I’ve been hounded by the Pokémon card game ever since the Christmas season of 1998 when American kids first got their sticky hands on it. Any new card game getting lots of attention will be on my radar, even a kid’s game. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of adults who play this game.
But Pokémon is a kid’s game. Pokémon is a kid’s show that no self-respecting adult fan of fantasy, anime, or anything else that wields a big two-handed sword would ever admit to actually enjoying.
A round of the Pokémon card game is simple enough: the game’s players pretend to be Pokémon trainers, the characters from the show that do battle using these little creatures that live in tiny balls. The game’s players use Pokémon and their specialized attacks to wipe out their opponents using a HP system. Any Pokémon whose HP hits 0 is taken out of the game, and the player who killed it earns a special Prize card. A game is won in one of three ways: collecting 6 prize cards, knocking out all of their opponents’ Pokémon, or if the opponent runs out of cards to draw when required.
Maybe it is the simplistic game play that upset me. Even though most card games are repetitive, there is some hint of a larger story. That’s what makes a card game more mature. In Pokémon , I never got the feeling that there was any point to my playing. That may be because I never played for cards or for money, two things that are surprisingly common among the young Pokémon card game crowd. But I think I’ll stick to more grown-up games in the future.
Pokémon is published by Wizards of the Coast, whose other huge card game, Magic: the Gathering, is another bugaboo.
Pokémon card decks, starter packs and promotional packs for expansion, sell for between $10 and $20 at my game retailer, which is standard for collectible card games. There is a secondary market for Pokémon cards, though not as big as the aftermarket for Magic cards or other rare card games. Individual Pokémon cards are on sale online and in card shops for anywhere from a couple of bucks up to hundreds of dollars. But there’s no reason why you should spend money like that just to play the Pokémon card game. A single starter deck and maybe a couple of expansion packs are all you need to get the game underway.
Wizards of the Coast knows well that a show aimed at kids with a theme song that encourages kids to “catch ‘em all” is a potential cash cow, so there have been endless expansion packs and other promotions designed to get kids to buy more and more Pokémon cards to compete with their friends. It doesn’t seem like that tactic worked well, considering that the number of people who still play Pokémon is limited and most of them aren’t exactly card collectors. Pokémon cards are bought mostly by younger card game fans who actually play the game. And that is something card game fans of any age can appreciate.
To anyone looking to make card games, I must advise you that this review is juvenile. I apologize for being blunt, but I would have expected a responsible reviewer to come back and edit their posts or at least renew their comments after several years. When someone reads a review, we do not expect someone to make a single core comment on a game and especially not see someone call a card game a “a children’s card game” and by that flaw alone criticize it. It is better to review the mechanics of battles and trade, if it is efficient to fill one’s deck with energy cards or creatures and so forth.
I have played Pokemon and I must say that it is not all that intuitive to the television show as the addition of many of the energy cards, trainer cards, and limitations on Pokemon abilities leaves much to be desired. The video game versions of Pokemon capitalize better on the show’s presented mechanics but still serves to look down on the actual card game. In the event that two competent players do manage to build decks, the game does have the opportunity to be a nail bitter but many times, both players are endlessly drawing for critical energy cards or some other card which hurts the tempo of the game. Furthermore, if one player happens to have collected significantly better cards, there may be more cases of one side being steamrolled early game than other CCG’s/TCG’s.
Nonetheless, I feel as though Pokemon is a friendly beginner game for anyone who wants to get into collectible card games or already has a number of cards themselves that were given as a gift or handed down. The slower tempo of the game lets new players understand the strategic values of conserving cards and deck building for active, passive, or even burst play styles.
A warning to anyone who has been out of Pokemon from the earliest years, there has been a subtle climb of power creep similar to Yu-Gi-Oh. I think Pokemon may be able to deal with power creep better than other card games simply because countering one element with another boosts damage potential enormously so the gradual increases of 10-30 health/damage is more negligible where Yu-Gi-Oh has increased values of 1000-2000 in damage/defense. (Sorry for comparing Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh because both of their systems of play are wildly different but I think it’s a popular card game that more of the audience may have heard of before and power creep exists in both of them).
Hopefully this will be a more pleasant review for anyone looking to make a card game or understand what you might be getting yourself into. It certainly is a colorful and rich card game in lore and stories. The ability to role play with the game and feel like a Pokemon trainer from the television shows is captivating especially to more inexperienced players. A big thing I would encourage to some players is to not follow the rules and make up your own. It was pretty much what I did when I was little and really let me and my cousins have a blast when understanding the handbook was too daunting for us, it really helped us get to understand our cards better before understanding the actual game mechanics.
Anyways, happy battling!
Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate the additional perspective. If you’d ever like to contribute a guest review of a card game here, please let me know.