While the Pokémon TCG does a great job bringing the video games to life, there are a few big differences that might give new players pause.
Pokémon players love to catch them all, but those getting into the Pokémon Trading Card Game for the first time may find things different. Launching when only the first generation of Pokémon games existed, the Pokémon TCG offered players a new yet familiar way to battle their friends without the use of a link cable. Over the years, the card game has evolved, adding even more monsters, features, and special abilities to the mix. Despite running parallel to one another, there are some notable differences between Pokémon and its card game counterpart.
While Pokémon is known for its diverse list of elemental types, each with their own strengths and weaknesses recalled through common sense and clichéd phrases (Fire burns Grass, Psychic is strong against Fighting because “Mind over Matter”, etc) the TCG had to simplify this further into smaller groupings for the sake of simplicity in collecting cards. Each Pokémon’s moveset has been equally altered for the TCG, reducing four available moves down to typically one or two, although these available attacks vary based on the set the Pokémon comes from.
Players will immediately notice the original trading card game’s simplified version of Pokémon types. All Pokémon in the original TCG, for example, fell into the categories of Grass, Fire, Water, Fighting, Lightning, Psychic, or Colorless. These seven card categories represented 17 different Pokémon types which, and while it was necessary for the simplification of playing, it made for some mental adjustments for the “weak to” and “strong against” balance the series is known for.
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For example, Colorless includes both Normal and Flying-type Pokémon. Normal is typically weak against Fighting-type, and the Fighting class includes Ground and Rock. Since Flying-type is weak to Rock, it makes sense for Colorless to have a disadvantage against Fighting; however, it can feel strange to accept that Hitmonchan just punched a Pidgey for extra damage when Flying Pokémon are usually immune to Fighting-type. Four additional types were later added (Metal, Dragon, Fairy, and Darkness) for greater diversity, but the 11 card types representing the 22 Pokémon types found in the video games may still be jarring for longtime players.
Pokémon may just be about collecting for some, but the real focus comes in battling other players. In the Pokémon video games, each creature has a wide array of moves they can learn, limited to four attacks at a time. In an effort to simplify this, the TCG usually gives each Pokémon access to two moves: one basic, and one powerful. These moves will change if a Pokémon evolves during battle, increasing its hit points and attack power, but their abilities can also change across the different series. There are currently 88 different Pokémon TCG sets available in North America with multiple appearances of the same monsters. With these Pokémon featuring different attacks (and in some cases, different hit points) players are encouraged to collect multiple versions of the same Pokémon to find the one best suited for their deck.
While the Pokémon Trading Card Game does an excellent job of letting trainers battle it out to be the very best, it changes in how typing is organized and significantly reduces attack options make for a much different experience than the video games it is based on. These mechanical options improve the simplicity of the game, but new players getting into the TCG might need some time to adjust to these drastic yet necessary changes.
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