A Game of Fantasy in Cards

01 May

For this project, I participated in a fantasy card game instead of the usual 52 card standard. I was able to play Cardfight!! Vanguard, which is not only a game but a whole franchise. It started out as an animated series which aired in January 8, 2011, followed by the card game in February 26, 2011, and ending with the manga series which began publishing in March 26, 2011 in Japan. The series continue to expand and ran until October 2, 2016, producing at least eight seasons and one live-action movie (Wikipedia).


(One of the posters of the anime series. Source:

            I haven’t seen or heard of the franchise yet, so playing the game was a whole new experience. My key informant friend brought me to The Dragonforge. It is a quiet little area where card game and board game players alike go to play and challenge their friends or sometimes even strangers. The place was nice and cozy, at least to me, and it smelled nice, too. The place smelled really clean, it’s as if you can smell the detergent that was used but only mildly. The scent weirdly reminded me of a sterile hospital, but cozier and friendlier. The concrete walls were lined with so many different board games that one could possibly imagine. I saw the Star Wars variants, Warhammer, and which ever board game you can think of (including a few other games that I recognized fromchildhood) I believe would be found there. They vary from science fiction, to fantasy, to history and war. There were also glass cases filled with tiny game character figurines, to which my key informant pointed out that some of them were board game characters while some were for sale just like the cards and card decks found on the main glass-cased counters of the place. For the players’ convenience, the Dragonforge sells food and drinks as well as card decks and other game materials that one might need to complete a collection, in lack of a better word. It was relatively quiet in there save for the quiet chatter of the people and the humming of the air conditioner and refrigerator. The people there didn’t really mind me when we entered, but I got a few curious looks from my key informant’s friends. After explaining that we were there and that he was going to teach me his favorite card game, they all smiled and received me warmly, telling me that I was welcome to go to the Forge anytime and play whatever game I felt like playing.



            Unfortunately, there were not too many people at the place when we arrived and not all of them played Vanguard so my friend decided to teach me the game by himself instead. He was able to teach me the basics of the game and the deck: how it is played, how to move and attack, support units, deck history (clans), how to spot attack power and defense, how to support your current unit, and more. I then found out that Vanguard is a game for two players only when a friend of his walked through the door and spotted us on one of the tables. My friend then proposed that I watch their game so I would better understand all of what he told me earlier.

The only evidence of my presence was during the first game was when they would address my concerns. The game does not really have a timer before a player’s turn ends, so it can be played in a relaxed pace. They would turn to me every now and then to explain what happened to the card or why the specific action was taken. They even expanded on their explanation on support units because it was really tricky to follow at first. When they played their second game, however, I became a friend who tagged along and quietly watched rather than someone who was learning the game and needed guidance. The second round gave me a better opportunity to observe the game mechanics and not as a participant. I was partially able to mentally apply what they told me about the game’s mechanics and understand how it works. I tried mentally justifying the actions that they made in-game despite the occasional confusion.

After a few matches played and a few questions answered by my key informant, I came to the conclusion that these games are not that common in Philippine culture due to certain circumstances, which leads me to the idea that only people of the upper middle class (particularly students) get to participate in these activities. I cannot say that these games are very common amongst the masses. If anything, the people who play these games are capable of knowing and hearing about them and have easy access to them as well. In addition to their easy access to these games, these people have also done extensive research about them just to ensure that they really are interested in the games. They read almost everything about these activities so that when they do get the chance to play, they do so ease. Most people do it for entertainment – they see or hear about it somewhere and try it for themselves. They found it enjoyable and have decided to continue playing. Some people do it because they find it cool and have decided to buy these materials as collections and proceed to save them for their own. Collecting these materials aid in satiating their desire for game memorabilia. Players make time to participate in games and matches not only because they want to but because they can afford to make time for these activities.

As much as I would hate to stay away from the topic of privilege for this study, I could not help but notice that the game that I was able to take part in is still tied to privilege. I may not know the demographic of the Philippine players of this game, but from the small scene that I have witnessed in The Dragonforge, I can already tell that the majority of players would come from the upper middle class. If building a deck already costs so much, why would someone who is already financially struggling continue to play a deck? Why would someone go through lengths just to continue playing a fantasy card game? I think the general rule here would be: if you can’t afford it, don’t. This does not apply to money alone, but time as well. In terms of time, too, I’m guessing that the majority of the Philippine population that play these games would be students. Not all adults have the time to play anymore. Should they have, however, they aren’t really interested in these kinds of games anymore. Whereas students actually make time because they want to play and enjoy their free time after a long period of hard work and studying, adults would have already preferred another hobby for themselves.


“Cardfight!! Vanguard.” Wikipedia. 25 Apr. 2017.

Renacia, Zeina Denise R.

SA21 – J

1 May 2017


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