Pokémon (Full name Pocket Monsters but no-one cares about that) is a multimedia franchise made by Nintendo that for a fair amount of the late 90s and part of the early 2000s was more popular then God, Haribo and Cadbury chocolate combined. Using a bunch of pocket monsters (whose primary weapon against the fanbase was an almost illegal level of cuteness) you would battle another trainer with his own little monsters until yours made his faint and you'd win the game!
It started off as a game where you would journey around the world and "try to catch 'em all" (the 'cool' catchphrase of the series). Through a combination of the aforementioned charm, ability to raise your own poke-pets in the game, the surprisingly deep strategic elements, and the drugs they put in the cartridges it quickly spawned a whole host of sequels, a trading card game, several comics, a TV series, and a bunch of movies. Nowadays trying to "catch 'em all" is something best left for people with OCD, as there are well over 700 Pokémon in existence. It's not as wildly popular it used to be, but it's still got quite a large fanbase, especially in Japan.
If you have any further questions about the video games that aren't based directly on the card games, go to /vp/. Yes, 4chan has an entire board dedicated to Pokémon, why do you ask?
The Pokémon TCG is a collectible card game based on the existing video games. It was originally released in 1998 by Wizards of the Coast during the great "Pokémon Craze" associated with the release of the original games and TV show when they started in Japan and then broke out of Asia into the west. Once wildly popular, it has declined over the years. It is still quite fun and funny if you can find friends to play it with. If you can't get over the fact that it's Pokémon-themed, I pity you... although it's highly unlikely you have friends that can get over the fact that it's Pokémon-themed. If you can't find such, play the two simulators released for the Gameboy.
What are Pokémon?
Pokémon are various brightly colored anime creatures that resemble real world animals, birds, sea creatures, plants, mythical beings, and even inanimate objects, often with an added elemental theme (for example Charmander, a fire type lizard Pokémon, has bright red skin and a tail with it's tip constantly alight). Each Pokémon species has a name that is often a pun on what it is or looks like (Or in Japan, just a relevant English word its based on. Seriously, there's shit like "Rat" and "Big Rat".) and will have a variety of powerful abilities to use. Pokémon and their attacks come in 18 different types, determining how effective attacks are. Attacks can do double damage, quad damage (if a Pokémon has two types that share a weakness), half damage or no damage: if an attack falls in none of these categories it does normal damage. Attacks are either Normal or Special: Normal attacks involve some kind of physical attack while Special are projectiles, blasts, beams or streams of a particular type. When calculating attack power and the defense against an attack it uses either Attack and Defense or Special Attack and Special Defense. This is done via a formula that's way too large to comfortably do by hand, but it's not an issue for the games.
Pokémon are often described as friendly and eager to battle to test out their abilities, which is perfect for trainers as they don't have to try to force their Pokémon into battling because they are all eager for it themselves! There's a lot of the buggers too: as of writing there are 807 of them not including alternate forms, regional variants, differences caused by sexual dimorphism, mega evolutions and what have you (so don't expect a fully comprehensive list here). This means that there's at least a few amongst them that you'll like and allow you to build a team that's just perfect for you. This is also a point of critique: people will claim that it all went to shit at Generation X, often claiming that Generation 1 is the only good one. These people are derisively called "genwunners" based on their love for the original generation.
How to play
At the beginning of the match both players shuffle their decks (of exactly 60 cards) and draw 7 cards as a hand. They then put the top six cards of the deck face down as "Prizes." The players can put down any basic Pokémon they have in their hand in front of them face down, and any extra basic Pokémon they have behind that Pokémon on the "Bench", also face down. Players must play basic Pokémon on their setup phase. If they don't draw one in the first seven cards, they show their hand to their opponents, shuffle again (without the prizes) and draw 7 new cards. The opposing player may draw two additional cards if he wants to. There is no max hand size. Players flip a coin to decide who goes first. The cards are then flipped face up.
