Fantasy Flight Games has taken the concept of an Living Card Game (LCG), as opposed to a Collectible Card Game (CCG), to a new level of quality and implementation.
I've had the pleasure of playing its "A Game of Thrones" and "Call of Cthulhu" card games many times, and came away highly impressed with their quality and design.
What made me sit up and take notice, though, is my recent time spent with "The Lord of the Rings" LCG.
The concept of a cooperative card game is something I've heard bandied about from time to time, but never seen implemented in actuality. Cooperative board games abound ("Pandemic," "Mansions of Madness," "Arkham Horror"), but it's never been much of a genre within the realm of cardboard card floppin' goodness.
Then, just when all hope seemed lost, along come those brilliant designers at Fantasy Flight.
Living card games (or Limited Card Games as they're sometimes known) take some of the best elements of CCGs like "Magic: The Gathering" or "Pokemon" and strip away some of the most annoying elements.
The best part about and LCG is that players don't have to hunt through randomly determined booster packs or an outrageously priced secondary market for the necessary cards. There's no playing catch-up to your friend's newest deck. Everything necessary for play comes in a self-contained box that includes the basic cards for the set, and all further expansions come boxed with every card in that expansion. And, they're reasonably priced, as well.
"Lord of the Rings" in particular is highly interesting, within any field of card-based gaming, due to its cooperative nature.
Each player (currently 2 to 4) has a deck and a field of three heros that lead the way for that deck. The heros acquire resources at the beginning of every turn, which are then spent to play cards from you hand.
The point of the game is to complete quests, in cooperation with the other players. One does so by getting completion tokens onto the quest while traveling to locations, fighting enemies and trying to conserve the health of one's own characters.
In one of the more brilliant strokes, a large number of the cards in the encounter deck (which is defined by the quest your team is attempting, and includes all the enemies and locations the team is trying to best) double as "shadow cards" that can, with little or no warning, make even the meekest wood spider into a force to be reckoned with.
So, if you're game group is big on table talk whilst you play, "LoTR" the LCG makes a perfect addition to game night. It's like playing the "Magic" variant Two-Headed Giant with a game made specifically for that purpose.