My Little Pony CCG – An Introduction by Nate Louderback – Dorshe1
All right, I stumbled across this little gem of CCG about a month ago while I was buying card sleeves for my Star Wars CCG deck. I went into my local card shop that specializes in all card games, and I saw some teenagers playing a game with ponies. I was a little intrigued since I have been trying to get my daughter (now 8) interested in playing card games. She was super excited when I gave her some Star Wars cards, but even I know it is too complicated for her. This game on the other hand, seemed pretty straight forward and it had My Little Pony. So, I sidled up to the counter and $50 poorer I walked out of the shop with a My Little Pony 2-Player Starter deck and a Rarity & Rainbow Dash Theme deck.
With a new expansion available now, I figured it would be appropriate to write an introductory article about My Little Pony CCG including an explanation of the different card types, and a brief summary of game play.
What is My Little Pony CCG
My Little Pony CCG (MLP) is a collectible card game that is produced by Enterplay LLC. MLP was originally introduced at GenCon 2013 and it included a playing deck of 62 fixed cards. The Premiere set was released in December 2013 and contained 211 unique cards, 41 foils, and 13 promotional cards. The idea for the CCG comes from the My Little Pony universe, most specifically the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic TV show. This show is obviously very popular among young girls; however, the show has a strong male following who are typically called a Brony (I cannot make this up).
When constructing any CCG deck is it important to identify the cards that make up the deck. MLP has a number of card types that provide for a dynamic gaming experience.
1) Problem Cards – Each deck is required to have a 10-card problem card deck. The ponies of Ponyville would be lost without problems to solve and these fit the bill. Each player starts the game with one problem card (marked ‘starting’) and this is where the ponies do battle to prove who is the most helpful! At this time, each problem card requires power for at least two colors so each deck must have at least two colors to satisfy any problem.
- For experienced Star Wars CCG players you will see that this location based confrontations is similar to the site/system concept.
2) Mane Pony – Each player has their own deck and selects their ‘Mane’ pony (there is no defense for their equestrian puns, so we can only endure them with grace). The ‘Mane’ pony is one of the stars of the My Little Pony show (currently Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, and Rarity) and they are double-sided. Each Mane pony has a color associated with them and that combined with each Mane Pony’s flip condition will provide the framework for your deck construction.
- For as a veteran Star Wars CCG player, this reminds me of an objective as once you meet the conditions on the ‘Mane’ pony you flip her over and you get benefits!
3) Friends – No self-respecting pony would try to solve problems all by themselves. In order to take on the monumental task of being the best problem solver in Ponyville, each Mane pony relies on the help from their friends. Each friend has a cost associated with playing them and they add their power and special abilities to confront problems and win face-offs.
- For Star Wars CCG players these cards correlate to character cards.
4) Trouble Makers – Their name says it all. These are the misunderstood characters of the MLP universe. They don’t want Ponyville to be happy and they must be stopped. Each player has troublemakers in their deck and they typically play them on their opponent’s problem cards. A problem cannot be scored as long as a flipped up troublemaker card is flipped up. Using them is a double-edged sword however, because if they are defeated your opponent will get victory points.
- This reminds me of utinni effects in Star Wars CCG. You play something on your opponent and they must meet a condition in order remove the effect.
5) Resource Cards – Resource cards represent objects and other possessions that would make your pony friends more helpful. These cards usually deploy on a pony and provide an ongoing effect.
- Effect cards that provide ongoing effects are similar to Effect cards in Star Wars. They deploy to a character on the table and provide an ongoing effect as long as the cards are in force. Additionally, there are also cards that can be put on your opposing friends to tip the scales!
6) Event Cards – Event cards provide that extra little bit needed to maximize the helpfulness of your side. These cards provide one-time temporary effects that can either help your side, or make things more difficult for your opponent.
- Effect cards that provide temporary bonuses are similar to lost interrupts in Star Wars CCG. They can be played to provide a temporary benefit and are discarded. In fact, many of the cards have a trigger and are played as a response similar to the ‘just action’ phase in Star Wars CCG.
7) Reference Cards – Each deck provides optional cards that help players keep track of the score, the number of activation points per turn, and the costs for certain actions that can be taken during the Main Phase.
The game play for MLP is a little different than other card games. Instead of focusing on conflict, the game designers of MLP have decided that Ponyville needs helpful ponies. So this two player game is a race to determine which of the ponies is the MOST helpful. The main way that this is accomplished is by confronting and solving problems.
Each player has their own deck and selects their ‘Mane’ pony) and places it in their Home area. Then the deck is divided into two parts, a 10 card ‘Problem’ deck and a ‘Play Deck’ of at least 45 cards.
To start the game, each player selects a ‘Problem’ that has the ‘Starting’ keyword and place the rest of the problems underneath it. After that the game follows a progression of structured turns. The thing that is absent from a MLP deck compared to other CCGs is that you do not need to include card to be able to play your actions. Instead MLP uses a static action point system that awards each player the same number of action points dependent on the highest players points value. So unlike Magic The Gathering or Star Wars CCG it is not possible to get mana/force locked and you don’t have to waste deck space on those cards.
