The Pokémon Trading Card Game (ポケモンカードゲーム, Pokemon Kādo Gēmu, "Pokémon Card Game"), abbreviated to PTCG or Pokémon TCG, is a collectible card game based on the Pokémon franchise by Nintendo. It was first published in October 1996 by Media Factory in Japan. In the US, it was initially published by Wizards of the Coast; Nintendo eventually transferred the rights to The Pokémon Company which has published the game since June 2003. In 2016, it was the year's top-selling toy in the strategic card game subclass. In 2017, it had an 82% share of Europe's strategic card game market. As of March 2021, the game has sold over 34.1 billion cards worldwide.
(October 1996 – September 2013)
The Pokémon Company
(October 2013 – present)
Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro)
(December 1998 – July 2003)
The Pokémon Company International
(July 2003 – present)
|Setup time||18–40 seconds|
|Playing time||2–120 minutes|
|Random chance||Some (order of cards drawn, dice, coin flip)|
|Skills required||Card playing|
Players assume the role of a Pokémon trainer and use their Pokémon to battle their opponent's Pokémon. Players play Pokémon to the field and attack their opponent's Pokémon. A Pokémon that has sustained enough damage is Knocked Out, and the player who knocked it out draws a Prize card. There are usually six Prize cards, and the primary win condition is to draw all of them. Other ways to win are by knocking out all the Pokémon the opponent has on the field so that the opponent has none left, or if at the beginning of their opponent's turn there are no cards left to draw in the opponent's deck.
Players begin by having one player select heads or tails, and the other flips a coin; the winner of the coin flip will decide who goes first or second. (Dice may be used in place of coins, with even numbers representing heads and odd numbers representing tails). The player going first cannot attack their first turn, unless the card says otherwise. Players then shuffle their decks and draw seven cards, then play one Basic Pokémon onto the field. This Pokémon is known as the Active Pokémon and is usually the one that attacks and receives damage. If a player does not have any Basic Pokémon, they must shuffle and draw a new hand, and the opponent may draw one additional card. Once both players have at least one Basic Pokémon, they can play up to five more Basic Pokémon onto their "Bench" (representing the maximum-carry limit of six from the video games). Players then take the top six cards of their deck and place them to the side as Prize Cards. Play then begins with the player who won the coin flip.
Play alternates between players who may take several actions during their turn, including playing new Basic Pokémon, evolving their Pokémon, playing Trainer cards and Energy cards, and using Pokémon Abilities. A player may also retreat their Active Pokémon, switching the Active Pokémon with one on the Bench. At the end of their turn, a player may use one of their Active Pokémon's attacks, provided the prerequisite amount and types of Energy are attached to that Pokémon. Effects from that attack are then activated and damage may be placed on the Defending Pokémon; some attacks simply have effects but do not do damage. Damage may be modified depending on whether the defender has a weakness or a resistance to the attacker's Pokémon type. If the final damage exceeds the defending Pokémon's HP, it is Knocked Out, and the active player takes a prize card and ends their turn.
Basic Pokémon are the foundation of all decks. Basic Pokémon are Pokémon that have not evolved and can be played directly onto the Bench. Without them, a player cannot play the game since both players begin the game by placing a Basic Pokémon in the Active position on the field. Each Pokémon card depicts a Pokémon from the video games. Each player may have up to six Pokémon on the playing field at a time: one "Active" Pokémon and up to five on the bench. Each Pokémon card has a name, a type, and a number of Health Points (HP).
All Pokémon feature attacks (requires energy cards to use); these typically deal damage to the opponent's active Pokémon, or occasionally, their benched Pokémon; however, an attack may also perform different functions, such as drawing cards, inflicting Special Conditions, or altering the opponent's board state. The vast majority of these attacks require Energy, which comes in the form of Energy cards. Abilities, known as Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies until 2011, are not attacks but simply effects that either are activated under certain conditions or remain in effect as long as the Pokémon with the Ability remains in play.
