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 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.