Each player then draws six cards and the game begins. Each turn goes through the following phases:
1) Ready Phase – The ready phase is when you prepare your side of the board for the turn to come. Actions are taken in the following order:
- Draw a Card (exception – the first player in the game does not draw a card)
- Ready Exhausted cards – some cards have special abilities that require them to be exhausted or your opponent may exhaust some of your friends to keep them from adding their power to confront problems or face-offs. You can ready all of your cards during this phase. Please note that some effects are so traumatic for your friends they may become ‘frightened.’ While it has similar effects as being exhausted, they are NOT readied at this time.
- Collect Action Points – The first step to collecting action points is to determine who has the most victory points. Then you check the chart and collect the number of action points that correspond to that value.
2) Trouble-maker Phase – Remember those guys who don’t want Ponyville to be happy? They get their own phase and actions are taken in this order:
- Uncover your trouble-makers – if you played a trouble-maker on the previous turn you may now turn it over and reveal it. While a trouble-maker is face up on a problem your opponent may not score the problem.
i. There is a special kind of trouble-maker called a ‘Villain.’ These troublemakers prevent BOTH players from scoring the problem, but they may be challenged by both players.
- Challenge trouble-makers – If you have a face up trouble-maker preventing you from scoring your problem, you may confront them now. You enter into a face off against them. If you win you score bonus points, but be careful, if you fail to defeat the trouble-maker you have to send one of your ponies back to home.
3) Main Phase – This phase is where you deploy friends, play events, resources, and move your friends and Mane pony. You can take any of the following actions during the Main phase in any order:
- Play friends, resources, and events. Simply pay the costs listed on the cards and do what they say.
- For two action points you may move any Mane pony or friend to/from a problem or home.
- For one action point you may play a trouble-maker face down on a problem.
- For one action point each you may draw a card.
- For two action tokens you may un-tap a frightened card.
4) Score Phase – It sounds straightforward enough, but this is when you determine whether you have been helpful enough to confront the problems. Scoring phase actions happen in this order:
- Determine if there is a face up trouble-maker on a problem. You cannot score if there is a face-up troublemaker blocking your scoring requirements.
- Next determine if you meet the requirements of the problem. If you meet the requirements, congratulations you have successfully confronted the problem and score 1 point.
i. As stated above all of your problems require at least two colors to solve.
ii. Some problems will require you to have two specific colors (example 2 White and 2 Pink).
iii. Some problems will require you to have one color and any other color (example 2 white and any 2 non-white).
- If you are the first person to successfully confront the problem you gain ‘bonus points’ as listed on the problem card.
- Repeat the process for the other problem.
- If both you and your opponent are solving the same problem, that creates a face off (see Face offs below).
- Once a face off at a problem is resolved, the problem is solved! Place the problem at the bottom of the problem deck and move all the cards involved in the face off back to the home area.
5) End of Turn – Certain things happen at the end of the turn before turning over control to your opponent. They are taken in the following order:
- Check the number of cards in your hand. If you have more than 8 cards, discard down to 8 cards.
- Check the number of ponies in your home area. If you have more ponies than allowed by the Mane pony, you must dismiss ponies until you are at the limit.
During the course of the game there are situations where you want to determine who is stronger. These situations are called face offs. There are three ways to be involved in a face off and each has its own rewards and penalties:
1) Trouble-maker face off – This occurs when you have a face up trouble-maker preventing you from scoring.
- Risk – If you lose you must put a pony from the confrontation back into your home area.
- Reward – Printed bonus value of the trouble-maker and dismiss trouble-maker to owners discard pile.
2) Problem face off – This occurs when you and your opponent are confronting the same problem.
- Risk – If you lose, your opponent wins the bonus points listed on the card and your problem is resolved.
- Reward – If you win, you win the bonus points listed on the card and your problem is resolved.
3) Double face off – This occurs when you (or your opponent) can confront two problems at the same time.
- Risk – If you lose, your opponent wins the highest of the two bonus points listed and both problems are resolved.
- Reward – If you win, you win the highest of the two bonus points listed and both problems are resolved.
All face offs are resolved the same way.
1) Identify the participants of the face off.
- Trouble-maker face off is the troublemaker on one side and all of the ponies cards on the other.
- Problem face off the cards participating are those cards participating at the same problem.
- Double face off the participating cards are ALL cards at either problem for each side.
2) Play any events with the trigger ‘faceoff.’
3) Use any special abilities listed on the cards involved in the face off
4) Total the power for each side of the faceoff.
5) Each player draws a card from the top of the deck and adds that power to their own (keep drawing in case of a tie).
6) Higher total wins.
The players then continue to confront problems and face-off until one player has reached 15 points and is declared the most helpful pony in Ponyville.
The town of Ponyville needs your help. Do you have what it takes to be the most helpful pony? Can you avoid trouble-makers and enlist your friends to solve complex problems? I’d urge everyone to try and push past the bad pony puns and give the game a try as the cards released give it a depth that would not be expected from a game about helpful ponies. My next article will feature a break-down of the Mane ponies, what each color specializes in, and some tidbits from the release of the new set ‘Canterlot Nights.’
Nate Louderback rediscovered Star Wars CCG about a year ago after a not playing in a tournament since 1999. It is his pleasure to attempt to conquer the game and achieve Mediocrity! Outside of Star Wars CCG he works a day job in the financial industry to pay the bills (to play more Star Wars CCG). He is married with two children and with his daughter at his side aims to take the My Little Pony CCG world by storm.