This article is about our hobby “Weiß Schwarz”, a trading card game (TCG) that Nathalie and I play. In fact, it was practically one of the first topics when we first met. In the following I want to explain what this card game is before I show how we came to it. Finally, and on the next page, I show our current decks.
What is Weiß Schwarz and what makes it special?
As previously mentioned, Weiß Schwarz is a trading card game developed by Japanese multimedia company Bushiroad in 2008. It joins other TCGs like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic or Pokémon. Bushiroad has other card games like “Cardfight!! Vanguard” or “Future Card Buddyfight”, which are hardly known in the west. Despite the German name “Weiß Schwarz”, the TCG has so far only appeared in Japanese and English, which also shows how small the market for it actually is. In addition, there are far fewer sets in English and they don’t always correspond to the original Japanese release (e.g. differently translated effects or completely different cards). Only rarely does an exclusive English set appear. The name “Weiß Schwarz” itself is not of great importance. There are sets assigned to the white side (more cute or magical franchises, shoujo-esque) or black side (usually darker and more serious, shounen-esque). But what makes Weiß Schwarz so special when there are so many other TCGs that are even more popular? I’ll break it down to two distinctive features: the various sets and the actual game system.
While other TCGs like Yu-Gi-Oh! or Magic “only” release cards from their own universes (yet very diverse in themselves), Weiß Schwarz simply uses each set from another anime or related medium (like games or light novels). For example, there are sets from well-known anime such as “Attack on Titan”, “Sword Art Online”, “Goblin Slayer”, “Konosuba”, or games such as the Persona series or even larger western franchises such as “Star Wars”, “Marvel” or some Pixar films (but only in Japanese). You can practically play your own favorite franchise and compete against other franchises. Such a set often consists of around 100 different cards, which then, for example, cover a season of a series. It’s fun if you have your Eren Jaeger and Mikasa Ackermann fight against titans from “Attack on Titan”, for example, play “Killa la Kill” against “Gurren Lagann” (both by Studio Trigger) or play completely different franchises like “Goblin Slayer” against “Card Capture Sakura”. “Waifu” decks are also not uncommon. There only female characters from a series are played, such as Rem from “Re:Zero”, Chitoge from “Nisekoi” or Kanbaru from “Bakemongatari”. Theoretically, of course, decks with only male characters are also possible. Either way, there is always a good mood, especially when you can play your favorite characters and their special characteristics from the series are also reflected in the card game. For example, you can play Darkness and Vanir from Konosuba, who constantly switch personalities depending on who is wearing the mask. In the game, this is then implemented in such a way that the corresponding cards can be exchanged for one another each turn.
The other striking feature is the game system itself with its levels. Most other card games are set up so that you can either play pretty much anything right from the start (like in Yu-Gi-Oh!) as long as you meet certain requirements, or that you can gather resources over time and play stronger cards as a result (as in Magic). Although Weiß Schwarz also has “Stock” as a resource, the real limitation and structure of the game lies in the levels going from 0 to 3 on the cards. Both players start with level 0 and normally cannot play cards with higher levels. That’s why you try to collect stock at the lower level and prepare the cards for the higher level. The goal is to get the opponent to level 4, which means game over for him or her. At the same time, the person with a higher level can also play stronger cards, which always leads to a kind of balance in the game and the end becomes more and more exciting. Normally, one player can never be completely dominant (unless one of the decks is badly structured), as is often the case in other TCGs. In addition, the card effects themselves are quite repetitive and repeat themselves in the sets, which is why they are often abbreviated by the community, such as “Riki” or “Musashi” (named mostly after the first card that had this effect). So you don’t have infinitely long and unique text blocks on the cards (like in Yu-Gi-Oh!), but regular effects that often repeat at least between sets.
One could certainly list other positive features, such as that attacks equal damage, stock and effects/triggers, which makes it strategically interesting maybe not always to attack, or that the rarity of the cards is usually distributed in such a way that you can get to each one easily and only signed cards are scarce (practically only money for “cosmetics”), but that would be going too far here. Below I will go into the “disadvantages” of the game. But first I want to get to how we came to Weiß Schwarz.
Wie kamen wir zu Weiß Schwarz?
The explanation of how Nathalie came to Weiß Schwarz is short: Because of me. When she first came to my then student flat share, we immediately played a game. She didn’t know any TCGs before, so she just wanted to see how to play them – and as mentioned above, you can quickly recruit people by being able to play franchises they know. In order to answer how I came to Weiß Schwarz, I have to go back a little further…
Already in my childhood I played various TCGs. Starting with Pokémon in elementary school, Yu-Gi-Oh! at the beginning and later in high school and in between also some magic. I also came into contact with other virtual card games through various console games such as Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX and Trails of Cold Steel or online and mobile games such as Hearthstone. But then, during college, I practically stopped (physically) playing TCGs. It was only through René that I dared to try something new again. Quite a lot of new Japanese TCGs came out in the 2010s and we just wanted to test some, i.e. just buy starter decks (don’t invest too much) and give the TCG a chance. So we quickly came up with Weiß Schwarz, which at the time around 2016 only had about 10 English sets, but among them were series that were interesting for us like “Persona 4”, which I got as a trial deck, and “Bakemonogatari” , which René bought as a trial deck. We noticed relatively early on that the standard trial decks back then didn’t offer much, which is why we bought decks and boosters for “Attack on Titan” and “Kancolle” shortly afterwards (because we liked the game system).
