Based on the game Changeling: The Dreaming, the CCG-RPG hybrid Arcadia sprang into life in 1995. Using more innovation than I've seen since in a CCG, this underrated and unfortunately underadvertised game was the first (and so far only) to try and merge an RPG with a CCG.

The first edition, titled Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt, was a marginal success. It was sold solely in fifteen card booster packs, in Story Packs and Character packs, the first to build your quest with and the second to build your character with. Each featured fifteen cards and rules cards- one in the character pack, and three in the story pack.

There were 6 types of cards in Arcadia, being called Characters, Quests, Leagues, Waylays, Merits and Flaws. Each of these had a specific purpose and you used to get only certain cards in certain boosters. In a Character pack you always got a Character and 14 merits and flaws, and in a story pack you got a Quest, and 14 leagues and waylays.

Building your character was the real fun part. From all your boosters, you chose a character from one of the races, each of which had a special ability, and different traits, always averaging out to be even.

For example, your troll was huge and strong, with honour like anything- but little social ability, and your Imp was fun-loving, skilled and tricky, but easily confused; these were represented by three traits, called Might, Resolveand Savvy. Might was used for combat and any physical act, while Resolve was your knowledge and willpower, and Savvy your wit and charisma. Each stat had an average of two, and the character's stats always totalled six.

Whereas the Troll had a Might of 3, a Savvy of 1, and a Resolve of 2, the Imp had a 2 in might, and a 3 and a 1 in Savvy and Resolve. The only exception to this rule in the first expantion was the Sidhe, who had 2 in Resolve and Might and a 3 in savvy, but their special ability was comparitavely weak.

As they came from the game Changeling, one can expect the races to match up nicely with the races in changeling; and, indeed, they did.

After choosing your race, you would then choose a quest to undertake. This would affect the comming choice of character development, as each required a certain goal- for example, taking taxes from a dragon. If you read the quest card (Even Dragons Pay Taxes) it tells you that you either need to take the tax from him by either smooth-talking it out of him, beating it out of him, or by finding some treasure for you to call his "tax". Therefore, you'd obviously take merits (described below) that would either make you a combat monster- enough to rival a dragon*- a silver-tongued wit, or a scavenger able to find gold in a coal mine.

Next, you'd need to take five or ten points worth of Merits to customize your character. It was originally five, but they doubled the figure to ten at the debut of the second expansion, Arcadia: King Ironheart's Madness.

You could increase this figure by taking flaws which made your character worse, allowing you to specialise characters for certain tasks.

Each merit had a cost of half a point to three points (or half a point to six points in Ironheart), and was divided into one of five catergories, sometimes called the 4 A's and the T. They were Abilities, Advantages, Allies, Arts and Treasures.

Abilities were ingrained, trained skills your character had developed; they were the most vital part of many characters.
Advantages were born-in abilities, such as noble blood.
Allies were travelling companions to help you.
Arts were the character's spell arsenal, pretty weak in The Wyld Hunt, but absoloutly devastating in Ironheart.
Treasures were slightly different. The character began with treasures as normal, but he could also discover treasures in his quest. They were, obviously, treasured magical items.

As a rule, Advantages were always on, whereas Abilities had to be used up to produce an effect. The other three varied in their use. To use an ability or such, you exhausted it, turning the card over to show it was used up until you later recovered it somehow.

The Flaws were the opposite of merits; after choosing, you gave them for your opponent to use against you. A typical flaw may be being a Coward, which he could exhaust to force you to retake a success in combat. They were divided into three sections: Curses, Weaknesses, and Enemies.

Curses were like Advantages, more permanent than weaknesses, such as a warrant for your arrest. Weaknesses tended to be more sporadic, such as being absent-minded.

Enemies were the opposite of allies; they were people or races who wanted you dead, or to fail your quest for some reason.

