I’ve been gaming with the same main group for around 10 years now, with a couple roster changes early on, and like nearly every other group I’ve gamed with we seem to have developed and then fallen into a groove. In the CCG world, “meta” means the state of the game — strategies, tactics, which cards and decks are best/worst, and reactions to all of those things — in a particular area: your local store, your state, your country, whatever. When I think about how my gaming group does things, I tend to think of that as our meta.

(As always when I talk about personal gaming stuff, these are my opinions and they’re not intended as value judgments. I suspect my gaming buddies would agree with most of what I’m about to say, but they might not.)

Four things stand out to me about my group’s meta:

  • We play a lot of licensed property RPGs. Stargate, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Marvel Heroic have all seen extended campaign play, and I’m pretty sure they outnumber the non-licensed property games we’ve played.
  • We like consensus. It often takes us a while to choose a new game because we try hard to make sure it’s a game everyone is excited about. One person being against a game is usually enough to kill it, and one person amenable but not jazzed about a game generally means we keep that game in the wings.
  • We don’t generally play indie RPGs (story games). There are four of us, and two players (myself included) like story games while two typically don’t, so our desire for consensus usually takes them out of the running. (Side note: “Indie RPGs” is a pretty reductive descriptor, but it’s still the most useful shorthand I’m aware of.)
  • Our games usually last about a year. We’ll often end campaigns in a state that enables us to pick them up again down the road, but it’s a rare game that runs for more than a year straight.

I also game with a second group, less frequently and always over Google+ Hangout. Our meta is totally different:

  • We only play indie RPGs. Three of the four of us like indie games a lot, and the fourth is up for pretty much anything. We started this group specifically to play indie games.
  • Games last for a few sessions. With a sproadic schedule and a short time slot (usually 2-3 hours), I think the longest game we’ve run is three sessions.
  • We try new things all the time. Indie games often lend themselves to pickup play and single-session games, so there’s lots out there for us to try. When one game ends, a couple of us will pitch some ideas for what to play next, and we’re off and running.

There’s nothing wrong with either group’s meta — or any group’s meta, except for dysfunctional groups that don’t really get along (a whole different topic). But I think it’s an interesting thing to think about.

For one thing, it makes it easier (though not always easy) to narrow down what games to pitch and consider playing next; the meta acts like a filter. It also helps me decide, when I’m thinking about buying a gaming book, whether it will get played or sit on my shelf. And like any piece of data in my mental library of Things My Groups Like, it’s a data point when looking at stuff that isn’t quite in our meta but also might work, and which would expand our shared horizons.

For me, my two groups are very different not only in their meta but in how they arrived at it. My face-to-face group arrived at our meta over the course of several years, more or less organically. My online group sprung up around a pretty explicit meta, and has stuck with it. Again, nothing wrong with either approach, I just think it’s interesting.

Anyway, that’s enough from me: How about you — what’s your group’s meta like? Do you think about it often, or not at all? Is having a sense for your group’s meta useful to you?