The world of Trading Card games can seem daunting when playing one for the first time, especially for a game from a franchise aimed largely at a younger audience. The Pokémon Trading Card Game is a game where players collect cards to build a deck to compete against other Players. Given the sheer volume of products available for this game alone, it can often be a daunting task to know where to start. And that is very much the idea behind this My First Battle set, one aimed both at younger players and those getting into the Pokémon Trading Card Game for the first time. In a nutshell what we have are two mini decks designed to help new, younger players learn to play the game quickly with a simplified version of the rules. A stepping stone into the game, you might say.
This product contains the following:
- Two Mini Decks comprised of 17 Cards each
- 2 Playmats
- 1 set of Prize Counters
- 1 set of Damage Counters
- 1 set of Status Counters
- 1 Giant Plastic Coin
- 1 Rule Book
Being a structured product, even if not a full Structure Deck, there is little in the way of setup when it comes to playing the game. It’s true the first time will take a little longer due to having to punch out the tokens you will need to play. Assuming that is already done, I will break down the Setup Steps. First you will need to layout the Playmat(s). Then each player must shuffle thier deck and place it in the Deck Zone. I would recommend a few shuffles to get a good distribution of cards, especially if you are playing for the first time. Once that is done, each Player takes their three Prize Tokens and Place them in the Prize Zone.
Next, both Players must decide which Player will go first. The simplest way to do this is by a coin toss. Using the giant coin provided, one Player will call Heads or Tails, then flip the coin. If the coin lands on the side they called, that Player will go first. For this game, the side of the coin with Bulbasaur and Pikachu is considered Heads and the reverse is Tails. Regardless of who won the toss, both Players will take three cards from the top of their Deck. The action of taking the top card of a deck is called Drawing and I will either use that term or the term Draw/Drawn from this point.
Once those three cards have been drawn and without showing them to the other Player, both Players choose one Basic Pokémon from amongst them and place it facedown on the Active Pokémon Zone. After that they may choose up to three more Basic Pokémon and place them onto the Bench Zone facedown. If neither player has a basic Pokémon in the three cards they Drew, they may discard those cards and Draw 6 more. This is called a Mulligan. A player may perform as many Mulligans as they like until they have at least one Basic Pokémon to play. For each Mulligan performed, their opponent Draws an additional card. Once this is done, both Players flip their Active and Benched Pokémon face up. Then the game begins.
Pokémon Trading Card Game allows Players to play out a Battle between two Pokémon Trainers, during which they may play, evolve, retreat or attack with a Pokémon they have in play. As well as use cards representing items, people and locations from the world of Pokémon. The aim of the game is to claim all three of your Opponent’s Prize Tokens before they claim yours. A Prize Token can be claimed by Knocking Out an Opponent's Pokémon. It’s worth noting that Knocking Out the last Pokémon your Opponent has is an automatic win, despite how many Prize Tokens/Cards they have remaining.
A Pokémon is Knocked Out if it takes damage that exceeds it’s Hit Points or HP. Different Pokémon will have different HP values. As a Pokémon evolves it will gain more HP. Evolving doesn’t remove damage already taken by a Pokémon. Most Pokémon will have an attack that either will cause damage to an Opponent’s Pokémon or will afflict them with a status condition like Paralysed or Asleep. The damage an attack inflicts is shown by the number to the right of that attack’s name. Each attack will require an amount of energy attached to a Pokémon to use that attack. A Pokémon can only attack once per turn.
Each Turn in Pokémon consists of a set of series of actions that can be performed. In its simplest terms a Turn consists of 3 distinct parts. Drawing a card. Taking Actions that mostly revolve around playing cards. And Attacking with your Active Pokémon. Below is a step by step breakdown of a Turn. It’s worth noting here that many of the below Action Limits can be ignored or overridden if a Card Effect allows it.
Step 1 - Draw a Card. (The Player that goes first skips this step on their First Turn.)
Step 2 - The Turn Player may take any of the following Actions in any order.
A - Put Basic Pokémon cards from your Hand onto your Bench as many times as you like as long as you do not exceed your Bench Limit
B - Evolve your Pokémon. You can evolve as many Pokémon as you like, however each Pokémon can only evolve once per Turn
C - Attach an Energy Card from your hand to one of your Pokémon. This can only be done once per turn
D - Play Trainer Cards. Players are limited to only playing one Supporter Card and one Stadium Card per turn
E - Retreat your Active Pokémon. This can only be done once per turn
F - Use Abilities on Pokémon Cards. Players are free to use as many as they like
Step 3 - Attack with your Active Pokémon. Once you have Attacked, your Turn will end
Once a Player has completed his turn either by declaring an Attack or announcing his/her turn is over if they cannot Attack, play passes to the other Player who will repeat these steps for his/her turn. Players will continue playing turns until a winner is decided either by a Player claiming his last Prize token or Knocking Out out his Opponents last Pokémon.
In organised Tournament play, Players will play one Match of 3 Games, with the winner being decided by the best of three. I would recommend playing to this format as it will be good practice for these events and will give both Players a chance to win a game.
At the end of the day, this Product is what it is. A simplified version of the full game designed to attract new and younger Players, as well as give them experience of the game. Because of the limited nature of this product and the fact it doesn’t provide a full experience of the game, it will offer limited replay value on its own. I would say you would be looking at no more than 5 games before it would become repetitive. With the small number of cards available it’s very likely that one game would likely differ very little from the last.
The cards themselves are also a point of contention for me as well. I get that Nintendo has intended this to draw Players into the game and to purchase other products, yet the absence of Venusaur came as quite a surprise. For a Bulbasaur Deck not to include a full evolution line was disappointing. As a personal choice, I’d have cut one of the other Stage 2 Pokémon for the Venusaur. But I can see how that might skew the game in favour of the Grass Deck. So it’s a very minor complaint.
From the point of view of a Collector and an Experienced Player, this Product offers little to no value. With the exception of the coin there is very little here to interest either; as none of the cards it contains are particularly rare, valuable or powerful. That’s not meant as a criticism though. I can see that making sense as a commercial choice. There is no point in releasing a product aimed at children that gets scooped up by collectors and scalpers alike looking for that rare card.
On the whole, My First Battle is what it is. A way to get kids familiar with the game and introduce it to the next generation of Players. I wish I’d brought something like this when I started playing, rather than grabbing some random Booster Packs. It would have taught me a lot more about the game Parents, if your kids want to get into the Pokémon TCG, this is the place to start.
If My First Battle does appeal to you, then I would also check out the Charmander and Squirtle First Battle Deck available now on Zatu Games.