Alex attended an event that celebrated the new XY Phantom Forces sets in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. He got a chance to play the game for the first time in over ten years, and this is what he had to say about it.
Despite being an enormous fan of the Pokémon series, the Trading Card Game has been a bit of a blind spot for me since just after its inception back in the late nineties. I was a strapping young lad still in primary school and like every other child my age that was anyone, I had Pokémon Cards. Most of us didn't really know how to play the game, but that was partly due to the rumour that spread throughout my school that if you lost a battle you had to give your victorious opponent the cards you'd battled and lost with. On the occasion that I did have a game with my brother, it usually resulted in confusion or one-sidedness in his favour, generally because he was not only older, but more tactically minded than me.
Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to experience the game in its current form with the new Phantom Forces range in the XY series. It was safe to say that I wasn't especially confident with the rules, but luckily there were plenty of lovely people to give me a helping hand through the specifics. Some of the rules were very familiar, but some were strange and new, such as the introduction of Mega Evolutions and some new EX Pokémon.
The general idea of these EX Pokémon is that the card is significantly more powerful than anything I remember from my childhood – yes, even shiny Charizard – but these overpowered beasts come at a cost. If you happen to lose your EX Pokémon, your opponent doesn't pick up a single Prize Card as they would if they'd defeated any other Pokémon, but two of these illustrious prizes. Considering that one of the conditions for winning is to pick up all of your Prize Cards, you can be absolutely crippled if you don't play things defensively and – more importantly – cleverly.
It may well be that in the early days the rules and balance weren't quite as refined as they are now, or perhaps it was just my youthful ignorance, but playing with these new decks and new cards felt a lot fairer than before. For one I was actually able to evolve several Pokémon, which was an achievement in itself for me back in the days of yore; it also felt more tactical than the real games, where a Critical Hit can make all the difference. You can also see all of your opponent's available moves and health, so you can adjust your plan of action accordingly.
Due to my splendid skills at being a lucky old so-and-so, the cards were stacked in my favour and I was able to win every battle I played. The length of time that these battles last make every victory and every attack feel considerably more important than in the Pokémon video games, which is the opposite of the opinion I had when I was younger, but that's probably because I'd never had my entire team taken out by a Mega Gengar over the internet. Needless to say the Pokémon Trading Card Game has come on leaps and bounds in the years I missed out, and I'll no doubt be using the cards I have to take on some of my friends in the near future.
So, what if you're a newcomer to the Pokémon Trading Card Game? The game itself is actually quite easy to pick up; after a few wobbles at the beginning trying to remember when you can attach an Energy Card and how many Trainer Cards I could use before making my opponent desperate for another cocktail, I was away and able to play without any need of help from the very charming assistants. If you're planning on giving the game a go, make sure you read through the rules thoroughly and keep them at hand to see you through the first few games, but once you've got them down it all becomes second nature, especially if you've played the Pokémon video games in the past.
Don't think you can go storming in if you've only played the video games though, as there are a number of differences that you'll need to take note of in order to be the very best. For instance, all Pokémon only have a singular type, and one Water Type's resistance may be another Water Type's weakness. Luckily all of your opponent's Pokémon's information is available to you as soon as they place them onto the field, meaning you don't have to know the strengths and weaknesses of every single Pokémon before entering a battle.
It's very easy to pick up and a lot simpler to master than the video games, as training isn't a factor and every single card will have identical effects, meaning you won't be surprised by a Kingler with Flamethrower. So give it a go if you can, I say, you might be pleasantly surprised!