Alternative trading card games: Xeko and Bella Sara

It’s easy to forget that trading card games are actually games, not just collections of tradable pieces of paper. And while Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic the Gathering and the rest dominate the field, two trading card games attempt to go in surprisingly different directions.

Xeko uses kids’ fascination with trading cards to teach them about endangered animals and ecosystems. This is hands-down the most beautifully-designed game I’ve ever seen, starting with the packaging — a wooden shipping crate inside which is hidden a secret mission. Kids ("agents") strategize in order to create the strongest "Xeko-systems" by playing their cards. Along the way, they learn facts about endangered species and the habitats in which they live. Even better, 4% of the proceeds go to Conservation International. The Xeko website will give you a sense of just how lush and lovely the cards and materials are, and you can even watch a tutorial (because parents need these things).

Bella Sara cards are aimed squarely at the demographic least likely to be found huddled around a pile of trading cards: little girls. I was never into the pink/purple/horse-and-unicorn thing, but I was in the minority — most girls love it. You should have seen my four year-old daughter’s eyes light up when I dumped a few of these on the floor to have a look. She immediately started picking out her favorite horses and sorting them into little piles.

Each card has a code that can be entered at the Bella Sara website, so kids can care for and feed animated versions of their horses (and listen to plenty of new age music). There are also games to be played, horse goodies to buy with points, and places to explore.

This game is less about trading and direct play as it is about creating an online fantasy world, which makes sense — somehow getting Kelpie-Pooka to battle Rimfaxe just doesn’t feel right. The online experience is a lot of fun and very sweet — I’ll admit that my X chromosomes started buzzing a bit.

Win them! I’ve got a Xeko Mission: Indonesia Starter Pack and a pile of Bella Sara 5-packs to give away to two lucky Parenthackers! To get in the running, answer the following two questions in the comments:

What was your favorite collectible when you were a kid?

If you win, would you prefer Xeko, Bella Sara, or no preference?

I’ll pick two winners tomorrow at 5pm PST. Good luck!


  1. says

    I was big into collecting John Deere tractor toys. My dad had started me off with a couple based on some ancient tractors we had on our farm that were no longer running. From there, I got newer tractors, combines, and various sundry farm implements. Dad has them all now, stuffed in a box somewhere in the attic. I should pull those out someday…

    Oh, and I would definitely prefer the Xeko set since I have 2 boys and no girls. :)

  2. Jess says

    I am embarrassed to admit that I absolutely loved the Garbage Pail Kids, and collected them obsessively.

    That said, I would love Xeko cards, as would my animal-crazed daughter.

  3. says

    I used to collect seashells that my grandmother would bring me from places she’d visited. I’m pretty sure they all had names at one point.

    (Bella Sara)

  4. says

    I collected all things cat-related when I was a kid, and it took aunts, uncles, cousins and the like far too many years to figure out I’d outgrown this as an adult.

    And I’d have no preference on the cards, were I so lucky.

  5. says

    I collected little figurines, each playing the violin. Rabbits, angels, you name it.

    I would love the Xeko cards, especially because my inlaws are Indonesian and we’re always trying to bring their environment and culture into our thoroughly North American home! My daughter is obsessed with animals, nature shows, Planet Earth, etc., so we’ll definitely have to check those cards out.

  6. Andrea says

    My parents were stationed in Germany when we were little, so my sister and I collected Smurf figurines. My sister managed to snag them before I could, so her daughters get to play with them now.

    My daughter LOVES Bella Sara.

  7. Cecily T says

    I was/am a big collector. I guess I’d have to say my sticker collection.

    We’d like the Xeko collection here.

    Edit: It keeps telling me that TypePad thinks I’m spamming. Not sure why. I keep editing the post down to remove whatever offending content it thinks I’m writing.

  8. says

    I was all about horses, so the My little Pony sets were all mine. ^-^

    I still have a box of them actually.From the dress up barn to the wedding set with one of the few boy MLP. He’s got a little construction hat.

    I kept them in case I ever had a girl. Of course I’ve got boys ^-~

    I’ve actually meant to look up these sets as they seemed interesting. Thanks for the info.

    Oh and I’d love to have the Xeko set as my boys would love it!

  9. TomHiggins says

    My dad got me on the never ending collection of books. It started out with a couple of old kids series from my dad’s era that we would hunt for in used bookstores, this was back in a time when New York was festooned with used and indi book stores. Over time I also started collecting comic books and then SF books.