Every turn follows this basic course:
- Choose a card facing up
- Play basic Pokémon and/or evolve Pokémon and/or play trainer cards and/or attach one energy card and/or use Pokémon Powers and/or retreat Pokémon and switch in benched ones
- Attack with active Pokémon
- End of turn
Pokémon need energy to attack. The energy is not discarded when using an attack, except when the attack says so (see the card on the top of the page for an example). If a Pokémon deals damage its always in 10-damage-steps. Indicate those with markers on the card. If an attack connects look at the bottom left corner of the defending Pokémon. If it has a weakness against your type (which is shown on the upper right corner of your card) the damage you deal is doubled. Eventually these became more varied, with some cards having weaknesses that add extra damage instead of doubling. If it has a resistance against your type the damage will be reduced by 30 points (Up to 0 points of damage. You won't heal the defending Pokémon.). When weaknesses became variable, this was nerfed to 20 points, but old cards and reprints kept the original 30. On the upper right corner of the card is the HP of the Pokémon. If the damage counters on the card match or exceed these it is defeated, goes to the discard pile and the owner of the Pokémon who defeated it takes one of his prizes.
Some cards are evolutions of basic Pokémon. They can only be played on the corresponding basic Pokémon shown in the upper left corner. The attacks and powers of the basic Pokémon are lost and only the evolution counts from now on. All damage counters remain on the Pokémon but it is cured from any condition. You can't evolve a Pokémon the turn you played it or on your first turn. This also counts for evolutions (You can't evolve a just evolved Pokémon another step on the same turn). Evolutions can be played on any Pokémon on your field, even benched ones. You may also evolve as many Pokémon as you like in your turn as long as you don't violate the above rules. Evolved Pokémon do not have any restrictions! They can attack the same turn they evolved and you can even attack in your first turn. Evolutions normally can't access the moves and abilities of the basic Pokémon.
There's a bunch of different types of variant Pokémon that "evolve" from a Pokémon but are the same Pokémon just more powerful. There's no mechanical difference on these except for they are neither basic nor evolved Pokémon for effects that target one of those specifically. The one exception is Pokémon LV.X, which can use their previous form's moves.
Trainer cards may be played any time before your attack. They don't have any additional costs to the ones written on the card itself, if any. Trainer cards can have an effect on anything. Examples are:
- Bring back a basic Pokémon from your discard pile and put in play on your bench with half its HP in damage counters on it (rounded up) (Reviver)
- Draw 2 cards (Bill)
- Discard your hand, draw 7 cards (Professor Oak)
- Choose a benched Pokémon of your opponent and switch it with his active Pokémon. (Gust of wind)
- Flip a coin. If it heads choose any basic Pokémon or evolution card from your deck, reveal it and put it into your hand. (Poké Ball)
- Discard an energy card attached to your active Pokémon. Then discard 2 energy cards attached to your opponents active Pokémon. (Super energy drain)
The early TCG had some stupidly overpowered draw engines: You could use Professor Oak, draw 4 Bills and use all of them to draw almost a third of the cards in your deck in one turn! In response to this a subcategory of Trainer card was introduced called Supporter. These are the same as normal, but can only be used once per turn. Eventually most non-supporters were put into a subtype called Item cards, but this has no mechanical effect.
Energy cards came in 6 variations: Psychic, Fighting, Fire, Water, Electric, and Grass. Eventually Dark, Steel, Dragon and Fairy were added. Those + colorless are also the only types your Pokémon can have. You can attach one energy card to any Pokémon on your turn and not more. You can also attach any energy card type to any Pokémon, even if that Pokémon can't use it. The energy cards will just have to match the conditions for the attacks in order to use them. If you attached 4 Fire energy and one Psychic energy to Charizard at the top of this page that is perfectly okay, but you will never actually be able to use the Psychic energy effectively. White stars indicate colorless energy. Even though there is a trainer card "Double Colorless Energy", you can meet the requirements for those attacks with any color. Dugtrio's Slash to your right here could be payed with 2 Fighting Energy + anything.
Energy requirements don't always match a Pokemon's type. This is generally used by Pokémon that are dual type in the games, but this doesn't alter weakness or resistances.
To retreat your active Pokémon and exchange it with a benched one you have to pay the retreat cost in the lower right corner. By paying I mean discard the energy attached to the Pokémon equal to the cost. Note that this is paid in discarded cards, so cards that provide multiple energy only ever count as one.
Early in the game this was free for most basic Pokémon and increased as evolution level did. This has since changed and now only evolved Pokémon have 0 retreat cost, and those that do are unusual, though retreat cost still generally increases with evolution.