The other type of Pokémon card is an Evolved Pokémon. In contrast to a Basic Pokémon, an Evolved Pokémon cannot normally be placed directly onto the field; they must be played on top of the corresponding lower-stage Pokémon. Stage 1 Pokémon evolve from Basic Pokémon, and Stage 2 Pokémon evolve from Stage 1 Pokémon. As a Pokémon evolves, it gains HP and its attacks change, typically becoming more powerful. Pokémon EX cards were first introduced in the TCG set EX Ruby and Sapphire, and typically have higher Hit Points than other Pokémon, yet award an extra prize card to the opponent when defeated. Baby Pokémon cards, introduced in Neo Genesis, are a special kind of Basic Pokémon that have low HP but attack with strange and occasionally very powerful effects. Mega Pokémon, introduced in XY, evolve from Pokémon-EX, but are a special stage; as such, effects on Stage 1 Pokémon do not apply to Mega Pokémon. Break Pokémon were also introduced in the BreakThrough Expansion later in the X and Y Series. Variations of Basic, Evolved, and Baby Pokémon cards have appeared in many sets, usually indicated with a word before or after the Pokémon's name. Secret Rare Pokémon cards are some of the rarest cards. They are usually represented by a shiny holofoil and a gold outline. These cards include Shiny Pokémon, Trainers, alternate-art Pokémon, and some rarer Mega evolution cards. Pokémon-GX cards were introduced with the Pokémon Sun and Moon expansion. These cards have a specific move set at the bottom of their card that can only be used once per game. Only one GX move can be played per game, so if there are three different Pokémon-GX cards in your deck only one of the three GX moves can be used. Introduced with the Sun and Moon expansion are Alolan forms; existing Pokémon that have an alternate form with a different design and type.
Energy cards are attached to a Pokémon to power that Pokémon's attacks. Typically, only one Energy card may be played per turn. There are two main categories of Energy cards: Basic Energy and Special Energy. The nine different Basic Energy types, which correspond to Pokémon card types, are Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Psychic, Fighting, Darkness, Metal, and Fairy. Two additional types, Dragon and Colorless, do not have their Energy cards and instead use other types of Energy. Basic Energy cards are used only to fulfill costs for attacking and retreating, while Special Energy cards have additional benefits. Most attacks require a certain type and amount of Energy. If an attack requires a certain type and amount of Energy, then that type and amount of Energy must be attached to the Pokémon. If the attack has a Colorless Energy requirement, that requirement can be met by any Energy card.
Trainer cards perform various functions to affect the game, for example healing Pokémon, discarding energy from the opposing Pokémon or retrieving cards from the discard pile. Before the Diamond & Pearl expansion, all cards that were not Pokémon or Energy were considered Trainer cards. Trainers have since been subdivided into categories. Item cards directly affect the battling Pokémon, Tool cards are attached to a Pokémon and modify their features, Stadium cards affect the entire field, and Supporters are more powerful Items, only one of which can be played per turn.
|Color||TCG type||Video game type(s)|
|Green||Grass||Grass1 and Bug, Poison (1996-2019)|
|Blue||Water||Water and Ice|
|Purple||Psychic||Psychic, Poison (1996-2019), Fairy (2019-), and Ghost1|
|Brown/Orange||Fighting||Fighting, Rock, and Ground|
|Black||Darkness||Dark and Poison (2019-)|
|Gold||Dragon||Dragon (2012-2019, 2021-)|
|White||Colorless||Normal, Dragon (1996-2012), and Flying2|
A simplified type system was adopted from the video games for use in the trading card game. Black and Metal types appeared when Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced the Dark and Steel types in the video games; the Dragon-type was introduced in the Japanese Dragon Selection set; and finally, the Fairy type was introduced in the Japanese XY set to correspond to its introduction in the video games, but were removed for the Japanese Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield sets.
While most Pokémon have only one type, three exceptions are EX Team Magma vs Team Aqua which introduced dual-type Pokémon that have two different types, XY: Steam Siege, and the HeartGold and SoulSilver era sets. Dual-types were utilized in Pokémon Legend cards, to emphasize the multiple Pokémon the mechanic has in the HeartGold and SoulSilver sets. In August 2016, the Steam Siege expansion from the XY Series reintroduced dual-type Pokémon, this time with regular Pokémon being multiple types as well as EX Pokémon.