    My brother and I both were more into book collecting back then while our peers did up baseball cards and the like. I always loved the way they did battle with their baseball cards, flipping them over with either gasps or whoops as they won or lost a rookie Reggie Jackson or finally got rid of their last Mets. I took my turn with baseball cards simply to play along but quickly grew bored and instead converted the rules for a sort of book flipping game. Since my brother was more into Greek myths and history I would routinely find myself with a copy of Bullfinch while he puzzled over Hienline.

    I have been wanting to find games with more vectors into learning and experiences.

    I would love to get Xeko to try out on him.

  10. Jenny says

    I would have to guess ‘the Littles.’ They were a family of teeny tiny people, and had as muh furniture and aessories as Barbie, at a third the size. So much fun. My kids would like the Xeko, I think. We like family games!

  11. says

    Embarassingly enough, My Little Pony (my sister and I *loved* braiding their hair). Strawberry Shortcake dolls run a close 2nd, however. I remember getting one of these from the tooth fairy.

    Bella Sara, of course — I am a Sara after all….

  12. Denny says

    My favorite collectibles were comics and sports cards. I took great care in keeping them in mint condition and was very proud to show them off to friends.

    Xeko sounds very interesting. I believe my son would love it.



  13. MPGomez says

    Garbage Pail Kids, I was mortified when my mother threw them out. My older niece collects Bella Sara cards & my 5 year old daughter was intrigued. They look very pretty.

  14. says

    Ugh- Garbage Pail Kids, too. Second series. They were so nasty.

    Xeko sounds more fun, but as my daughter is only two, I’m thinking Bella Sara. Surprise us. (Going with the whole positivity-we-will-win vibe today.)

  15. says

    My brothers and I collected baseball cards and garbage pail kids… lots of fun!

    We actaully got those Bella Sara cards for my daughter, because she is always begging the boys for pokemon cards (they usually give her ones with cats or girls on them!).

  16. Elizabeth says

    I remember collecting and devouring the Babysitter Club and Sweet Valley book series. They had hundreds, it seemed!

    And since I would be giving the cards as a gift to either a neice or nephew, either set would be super cool!

  17. says

    I collected anything and everything Muppets related. But my favorite was and still is Miss Piggy–I had the Miss Piggy lunch box, t-shirts, latch-hook rug, etc.

    And, if we should win- Xeko cards would be fab. for our 5 year-old.


  18. says

    It was (and is) books for me. I dabbled in ponies and baseball cards and glass figures, but it was always book. I own everything every published under Lucy Maud Montgomery’s name, all the Sherlock Holmes books, that kind of thing.

    I would prefer the Xeko cards.

  19. says

    Ok, I’m a geek. me and my friends from school collected various bits of circuit boards & miscellaneous electronica.

    I’d prefer Xeko cards, to get JJ off to a good start.

  20. mary s says

    When I was younger I collected Bryer horse statues. They lived on my barbie’s ranch, but they were too wild for anyone to ride.

    I’d prefer Xeko cards.

  21. says

    Boy, my sister and I collected so many things. Seashells & rocks, all kinds of figures (Star Wars, Smurfs, Strawberry Shortcake). The only cards we collected, though ::joins in group shame:: were Garbage Pail Kids! Sigh. We thought they were so cool! Having looked at the two great prizes, I would LOVE Xeko for my son.

  22. says

    It was stickers for me too, and it still is to a point! :) And although I didn’t have all of the Strawberry Shortcake dolls, I sure wanted them all. My brothers and I had a pretty big collection of Smurfs too.

    I’d love to give my son the Xeko game!

    (by the way, I had trouble getting my comment published too, kept thinking it was potential spam.)

  23. fan says

    I didn’t really collect things as I had 7 brothers and 3 sisters two share things with.

    I would prefer the Xeko cards

  24. Juliette says

    I wasn’t a big collector as a kid, but I did love everything MICE. Lots of little MICE. I wonder if my Mom still has any of those.

    We would love the Xeko!

  25. deby says

    I was really into horses and collected anything with a horse on it – especially Breyer figures.

    Xeko would be my choice for my boy if I was lucky enough to win!

  26. says

    I collected anything with bears, stuffed toys, necklace, stickers (actually collected those too!!), tins, blanket, ect. Put a bear on it I loved it!!

    Prefer Bella Sara but Xeko would be well received also.