You'd take merits that would aid you the most, of course... like if you were going to trick the cash out of the dragon in the quest above, you wouldn't need to give him a lesson in Rhetoric, so there'd be no point to take Deductive Reasoning which gave you a temperory boost to Resolve; you'd instead need to explain why taxes are needed to clothe the poor, cure the sick and such, so you'd probably take Eloquent Speech ability.

Again, you won't take flaws against what you need to do... If you managed to roll that natural six-vs-one you needed to beat the Dragon in melee, you won't want your opponent to grin and remind you that you have such a Glass Jaw.

After all this, you will take any of the leagues you need for your quest... the main trouble with the game is that you needed either specific leagues and treasures for the quests or proxies, which was the main cause of the game's doom. It was not always a game you could open one booster and play, you may need an entire box to get the single copy of Ebonlique you needed to lay siege to.

Most quests allowed proxies, but it did numb the enjoyment when you reached the league and couldn't really appreciate where you'd got to.

Almost all leagues allowed you to rest. When you rested, you could recover your exhausted Merits and sometimes Flaws. You'd of course take leagues that fitted your character most; if you were a melee fanatic with skills in weapons and a sword that cut down ogres, you'd want leagues that allowed you to recover treasures and abilities.

Choosing your treasures was also interesting, Of all your treasures you hadn't taken for our character, you could choose a certain number totalling the number listed on your quest. These would then be placed around the map for you to find and use in the upcoming challenges.

Now you hand your character to your opponent, and choose Waylays to face off against him, such as Wandering Imps and Corporeal Ghosts for him to chat up or chop up. Each waylay could only be placed on leagues with certain terrain; While the abve could be placed anywhere, a Passing Kraken could only be found in water.

Each waylay had a waylay value and a number of traits that you would face off against- the Imp would need to be avoided, else he'd pester you, so you'd need to beat him in a resolve test, and the Corporeal Ghost would need to be cut up in a Combat Test. The Waylay Value was totalled for all the waylays, and could not exceed the number on your opponent's quest card.

After tailoring some nasty waylays, you'd start setting up the map at last. You would choose a league and set it down, and then the opponent, alternating until all ten of your chosen leagues (plus any required leagues) were set down into a board. There were terrain requirements, so a forest with a road through it would only be able to go by another forest with a road through it, and often made quite an attractive map.

Finally, you placed each other's quest treasures on the leagues to find, and then chose each other's base camp.
After taking this start position, it was time to get moving!

Progress alternated in turns called "days". Each day one could move through leagues, sometimes having to pass a trial to get out of this league and sometimes to get into the next one, or even to move out of this and into the next! This represened your character climbing mountains, or dredging through swamps, for example.

Each day, your opponent could choose to waylay you; if he didn't, you could rest and recover some merits, or you could find treasure on your current league (if it was there). If he did waylay you, you could either meet the waylay or retreat, leaving it on the map.

Engaging waylays could be risky. If you beat the waylay, you would not meet it again; If you lost, however, you had to exhaust a merit. Tests were done by rolling a die and adding your trait, and the same done by the opposing waylay; for combat, you used your Might trait plus any bonusses, and one die as normal... unless you were plaing Ironheart, where you add TWO dice against the opponent's two dice. Ironheart combat was more risky. And if all your merits were Exhausted and you were beaten, you had to start discarding.

And if you discarded all your merits... you were as good as dead, as you had to start again from base camp whenever you were beaten.

Of course, you could also engage your enemy's characters, but what type of person would want to do that...

Arcadia was a fun and enjoyable game, with excellent artwork, innovative systems, dice, and best of all... pop up character cards, folding out into a little token of your character. All the information you needed was on cards, and all the tokens you needed WERE the cards.

If you ever find any boosters for this game, pick them up. Seriously. So many people don't know what they're missing in this exciting and fun-packed game, where the flip of a card can spell doom.

* difficult until Ironheart Debuted, where you could start playing races like Garou werewolves...