How to play Pokémon trading card game? A beginner's guide for rules, setup and gameplay
Created in 1996 in Japan, the Pokémon franchise has delighted fans through its famous "pocket monsters." From animated television shows and movies to video games, stuffed plushes and toys, keeping up with Pokémon has definitely lived up to its slogan: "Gotta catch 'em all!"
But, a staple in the world of Pokémon is its trading cards, and with 1008 Pokémon to collect, it may take some time before filling up your Pokédex and starting to battle.
The Pokémon trading card game is fun for all ages. Whether you're playing with a friend or competing in an official Play! Pokémon event, here is what you need to know to play Pokémon.
How many Pokémon are there? We counted every generation of Pokémon, including Arceus.
Just curious? We're here to answer your everyday questions.
What are the basics of Pokémon?
The Pokémon trading card game's objective is to build the most powerful deck of Pokémon and battle by taking turns using attacks and abilities to defeat your opponent. Two players play at a time, each with a deck of 60 cards, says the official Pokémon website.
The duration of each Pokémon match depends on how quickly you can defeat your opponent, but play time can last for mere minutes or over one hour. Official Pokémon trading card game tournaments can even last over 12 hours.
According to the official Pokémon website, there are three types of cards in the Pokémon trading card game:
Breaking down character cards
Character cards have the actual Pokémon on them. Each Pokémon has a type, one of 11 in the trading card game. The types according to Bulbapedia:
Although there are 18 types in the video games, this is condensed for the trading card game, such as Ice being categorized under Water or Ghost being classified as Psychic.
Additionally, there are two moves on the card, which can be attacks or abilities. To the right of these will be the amount of damage for each attack or ability. Any other damage or impacts will be listed underneath the individual move.
Each Pokémon will be classified as a basic, stage 1 or stage 2. These denote a Pokémon's evolution stage. For instance, a piplup card is considered "Basic" (since it is the first of the evolution line), prinplup is "stage 1" (since it evolves from piplup) and empoleon is "stage 2" (since it evolves from prinplup).
On the card will also be its hit points (or HP), which denotes how much damage a Pokémon can take before being knocked out. Also listed will be its weakness, resistance and retreat cost.
Weakness will tell which types your Pokémon is weak to and if additional damage is given per move. Resistance denotes which types your Pokémon will receive less damage from.
If you wish to bring your active card back and swap another in, this is where retreat cost comes into play. To pay, add the specified energy card amount.
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Energy cards, explained
Energy cards can be attached onto your character cards to power up attacks. They are added below the character card and stay there until the an effect or action removes them.
Next to the attacks and abilities will be the attack cost, which signifies how many and which type of energy you need to perform a move.
You can attach only one energy card per turn, matching the corresponding energy symbol of the attack cost. A colorless energy symbol is considered a wild card, meaning you can add any type of energy card to execute the attack.
According to the official Pokémon website, there are nine energy card types:
Once a Pokémon is retreated, the energy cards are discarded.
Understanding trainer cards
Trainer cards come in one of three types, each bringing a different advantage:
Item cards are played during your turn. You can add as many as you want before making an attack. On the card will be instructions for how it is used. A Pokémon tool card is a special item card that can be attached to your character card, giving it a special effect. Only one Pokémon tool can be attached at a time. If a Pokémon is attacked, the tool card goes into the discard pile.
Supporter cards can only be played once per turn, and they can really help in a game by giving extra advantages, such as healing damage from a Pokémon or allowing you to discard your hand and redraw.
Stadium cards remain active once played, and only one stadium can be played at a time. Each stadium card has its own rules. If you are looking to change the stadium, it must have a different name than the one currently in play. Once a new one is added, discard the old one and its effects.
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Setting up the Pokémon trading card game
When starting the Pokémon trading card game, decide who goes first. This can be done by coin flip or rock-paper-scissors. The winner chooses who goes first. If you are the first player to take a turn, you cannot play a supporter card or attack on your first turn.
Shuffle your deck and draw the top seven cards. In order to start, you will need a basic Pokémon in your hand. If you do not, you will have to mulligan.
When taking a mulligan, show your hand to your opponent and shuffle it back into the deck. Then draw seven new cards from the top. Repeat this until you have at least one basic character card in your hand.
Your opponent can choose to add one card to their hand for every mulligan you take. If both players have mulligans, subtract the higher amount from the lower total and draw the remainder. For example, if player one took three mulligans and player two took four mulligans, player one gets to draw one extra card to their hand.
Once both players have basic Pokémon, place the cards face down on the active spot of the play mat. If you have more than one basic Pokémon in your hand, you can place up to five cards in your bench.
Before officially starting, place facedown six cards from the top of your deck as prize cards.
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How to play Pokémon, step-by-step
To start, turn over the active and benched Pokémon cards. Each player's turn is made of three parts:
First draw a card from your deck. From there, you can decide what action you wish to take, such as:
Play a basic Pokémon
Evolve a Pokémon
Attach an energy card
Play a trainer card
Retreat your active Pokémon
Use your Pokémon's abilities
You can do as many of the following actions before finally choosing to attack your opponent's active Pokémon. When attacking, make sure you have the correct amount of energy cards for the move. Tell your opponent which attack you are making. Then tally the damage and extra effects.
The amount of damage a move does is listed to the right of the attack name. Your opponent should add damage counters to their card for the specified amount of damage. Damage counters are not removed from a card even if the Pokémon evolves or is moved to the bench. The counters can only be taken away if the Pokémon is healed, knocked out or removed from play entirely.
If a Pokémon has total damage that is greater than or equal to its HP, it is knocked out. Remove the card and its attached cards to the discard pile.
Alternate turns until all of one player's prize cards are taken or all their Pokémon are knocked out. The player left standing or receiving all the prize cards wins. A player can also win if their opponent has no other cards left in their deck at the start of the turn.
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Active vs. benched Pokémon
When you are playing the card game, the character cards can be placed in the active or benched section of the play mat.
An active Pokémon is used to attack your opponent's card. Only one card can be active per player at a time.
The bench houses the other basic Pokémon on your team, which can be swapped in to the active spot. A player can have up to five Pokémon benched during a game. If your active Pokémon is knocked out or you choose to retreat it, move a different Pokémon from your bench into the active spot.
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How to evolve a Pokémon
During a game, you may choose to evolve your Pokémon to give it the advantage of stronger attacks and higher HP. To evolve your Pokémon, start with a basic character card of an evolution line, such as Eevee.
From there, choose the stage 1 card from the evolution line. A stage 1 Pokémon evolves from a basic Pokémon. A stage 2 Pokémon evolves from a stage 1 Pokémon. A Pokémon cannot use the moves of its previous evolution, only the attacks and abilities listed on the evolved character card.
You cannot evolve a Pokémon if its card was just added to the bench, and you can only evolve once per turn. Additionally, you cannot evolve on your first turn.
Once a Pokémon is evolved, it retains the damage counters and energy cards attached to it. However, if there are attack effects or special conditions on Pokémon, such as being confused or poisoned, this goes away once it is evolved.
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How to earn prize cards
Each player sets aside six prize cards which are awarded to the opponent once a round is won. For each round win, the player usually gets one prize card from their opponent's deck.
Depending on the card, a player could get more or less than one prize card. Whichever player receives all their opponent's prize cards is the winner of the game.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to play Pokémon trading card game: Rules, time duration, setup