Star Wars Card Trader

As a detour (de-TOR?) from The Old Republic, I’ve spent my holiday travel playing Star Wars Card Trader, an app game from Topps in which you collect and trade virtual cards.

If your interest in SWTOR has survived this long, then I know that you like Star Wars enough to tolerate gambling boxes and (occasional) hilarious gaffes in game administration. This is a brief introduction to the app. (Updated on January 15th, 2016 for the launch of “Series 3” cards.)

I’m Enjoying It But I Still Don’t Get It

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This is a digital card. That’s it. It’s a picture. As many others have quipped, you can save the picture to your drive and possess it as tangibly as anyone in the app. If you think this is silly, wait until you see the “signature” cards with a picture of an autograph.

There’s no associated game as with, for example, Hearthstone. The game here consists of the mild thrill of opening packs (which you can do with the free daily currency), and in trading with other users.

A Padawan’s Introduction to the Interface

The app interface is not intuitive, and some of its most valuable features are a bit hidden.

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The Home Screen. Your credit balance is displayed under your name. You get 25,000 credits per day for free, just for logging in, and an additional bonus once a week. You can see how close you are to the weekly bonus on the line right above “Trades.” You can also acquire credits through Tapjoy, a vehicle for consumer  prostitution that you may have encountered in other phone games. (Do you want spam? Because that’s you get spam.)

If credits from completing a Tapjoy offer have not shown up on your account, try watching a video from “Watch to Earn” (so that you do not leave the app) and this may make the pending credits appear with the reward for the video.

The Bulletin at the top and Game News in the lower left are two important stops for official announcements of new card releases. Unfortunately, information about special offers is not always announced inside the app until it is too late to take advantage of them. If you are working on a collection goal that requires pouncing on new releases, then you cannot rely solely on app notifications. As a workaround, you can follow the official Topps account on Twitter and SWCT_info, a fan who is better at communication than Topps.

The Trades section of your home screen will display your pending trade offers, which last for 24 hours, and completed trades that you can rate. Click > on the right and at the top, you’ll notice a pull-down menu from Pending Trades. Here you can see additional categories of trades including trades that have been accepted (and already rated), and trades that have been canceled. Checking here is the only way to see if someone declining one of your trades left a comment for you. (Look for the very small speech bubble symbol.)

Awards. You can earn awards by completing sets of cards, and view checklists of how close you are to each goal. You must have all of the cards on the checklist in your collection at once in the indicated color to receive the award, but then it is unlocked and you will not lose it if you trade those cards away.

Cards. Here is where you see some statistics about your collection and you can click to view all of your cards, sorted by category. The Force Score is a mysterious rating meant to reflect your collection’s quality. Topps has not revealed how it is calculated.

You can also interact with each individual card by swiping to flip it over, and with the following icons:

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If this card can be converted to another in the Smuggler’s Den, another icon will show up between “trade” and “lock.” During 2015, multiple copies of the base cards could be combined to make a card of the next rarer tier. This feature may or may not return in 2016.

The Social part of your Home Screen: The Fan Feed is a constantly-scrolling chat room of trade offers from other players who are currently online. If you want to trade right away, you usually will get a quick response, but it’s also an environment where new players are sometimes taken advantage of, so tread carefully. Find is for looking up other users by their in game name so that you can add them to your Friends. Invite is for inviting real world contacts to the app.

At the very bottom of your screen, you have additional shortcuts. The Market is where you purchase card packs. There are two important mechanics to note: first, insert cards are a random rare drop, and if a pack is labeled as “containing X” then you are not guaranteed that card. Check the announcement on the Info tab or the game’s Twitter for the odds of getting an insert, which is usually around 3% (1 in 35 packs).  The second thing to know is that “Master Packs” are available all day (until 5AM the next morning) after you make an in-app purchase, and have a higher chance of dropping inserts. If you make infrequent in-app purchases, it’s worth using a bit of strategy and timing them so that an insert card you want is available, and you’ve saved up a big pile of credits.

If you know a pack has just been released and you don’t see it, you can force the Market to refresh by pulling down on your screen.

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Tip: most posts from Topps refers to the Market as “the Cantina.” This is specifically the subsection of “The Market” labeled “Pack Store” on the interface.

Offering Fair Trades

The entire game of this app revolves around trading cards with other players, and you can be rated on the trades that you offer. This is not a comprehensive guide to valuing cards, but advice from one beginner to another about how to end up in the right ballpark.

Each card comes in different colors, or “parallels,” that are rarer and more valuable than the base card. Here are four parallel colors of Barriss Offee from 2015 (and many other colors exist):

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From least valuable to most valuable, the categories of cards are:

2015 Base 2016 Base
White (common) White (common)
Blue Blue
Red Red
Yellow Green
Gold (rare) Orange (rare)
  • Base variants (colors other than the ones listed above), including Teal, Silver, and some truly garish two-tone gradients.
  • Inserts are special cards that appear in packs at low odds. Some groups of inserts are sorted into their own categories in the collection display, like Episode VII and Empire Illustrated cards.
  • Award cards and other rare treasures will be out of your trading reach for a while.

