This is a tale of bad choices, wasted money and photos of idiots dressed as elves.
But enough about TSR, what about me?
Well I never dressed as an elf, but I did pick the wrong CCG game to play and then wasted a bunch of money on it. I would go onto to do this four more times before learning my lesson, but those are posts for another day.
Caught on the back foot by Magic: The Gathering‘s launch and subsequent success in 1993, TSR created their own CCG. With it being based on D&D one might think that they would have been onto a winner. As successful as Magic was, TSR had the grandaddy of fantasy gaming IP in their back pocket. That had to count for something? Right?
No, it did not.
The problem was they panicked.
The finished product was a mess, not unplayable, not the worst CCG in the world (we shall get to that in due time), but it was so, so sloppy and half-arsed. Rather than commissioning new original art, they just sliced up existing AD&D art into card sized shapes. Not just art, but also hex maps.
It was so devoid of detail that some of the original cards were just a name and a picture. Later on they would use photos of LARPers. I don’t know what the LARPers or the customers did to deserve that. The quality of the card stock used for the cards was pretty cheap too. The only thing it really had going for it was that you got a lot of cards in a booster.
Launched in 1994, it unfortunately coincided with my university holidays and a summer job. So I had plenty of money to spend on CDs I no longer listen to, RPGs I never played and this TSR CCG that arrived at our local games shop/club/Apple dealer. I was not alone in being tricked by the TSR & AD&D name, all our club started playing. Some bought the ridiculously over-sized rules clarification book they produced. TWICE. Some even bought their later CCG, the less rushed Blood Wars.
I think I was into it for about a year, moving onto other CCGs in 95/96, before finally being turned off the whole CCG deal by one of the worst games I have ever attempted to get my brain around.
So, Spellfire, one more step on the road to TSR’s eventual downfall and takeover by Wizards of the Coast. It was pretty bad, and I’d have been better off without it, but at least it wasn’t Dragon Dice.