- ^ Starting with the Sword & Shield expansion set Sword & Shield, Poison-type Pokémon in-game are now Darkness; they were previously Psychic. Previously starting with the Diamond & Pearl expansion set Great Encounters , Poison-type Pokémon in-game were changed to Psychic; they were previously Grass.
- ^ Starting with the Black & White expansion set Dragon Vault, Dragon-type Pokémon in-game are now Dragon; they were previously Colorless.
A rarely played format is Unlimited, in which all cards released in English are legal (except oversized cards, such as promotional boxes)
Every few sets, new Mechanics or types of cards are introduced to the game. Several of these include: Dark Pokémon (Team Rocket); Owners' Pokémon and Stadium cards (Gym Heroes); Darkness-type and Metal-type Pokémon, the second generation, and Pokémon Tools (Neo Genesis); Shining Pokémon (Neo Revelation); Light Pokémon (Neo Destiny); Supporter cards and Technical Machines (Expedition); Crystal-type Pokémon (Aquapolis); Pokémon-ex (EX Ruby & Sapphire); Dual-type Pokémon (EX Team Magma vs Team Aqua); Pokémon Star (EX Team Rocket Returns); Delta Species Pokémon and Holon's Pokémon (EX Delta Species); Pokémon LV.X, the separation of Trainer, Supporter and Stadium cards, and the addition of Metal and Darkness as Basic Energy types (Diamond and Pearl); Pokémon With Items (Mysterious Treasures);Pokémon-GX, with a move that is playable only once a game (Sun & Moon); and V cards, first introduced in (Sword & Shield).
There are many different ways of trading and purchasing Pokémon cards. Pokémon cards can be found in stores in a variety of ways including pre-constructed decks, promo cards included with a few packs, booster boxes of 36 packs, or individual packs. Subsequently, cards can also be bought individually through websites and individual sellers online. However, buyers should be aware that fake Pokémon cards are also available through online sellers.
Pokémon cards have different rarities. From lowest to highest rarity, cards can be rated Common (depicted by a circle in the bottom corner), Uncommon (depicted by a diamond in the bottom corner), Rare (depicted by a star in the bottom corner). Japanese cards use letters instead of shapes to represent rarities. From lowest to highest rarity, cards can be rated C, U, R, RR, SR, and UR. In a single pack of cards in the United States, a consumer can expect to get 10 cards total. They are guaranteed five common Pokémon cards, three uncommon cards, a reverse holographic card of any rarity, and a rare card or rarer.
Some rare cards can be rarer than others. Typically, these cards have art that covers the whole card (known as a full art card) or half of the card. A secret rare card is a full art card (sometimes rainbow or single-color themed) that has a number in the corner that surpasses the number of normal print cards in the set (ex. 242/220). Major collectors tend to use protective casing for rare cards in order to keep their value. The most expensive Pokémon card ever sold was a 1999 Pokémon Base 1st Edition Holo "Thick Stamp" Shadowless Charizard #4 PSA Graded 10 Gem Mint. It sold for $350,100 on eBay on Dec 12, 2020. The seller was PWCC Auctions. PWCC has also sold other record smashing rare cards and sealed "Booster Boxes" on eBay including a "Non-Thick" stamp 1999 Pokémon Base 1st Edition Holo Shadowless Charizard #4 PSA Graded 10 Gem Mint which sold for $295,300 on Nov 25, 2020 and a sealed 1999 Pokémon Jungle 1st Edition Booster Box English Edition for $1,203,400 with $30 for shipping on Oct 27, 2020. Another 1999 Pokémon Base Set 1st Edition #4 Charizard, Holographic, MBA Black Diamond Certified – SGC GOLD LABEL PRISTINE 10 sold on Dec 14, 2020 for $369,000 at the Goldin Auctions 2020 Holiday Auction but the final price includes an auction buyers premium which remains unspecified.
