair enough! I am open for all kinds of suggestions and criticism. These are just my two cents! Please prove me wrong if you can, so I maybe can discover positive sides of the game I have not yet discovered!
Just believe in the heart of the cards! (sorry, I had to throw it in there somewhere)
Thank you for your review. There are not many articles on Yu-Gi-Oh here. and it is good to read a critical review on this game.
I dunno why you think MTG is different. I guess about the price of a sealed booster and the atrwork you're right but I think most competitive decks are overpriced in both games.
I am a "retired" MTG tournament player and I wanted to get back to the game just to have a look of what's going on. In my time (2-3 years ago) a deck was aprox. $100-200 worth of cards, now with the addition of "Uber-rares", (or I dunno how re they called, and frankly I don't care, they're just as you call it "a thing to rip off players") a competitive deck is $300-500 bucks! And there's only a handful of decks that are competitive these days. I saw the "important" list of decks for extended season and there were like 4 decks (Tarmogoyf or "ZOO", the great offender at a price point of over $500 at the top of the list)... 3 years ago the extended season had 5-10 competitive decks because people tried to look BEYOND the rares. I had a Stardard White Weenie deck that was like $150 (and all because of Jitte) and was kick-ass!
So, the comparison in this point has no real objectivity, the "game scene" has become more or less the same in Yugioh...
Again: I have to agree with you on
-Price of boosters
-The game is horrible
Edit: I also have to say that the addition of more and more expansions every year (for example the "duel decks"), the change in the Core set (that is released every year now) and the disappearance of FULL Preconstructed decks is also a scheme to make the players spend more and more on MTG. Also makes it hard for players to go into the game now: now we have Planechase, Duel Decks, M10 decks and Expansion decks (and maybe more, I'm not sure), if a player wants to get into MTG, there's lots of options, which is good, but also the player is gonna get confused when someone comes in and say that his deck is not "current" or "legal"...
- Last edited Mon Mar 1, 2010 10:43 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Mar 1, 2010 10:37 pm
Thanks for your comment Ernesto!
When you look at the recent tournament scene, I think you are right, Yu-Gi-Oh and M:tG are not much different any more. I just have the feeling that Yu-Gi-Oh is more blatanly overpriced and ripping of players. You may not win tournaments with it, but you can build a decent deck out of commons and uncommons. White Weenie, as you mentioned, is one example, Madness (depending on the build) is another...
I have to say the introduction of "Mythic" Rares, those strange Duel Decks and more could be a sign of the eventual downfall of M:tG...
BTW: Tarmogoyf just makes me sick. Everyone is splashing green now just to run that sick bastard
I see where you're coming from and I agree with a lot of it. I still think it was a fun game (when I used to play) and I enjoyed the movie and the shows. I don't like where they've been taking it though. I don't like how they changed the cards from the show. Everything was so different. they should have at least made the show more like the real life game rather than showing yugi beat huge monsters with a kuriboh. that just makes the game lose taste to me. Still a fun game when you need to pass time, but not all that great.
I second the original review. A TCG should have some notion of card balance, and YGO has none. If the cards are not balanced, there is no point to play a deckbuilding game. Better play Race for the Galaxy (tableau building) or Dominion (deck building on the fly) instead.
I think Yu-Gi-Oh works a lot better as a videogame. And by that I mean this; when I buy new cards in the computerized versions of the game; I'm not actually spending any money - just my time. So buying new and better cards is almost like leveling up in a regular RPG. It's kinda fun to grind against simple opponents for a while, to level up in this manner before you take on the next boss.
It just doesn't work nearly as well as a CCG in real life. I don't really mind the gameplay in itself; it's simple and kinda stupid, true, but at the same time it's visceral and exciting - and often leads to very dramatic and tense games. If it had been a regular card game where you drew from a common stack - or assembled your deck through some Dominion-type minigame before you started to play - it would've been a pretty decent filler. But as a CCG... bleh.
Well, I don't really play the game, but I can give you a reason why would you play a skull servant: if you have a synchro or xyz and you need some cheap garbage nobody will want to destroy right away to match levels, or if you need something to tribute and you don't want to sacrifice better monsters.
I can also give reasons why would you want to destroy all monsters - your monsters could have good abilities that work from the graveyard (like with the dark world structure deck).
I know this post is three years old now, and you've altered your opinion slightly since then, but this review angers me to the point of making an account here just to respond.
First off, I've been a card gamer from a very young age. I've played Pokemon and Yugioh since their release, although I quit Pokemon in 2008 because I no longer had access to a league. I've also dabbled in M:TG over the years and keep a deck built at all times.
But first and foremost I am a competitive Yugioh player, and this rant on the game is a rather uninformed and shallow look at the game.
You're obviously a heavy Magic player, and that's fine. I don't know Magic well enough to feel comfortable in a tournament setting, but I know the rules, enjoy the game, and respect it as the first big TCG ever. But not every card game has to be Magic 2.0
First off. You said before listing points that you think that the game's hype comes from the TV show, and while at one point, circa 2001, that was the case, today the show barely even registers on most player's radar. We don't care about it. It's really bad right now, and peaked in the original series (or when LittleKuriboh made his abridged series), the multimedia push for Yugioh is long gone. We once were kids suckered in by a shiny game from a TV show, but now most players are High School seniors or are in college, when we suddenly have enough free time to get our old cards out/get introduced to the game by our friends. NOONE uses a Duel Disk. They're dumb and are more or less an inside joke.
