I would like a word or phrase that refers to games with gameplay similar to Magic: the Gathering, Hearthstone, etc.

Please do not answer "collectible card game" or "trading card game". It is not necessary for a game's cards to be "collectible" or "tradable" in order to have this sort of gameplay. I know of at least one card game that was designed to play like a "trading card game" without actually being "tradable".

Some features of such a game:

  • It is a card game. The cards need not exist as tangible objects: Hearthstone uses virtual, digital "cards".
  • The main way to win the game is to "kill" the other player. This killing is generally done incrementally. A sort of numeric score is used to indicate how much more "injury" one can take before "dying".
  • For the most part, the players do not try to "injure" each other directly: they have underlings do their dirty work for them. In general, each underling is represented by a card. On the card are shown numbers indicating the underling's ability to inflict injury and to withstand injury.
  • 1
    I think this is better asked on Role-playing Games. I suspect the answer is "collectible card game" whether or not the cards are collectible, or physical, or virtual, or anything else. Words and terms' definitions are under no obligation to reflect their historic origins (google "Etymological fallacy").
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 18, 2017 at 14:10
  • What is the one game you know of that plays like that but is considered neither a collectible or a trading card game? What is it considered? Technically, if you hold onto your cards in any way, it would be considered collectible; you are collecting your cards to use the best ones.
    – Hank
    Jan 18, 2017 at 14:11
  • @Hank That one game is called Epic. On the box it is described as a "card game of fantasy combat". Jan 18, 2017 at 14:13
  • 1
    This might be better asked on [Board and Card Games SE](boardgames.stackexchange.com). For a "jargon" term such as you are looking for, it's probably best to ask people from the appropriate community, as most people on ELU don't know board game jargon.
    – AndyT
    Jan 18, 2017 at 14:48
  • @RobertLozyniak - Actually, I think you have your answer from the blurb on Epic. Boardgamegeek uses very similar wording to your question: "aims to recreate the TCG[Trading Cade Game]-style experience". Would "TCG-style" be an acceptable answer? Clearly the writer of that blurb would think so.
    – AndyT
    Jan 18, 2017 at 14:54

3 Answers 3


Your example game, Epic, is considered a strategy card game; maybe that will work for you.


  • A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.

More specifically, a strategy game is described as:

Strategy game

  • A game (e.g. video or board game) in which the players' uncoerced, and often autonomous decision-making skills have a high significance in determining the outcome. Almost all strategy games require internal decision tree style thinking, and typically very high situational awareness.

What about a dueling card game?



1. a prearranged combat between two persons, fought with deadly weapons according to an accepted code of procedure, especially to settle a private quarrel.

The games you listed, and most of their ilk are typically one on one, and many specifically cast the player as some sort of wizard or general fighting an enemy or rival.

This also has the added bonus(?), it also ties into the catch phrase of the Protagonist of the Yu-Gi-Oh anime series (which was also about this type of card game).


The Wikipedia entry for Magic: The Gathering defines what it is this way:

Magic: The Gathering (MTG; also known as Magic) is a trading card game created by Richard Garfield.

But on Wikipedia (at least) the link for "trading card game" redirects to the entry for "collectible card game" which says this:

A collectible card game (CCG), also called a trading card game (TCG) or customizable card game, is a kind of card game that first emerged in 1993 and consists of specially designed sets of playing cards. Terms such as "collectible" and "trading" are used interchangeably because of copyrights and marketing strategies of game companies. ... Successful CCGs typically have upwards of thousands of unique cards, with the most successful one, Magic: The Gathering, having over 16,000.

The Wikipedia entry for Hearthstone (video game) has this description:

Hearthstone, originally known as Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, is a free-to-play online collectible card video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment.

So, to judge from Wikipedia's terminology, these types of games are properly classified as "collectible card games" or "trading card games" based on physical or virtual (online) cards.

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