In addition to the collectible aspect of the card game, The Pokémon Company International (formerly known as Pokémon USA) has also created Play! Pokémon, formerly known as Pokémon Organized Play (POP), which is in charge of the organization of an official League program, where players can battle others in local environments and earn player points, two-card booster packets from a promotional set, badges, stickers and other materials. These are run by League leaders and owners. POP also runs a professor program, in which individuals age 18 or over may become a professor, who can sanction and run tournaments and leagues. A-League Leader may assist in organizing the league, while a League Owner is the one officially in charge of the league, reporting to the Organized Play program any results and/or problems every seven weeks. The leagues run in yearly cycles, based on a certain aspect of one of the Pokémon Video Game or Trading Card Game. There is an expanded and standard format. The expanded format uses the cards in the standard format, but also includes older cards (currently BW sets and on).
Prerelease tournaments are organized just before each set is released. Usually, they are run on the two weekends before a set is released in stores to the public. At Prerelease Tournaments players are given three booster packs from the judge and must construct a 40 card deck, with only 4 prize cards, using only the cards pulled from the packs and the judges provide the energy, but not special energy cards. Many fans have come up with alternative methods of playing the Trading Card Game. Certain websites such as PokéCap are dedicated to providing players with a new twist to their card game with new game rules they can follow. New methods may be based more on the video game adaptations of Pokémon or the Pokémon television show.
Players in a tournament are split into three age categories: Junior (10 years old and younger), Senior (11 to 14 years old), and Master (15 years old and older). Notable references include Austin Brewen who won the first junior tournament, Brenden Zhang who won the first Senior Tournament, and Arturo Heras who won the first Master Tournament. These tournaments play several rounds, where players will play a standard game against each other and wins and losses will be recorded. In most tournaments, there are some Swiss-style rounds where players are paired up against others of similar win/loss ratios, usually from their age group (this does not always occur in smaller events, though). Afterward, there will either be a cut off the top record-holders (approximately the top 1/8 of participants) where players will play best two out of three matches and the loser gets eliminated (standard tournament bracket style), with an eventual winner.
POP runs a season for these tournaments, which allows players to earn larger prizes and play in a more competitive environment in comparison to League. These range from City and Regional Championships, all the way up to the Pokémon World Championships, the single invite-only event of the year. Players can earn invites to the World Championships by winning or ranking high at International Championships, doing well at tournaments to get Championship Points, or by qualifying in the Last Chance Qualifier. The World Championships is a three-day tournament, with one eventual winner in each age group; the winner of the Masters Division age group is generally noticed as the best player in the world for that season. Some of these methods are only used in the United States, as PUI and POP are based in the United States, but they are represented by local distributors who provide the Organized Play program to their own country.
2013 Worlds - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2014 Worlds - Washington, D.C., U.S.
2015 Worlds - Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
2016 Worlds - San Francisco, California, U.S.
2019 Worlds - Washington, D.C., U.S.
On August 26–27, 2000, forty-two Pokémon trainers from around the world met at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu for the Tropical Mega Battle, an international communication event for the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The Tropical Mega Battle brought together children aged 14 and under from the United States, Japan, France, Italy, Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom for two days in Honolulu, Hawaii. Children participating in the Tropical Mega Battle received invitations through Qualifier tournaments, DCI rankings, and other events in their respective countries.
