Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bad timing

The commercial failure of The Terminator Collectible Card Game could be down to any number of things, but most likely it was timing. It was released in 2000, when nothing much was going on in the Terminator universe other than a handful of lackluster comic books from Dark Horse Comics. More importantly, by 2000 the collectible card game market was flooded with product competing for a dwindling customer base, and none of the 17 other CCGs released that year lasted either.

Poor marketing may have been a contributing factor as well. In 2000 I was hip deep in the CCG craze, actively playing several games and always looking for new ones, and I hadn't even heard of the Terminator CCG until I happened upon a few starter decks in a bargain bin in 2004 or so.

I picked up the game for several reasons: it was cheap, it was based on one of my favorite movies, and it was compatible with the Aliens Predator CCG, delivering on that game's thus far unfulfilled promise of being the first in a series of "Battleground System" games.

The two starter decks introduce a game based solidly on the first Terminator movie, with players taking control of either SkyNet's killer cyborgs or the brave heroes of the Resistance, and travelling back in time to either protect or destroy supporting characters with varying degrees of importance to the future.

The game adapts the system from Aliens Predator reasonably well, helped along by the fact that the Terminator storyline contains many of the same elements: military-style heroes, lots of weapons, innocent civilians that need to be rescued (or terminated), and a vicious opponent in the shape of the robotic Terminators. The problem is that the game takes a very literal approach to the strengths and weaknesses of the humans and the Terminators, to the point that the Resistance characters are hopelessly outclassed and almost never win.

It's a problem when playing with just the Terminator cards, but it even holds true when taking advantage of the game's compatibility with Aliens Predator. Even when pitted against the well-armed Predators or hordes of Aliens, the Terminators are pretty unstoppable, to the point that they aren't really much fun to play.

Viewed as its own game, The Terminator CCG is unfortunately one-sided in favor of the Terminators. Viewed as an expansion for Aliens Predator, it contributes some interesting weapon and action cards that the Aliens, Predators and Colonial Marines can take advantage of, but the Resistance faction plays too much like the Marines to be interesting on their own, and the Terminators still manage to unbalance the game to a pretty spectacular degree.

These issues probably could have been addressed in future expansions by adding cards that would balance things out for the other factions, or possibly even reigning in some of the game elements that make the Terminators so powerful. Unfortunately, the game never made it that far.

Rating: 2 (out of 5) It may have seemed like a good idea, but doesn't really hold together, either on its own or as a continuation of the Aliens Predator Battleground System.

Date played: October 26, 2014

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