If you’re new to Pokemon, rediscovered it through the latest video games or have been an obsessive fan since Red and Blue landed on the Game Boy, there is no better way to experience this tabletop gaming staple than through its trading card counterpart. The game offers an easy learning curve for new players, while veteran fans will find the gameplay to be richly nostalgic.
The game involves two players using cards to build decks and battle. Each player is provided with a set of 60 cards. Matches can last from mere minutes to over an hour, with the winner determined by who has more cards left at the end of the game.
Two kinds of cards are used: Pokemon characters and Energy cards. The former are the Pokémon you play, while the latter represent the energy that powers each character’s attacks and abilities. Each card will also contain information about the Pokemon itself, such as its name and horsepower (the horsepower of a Pokemon is represented by the letter p), as well as how it was found, its length and weight, and its type. Pokemon types are categorized by their colors; for example, a Pokemon with the Water type is classified as Water, while a Psychic type is tagged as Psychic. Some cards will also have special features, such as attack effects and conditional abilities.
Each Pokemon will have an evolution indicator in the upper left corner indicating whether it is a basic, Stage 1 or Stage 2 form. Similarly, its hit points are indicated in the lower left-hand corner and may be reduced by special damage counters. It will also note any special conditions it may have, such as being confused or poisoned. If a Pokemon is not active, it will remain on your bench and you can only evolve it once per turn unless otherwise specified by an effect or if there are other Pokemon on your bench that require evolution to function.
Other important details are listed on each card, including its strength, weakness, resistance and retreat cost. Strength denotes how much damage it can take before being knocked out, while resistance indicates which types it takes less damage from. Its retreat cost denotes how many energy cards you must pay to bring the Pokemon back into play from your bench.
Pokemon trading cards sets are typically released a few times a year. These are called expansion packs and can be purchased individually or in sets of 10. New cards are also released within each generation or series of Pokemon, usually coinciding with the release of a new set of video games. For example, the eighth generation of Pokemon will feature a set called “Pokemon Sword and Shield.”
The Pokemon Company uses volunteer playtesters to help make sure the game is balanced for all skill levels. These playtesters don’t have to be expert gamers, but they must like Pokemon and must be able to think strategically. Their feedback is taken into account and may result in very minor tweaks to a card, such as lowering its attack damage or adding a bit more HP.