Sunday, January 25, 2015

Quick Review - Pokémon Trading Card Game

Pokémon Trading Card Game
Designers: Takumi Akabane & Tsunekaz Ishihara
Publisher: The Pokémon Company, International 
Quick Review - Pokémon Trading Card Game
So, I got sucked into the world of Pokémon.  I never thought I'd see the day when I'd play the game.  But that changed a few months ago.  My boys are very interested in board and tabletop games, but most of their friends weren't playing things like Settlers of Catan and RoboRally.  But a number of their friends from Cub Scouts play Pokémon.  On top of that, my FLGS has Pokémon afternoons on the weekends and I had been looking for something that the boys could do at the game store while I meet some buddies to play our games.  So I started looking into Pokémon for the boys.  One of my good friends' son was into Pokémon so he brought over their decks one weekend so that both I and my older son could learn to play.

Well, after 1 play I wasn't all that impressed.  I could see some of the potential in the game if you wanted to spend a lot of time and money to collect good cards to build good decks, but frankly I didn't want to spend that time and money on the game.  Aside from that, I also found the game fairly random, and limited in the depth of strategy and choices.  I wasn't impressed at all.

My son, however, was immediately enthralled.  After just one game that's all he talked about.  Everything was Pokémon this and Pokémon that.  So I knew that, regardless of what I thought of the game personally, I had found a winner for my son.  He ended up getting several starter decks for his birthday, then a few more for Christmas, and then bought some more cards with his Christmas money.  During this time he also got my 5 year old interested in the game.  Now they both have a few hundred cards and play it almost daily, watch the Pokémon cartoon whenever they can, and have read just about every Pokémon book our library has several times.

I've taken this opportunity to teach my sons several things.  First, I'm teaching them the value of taking care of your stuff.  I've been helping them card for the cards by showing them how to place valuable cards into sleeves, storing their decks in deckboxes, and keeping other cards in binders of card storage sheets.  They're actually doing a pretty good job of putting their cards all back where they go after they finish a game.  For a while I was finding cards stashed all over the house, but I think they've finally learned to see the value of protecting their 'investments'.

I've also been teaching the boys how to customize their decks.  At first they were just playing with the pre-built decks that they received.  But as they've bought booster packs and trainer boxes they've gotten a number of additional cards.  So I've helped them sort all their cards, look at their abilities, and build custom decks that have particular strengths and weaknesses.  They only have enough cards for about 5 60 card decks each, plus some left over cards that they can't put into playable decks because they don't have enough energies, and then a number of cards that they can't use at all because they don't have the basics for them.  So the card interactions that they're working with aren't all that great.  But they've gotten to see how balancing the different types of energies with limited varieties of Pokémon can make their decks stronger.  As they continue to gain cards and learn more about the way cards interact I hope they continue to evolve their decks.

I never really got into trading card games (I only have enough Magic cards to play one deck of each color so my wife and I can play occasionally), but I can see the value in learning how card strategies can be built.  Both of my boys have expressed an interest in designing their own games, so learning and dissecting the cards in a game like Pokémon will help them build diverse choices and interactions in their own future games, at least I hope so.

Anyway, Pokémon isn't a game for me.  It's too random, has too little control, and not a very deep strategy (unless you have thousands of cards to choose from).  I also don't care for the 'give us your money from not until eternity' aspect of trading card games.  But I do love the enthusiasm my boys have shown in the game, love that it continues to draw them toward more complex games, and that it gives me another opportunity to hang out at my FLGS.

My rating is from the perspective of an adult, however as far as my boys are concerned, I'm sure they'd give Pokémon a 9 or 10, possibly even an 11 rating.

Preliminary Rating: 5/10

My Pokémon is getting poisoned.

This game lasted pretty long, about an hour.
Usually the games are quicker, about 30 minutes. 
My youngest experiencing the glory of opening booster packs.
He opened 4 EX and Mega EX cards in the 8 boosters he got in
the EX Trainer Box he bought with his birthday & Christmas money.
I remember the feeling, but it was Garbage Pail Kids cards for me when I was a kid!

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  First Play Impression reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first time playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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