Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A brief study in Pokemon

One of my favorite days in recent memory was discovering that my son was interested in Pokemon: The Trading Card Game.

This, I thought to myself, this is something I can understand.

The rules and makeup of the game are eerily similar to Magic. Energy replaces mana and pokemon replace creatures. Trainers and items replace sorceries. There are no instants.

In other ways, it is an entirely alien game. Both coming from the same root of collectible card game, Magic and Pokemon have branched in their evolution with some completely divergent design decisions.

Do you remember the double-faced card situation back in the first two Innistrad blocks? Pokemon's been that way ALL THE TIME. Only instead of having two faces, you have to have a separate evolution card in your deck to take your basic pokemon up to the next level.

Starts out as Pikachu

Ends up Raichu. I had no idea!

Pokemon is like that in EVERY EXPANSION.

Now if you didn't know this strange fact until now, you're probably next wondering how this could possibly ever be workable. Because Pokemon has been around just as long as Magic, and they continue to dump fresh card designs into the market at about the same pace. A comprehensive collector needs multiple closets to hide his perversion, just like in Magic.

Must be a pain in the butt to match up basic and evolved Pokemon, right? Not as bad as I feared because of the next startling revelation.

There are multiple Pikachus! Instead of taking Lightning Bolt down a notch and renaming it Shock, the madmen down at the PokiPalace or whatever their headquarters is called just kept making different designs with the SAME NAME.

If you search the poki-net, you are going to see the same pokemon have been in tons of expansions, they have the exact same name, and they all have different abilities, energy costs and health points. Total pandemonium!

And evolved Pokemon don't care which version they evolve from, as long as it has the same name you are good to go. The combo possibilities are endless and something I will have to think about more.

Right now, my eternal opponent and I are just fighting it out with the Black and White Training Kit.

I found an unboxing video, which highlights a number of other differences I want to point out.

1) This kit includes 2 "starter" half decks you can later combine into 1 full-size deck.

2) The kit includes a plastic pokemon "coin" for resolving coin flips. There are a LOT of coin flips in Pokemon, a observation I will explore farther in another post.

3) What isn't shown is this kit also includes a double-sized playmat for use by both players. There are spots for all the fields of play. Deck, discard pile, active pokemon, benched pokemon, prize cards, a spot for everything. Both sides have a brief setup checklist to make sure you don't forget anything. And then both sides have a brief checklist for going through a typical pokemon turn. This has been insturmental both in making sure my son doesn't forget anything, as well as making sure I don't forget anything. Because I forget a TON, which can be frustrating to a 7-year-old.

4) Finally, this kit includes COUNTERS. Pokemon keep their damage over turns, and there are about 6 different "conditions" from sleeping to burned to paralysis that can befall a pokmon. So lots of counters are nice to have, and its really nice to see them come in the starter kit. Hello Wizards!

10's, 50's(for the big-rolling Pokemon), as well as burned and poisoned status conditions

Hopefully he gets a stack of pokemon cards for his birthday, then we are going to get down to business on this whole "deck-building" thing.

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