An introduction to Cardfight!! Vanguard - Part 1 - Card Design

  • Greetings and salutations, everyone! We're going to start out nice and simple with this inaugural post. A few of you may have seen me around the various streams - like many of you, I'm a twitch subscriber to Easy Allies (and formerly a twitch subscriber to Gametrailers, having pulled the trigger on that one during the final night of Final Fantasy VII). Now, I'm not conceited enough to think, "well, I bet a few of those folks might wonder where my screen name came from!" I will, however, answer that question anyway, as it provides a very nice segue into the topic at hand.

    The answer is simple - the screen name Garmore comes from a trading card game. This game has been running for the last five years, building a small to moderate fanbase in its native Japan, but also around the world. America has played host to this game for twenty-three booster expansions and five seasons of the animated series, which can be viewed for free on the company's own Youtube* account.

    The game in question is known as Cardfight!! Vanguard, as the title of this page implies. It, like several before it, is a hybrid anime franchise and trading card game wherein nerds use cardboard to save the world. Unlike several, however - Duel Masters, I'm looking at you, Vanguard has been running for several years, and shows a healthy amount of interest to this day. As it seems, the game is a success, and this particular player would be more than happy to introduce you, dear reader, to its ins and outs!

    The Basics -

    Cardfight Vanguard is a game primarily designed for one-on-one gameplay. Though there are several officially created multiplayer modifications, the two player version is this game's bread and butter. First, we should probably look at one of the cards, to get a feel for what the game might be like before diving into the heavier details. Springing off of my screen name, let's call on our old buddy Garmore to demonstrate:

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    So, there he is. The inspiration behind the name. This guy, bitchin' spectral wolf thing included, is Garmore. Beast Knight Garmore, to be specific. The name is shown on the lower fourth of the card, next to the phrase "Normal Unit." Below this name is a suite of information: the number by the sword icon, 8000, denotes the unit's Power. Next to that is a fancy looking star next to the number 1; this denotes the unit's Critical value. Finally, we have the unit's Clan and Race; clans are desperately important to gameplay. Race can come into play, but is mostly for lore.

    Moving up the card, we see a box containing the unit's effect. For those aspiring to give this game a try, feel free to take note of the symbols buried within the text - the (V), the (R), and the "Auto" backgrounded by a green box. Those are important, and I will get to those in time! For now, however, there's still more to see. Directly above the effect is the unit's flavor text and visage, in all its full-art glory. In this card game, every illustration is, for the most part, a full one, and the illustrator is given credit right on the bottom right corner - Daisuke Izuka is a particular fan favorite.

    Futher up the card, we see several more numbers: on the left, there's a shield-shaped emblem that with a number that, as you may guess, indicates the value of the unit's, well, Shield. Yu Gi Oh Players, hold off for a moment - this is not the same as a monster's defense value in your game, and Magic players, it does not denote the unit's toughness. Hang in there! We'll get to it. Finally, in the top left corner, we see two more tidbits of info. Within the hexagon is the number 2 - this denotes the unit's Grade. Below that is another hexagon, which bears a symbol directly related to the card's grade - its Ability. Each grade is linked with a particular ability, and every unit of that grade shares this ability. The one displayed here, a wonky sort of diagonal arrow, denotes the ability "Intercept." And, yes, you guessed it, we'll get to that later.

    After all, now that we've seen one of the cards, there may be a few burning questions in your mind! How many grades are there? What sorts of abilities do they have? If there's a normal unit, what other types of units exist? Are there spells in this game? If the shield isn't the unit's defense power or toughness, what does it mean? Patience, dear reader! Let's tackle those questions one at a time, and what better way to do so than with more examples? First, let's look at a unit of a different grade:

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    This adorable lil' pup is Naapgal Liberator, and it's a Grade 0 unit. There are several things you'll notice about it right away - first, take note of the new emblem we've got to show off in the upper right hand corner. This is called a Trigger, and is only carried by Trigger Units. Trigger Units can be easily identified by their yellow card border, in contrast the Garmore's gray one, as well as the tag "Trigger Unit" in place of Garmore's "Normal Unit." Trigger Units are the source of much joy and much frustration for all Vanguard players. They are crucial to both deck building and game flow, and must be considered at all stages of gameplay. In order to gain some familiarity with them, let's take a look at what sorts of triggers exist:

    alt text Here, we see a Critical Trigger. You might remember the emblem and word "Critical" from earlier - This trigger, at certain stages of the game, will increase the Critical value of any unit of your choice on your field. What that means, however, will be detailed once we start talking about the game flow and combat.

