Pokemon has its roots deeply embedded in video games and anime, and it has been around long enough to establish itself as a pop culture icon. One of the offshoots of its popularity is the Pokemon Trading Card Game, which is still alive and kicking even after almost two decades in the collectible card game scene.
For fans of the series, the Pokemon TCG is a great way to put on their trainer hats and battle it out with friends. Even people who are simply familiar with Pokemon, and perhaps those who know barely anything about the franchise, could also enjoy the strategic gameplay of Pokemon TCG.
For Pokemon fans and non-fans alike, here is a basic guide on how to play Pokemon TCG.
In Pokemon TCG, players take on the roles of Pokemon trainers, with their 60-card decks made up of Pokemon cards, Trainer cards and Energy cards (more on this later). Players can battle with a maximum of six Pokemons at a time, with the player evolving and switching out the Pokemon and using them to exploit elemental weaknesses, much like in the video games.
There are three ways to win in a Pokemon TCG battle. The first way is to take all of the opponent's Prize cards, the second way is when the opponent's deck has run out and he or she can't draw any more cards, and the third way is when the opponent has no more Pokemon in play.
There are three card types in Pokemon TCG, as previously mentioned. Players will have to use them to their best effect to gain advantages in battles.
The Pokemon cards are the most important cards for a player, with players building their decks with Pokemon that they believe would have great synergy with each other. Up to four copies of a Pokemon card with the same name can be used in a deck.
Trainer cards provide support for the player through a variety of effects which will either benefit the player or harm the opponent. Similar to Pokemon cards, up to four copies of a Trainer card can be used in a deck.
The parts of Pokemon cards and Trainer cards are as follows:
Energy cards are the ones that fuel the actions of the player's Pokemon. Players can attach one Energy card per turn to their Pokemon, and choosing which Energy card to attach to which Pokemon is one of the most critical decisions to be made in the game.
There are 11 Energy types in Pokemon TCG namely Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Psychic, Fighting, Darkness, Metal, Fairy, Dragon and Colorless. There are also Basic Energy cards and Special Energy cards, which have additional effects on top of attaching Energy to the Pokemon.
Understanding Pokemon Cards
Name: The name of a Pokemon card determines how many of these cards you can play in a deck. Even if two cards have completely different abilities but have the same name, they will count as two copies for that Pokemon card.
Hit Points (HP): This signifies the amount of damage that a Pokemon card can endure before it is knocked out. Damage on a Pokemon is represented as physical counters placed on the card, with each counter standing for 10 points of damage.
Pokemon Type: The symbol indicated for the Pokemon card's type determines any bonuses that certain types of Pokemon receive as well as damage modifications caused by weaknesses and resistance. There is no limit on how many types of Pokemon can be used in a deck, but since Pokemon cards can only use their abilities if the player draws and attaches the proper Energy card, it is best to limit decks to contain two or three types of Pokemon.
Evolution Stage: This indicates how the Pokemon card can be played. Basic Pokemon can be put into play directly from the hand. Stage 1 Pokemon must be played on top of the corresponding Basic Pokemon, and Stage 2 Pokemon must be played on top of the corresponding Stage 1 Pokemon. Evolution can only be done once every turn, and can't be used on a Pokemon that was just put into play for that turn.
Abilities And Attacks: These are listed in the middle of the Pokemon card. Abilities provide an effect as stated in the Pokemon card, while attacks carry out actions once the proper Energy cards are attached to the Pokemon card. The Energy Cost of attacks are listed on the left, with colorless energy costs able to be fulfilled by Energy cards of any type and with colored energy costs only fulfilled by Energy cards of that certain type. To the right of the attack is the damage that the attack will put on the target Pokemon, and any additional effects that the attack will make are listed as well.
Weakness And Resistance: Located near the bottom left, the weakness and resistance of Pokemon cards can greatly turn the tides of battle. Pokemon cards receiving attacks from other Pokemon cards of the type listed in weaknesses will receive more damage as specified, while those receiving attacks from other cards of the type listed in resistance will receive less damage as specified.
Retreat Cost: Once every turn, players can retreat Pokemon in play by paying the retreat cost using the Energy cards attached to the retreating Pokemon. The Energy cards will be discarded from the retreating Pokemon.
Understanding Trainer Cards
There are four types of Trainer cards namely Items, Tools, Stadiums and Supporters.
Items are the most basic form of Trainer cards, with players able to play as many of these cards on their turn as they want. Tools are a kind of Item card that can be attached to Pokemon cards to give them certain effects, with Pokemon only able to have one Tool attached. Stadiums represent battle areas and provide effects that affect both players, but only one can be in play at a time – playing a Stadium card while one is already in play discards the previous Stadium card. Supporters are deemed the most powerful Trainer cards, but players may only play one Supporter card per turn.
The Game Zone
This is how the game zone looks like:
The Prize Cards are six random cards chosen from a player's deck at the start of the game. They are placed face down in the Prize Cards zone, and players that knock out a Pokemon of the opponent will be able to put one of these cards into their hand. The won Prize Cards can be played normally as if they were the player's own cards.
The Active Pokemon and Bench zone will contain all the player's Pokemon cards, with players having only one Active Pokemon and up to five Pokemons on the Bench. When players retreat their Active Pokemon, they switch it with one of the Pokemon cards on their bench. All damage counters and attached cards remain with the Pokemon cards being switched.
The Discard Pile is where knocked out Pokemons go, along with all discarded Energy cards. This is also where used Item cards go after their effect is completed.
Playing The Game
At the start of the game, players shuffle their deck and determine who goes first by flipping a coin. Players then draw seven cards and then place a Basic Pokemon card face-down into the Active Pokemon zone and up to five more Basic Pokemon cards, also face-down, into the Bench. Players who do not draw any Basic Pokemon cards in their opening hand can reveal their hand to their opponent to shuffle their hand back into the deck and draw a fresh hand of seven cards, which will hopefully already have at least one Basic Pokemon card. Players can do this any number of times, but the opponent will be able to draw an extra card for each time that this action is done.
Once both players are ready, they send the top six cards of their library to the Prize Cards pile face-down. Players then put all the Pokemon cards they have on the field to a face-up position to start the game.
Each player's turn begins with drawing a card from the library and placing that into his or her hand. The player can then choose to do any of the following, in any order: place a Basic Pokemon card from the hand into the Bench, evolve a Pokemon card, attach an Energy card from the hand to a Pokemon card, play Trainer cards, retreat the Active Pokemon card or use the abilities of Pokemon cards. Afterwards, the player can attack with the Active Pokemon card, and then end the turn.
Off To Battle!
That's it, the basic rules for Pokemon TCG. There are many more things that can be learned from playing the game, such as the various special conditions and the different abilities that Pokemon cards have, but knowing these basic rules will be enough to be able to battle it out with friends.
Of course, the deckbuilding process and strategies in Pokemon TCG is an entirely different thing, and is considered to be just as important as actually playing the game. For beginners, it would be best to buy starter decks, which are ready-to-play decks that would allow players to get the hang of the game.