The CCG of the furry set.
Continuing our look at the CCG's of the past that you may enjoy giving a try, we take a look at Rage. Rage is a collectible card game with an interesting history. Based on White Wolf Publishing's role-playing game Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Rage brings you into a world of warring clans of were-creatures. After the success of Jyhad, a role playing game also based on a White Wolf property, the company thought it prudent to self-publish a CCG of their own, and Werewolf was their second most popular franchise.
The rules of the game are pretty straight forward and mimic many of the CCG's of the mid-90's. Players build their "packs" by playing cards into their "Home Grounds". They then battle for pack dominance in the "Hunting Grounds". Kills generate "victory points" that are represented by the "Renown" printed on the card. Players place the opponent's defeated cards in their "Victory Pile" to keep score. First player to the established point total wins. Now of course there are more rules than that - and like most CCG's it is the interactions of the individual cards that spice up the game. There is a great site that details the entire rule set and breaks it into phases of play. If you decide to give the game a go, check it out.
While the game rules may have been nothing out of the ordinary, the cards most certainly were. The product quality of Rage was years ahead of the curve - and in some cases still exceeds it. Rage cards were thick - and coated in an almost hard plastic surface. These things were tough - you could spill a soda or food on them with impunity... and probably use them as deadly throwing stars in a pinch. They must have been crazy expensive to produce, especially in the early days of the genre. There were other product improvements that made them stand out as well. Original printings of each card were marked with a large circular hologram making counterfeiting almost impossible, and the foil chase cards in each set were crazy elaborate with a thick, shiny foil that only covered part of the card face to highlight the image. It was like a unicorn pooped on these cards - and they were amazing.
The Rage rules team did innovate in one very major way - double faced cards. Yep... pre-dating Magic by years, Rage simulated the transformation of a human into their were-form by flipping the card over to reveal creature's improved stats and form. I shake my head every time someone gushes over the innovation of Innistrad. Been there, done that.
Rage was a pretty strong seller. White Wolf printed a base set and four expansions. There was even a time where the player base was fairly respectable. Unfortunately, this is where things got rather... interesting. White Wolf discontinued the game, probably due to declining sales and printing costs. They then sold the rights to Five Rings Publishing - the folks that published Legend of the Five Rings (among others). Shortly after the purchase was completed in 1997, Five Rings Publishing gets bought by Wizards of the Coast. Wizards takes over their properties and then gets bought by Hasbro, who then discontinues all the Five Rings properties. To quote a paranormal scientist, "Cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria." Wizards sells the Rage rights to Alderac Entertainment, and everything looks good for Rage players, Right? Wrong. Alderac "reboots" the game - completely changing the rules. This made their version of Rage totally incompatible with the original version and infuriating the player base. Adding insult to injury, the new game inexplicably used the same card backs as the original game, making the secondary card market almost impossible to figure out. Rage dies shortly after, a victim of corporate insanity and Alderac's "Rolling Thunder" distribution method - a monthly release of a small number of new cards instead of traditional expansions that players and stores both hated.
So Rage suffers an ignoble death, deserving much more that it received. Today this is a tough, tough game to collect or purchase to make a couple of play decks. The identical looking (but incompatible) cards make it impossible to buy large lots of cards on eBay, and sealed product is tough to find. If you are a White Wolf fan, or and older gamer looking for some nostalgia you may want to pick up a couple of starters and see where it goes, but otherwise I'd probably pick another older game to try. Unless the moon is full or its All Hallow's Eve; then the correct answer is, of course, Rage.