Yellow and Gold outlines are extremely similar looking, and unscrupulous traders sometimes try to trick others by switching them. You can flip a card over and check the text on the back to be sure of its color. The confusion is probably why their colors were changed in 2016.

Generally, you can offer to trade 1 card for 1 card (1:1) of the same color and year. You should offer multiple cards of a lower tier for the next better tier.

These are only general rules because other factors contribute to a card’s value, including whether the  character is popular. There are currently fewer 2016 base cards in the game than 2015 base cards, and so many traders value the 2016 cards more. In several months we may see this situation reversed.

Your trades will usually be better received when you are responding to advertisements in the Fan Feed than when you are “blind” trading. Although the app funnels you towards “blind” offers when you click the trade buttons, you know nothing about the random users it presents you with or their collections.

Players are usually much more willing to trade cards if they have multiple copies. If you are swapping your duplicates to complete the common base sets, look for other users with a low force score, who are also just starting and interested in the basic cards. When you are selecting cards to give, you can filter your cards by cards that the other party needs to make sure that you are offering cards they don’t have yet in trade.

Some players are trying to amass a large collection of  single card. This started as a player-made goal, but Topps has rewarded it in-game with special award cards. If someone on the fan feed speaks of a “hoard” or being a “hoarder,” then they will usually be glad to trade with you for any copies that you have of their favorite card, and can help you build your own collection of the base cards rapidly.

How to Value Cards

The best way to figure out a value for rarer cards is to search the subreddit and find out as much as you can about the set that you want to collect.

Inserts and above become very difficult to value. You can look on the back of the card to see how many of it exist (a small number is given in the bottom right). Cards with a lower count are generally worth more. Collecting a full set of inserts usually results in a special award card, and inserts whose award card has not yet been given out are usually worth more in trades than “dead” inserts that will no longer count towards an award.

“Base variants” of different colors vary widely in value. Many are purchased directly from Topps for prices that range all the way from $0.99 to $99.00.

If you still feel lost, you can look for the card you want on eBay to see what it is selling for on the secondary market. Include listings that have already sold in your search for a specific card.

What is a “Bombtrooper’s Offer!” ?

Topps does not define each microtransaction in the app store the same way that it’s defined in app: instead, they will appear on the pop-up confirmation and on your iTunes receipts as different hodgepodges of Star Wars characters – “Officer’s Offer,” “Stormtrooper’s Corp Offer,” etc.

How to “Claim Packs”

Remember to claim your pack before picking up another bundle, as packs don’t stack!

If you make a purchase that includes cards, the app will caution you to “claim your packs” before making another purchase, or you will lose them. The packs appear in the store in the “packs” section of the market, marked FREE. When you click that button they will open automatically and all of the cards will be added to your collection even if you don’t scroll through them.

Contacting Topps Customer Support

Some error messages in the app refer to the email address “force@topps.com.” This is not a valid email address. “thesenate@topps.com” is the correct email address for the app.

I’ve also received a quick response from customer support through the Star Wars Card Trader Zendesk.

Resources

There’s a lot more to learn about this game and the strategy behind trading. These are the most valuable websites I’ve found in my first week:

The Star Wars Card Trader Subreddit, a great community for game news, advice on card value, and finding trades.

@SWCT_Info on Twitter, a dedicated fan who posts game news more quickly than the official account.

Digital Card Central, which also covers the Topps sports card trading apps (and much of the advice, like blind trading best practices, applies to Star Wars as well even though it’s not tagged as such).

Crackin’ Packs, commentary on the app from an experienced physical card collector.

The Trade Federation Podcast, a podcast dedicated to current game news.

My Review

After a little more than a week I have completed a collection of the white base cards currently in-game, and I’m looking forward to the wider release of Series 3 in the near future, which will contain Force Awakens characters. I think that I’ll continue to play, but I cannot imagine setting my sights on a popular series of cards; I’m a light in-app purchaser, happy to spend a few dollars if I like a game, but most of the packages are clearly targeted at “whales” (who aren’t spending their game budget on MMO subscriptions). Also, the niche that phone games fill for me is to be something that I can check briefly during the day, and I am unlikely to camp out at the specific times that rare cards are available.

My other major complaint is that the social functions in this app are incredibly limited for a game that revolves around interaction. You cannot look up a user without adding them as a friend, and I found this counter-intuitive, since in many other games “friend” status requires both parties to confirm; here it’s more of a bookmark. There is no way to set a public status (although as a workaround you can filter the fan feed to see only posts by people you’ve friended). There is no way to send another player a direct message without offering a trade, and messages are fairly hidden in the interface.

Altogether, though, I’ve had fun and it is certainly worth trying for free. As an added bonus, my three-year-old (who has never seen Star Wars) will explain the Star Wars pictures to me (Han Solo, for example, is “a guy trying to be bad.”).

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