After that, the ball started rolling and I got additional decks and boosters for series like “Sword Art Online” and “Konosuba”, while René increasingly expanded the Monogatari and Kancolle sets into decks. Nathalie later joined by taking over my “Sword Art Online” cards. After that we got other sets like “Goblin Slayer” or “Adventure Time”. I show a list of our current English decks with photos on the next page. Over time, we were able to inspire a few other people in Weimar to also play the TCG. Our enthusiasm even went so far that we expanded the rules of Weiß Schwarz ourselves so that it can be played with 2+ players. We called it “Weiß Schwarz Battle Royale” and even designed a dedicated website for it. However, since the website is now quite old, we have become more experienced and the rules have also changed slightly and new effects have been added, the Battle Royale is probably no longer so easy to use. At least back then, four-person matches lasted around 1.5 to 2 hours, while a normal two-person match only takes 30 to 45 minutes. I also came up with the idea of printing the Weiß Schwarz playing field on a black bag, so that I could use it as a play mat and a bag for merchandise at the Leipzig Book Fair, for example.
At some point our studies were over, friends you played cards with moved away and last but not least Corona came along. Playing cards in real was simply no longer possible. So it happened that we played games virtually via webcam. All you have to do is place your webcam over the table, preferably with a tripod or gripper arm, and stream the playing field practically upside down. This works quite well via Discord, as long as you at least have stable internet and a camera that is not too bad. Over the years, many official tournaments have been organized online by shops or by Bushiroad itself. This made it easier to take part in such events instead of having to go to some big city. I also took part in a few tournaments, but in the larger ones I was only just below the better half of all players (won about 60% of my matches), which was never enough for the final duels. Otherwise we often play in small groups on Saturdays.
But after I have spoken almost exclusively positively about the Weiß Schwarz TCG in the previous sections, I now want to come to its “downsides”…
Disadvantages of Weiß Schwarz
Of course, white black is not the “perfect” TCG. Much like any trading card game, it also has its downsides, and I’ll address some of them in the following paragraphs.
What is arguably a keyword in any trading card game is the term “power creep”. This means that updates to a game will result in new elements (cards in this case) being significantly stronger than the old ones, making them almost useless – at least if you look at the current meta (ranking of the best cards currently being played) and want to win something, e.g. at tournaments. On the other hand, it can be said that due to the level system (as described above), even old decks can still have a realistic chance of winning and that new overpowered cards and strategies do not appear as often as in other TCGs. The broad effects stay about the same for most sets and only every 1-2 years a completely new effect is introduced which can shake up the meta a bit. In general, cards always stay balanced, i.e. if a card has, for example, +500 power more than normal, then it has a negative effect that makes it play worse.
Another problem that has hit the Pokémon TCG hard in recent years and is also becoming more and more common in Weiß Schwarz are the “investors”. There are few people who will buy stores empty when new sets are released, either to get guaranteed individual valuable cards (which can easily be worth over 1000€ or more) or to keep the sealed boxes to use for a few years later resell at multiples of the price. While the first is more like gambling to get the most expensive cards with a percentage estimate, the second is more like buying stocks in hopes that they will increase in value over time. Either way, it leads to an artificial shortage and thus to an extreme increase in the price of some cards. It’s not always the “strong” cards that are becoming increasingly scarce, but sometimes also the revealing female character cards (of which there are quite a few), which are also rare as a result. Not only does this practice keep strong or popular cards scarce, but the number of common cards also decreases because they are often thrown away in bulk purchases since of course no one has time to put them up for sale individually online (like worthless paper). Simple players who, due to the price, cannot buy several displays from one set at the start of sales will find it very difficult to put together a desired deck later on.
But Bushiroad also contributed to the latter problem themselves. Since the frequency of newly released sets has increased significantly, especially in recent years, the older ones have mostly been neglected. For example, if you’re a fan of older sets like “Fairy Tale”, “Kill la Kill” or “Bakemonogatari”, it’s almost impossible to get hold of certain cards. Not because these were simply bought up by investors, but because they were simply never reprinted in a new edition and were therefore generally only available in small numbers. So Bushiroad itself also contributes to the problem with artificial shortages. Since these are completed sets, the cards are not reissued individually in new sets (the only exception was “Sword Art Online Re:Edit”), as is often the case in other TCGs.
It can also be said that Bushiroad sometimes has an inclination towards certain sets. Although there are many diverse franchises as mentioned above, Bushiroad also releases many idol anime and idol game sets. This is not only because these are generally more popular in Japan than in the west, but also because Bushiroad produces these anime and games itself. Logically, therefore, new Idol products are immediately converted into a set, while other franchises such as “Goblin Slayer” (for now) remain stuck on a set, despite the fact that there are further films or seasons.
One last point, which isn’t really a bad thing but still bothers me slightly, is the spelling of the name. In itself, it is nothing new that people in Japan like to use German terms. You can see that in many animes and games. Nevertheless, it’s something else with Weiß Schwarz because there is a “ß” in the name. As a German with a mostly German keyboard, this is easy to write. Abroad, on the other hand, you get creative. Either you write it as “ss” (which would still be okay as a substitute), only as “s”, as a Greek letter beta “β” (even on the official Weiß Schwarz website!) or in the worst case with “B” , because it also looks similar to a “ß”. Then you have “WeiB Schwarz” on some forums and fan sites. But Bushiroad even goes a step further and shows that they themselves can’t handle the “ß” in fonts properly. For example, an official anniversary box for one of the first sets, Persona 3, was recently released, where all the cards were remade in a special frameless reprint (only in Japanese). The only problem is, while the text on the box was written in a normal font, the “ß” (or Greek “β”?) was italicized for whatever reason – probably because it was only available in another font that way. As a trained media designer, I got eye cancer.
On the next page I will present our current decks with photos.
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