The Super Trainer Showdowns were large Pokémon TCG tournaments held in the United States by Wizards of the Coast between 2000 and 2001. The tournaments were open to the public. Each tournament consisted of three age groups: 10 and under, 11 to 14 years old, and 15 years old and over. Each Super Trainer Showdown was preceded by a series of Qualifier Tournaments held in cities around the United States and abroad in which players in the 11-to-14 and 10-and-under age groups could win trips for themselves and a parent or guardian to the Super Trainer Showdown event. To date, there have been four Super Trainer Showdowns. The first Super Trainer Showdown was held in Long Beach, California inside of the cruise liner, the Queen Mary on July 22, 2000. The format was unlimited, meaning that all Pokémon cards released in the United States were legal for deck construction. The second Super Trainer Showdown was held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey on November 18, 2000. There were over 700 players in all three age divisions competing for the title. The tournament was eight rounds of Swiss-style pairings followed by a cut to a top-eight single-elimination playoff. All the games were best-of-one. The third Super Trainer Showdown was held again in the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. It was held on June 23–24, 2001 and more than 1,600 players attended the event. The format for this event was titled "Modified" and allowed players to construct 60-card decks using a maximum of four of any card other than basic energy from specific sets. The fourth and final Super Trainer Showdown was held at the San Antonio Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas on December 1–2, 2001. The format was again "Modified", however the newest set Neo Discovery was also legal for the tournament.
Although The Pokémon Company International tries to keep Organized Play as uniform as possible globally, there are some notable differences in how POP is run outside of the United States. The Pokémon Card Laboratory (PCL), located in Japan, is the designer of new cards and the ultimate authority on any matter relating to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. It can declare rulings on any in-game circumstance, issue errata, change card text after publishing, and change the basic game rules, although the latter three rarely occur. PCL runs Organized Play in Japan. The Pokémon Trading Card Game in most European countries is currently handled by The Pokémon Company International. Certain countries have no direct official presence; in these regions, distributors of the game run tournaments. European countries can qualify for positions at the Pokémon Trading Card Game World Championships each year, through National Championships and European Rankings.
The reviewer from the online second volume of Pyramid in 1999 stated that "Pokémon is the second most popular CCG in Japan (behind Magic: The Gathering), and it's no fluke. The game plays like a kinder, gentler version of Magic, with easier rules and graphics geared to the younger crowd."
The eponymously titled Pokémon Trading Card Game, known as Pokémon Card GB in Japan, was developed for the Game Boy Color, releasing in Japan in December 1998 and later in North America and Europe in 2000. The game is based on the rules of the card game and features 226 cards from the game, as well as infrared linking for multiplayer and trading. The game was re-released for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console in 2014. A sequel, Pokémon Card GB2: Great Rocket-Dan Sanjō! was released exclusively in Japan in March 2001.
An instruction game on the rules of the game was released in 1999: Pokémon Play It!, with Pokémon Play It! Version 2 following in 2000.
Pokémon Trading Card Game Online is the official digital version of the card game available for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Android and iPad. It was originally released in April 2011 as Pokémon Trainer Challenge. The game initially offered three starting decks and featured more content after release. After April 6, 2011, players could buy cards from the Black and White series, which have a code to be digitally represented. Players can also create a custom avatar. There were booster pack codes which allow booster packs up to Black and White-Boundaries Crossed, to be purchased from the online shop. However, as of Black and White- Plasma Storm, the code card within booster packs directly redeem as online booster packs of their respective set. GamesRadar praised the game, stating "Everything looks to be faithfully recreated, including the card mat, prize card layout, and even coins."
On August 5, 2011, Pokémon Card Game: How to Play DS (ポケモンカードゲーム あそびかたDS, Pokemonkādogēmu asobi kata DS) was released in Japan for the Nintendo DS. The game teaches players how to play the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The game also came in a bundle with three 30-card decks, a play mat, and damage counters.
On September 20, 2021, a new Pokémon Trading Card Game video game was announced, titled Pokémon Trading Card Game Live. It will be available for Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, and macOS. Upon release, it will be replacing Pokémon Trading Card Game Online, and it will no longer be available for download. Existing players will be able to transfer their account and game data to Pokémon Trading Card Game Live. In November 2021, it was announced that the game would be delayed until 2022.
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The Pokémon trading card game continues to be popular with 21.5 million cards shipped globally as of 2016, and was the No. 1 selling toy in the strategic card games subclass.
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Data from NPD, and relayed by The Pokémon Company, states that trading €100 million was spent on the Pokémon Trading Card Game last year, which gave the firm a 82% share of the market (total sales of strategic trading cards sat at €122 million for Europe).
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