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How To Play Digimon


What Is Digimon, The Card Game?

Digimon, short for "Digital Monster", are monsters of various forms living in a "Digital World", a parallel universe connected to Earth's communication networks. Their stories are featured in a popular Japanese series of anime and manga that led to the creation of various toys, video games and of a great trading card game.

The first Digimon TGC was published for the first time in 1997 and it was subsequently revamped in 2020 with the name “Digimon, The Card Game”. The most recent version features a streamlined game mechanics and a much better artwork.

In Digimon, the Card Game, each player aims to attack their opponents repeatedly in order to cancel all their protective shields and then delivers the final knockout blow. Each Digimon usually starts as a Digi-egg (“Digitama”), but it can evolve to get stronger. When evolving, your Digimon can also inherit traits from their lower forms in order to create powerful combo and effects. Digimon human companions (“Tamers”) can also join the fight to support their friends and bring out their real power as featured in the anime series.

Ok, It Seems Interesting: How Do I Get Started?

In order to play the Digimon Card Game, you need a deck of cards. Each Deck is composed by exactly 50 cards plus up to five Digi-eggs. For your first time, I recommend to buy a pre-built Starter Deck as these deck are very balanced and they are a very good value for you money. Personally, I would recommend Beelzemon Starter deck if you want a more advanced deck or Gallantmon Starter deck if you have an easy to learn one but you can freely pick the one that catches your attention as Digimon starter deck are all very good. If you want to know more about the best starter decks in 2023, you can have a look to the feature “TOP DIGIMON STARTER DECKS 2023”

All Digimon Starter Decks also includes a 2-part memory gauge that is a key component needed to play the game.

Together with the deck, you will need a pack of sleeves to protect your cards, and a dice to determine the first player. The rulebook mentions to use rock-paper-scissors to determine who goes first but rolling a dice is preferred during tournaments and local events thus better to get used to it.

Although not mandatory, I would also recommend to invest in a play-mat to protect your cards even more. If you are purchasing one specifically for Digimon, it would be better to pick one among those with the memory gauge directly on it but otherwise any playmat will work.

Are You Ready Digi-Destined? Let's play!

During the setup, each player draws five cards and decides if they want to keep it or to shuffle their whole hand back in the deck and take 5 new cards. This rule called “taking a Mulligan” has been recently introduced thus may not appear in some of the rulebooks or leaflets. Each player will draw one card at the start of each of their turn other than the player going first that does not draw a card for their first turn. There is no hand size limit.

After taking their hand, players place the rest of their deck face down at their right and they place the digi-eggs card at their left still face down. Finally, each player places the first 5 cards of their deck sideways and face down in front of their dig-egg deck. These 5 cards represent the security stack of a player. A player wins once they manage to remove all the cards from the opponent security stack and deal a final attack.

The match can then start and the player going first will take his first turn. Each turn is divided into two phases: Breeding and Main Phase. During the Breeding Phase, a player can hatch an egg by placing the first card of the digi-egg deck face up on the field. Alternatively, a player can move a Digimon from the breeding area into the main field as far as it is at least level 3. Disregarding what happens, the breeding area is considered outside the playing field thus no effect activates inside the breeding area and no effect can target a Digimon inside this area. Moreover, a Digimon in the breeding area cannot attack and be attacked.

During the main phase, players can either play a card or attach. Each action can be taken multiple times in whatever order the player prefers. The turn duration is driven by how much “memory” a player has and how much is consumed by each action. This is a key aspect of this game as memory is used to pay for playing any card. The memory is traced on the memory gauge that is shared by both players and set at zero at the beginning of the match.

Every time a player plays a card, they also move the memory marker toward their opponent side of the gauge. For example, playing a card with a cost of 3 will move the memory marker three steps toward the opponent side of the gauge. If during the turn, the memory counter lands on a number greater than 0 on the opponent's side of the gauge, the player turn ends immediately. At the same time, the opponent's can use only the memory the player has granted them with their own actions. Playing a powerful card may be a good strategy but may also grant the opponent a lot of memory to play even more powerful cards.

Players can play different type of cards. Playing a Digimon, a Tamer or an Option cards will trigger the “On Play” effect listed on each cards once the memory has been paid. Each effect has to be fully resolved before another card can be played. Digimon can't attack on the turn they were played. There's no limit to how many Digimon or Tamers can be placed in the battle area. Option cards can only be played if there is a Digimon or Tamer with the same colour already in play.

