I'm not sure if anyone else really remembers this game. It came out in 1994 during the early days of the birth of CCGs. During these dark times, Magic crawled from the primordial cardboard soup and became an absolute powerhouse, making each and every game company out there shit their pants at exactly the same time. And immediately after wiping, each and every game company made a made dash to cash in. U.S. Game Systems was no different.
|"We need a collectible card game NOW! And make sure it has goddamn DRAGONS!"
There are two things I remember most about Wyvern. First, it was the only one of my games my sister would request playing with me. I could occasionally coax her into a game of Magic or HeroQuest, but other than that any games we played were along the lines of Uno or Monopoly. Wyvern, though, we would play for hours. This may have had something to do with her having better cards than I did. We were pretty much playing out of starters, and since U.S Game Systems found the idea of distribution laughable, we only managed to find 2-3 booster packs each before the game disappeared. Luckily the game was balanced reasonably and I had more game experience, so we were generally on even terms.
Second, was the art. The game itself was pretty ugly. Bland frames with only 4 different colors, a complete lack of icons aside from a couple gold coins here and there, and all game text on the cards was in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, SHOUTING THE CARD'S EFFECTS AT YOU EVERY TIME YOU LOOKED AT IT. But U.S. Games Systems had enlisted Peter Pracownik to illustrate the cards and I loved it.
|I think he'd agree.
During your turn you could play actions, turn dragons face up (using up gold to do so) and attack with them. At the start of the game, everything was face down, so you were often attacking blind. The card you attacked would get turned face up, and if it was terrain it might do bad things to your dragon, like a trap. If it was another dragon, the two dragons would fight and the bigger one would win, eliminating the loser. This would continue until one player ran out of dragons and lost.
I mentioned before that the game was pretty balanced, and there were a few things that contributed. One was that you started with a pool of resources that dwindled instead of getting bigger. This meant that you could turn over a badass 7 gold dragon early on, but if it got ganged up on or slain by a dragon slayer card, you were out almost a third of your resources for the rest of the game. There were ways of getting more gold, but they were pretty few and far between. Blow your gold early and you were doomed to failure.
The face down battlefield really helped as well. It created a fog of war that was hard to navigate, even with experience. You never really knew what was waiting for you and making those decisions blind was bound to end up with a mistake or two in your perfectly crafted plan.
|"Another bastard-licking terrain card? Did you bring the entire Louisiana Purchase?"
Ultimately, Wyvern failed and it wasn't hard to see why. Few CCGs became truly popular, besides Magic and those who were propped up by the itinerant, pre-teen spend-lust of the Saturday morning cartoon crowd. Wyvern was ugly, needed a mountain of editing, and was incredibly hard to get hold of in some areas of the country. There was tactical depth there, but not on the same level as Magic.
Wyvern would have really benefited from being a boxed, single deck game. Hell, they even included rules for playing out of a single collection, with one Dragon Lair and Treasure Horde for both players. Luckily someone at U.S. Game Systems realized this and they put together Dragon Hunt, which is exactly that. It uses exactly the same cards and rules, but with different backs so you can't use your old Wyvern cards with them (because fuck you, that's why). It's like 8 bucks, so it's a great deal. It's a great game if you want something light but strategic.
I went looking for my own cards and found a small pile of extras, but not my actual deck. Still wanting to play and maybe use those cards again, I went on eBay and found 2 sealed starter decks for less than $11.00 with shipping. I can't wait for them to arrive. I definitely plan on using the one collection rules. That way my sister won't have better cards than me this time around.