Pokémon 101: A Parent's Primer to the Trading Card Game

Pokémon Day is February 27!

By Sara Yaniga, Retired Pokemon Trainer February 19, 2024

Back in 1998, I was a college kid working at a now-defunct toy shop called Zainy Brainy and it was here where I first was introduced to the phenomenon of Pokémon. I'll admit, I was skeptical. I thought it was just another fad, destined to fade into obscurity as quickly as it had emerged. Oh, how wrong I was! 

Everywhere I turned, kids were trading cards, discussing game strategies, and even watching the animated series with fervor. We had people calling the store regularly to ask if cards were available and merchandise such as books, games, and plush left the store as quickly as we restocked the shelves. We would host Pokémon battles in the stores on the weekends and it was there that I learned there was so much more to this craze than kids obsessed with collecting and trading cards. I volunteered to learn how to play the game and help with these events and developed a little soft spot in my heart for Pikachu and the gang. Fast forward to the present day, and Pokémon is as popular as ever. The release of Pokémon GO in 2016 sparked a global phenomenon, bringing the world of Pokémon into the real world like never before. With each new game release, animated series episode, and trading card expansion, the Pokémon community continues to thrive, united by a shared love for these beloved creatures.

Here I am 26 years later, now a parent and on another cycle of Pokémon love with the youngest child and I know there are fellow parents out there who are just learning about it for the very first time, so let me share what I have learned to help ease you into your own appreciation for this game.  

Celebrate Pokemon Day every February 27th by learning more about your kid's obsession!

Overall, Pokémon is a fun and exciting card game that encourages strategy, exploration, and teamwork as you embark on your journey to become a Pokémon master! Here are the basics:

  1. Choose: You start by choosing a Pokémon to be your partner. There are many different types, each with its own abilities and strengths.
  2. Explore: As you travel through the game, you'll encounter wild Pokémon that you can try to capture by weakening them in battle and throwing Pokeballs at them.
  3. Train: Once you capture a Pokémon, you can train it to become stronger by battling other Pokémon. As your Pokémon gain experience, they'll level up and learn new moves.
  4. Battle: Throughout your journey, you'll encounter other Pokemon trainers who challenge you to battles. You'll take turns attacking each other with your Pokémon's moves, trying to defeat the other trainer's Pokemon.
  5. Collect: Along the way, you'll also compete in Pokémon gyms, where you'll battle against gym leaders to earn badges. Collecting badges shows that you're a skilled Pokémon trainer.
  6. Catch 'em all: The ultimate goal of the game is to catch as many different types of Pokémon as possible and become the strongest Pokemon trainer in the world.

Now, if you want to PLAY the game, you can find the official rulebook HERE, but I will do my best to explain how to get started in playing the card game. (HINT: There is also a board game called Battle Academy which has everything you need to get started!)

Items Needed:

  1. Pokémon Cards: A deck of 60 Pokémon cards, consisting of Pokémon, Trainer, and Energy cards.
  2. Damage Counters: Coins, tokens, or other markers used to track damage on Pokémon during battles.
  3. Play Area: A flat surface with enough space for each player to place their cards, including a space for their Active Pokémon and Bench.
  4. Prize Cards: A set of prize cards for each player, usually six, placed face-down in a stack at the beginning of the game.
  5. Randomizer: A method for determining who goes first, such as flipping a coin or rolling a die.
  6. Rules: A copy of the official Pokémon TCG rulebook or access to online resources for reference.

How to Play:

  1. Setup: Each player needs a deck of 60 Pokémon cards. Players sit facing each other with space for their cards. Each player draws seven cards from their deck to form their starting hand. Players also need damage counters, which can be represented by coins or tokens, and a way to determine who goes first, such as flipping a coin.
  2. Objective: The goal of the game is to defeat your opponent by knocking out their Pokémon and collecting prize cards. Players do this by attacking with their Pokémon cards, using Trainer cards to support their Pokémon, and evolving their Pokémon into stronger forms.
  3. Gameplay: Players take turns performing actions. On your turn, you can do the following:
    • Draw a card from your deck.
    • Play Basic Pokémon from your hand onto your Bench (up to a maximum of five Pokémon on your Bench).
    • Attach one Energy card from your hand to one of your Pokémon (once per turn).
    • Evolve your Pokémon by playing an Evolution card from your hand on top of a Basic Pokémon you have in play.
    • Use Trainer cards from your hand to perform various actions, such as healing your Pokémon or searching your deck for specific cards.
    • Attack your opponent's Pokémon using attacks listed on your Active Pokémon's card. Each attack requires a specific amount and type of Energy attached to the Pokémon.
  4. Knockouts and Prize Cards: When a Pokémon is knocked out (its damage exceeds its HP), it is placed in the discard pile, and the opposing player takes a prize card from their deck. The game continues until one player collects all of their prize cards or runs out of cards to draw.
  5. Winning: The first player to collect all of their prize cards wins the game. Players can also win if their opponent cannot draw a card at the beginning of their turn or if their opponent has no Pokémon in play.

I hope this helps other parents out there figure out what their kids are talking about with their friends and maybe you can celebrate Pokémon Day this year by playing together!
Looking for more ways to celebrate in Pokéstyle? Check out our Pinterest Board for inspiration!