  27. Brooke says

    I collected as much as I could find of the Little Twinstars, which I suppose where the stepchild of Hello Kitty. I didn’t have nearly as much of them as I wanted – my parents simply didn’t connect to my intense passion for those freaky little people living in clouds and walking around in their pajamas.

    Sadly, I think I am recreating the cycle of denial by not indulging my own daughters’ love of My Little Pony.

    If I were to win, I’d choose the Xeko

  28. says

    As a child, I collected figurines; mostly angels and rabbits. I also had a pretty good assortment of football, baseball and Charlie’s Angels trading cards.
    I think the Xeko cards would go over well in our animal-loving boy-filled household. Our six year old already has a thing for Pokemon cards!

  29. says

    I loved the Breyer Horses and had a whole shelf full of them when I was young and that was a long time ago. We couldn’t even get them in stores, but had to order from Christmas catalogs.

    I would prefer Xeko cards. Thanks.

    Merry Christmas.

  30. croowl says

    I collected Smurfs and Strawberry Shortcake stuff. I also had a sticker book–I loved Hello Kitty and My Melody puffy stickers. I spent third grade trading them at recess.

  31. Cindi Hoppes says

    Hi, What a fun contest! I collected
    Trolls and Cracker Jack charms! Please enter me in your contest for either prize. Thank you very much!

  32. Joe says

    I got excited about the Xeco cards when I saw them mentioned elsewhere. Did a bit of research and found a couple of negative reviews. One of the reviewers mentioned a game called Mighty Trees. It looks like fun and is actually built to emulate a real ecosystem. There are 100 cards in the deck. You get them all for $13 and there is nothing more to buy for 2-6 players.

  33. says

    I collected all things unicorn, my little ponies, sparkle stickers, garbage pal kids, Breyer Horses, and dragons… to be honest.. I still collect all of the above today. I never outgrew my unicorn obsession.

    I of course would want the Bella Sara!

    Im blogging you :

  34. Jennifer says

    I collected Little Kitty ANYTHING. I am so sick of it now, much to my daughter’s chagrin!

    I’d love the Xeko cards if I win please.

  35. Ilene says

    Aside from books which has continued into today as I child I loved Smurfs. My sister and I collected them and even built them little houses made of craft sticks and felt. I dug out the box recently, cleaned them all up and gave them to my children for Chanukah this year. Both my kids love animals so the Xeko cards would be nice for both of them to play with.

  36. Ruth says

    I loved my big plastic charm bracelet and every gaudy charm (with the carbiner type clips) i could fit on it!

    **Bella Sara for my girl!

  37. Robyn Barbon says

    I collected monkeys! All types. My first was a Curious George. I had stuffed monkeys, ceramic monkeys, glass monkeys, more stuffed monkeys…!

    I’d love the Bella Sara cards for my girls. They love them!

  38. Amanda says

    I collected teddy bears, but spent a lot of time playing with my baby dolls.

    I’d love the Xeko cards. My boys would learn so much from these!

  39. says

    What was your favorite collectible when you were a kid? Barbie

    If you win, would you prefer Xeko, Bella Sara, or no preference? I really want to win Bella Sara, I have been looking at these every time I go to the store, I think my daughter would love it. I never realized about the online codes though, I might have to go & buy if I don’t win. I thought it was just trading cards & that was my hold out :)

  40. Karen says

    Wacky Packages! My sister and I collected them and spent all of our allowance on them each week. I also collected dolls from around the world as my father traveled a lot for his job.

  41. Susanne says

    Hmm…My girls would love either one. As for collecting…I used to love to collect anything Cabbage Patch…which comes in handy now that they are coming back! Gotta love that!!

  42. says

    All these other posts remind me how I loved Archie, Betty & Veronica comics, and the whole Sue Barton Student Nurse series, whereas I remember my brother being obsessively into his baseball card collection.
    I think the Xeko cards look greatbecause my daughter has been on the one hand intrigued by her buddie’s pokemon collection, while on the other hand a bit disdainful. Of course she is a rather bug horse fan, so Bella Sara

  43. Dodo O says

    I would prefer Bella Sera. I used to love collecting pogs, back when those were popular. I loved the shiny ones and the holographic ones.

  44. says

    I’d love to win the Xeko. As growing up, I’d collect anything related to cats. Seriously. Now as adult (and allergic to cats, lol), I like to collect Barbies and some porcelain dolls. :)