A Digimon card can also be played on top of another Digimon card to “digivolve” that Digimon and increases their power. Any Digimon can digivolve as far as the Digimon they are digivolving into meets all the conditions specified on the top left corner of the card (usually one or more colours and levels). Once the digivolution is complete, any “when digivolving” effects are triggered and player can draw 1 card as a digivolution bonus. A Digimon can digivolve from a Digimon played during the same turn but they can not attack. As far as a player has memory, there is no limit to the number of times a Digimon can digivolve.

Usually, the digivolution cost is less than the play cost and the evolved Digimon is a level higher than the previous Digimon. Some cards have also additional special rules for playing or digivolving that are listed on the card (X-Cros, DNA digivolution etc).

When a Digimon digivolves, the cards below a digivolved Digimon become digivolution cards. The bottom portion of all digivolution cards of a Digimon should remain visible as they may detail one or more “inherited effects”. This effects can not be used by the Digimon itself but it can be used once that card become a digivolution of another Digimon.

During their turn, player can also chose a Digimon to attack an opponent. Once an attack is declared, the attacking Digimon is turned sideways in the “suspended” state. A suspended Digimon can not take any further action during the same turn unless they “unsuspend” by an effect. All suspended Digimons of a player also unsuspend at the beginning of their turn before drawing a card.

A Digimon can only attack an opponent Security stack or a suspended Digimon unless they have a special power. If the target is an opponent Digimon, the winner of the battle is determined by which Digimon has the higher DP while the other one is deleted and is placed in the “trash” zone behind their owner's deck.

If the target is the opponent security stack, the opponent flips over their top security card (“checking the security”). Whenever the checked card has a security effect, that effect is activated without paying any memory cost and ignoring any normal colour restrictions for Option cards. In addition, if the security card is a Digimon with DP higher or equal to the attacking Digimon, the attacker is deleted. In any case, the checked security card is trashed after the attack reducing therefore the security stack by one.

When there is no more Security cards left and a Digimon attacks the opponent security stack, the game is over and the player wins.

During a turn a player can also chose to pass at any time when the memory marker is still in their portion of the gauge. In this case, the memory counter automatically moves to 3 on the opponent's side regardless of where it was before passing.

The Battle Is Not Over Yet! A Few Strategic Tips

Personally, I really like Digimon, The card game. It has reasonably simple mechanics but you can really experience very intense battle while each opponent develop attacking and defensive strategies. Most important, even low budget and partially constructed decks have a fighting chance to win or at least to enjoy a nice match for a good numbers of turns.

As playing Digimon requires a good amount of strategy, I would like to point out a few aspects of the game that may help you secure your first win:

1) Memory management is key. Is seems obvious but the less memory you give to your opponent, the less cards they can play on their next turn. On the other hand, a few tamers allow players to set their memory to 3 at the start of their turn thus it would be worth playing a card with a higher memory cost as the opponent may end up with 3 memory anyway. Effects that allow a player to gain memory are very important as they can also trigger an early end of the turn for your opponent.

2) Play or Digivolve a Digimon? Playing a Digimon is more expensive but may trigger “On Play” effects while digivolving costs less and allow a player to draw a card. Of course some Digimon also have “When digivolving” effects. Sometime is better to not trigger the On Play effects in order to save memory or to have a Digimon that can still attack. In other cases, hard playing a Digimon can be your best option to progress your strategy.

3) Attacking is not always the best option. As Digimons become unsuspended when they attack, they can be targeted for an attack the next turn and potentially be deleted.

4) A weak Digimon is a great Digimon. Considering that one card is trashed every time a Security stack is attacked, the power of the attacking Digimon is not as key as in other games. A strong Digimon may survive the attack or perhaps check more than one card at the time but you can win a match by just attacking 6 times with very weak Digimons. Never under-estimate the value of “cheap damage”.

5) Plan your Defence together with the Attack strategy. Slowing down your opponent or using Digimon “Blockers” to intercept the opponent attacks is very important as it can give you the time to deal the final blow first.

6) Have fun! As I mentioned, Digimon, The Card game is much more balanced at the moment than other TGCs. Some decks have of course a slightly higher chance to win in a competitive tournament but I saw players winning a match with almost any type of deck. Considering this, I always recommend to pick a deck that speaks to you and have a lot of fun playing it the way you like!