    alt text This is a Stand Trigger. A stand trigger will be somewhat second-nature to a player of Magic: The Gathering due to the similarities involved to the Tap mechanic. You see, when a unit attacks, the player must first Rest it. Resting, denoted by turning the card sideways, indicates that the unit in question can no longer attack during that battle phase. As one might expect via context, a Stand Trigger has the power to take a rested unit and Stand it, turning it vertical and thereby allowing it to make another attack.

    alt text This is the emblem of a Draw Trigger. This one's quite simple - when active, a Draw Trigger allows its player to draw one card. Easy as can be!

    alt text Finally, we have the emblem available on good ol' Naapgal's card above. This is the Heal Trigger, and will either be your salvation or the bane of your existence. You see, Cardfight Vanguard, similar to pokemon, is a game which has a win condition tied to six cards being placed in a certain zone at certain times of the game. These cards represent a player's Damage, and unlike Pokemon, they are added to a player's Damage Zone as the game progresses. If a player gains a sixth card in his or her Damage Zone, that's it - the game is over. The Heal trigger, as it happens, is very nearly the only way to remove cards from this Damage Zone; when active, if the player in question has equal to or more damage than their opponent, they are forced to remove one card from their Damage Zone, and place it in the Drop Zone, Vanguard's equivalent to the Graveyard from many other games.

    Take note that all four of these triggers consist of a sword icon and the figure "+5000." This means that, when revealed, a Trigger is able to apply 5000 extra power to a unit of the affected player's choice, and this unit can be different than the unit which receives the more specific effect of that trigger. For example, if you reveal a Critical Trigger, you may apply the extra point of Critical to one unit on your field, but the 5000 power bonus to another. This 5000 power expires when your turn ends.

    Now then! Let's head back to those questions from earlier in order to fill in a bit of your background knowledge before we turn to the basics of deckbuilding and the state of the field in a Cardfight. There are five different Grades in vanguard - 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Grade 0 units include every Trigger Unit in the game, as well as a smattering of Normal Units designed to serve as the very first card placed on the field in a given match. Grade 1 units are only Normal Units, and are designed to support the more powerful Grades 2 and 3. Grade 2 units are designed to be your front line of offense, offering a flexible range of abilities and uses backed up by respectable Power stats which allow them to attack effectively. Grade 3 units can be thought of as your deck's general, and will serve as the centerpiece to both your field and deck construction.

    And then there's Grade 4. New to Cardfight!! Vanguard for the most part, Grade 4 units in a class of their own. With one notable exception, they are not placed in the main deck along with your 0's, 1's, 2's, and 3's. As that implies, they are not Normal Units, but rather a class of their own: the G Unit, an abbreviation of Generation Unit. Much like Yu Gi Oh!, these cards are kept in a stack off to the upper left hand corner of the playing field, and are used to create explosions of power with their unique effects and high stats.

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    Here we have a unit from the Gear Chronicle known as Interdimensional Dragon, Chronoscommand Dragon, one of the very first G-Units released into the game and another Daisuke Izuka original. Take note of the red border, as well as the curious "+" sign on the card's Power value. This Grade 4 G Unit is of a class of cards colloquially referred to as Stride Units. Stride Units are a class of card unleashed only in the mid and late stages of a game, when both players have placed a Grade 3 unit in the center of their field, and generally serve as the core of your most powerful plays. As for the other variety of Grade 4 units, well...

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    Brand new to the game as of just last month, this final class of card is known as a G-Guardian. So far, they have been designed as a sudden burst of defense, mixed with a little bit of Swiss army knife style utility. They can provide an unexpected swing in the tides of a match, and have so far been a welcome addition to the game.

    So then! Now that we've seen a rundown of the variety of cards present in the game of Vanguard (Notice! Not a single spell, trap, or facsimile thereof to be found!), let's talk about deck construction. The game of Vanguard has comparatively strict rules surrounding the build of a player's deck:
    1) A deck must consist of NO MORE and NO LESS than fifty cards.
    2) A deck must contain exactly SIXTEEN Trigger Units
    3) A deck may contain up to SIXTEEN G-Units; these sixteen cards will be kept separate from the player's Main Deck.
    4) With exactly one exception not important enough to detail here, a deck must contain units from ONLY ONE Clan.
    The form of a player's deck has been honed by player experience and the general flow of the game, which will be detailed below.

    So ends the segment on deck construction and card layout! I'll continue this in another post, as I learned once I finished this little project that my original incarnation was too long and could not be accepted. Next up, (HOPEFULLY) in one post, I'll cover the phases of a player's turn and the general flow of the game!

    *Author's Note 1 - The anime is okay, but nothing special. Check it out if you get super bored, particularly if you have nostalgia for going to shop tournaments, regionals, and so on for your card game of choice. If you like the game, it's weirdly enjoyable, but not of particularly high quality. Hey, at least it's free.