Part 7: Playing the Pokemon Trading Card GameSide Notes 01: Playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game (tm)
So is this LP the first time you've experienced the Pokemon TCG? Don't you worry now, here's the comprehensive list of every aspect of the game, so you'll know how to play with the players. First, we'll start with the board and setting up a game.
First, a deck is comprised of 60 cards, no more, no less, and one of those cards MUST be a Pokemon. There's a lot of different cards, but they're divided into Pokemon, Trainers and Energy, and a balanced deck usually has a similar chunk of each, but of course it'll vary depending on what you're using. Each player shuffles the opponent's deck, and they you draw 7 cards from your deck. If you didn't draw a Basic Pokemon, then you show your hand to your opponent, shuffle your deck and draw again, repeating until you have one to place down. Every time you do this, it's a mulligan, and your opponent has the option to draw an extra card. Some of these things won't apply to the TCG GBC games, this is a more general overview.
You select a Basic to go into the middle, that's your Active Pokemon, the one that can attack. If you have more Basic Pokemon, you can place them on the Bench, which has a max of 5 spaces, but that's optional. Then flip a coin to see who decided who should go first. Each player has their own coin and going first is usually the best option, you can set up first, you can attack first, though you aren't able to attack on the very first turn, but your opponent can attack on their first turn, if they went second.
Both players are unable to evolve Pokemon on their first turn. With that all set up, take the first 1-6 cards from the top of your deck and put them on the side as prizes, face down. The main objective is to knock out your opponent's Pokemon and draw all your prize cards, though there's 2 other win conditions. Each Pokemon you knock out awards 1 prize card, though some later cards like EX and GX award 2 and Tag Teams award 3!!!
Anyway, at the start of your turn, draw a card, you can have as many cards in your hand as you want. You can place down as many Basic cards as you have room, evolve as many Pokemon as you're able past the first turn, and play as many Trainer cards as you'd like. You can only place 1 energy, basic or special, per turn, unless Pokemon or card effects allow you otherwise, and certain Trainers are Supporter cards, which can also only be played once per turn. No matter what you do, if you attack, your turn ends, but of course there's always a bunch of effects and abilities and cards that let you get around that or whatever.
There's also Stadium cards that you place in the side center that stay on the field with various effects and can only be discarded by move effects or if another stadium is played. All cards are one use only unless specified otherwise and are placed in the discard pile, face up, which both players can look through at any time. There are also specific cards like Prism cards, or specific move effects that put cards in the Lost Zone, which can never be obtained for the rest of the duel, but that's only a thing in specific rotations.
Alright, that's everything on the board, but what about the cards themselves? For every card except basic energy, you can only ever have up to 4 in one deck but as mentioned, one of the cards in a deck MUST be a Pokemon, there actually are some decks out there that are solely energy and 4 Pokemon, they are hilarious. Anyway, let's go over every aspect of a Pokemon card.
All Pokemon cards have rad artwork, so long as it's not stock Sugimori artwork on a plain background. You have the HP amount, damage is always done in multiples of 10, with specific physical counters to track the damage. Each Pokemon has one type of which all of their attacks are of that type, even if it uses a different energy. You need to attach the requisite amount of energy to that card to use that attack, with specific symbols being that type's energy, with the star, identical to the one under retreat cost, is Colourless energy, which can be any basic or special energy. Most attacks do set damage, while others require you to flip a coin for additional damage or another secondary effect, like a status condition. Some moves have you do something before or even after you attack, such as discarding 2 energy cards BEFORE using Fire Spin. Note that it doesn't specify what energy to discard, but it has to be 2 energy cards, not 2 energy total.
Pokemon Powers have varying specific effects that are either passive, ones you can use as many times as you like before you attack, or ones you specifically have to trigger, usually the once during a turn. Some Pokemon will just have two moves with no effects, others will have effects but do no damage, and some are a mix of effects, Poke Powers, no damage, or all of them. Definitely read each card carefully so you know exactly what a card does. There's usually not much room for rule wiggling.
Next is the weakness, a Pokemon will take double damage from an opponent of that type, again, even if the move uses different energy. Resistance is the same, but is usually by a specific amount and while every Pokemon has a weakness, not all have a resistance, or even a retreat cost, the amount of energy you need to discard to switch this Pokemon with something else in the bench. Note that this time it's just amount of energy, not energy cards, it ranges from 0-4, so there's some very hefty mons out there. And then the various text on the bottom of the card is flavour, levels don't apply, moves do the same damage no matter the evolution or stat difference or what have you.
Lastly, let's go over the specifics of a few other things, like types, win conditions and special conditions. There's only 7 types in the game, Grass, Water, Fire, Lightning, Fighting, Psychic and Colourless, with all but the last having an associated basic energy with it. This crunches down some other types, Rock and Ground become Fighting, Poison usually becomes Grass, but can be Psychic, while Ghost is also Psychic. Flying and Dragon are Colourless, Ice is Water and Bug is Grass. When Dark and Steel were introduced, they became their own types, Darkness and Metal, as well as their own energy, as did Fairy. Dragon took their time to get a type, but not their own energy.
Special conditions are status effects, of which there's 5, Poison, Burn, Confusion, Asleep, Paralyzed. Of those 5, only 2 can be stacked with others, Poison and Burn, since they have specific tokens, while the others rotate the card a specific way. Poison deals 10 damage between turns, Burn has a coin flip, heads, no damage, tails, 20 damage, this condition was introduced later on. Asleep Pokemon are turned counterclockwise and inbetween each turn, if the coin flip is heads, it wakes up, or stays asleep if tails.
Confused Pokemon are turned upside down and if it tries to attack, it flips a coin, heads, the attack occurs, but tails makes the Pokemon deal 20 damage to itself and the turn ends. You also have to flip a coin for retreating, AFTER discarding the energy and if it's tails you don't do anything. This was later dropped, with confusion now doing 30 damage and retreating is the same as any other Pokemon. Finally, a paralyzed Pokemon cannot attack or retreat for one turn, being cured at the end of the turn.
So with all these tools, how exactly do you win? Well, if you claim all your prizes, you win. If you knock out your opponent's active Pokemon and they have no bench Pokemon to replace it, you win. And if your opponent is unable to draw a card at the start of the turn due to having no cards left in their deck, you win. Overall, this game is pretty simple, but the variety of Pokemon and effects and strategies and decks, make it an absolute blast to play. Would definitely recommend it! Or, well, it's quite expensive to keep up, so maybe just play these games?