I will note that you only know the game from its origins, and while you say don't talk about the newer stuff, I'm going to anyway, because it really is a game that improved with age.
Your first point: Lack of resource
First let me ask you a question. Does a card game by design require a resource system? Not really, because not every game is Magic, or its little brother Pokemon. And while resources lead to them being slow, thoughtful games of grand strategy, the lack thereof makes Yugioh a game of snap judgment and weighing risk to cost.
The concept of monsters being used as a resource for tribute was outdated from the start. It was never a viable competitive strategy, and it's been years since even the structure decks advised using it. The original Kaiba starter deck had a holo copy of Flute of Summoning Dragon there simply to allow you to get Blue-Eyes out without tributing. But I digress. There are bigger fish to fry.
Useless V. Imbalanced Cards
Yes. Yugioh suffers from massive power creep, and the lack of rotation of the sets that Magic and Pokemon use lead specific cards becoming useless, but the fact of the matter is that a smart player can make most any cards worth while. For example, let me turn your attention to the stand out deck of last year. The deck non of us players saw coming.
Dino-Rabbit. A deck that takes two, relatively useless, non effect monsters, and turns them into the best deck of the format. Dino-Rabbit centered around two old cards. Kabazuals and Sabersaurus, being summoned quickly by the effect of Rescue Rabbit.
What I'm trying to say is that something useless one format, could become the most important card after the next banlist.
Also, people do indeed use Skull Servants to great effect. I just don't know the deck.
The second half of your argument was that there are unbalanced cards. Yes, this is true. Some cards are definitively better than others, some to the point of being broken. Chaos Emperor Dragon being the most imbalanced, overpowered of the bunch, but he was banned on the first banlist. The imbalanced cards are always getting banned, unbanned, limited, semilimited and so fourth that instead of being the definitive answer to everything, they stay for a while and then shift around, people finding newer, better combinations to avoid them.
Also, Dark Hole is only worth 12 if it's at its highest rarity, and even then no one would pay that.
Raigeki has been banned as long as Chaos Emperor Dragon.
Yes we do have some strange characters don't we? And we love it.
I could go into the fact that there is overarching stories and themes that groups specific cards together, but I'm not going to bother.
You say lack of consistency, I say fun and interesting.
Yes, Magic cards are very pretty and the paintings used for the art is impressive. I love getting new land art.
Yugioh originates from a manga, not originally about the card game oddly enough, and therefor is of Japanese origins unlike the American origins of Magic, and it is reflected in their respective artwork with Yugioh having an anime look to them.
That doesn't change the fact that every yugioh card has an artist behind it who took hours upon hours to create it just as in Magic. As an aspiring artist, who most definitely has a sense of aesthetics, since you know, that's necessary for my field, I find that you're confusing bad aesthetics with 'different' aesthetics from Magic.
Yes. Magic is amazing value for money, but you have a few facts wrong here.
Yugioh is 9 cards per pack, not 8, and a Magic and Yugioh pack cost the same.
The only single cards over 50 are the top five or so meta secret rares. High Priestess of Prophecy, Gear Gigant X, and the brand new stuff from the next expansion are going to be expensive because people are banking on them to be tourny toppers, but as far as singles go, they aren't horrendous.
Some of the best decks around (Dino-Rabbit, Wind-Up, Six Samurai, Agents, Dark Worlds) can all be built for about 30-40 dollars and supplemented with a few good 5-10 dollar tech cards (completely optional)
You could also drop 100+ on a deck if you wanted to, because other decks on the same play level (Prophecy, Merlantians) have some of those really expensive cards at their core.
It's all about playstyle, preference, and player skill who tops with what deck, not deck cost.
Yes there are decks that constantly top, but that's called a meta-game, and every TCG has a form of Meta-Game.
Let me say that despite disagreeing with everything you said, I respect disliking Yugioh. And although your knowledge of the game stems from its rocky youth (Honestly, for the first two years the game really sucked) it's a solid game. It's just different from magic.
Magic is about having a deck that can build and compound effects over time.
Yugioh is about having a deck consistant enough to quickly respond to your opponent as well as set your own strategies in motion.
Magic v Yugioh is an argument of grand strategy versus front line decision making. Yugioh is a game where the entire field can change in a moment's notice, and you must respond on the fly.
I hope I haven't come across as a petulant fanboy, because I just like card games, not only Yugioh. I want to give credit where credit is due. I'll also complain about it when it deserves it.
Why isn't Tour Guide banned?
Why did they bring back BLS?
Wind-Ups are unfairly good!
The game has issues, but no game is perfect.
And if by any chance you want to look into what sort of strategy Yugioh actually requires (more than you think) then please, feel free to ask. I'll be more than happy to show you why it is that I enjoy my game of choice, instead of just spending my time debunking what you've said about the game.
TL;DR You got some facts wrong and a random guy on the internet got a little mad.
Thanks for your thorough debunking of my three-year old rant. I have changed my opinion on Yu Gi Oh and enjoy playing it casually with friends now, though some of my criticism on some poor game design choices I still consider valid. Sent you a small thank you in the form of some
Welcome to Board Game Geek btw!
Wow. This was a great debate.