Why does Yu-Gi-Oh keep getting more complicated to play?
Yu-Gi-Oh suffers from a few unique problems as a trading card game that many other TCGs do not.
The first big problem is that unlike most other TCGs Yu-Gi-Oh does not have set rotation. All Yu-Gi-Oh cards from all printings except those on the Forbidden and Limited list or with special exclusions (mostly prize cards) are legal. If you wanted you could take your deck from 10 years ago, take out any banned cards and take it to a tournament tomorrow. This creates multiple smaller problems such as:
- Yu-Gi-Oh suffers tremendously from power creep. Since all decks are essentially always legal the only way to get players to buy new cards is to make them better than the older ones which introduces power creep. Then because the new cards are more powerful than the older cards the newer cards have to be even more powerful than them. Rinse, repeat. The only way to make new cards more powerful is to give them more powerful and complicated effects.
- Since all non-banned/limited cards are legal it makes it difficult to constantly design new decks and cards without retreading old ground. A TCG like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering can sort of get away with retreading old ground because they sort of need repeats of old staples and deck ideas constantly (Not to say that they don’t innovate but it is more along the lines of they have safe basics that they can rely on). In Yu-Gi-Oh it is very difficult to get away with repeating stuff because the old stuff is still around and usable. You can’t make a deck that is exactly like Blue-Eyes for example because then the players might as well just play Blue-Eyes.
Yu-Gi-Oh has a long running anime/manga that the game is based on which also creates its own set of problems:
- A lot of Yu-Gi-Oh was designed to look cool and lead to dramatic moments but as a card game leaves a lot to be desired. The result is that the designers of the TCG have to work around a shoddy framework to begin with. It is difficult to design a card game where half of the rules were made up on the fly. Just look at half of the bullshit the original Duel Monsters pulls out of its ass on occasion.
- In order to keep making the anime and having new and interesting things for the characters to do in the anime they have to keep coming up with new mechanics to explore. The addition of these mechanics in the story mean that the TCG keeps getting more and more complicated as a result.
Finally Yu-Gi-Oh unlike other card games doesn’t have a resource system. Magic has lands and Pokemon has energy and thus the cards are easy to balance thanks to their costs as you can always give a card powerful effects but simply make it cost more. It also makes the cards relatively easy to read since a lot of the information is built into the card design itself. Yu-Gi-Oh doesn’t have a resource system so the cards themselves have to act as resources. This means that the card designers have to add a lot of the complexity to the card text itself such as restrictions and costs which make them more complicated. Therefore a lot of stuff such as timing, once-per-turn clauses, etc that add complexity to the cards and their uses that other card games simply don’t need.
Credit to: Eric Backeberg