Initial D Collectible Card Game
It was the night of the big race. Pulses were racing almost as fast as the cars' engines that were about to take the Akina downhill. The two drivers, Takumi and Keisuke got into their cars (The 86 and the RX-7 FD respectively) and revved their engines. The RedSuns' starters' hands went down and the cars flew off the asphalt. Tak led with an Incredible Entry while Keisuke stayed on his bumper with his Counter Driving. Takumi almost slid straight Into The Rail, hoping to catch his opponent off guard. However Keisuke was the second best on the RedSuns team and wouldn't be taken so easily, using a Sideways Drift to avoid the rail. Takumi then matched Keisuke with a Sideways Drift of his own, overtaking him. "No! I can't lose!" said Keisuke and the 86 took anther turn. "Losing Sucks!" he then exclaimed as he laid on More Speed. But it was too late. The Downhill Specialist had won this leg of the race. But the dangerous side of the course had only begun: The five deadly hairpins of Akina were approaching quickly.
But this isn't the anime. Hell, this isn't even the manga.
It's the CCG.
The Initial D Collectible Card Game is Tokyopop's latest attempt into the CCG arena, and it has made an Incredible Entry all of its own. Taking an anime about street racing and turning it into a collectible card game was no mean feat, so they enlisted the help of Aldreac Entertainment Group (AEG), who make the award winning Legend of the Five Rings CCG and RPG. The game that they have produced is a fun, fast-paced game, which not only captures the spirit of automotive racing, but it may be the best anime-to-CCG adaptation to date.
The objective is simple: to out-maneuver your opponent while racing down (or occasionally up) the mountains of Japan. The card set is broken up into four main categories: Cars, Mods, Maneuvers, and Races. Cars are obviously what you "drive" in this game, and all are straight imports from the manga/anime series, such as the Evo III and the Sil-80. They have your starting Power and Traction limits, as well as a Cost rating and Mod limit. Mods are what you use to further customize your car, adding more Power, Traction, and other bonuses to your vehicle of choice. They also feature a base Cost, which along with other modifiers, it will determine who leads the race. Maneuvers are what form your deck, and they are what you use to out-race your opponent. Maneuvers are further broken up into three types: Speed (usually power-based, and tend to have high strengths and low counters), Turns (which are usually traction-based, and feature higher counters and lower strengths), and Tactics (which depend less on actual strength or counter values, and more with effects). Races are the "levels" you race upon, and they are based on the mountain courses from Initial D, such as Akina or Usui Mountain. They are broken up into 3-4 stages and usually feature a unique game mechanic to spice things up.
The game, like most CCGs, has a few numbers to keep track of. Power and Traction determine what kind of maneuvers that you can play. Cost determines how "expensive" your car is. Style is an indication of how nice your car looks and how impressive your maneuvers are to the galleries (crowds of onlookers).
Like most CCGs, the game has two sides: Deck-building, and the actual race battle. When building a deck, you first choose what car you want to race with, then add Mods onto it, up to the limit specified on the car. When you have decided on your car and Mods, you then choose what your Maneuvers are in a 50-card draw deck, based upon your car's new Power and Traction. After that, you choose 3 races of which you plan to battle on. Once you have your deck, all you need is someone to race against.
The race begins by having both players lay out their Cars and Mods, and compare total prices. The cheaper car gets to lead, and also gets to have one of his races chosen randomly by the other player. Then both players draw seven cards from their draw decks. The lead car gets to draw one extra, and so does the car with the most style. Then the lead car plays his first maneuver.
The way you out-race your opponent in the game happens one of two ways: 1.) Win two stages in a row while in the lead, and getting so far ahead so that loser behind you will never have a chance to keep up; or if that doesn't happen, 2.) Win the last stage. The actual race boils down to a supped-up game of chicken. On each maneuver card there are strength and counter values listed, as well as extra text that adds other game mechanics. Strengths are how powerful your maneuver is, and Counters, well, counter the Strengths. So when you counter your opponent's maneuver, you have to make sure that A.) Your counter is high enough to counter their strength, and B.) Your strength is high enough to prohibit them from countering yours. Whoever cannot counter the last card played loses the stage. If you have extra cards in your hand, but cannot play any of them, you can ditch cards to raise the counter value or power/traction requirements.
And while it may sound a little complicated on the outside, once you start playing, the rules almost become transparent, becoming a battle of wits and cunning as the two players duke it out to see who's fastest. Have you ever played a game of Magic or the like, where all you do for five turns or so is draw a card, discard a card, then pass? Or some other slow moving action, waiting for something big to happen? Well, there's none of that here. Every move you make you bet your game on, because any time you let up - any time you let yourself slow down - you've lost, just like in real racing. And that's what makes this game great.
Onto the visuals; the cards have a very slick design, using a combination of CG and cel screen caps. The models are all well-rendered, the screen caps are sharp, and together they give the game a look much like the look of the anime itself, known for its merging of CG-cars and more traditionally animated characters. The covers feature the Initial D logo with set of nicely CG-ed gauges and a non-descript car, so at least you have something nice to look at when you draw cards, as well as having no doubts as to what game you are playing. Most of cards feature flavor text straight from the anime (well, the "Tricked Out" dub version anyway), as well as smartly designed graphics to indicate various important numbers like Power and Cost. The cards are also all color coded, which makes for easy identification that helps with quick pace of the game. In a neat move, the Maneuver cards were designed to mimic streetlights (Red, Yellow, and Green) to further (if only subtly) add more driving flavor to the game.
But all that's been said aside, what's important is if the game is fun. And the Initial D CCG has it in spades. As soon as the lead lays down the first card, the race is on and the brain goes into overdrive. A five strength? Well, I have few different cards that can take care of that, but which one? Should I blow off this Power Out now, or save it for later? I could use Gripping Hard, but then I'd lose one Traction... It's questions like these that make the game interesting, and the fact that you never know what's coming up next. So in the end, the question really is, are you ready for the race?