Nearly 30 years after its debut, Wizards of the Coast’s seminal CCG, Magic: The Gathering, is still one of the most widely-played tabletop card games on the market. Its mechanics have influenced a number of similar games, both physical and digital, but one surprising CCG that takes cues from MTG is My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which is based on the animated series of the same name.
Enterplay released the first MLP CCG set in December 2013 and initially, the mechanics were super broken. Some cards held way too much sway in a given deck, while others were essentially non-functional. Over the ensuing years, with the help of several playtesters, the game got increasingly better. Its most recent block set, Friends Forever, hit shelves in late 2018.
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How to Play My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
The primary scoring function in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is solving Problems with friends. The first person to reach 15 points wins.
To start, players select a Mane card (pun intended) and build their deck around it. Each one has a specific power or mana color: White, pink, yellow, blue, purple and orange. Much like Magic: The Gathering, it’s important to incorporate low-power, color-fixing cards in a deck to put power on the table in order to play higher-level and better cards later in the game. Strong decks are usually comprised of two power colors that complement each other. Excellent starter combinations are pink/white, orange/blue, or yellow/orange. Purple decks are slightly more complex, mechanics-wise, but work best with a blue or orange combo.
MLP CCG decks have 56 cards, including the Mane, 45 cards for the draw deck and 10 Problem cards (which must include at least one Starter Problem).
Players begin the game with their discard pile to the far left, then their draw deck and then their Mane on the table, with the latter flipped to its Starter position. Each player puts a Starter Problem down next, which has power requirements on either side. These are placed between the player and their opponent; each player puts their Problem down to their right in the center of the table. The power requirements indicate how many cards players must put to the Problem — which is called confronting — in order to solve it and gain points. Players should select Problem cards that require their deck’s power colors to solve; the side facing their opponent will allow any color, as long as the total number is met.
Next, each player draws six cards to keep in their hand. Randomly determine which player goes first, then start. Each player’s turn is divided into four phases:
- Ready Phase: Player draws a single card, readies any exhausted cards and gains action tokens based on the highest person’s score
- Troublemaker Phase: Player can challenge opponent’s Troublemaker cards to faceoffs or reveal their own
- Main Phase: Player can play new cards from their hand and use abilities of the cards in their play area
- Score Phase: Players score points for successfully solving Problems and winning faceoffs against their opponent’s characters that are also confronting
Action tokens determine what moves players can make during the Main Phase in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. For 1 action token, they can draw an additional card, play a Troublemaker face-down to either Problem in the play area, or play certain cards from their hand. For 2 action tokens, they can move a character into the play area from Home to a Problem, from a Problem to Home, or between Problems. They can also ready a frightened card.
In general, Friend cards and Resource cards can be returned Home after a player successfully solves a problem, but Event cards are discarded. The Mane card will tell players how many friends they can have in their Home — once a certain amount of power is fixed on the board, they can flip their Mane from its Starter position to gain additional Home space and more abilities.
Players continue to confront and solve Problems until someone reaches 15 points and wins the game.
Why the My Little Pony CCG Is Easier Than Magic: The Gathering
Although the above rules may seem complex, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is designed for younger players, which means it takes popular mechanics from Magic: The Gathering and — for the most part — simplifies them for easier play.
Each card has a color/power requirement as well as an action token requirement. Players do have the ability to pass on a turn at any point after completing the Ready Phase, which means early turns can be used merely for harvesting action tokens in order to make more moves on a later turn and — potentially — gain an advantage over the opponent. Although players will score primarily through solving Problems, they can also successfully face-off with Troublemakers and gain points that way, as well. Players who use purple decks will employ Troublemakers to halt Problem-solving more than any other, which can slow play down significantly if their opponent mostly has low-power fixing cards.
Therefore, it’s important to create the most balanced deck possible by pulling in multiple copies of good cards to speed things along. Draw deck cards can be repeated up to three times and Problem cards can be repeated twice. Players who are familiar with My Little Pony may have a slight advantage over those who are not, because each color set and card’s mechanics are derived from the animated series. Although it may seem trite to know the source material in order to win at this CCG, it helps to contextualize and make decisions in-game.
Building decks for the MLP CCG is relatively easy and players can quickly pick up the rules, then build devastating decks that utilize their Mane and friends’ abilities to do major damage and win in just a few rounds of play. There are fewer mechanics, stipulations and sets to keep track of than in MTG. My Little Pony is essentially Magic-lite, which makes it ideal for new players, as well as those who simply aren’t good at the latter.
Keep Reading: 5 CCGs for Players Who Don’t Like Magic: The Gathering
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