You should know the most by now. But in case you are an idiot and skipped reading the above I'll tell you again: You can play basic Pokémon to your bench. Your bench holds up to 5 Pokémon. You can only evolve to higher level Pokémon via the basic ones. You can not skip an evolution step. (Except with some trainer cards like Pokémon breeder). When your active Pokémon bites the dust you have to switch to a benched one. No you can't play a basic Pokémon from your hand when your active one jumps the line, it has to be benched beforehand.
One thing of note is that not all cards representing the same species of Pokémon have the same abilities. While these are still the same for deck maximums and evolutions . In the video games, these were distinguished by their level, a small bit of flavor text. In reality everyone separates them by where they originated and number within the set if there were multiple variants within it. Some cards of the same species of Pokémon have different names, with the earliest being Team Rocket's Dark ___ cards. You can have four Starmie, four Dark Starmie, and four Misty's Starmie in the same deck. When evolving, the base Pokémon must have a specific name: You can't evolve a "Misty's Staryu" into a "Dark Starmie", which evolves from "Staryu".
Eventually a few variant Pokémon types came with rules implications. These all boiled down to that in exchange for being more powerful the opponent takes multiple prize cards if they get KOed. Don't bother learning them all, most of the types are obsolete and won't be legal for Standard ever again.
Dual Type Pokémon show up in some sets. Weakness is applied before resistance.
Pokémon Powers / Abilities
Some Pokémon have Pokémon Powers (Charizard at the top of this page has one for example). You can activate it on your turn before your attack as long as your Pokémon is not asleep, confused or paralyzed. Some of them are just helpful (look at Venusaur to your right there.) and some are just outright unfair. Like Mr. Mime's Power. He can reduce any damage to him greater than 30 to 0. If you happen to be playing his weakness, you are fucked. Unless he's asleep, paralyze him or confuse him. Eventually these were eventually separated into PokéBody (passive abilities) and then eventually emerged into Abilities after the games introduced the same concept by that name.
Your Pokémon can suffer one of four status conditions:
- Poisoned: Indicated by a marker on the Pokémon. Between every turn your Pokémon gets 10 damage. Yes, even between the turn of your opponent who just poisoned your Pokémon and your turn. You get no check to get rid of poison.
- Asleep: Indicated by turning your card 90° counter-clockwise. Your Pokémon can't attack or do anything else. between every turn it gets one check, meaning you trow a coin. If it's heads, your Pokémon wakes up. If it tails, its still fast asleep.
- Confused: Indicated by flipping your card 180°. If you want to attack or retreat you will have to flip a coin. If it heads, everything is fine. If it tails your retreat fails, or if it tried to attack it deals 20 damage to itself and the attack fails. You will have to pay for everything an attack or a retreat may want from you and THEN check if it fails or not. If your retreat or your attack fails you don't get another chance. You don't get a check to get rid of confusion.
- Paralyzed: Indicated by flipping you card 90° clockwise. Your Pokémon can't act in any way and is automatically healed at the end of your opponents turn. You can't retreat it either. Poisoned goes with any of the other three, meaning you can be poisoned and asleep at the same time. Sleeping, paralysis, and confusion on the other hand cancel each other out as soon as the Pokémon gets a new status. So you can only be sleeping or paralyzed or confused. (Highlighted for your incompetence.)
Losing the game
You lose the game by not being able to put a Pokémon from your bench in the active zone when your active Pokémon is defeated. Also, if you can't draw a card at your beginning step because you don't have any more. Notice: It only counts as a loss if you can't draw at the beginning of your turn. If your opponent somehow forces you to draw cards and you don't have as much cards in your deck anymore you just draw all cards and do not yet lose. You only lose at the beginning of your step. You also lose if your opponent draws all prizes before you do.
When both players win at the same time (Example: Your Pokémon does an attack that damages itself. You defeat your opponents Pokémon and your own is defeated by that self inflicted damage. Neither of you have any benched Pokémon.) a sudden death will start. Shuffle your decks completely new and make a new game with just 1 prize. Everything else goes normal.
While no official Tabletop Game exists, /tg/ has been working on a homebrew system called Pokémon Tabletop Adventures.
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