- Scott Johnson
The Star Wars Customizable Card Game | Part 1: Introduction
By Scott Johnson
Aside from the books and comics, probably the most treasured aspect of Star Wars from my childhood was the Star Wars Customizable Card Game made by Decipher, Inc. from 1995-2001. Like the RPGs and video games, this card game played an essential role, not only in growing the Star Wars fan base, but also contributing to the development of the Expanded Universe. Although Star Wars has had trading cards from the very beginning since 1977, including this famous C-3PO card from Topps initially mistakenly seen as NSFW, the unique aspect of Decipher’s Star Wars CCG is that almost all the cards each had their own “lore” section which included special information about characters, vehicles, weapons, devices, starships, and more. The lore section of cards often referenced already existing EU material out at that time but the game also created new EU content by coming up with official names for many characters that were previously unnamed in any formal manner and by producing original backstories of those characters which contributed to the advancement of the EU in its early years.
This game had a card for almost every background character in the films you can imagine. Every speeder you see floating by for a fraction of a second and every blink-and-you-miss-it creature hiding in the shadows more than likely has its own card in the game. The game’s publisher worked with Lucasfilm to ensure almost every alien in Mos Eisley and Jabba’s Palace as well as formerly obscure Imperial and Rebel commanders were given official names. The bounty hunter Djas Puhr, rebel pilot Davish “Pops” Krail, Imperial Lieutenant Tanbris, Star Destroyer Devastator’s Commander Praji, and ISB Colonel Wullf Yularen were just a few of the characters which received their names from game’s Premiere base set and the game would continue to name scores of others in additional expansion sets. Both the names and the card lore are still considered C-Canon to this day. There are references that include characters in West End Games RPGs such as High Inquisitor Tremayne and early Bantam novels such as Davin Felth’s mutiny and Feltipren Travagg attempted courting of M’iiyoom Onith in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina which came out at about the same time. This really showed that Star Wars had consistent continuity across multiple mediums very early on!
I was first introduced to the game around 1999 in the lead-up to Episode I. There was a local joint Star Wars/Star Trek convention at a nearby community college where I was hoping to get my paperback copy of The Paradise Snare signed by Ann Crispin who was scheduled to make an appearance as a special guest. Although I didn’t get to meet Ann (she couldn’t make it due to feeling under the weather) I noticed there were a bunch of people in one of the rooms playing the Star Wars CCG. I recognized the cards because one of the Star Wars paperback book displays at my local library was decorated with a bunch of cards from the Jabba’s Palace expansion but I had never tried playing. A few of the guys took the time to show me the game and how it worked and even let me use some of their cards to play. Even though I was only 11 or so at the time and didn’t fully understand all the rules, I had a great time playing and looking through all the cards. I was super thankful for the guys taking the time to teach me and made a point to go out and buy a few cards and to try out the game with my little brother and friends at school. Although I didn’t have many of the competitive cards (and probably never played correctly according to the rules) the games were always fun because you could use your favorite characters and ships in basically any situation since the decks were fully customizable. In the next article, I will cover the history of the game as well as some resources to get started playing the game and in future articles, I will cover each expansion and significant EU contributions each set made.
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