The participants for anime, comic and conventions in Singapore have been on the rise amidst large-scale staple conventions like Anime Festival Asia (AFA), License 2 Play and End-of-Year, with the inaugural Chara Expo the newest member in the convention lineup. However, much rarer are conventions dedicated to the good-old ways of traditional tabletop gaming.
In fulfillment of the latter, the Card Games Asia (CGA) 2015 made its debut on the weekend mornings and afternoons of 15 and 16 August 2015 at the Suntec City Convention Centre. Bearing a self-explanatory title, the convention featured mostly Japanese-originated Trading Card Games (TCGs) with a few Western ones like Hearthstone, an TCG adaptation of the Warcraft universe that has gained immense popularity ever since it was ported to smart devices, and Magic: The Gathering, the longest running modern TCG.
A daily admission fee of S$2 was imposed but the freebies contained in the goodie bag, redeemable after completing a simple survey, makes it an excellent bargain, given the complete Red- and White- colored Trial Deck for WIXOSS for aspiring Selectors (the in-franchise collective for its players) and folders from past Bushiroad events. The value would continue to increase within the convention halls; vendors were mostly generous in giving out promotional cards and even complete playable decks, as with the case for Magic: The Gathering and Ange Vierge.
For the Japanese side, most featured games each had a demonstration and sales booth set up at the sides of the hall by their distributors, and conducted tournaments and casual formats at the tables that occupied majority of the space of the convention halls. Critical rounds for specific games were played on stage at the back of the hall to a camera feed of the playing field.
This arrangement applied for the longer-running titles, such as Bushiroad’s Cardfight Vanguard, Future Card Buddyfight, Weiss Schwarz and ChaOS, as well as SEGA‘s Sangokushi Taisen TCG and Takara Tomy’s WIXOSS, among others.
CGA had also set the stage for new and less-played games to shine. The well known Japanese media publisher KADOKAWA brought in two of their new TCG titles to the event. The first, Dreadnought, a fast-paced anime-based TCG, made its first appearance in Singapore. With only two Starter Decks and one Base Set booster expansion since its release in May, the TCG remains extremely young in its production cycle.
Booth staff offered tutorials of the game using either the Blade of Blaze or the Shield of Azure Starter Decks. Dreadnought, as how the demonstrators likened, runs mostly as a cross of Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s battle damage mechanics and Cardfight!! Vanguard‘s use of extra and less offensive cards on hand to protect in-play Monsters and Life. They also touted the game’s abolishing of distinct player turns in favor of a priority-passing system in which players perform Phases and actions similar to each other in succession.
The Starter Decks featured mostly plain Monsters a midst some with simple effects, along with basic Spells that reduce damage. The tutorial-givers attested that the already-fast game could be sped up further if more complicated effects in customized decks are used. KADOKAWA was quick to win over new players, with some purchasing the sealed products on the spot.
The second game was a demonstration of Arcadia Tribe of the Silver Key, a physical card game played with the assistance of a smart device to calculate random card effects. It served mostly as a preview to the game which will debut in October officially with their first Starter Decks and Booster Set. Prerelease information of the game also reveal how participating in sanctioned events allow players to expand the size of their Tribe, the different classes of cards in the game, in their smartphone application.
The booth also offered a tutorial and free Trial Deck giveaway for their longer-running Ange Vierge TCG.
Some fans also brought in some more obscure card games to play amongst themselves, such as Duel Masters and the Fire Emblem TCG.
Of course, no tabletop gamer that needs to keep his cards in mint condition can do without TCG accessories, prompting accessory supplier UltraPro to bring in their sleeves, deck boxes, storage kits and playmats straight off their stockpiles for sale at discounted prices. Notable among their inventory is an storage bag designed specifically for cards that went for S$30, which was a first to be sold physically in Singapore, as well as a Red Dragon Life Counter for use in games with a Life/Hit Points system like MTG, Pokemon and Buddyfight, limited to one piece per buyer.
Apart from UltraPro, several brick-and-mortar hobby shops carried their stock of cards and supplies into booths to the event grounds, as per trend with recent anime conventions.
Though not strictly card games, Bushiroad also took the opportunity to showcase two of their mobile games, the all-popular School Idol Festival, a unit-collecting and a vaguely maimai- and DJ-Max- esque rhythm game cross based on the Love Live! musical anime series, as well as their Fun Run variant of Shin Chan. Both series are currently featured in their anime-crossover TCG Weiss Schwarz. Attendees versed with the pace of the game can aim to earn the highest score of the day to earn an in-game promo card.
As a whole, the two-day event was well worth the price for the freebies and range of experience and tryouts inside, even for a curious initiate to TCGs, or perhaps even more so for competitive tabletop gamers already present to take part in tournaments for the games they play as they can mill around to learn about other similar games. For an event that features only one medium of games, the spread of experience areas is wide, making it an effective gathering of all walks of card gamers.