Tabletop Game: Pokémon

The classic, remade for the new generation.

A trading card game based on the popular Pokémon franchise. As of June 2014, has 60 official English sets, with another one on the way in August. Recursively, the card game itself became a pair of video games, of which only one left Japan. Really likes making people flip coins.

The starting game play is simple: the players draw their hands, and then set aside 6 cards to be "Prize Cards" of which the player can take one whenever they Knock Out an opponent's Pokémon, winning when they claim all six. The players then play any Pokémon they have (redrawing if they don't have any) and the game officially begins. In a given turn, the players can add Pokémon to their bench (up to 5), evolve their Pokémon (although they can only evolve one stage per turn), play Trainer cards that have various benefits, add an Energy card to one of their Pokémon, retreat their active Pokémon for one in the bench, or attack with their active Pokémon.

The game relies heavily on "Energy Cards", 9 (early on, 6, later 8) cards representing the different Pokémon types (though there is a 10th Dragon-type with no Energy equivalent), and the only cards the player is allowed to have more than four copies of in a deck. In general, a Pokémon of a specific type will have attacks that require Energy of that type, although some do have "Colorless" energy requirements, which can be fulfilled by any of the 9 types. Because the player is limited to only playing one Energy Card per turn, it's important for them to manage their energy distribution wisely, as a benched Pokémon that already has energy on it will be able to start fighting much quicker than one that doesn't. Stronger attacks will require more energy, with the strongest attacks requiring the player to remove one or all of the Pokémon's attached energy, limiting their use. Pokémon also have retreat costs, the amount of energy cards that must be removed in order to switch out for a Pokémon in the bench, which is also (usually) proportional to the Pokémon's power.

Notably, there was a period at the height of Pokémon's popularity where schoolchildren would often own literally hundreds of these cards... but good luck finding even one kid who actually played them.

Can now be played (to a limited extent) online, though there's software to download first.

Provides examples of:

  • The Artifact: Pokémon Powers, due to predating abilities, maintained their original name for years before being split into Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies in Generation II and finally being renamed to a consistent "abilities" in the first Black and White set. Almost 9 years after their introduction!
  • Awesome but Impractical: The most valuable card from the initial set, Charizard, was hardly ever used in competitive play even in the early days. Only by using it in a combo deck strategy with Venusaur did it work on a practical level. Other similarly overpowered-yet-impractical cards have since been released.
    • Charizard has traditionally been like this, with attacks that cause enormous damage (in the 100-200 range) but are way too slow to set up and usually have crippling drawbacks. However, Charizard cards tend to fetch high prices (despite their low competitive value) due to the big lizard's Ensemble Darkhorse nature combined with the "wow" factor of its damage output.
    • There are several "huge" cards that are as big as a book, or are made of 4 regular cards. You cannot play these cards, but often, their stats are so awesome you wish you could. (For example, Shadow Lugia!)
    • Boring but Practical: Ninetales, from the same set, could put out 50% more damage per turn, took one evolution instead of two, still had respectable HP, didn't have a ridiculous retreat cost, fit into the same types of decks, and... wasn't a flying, fire-breathing dragon.
    • Cards with large numbers printed on it tend to fetch high prices among collectors, even though most of these cards have large downsides due to Competitive Balance. Chansey from the Base Set is like this (though at least it had some value as a Damage Sponge for stall decks), sharing Charizard's then-high HP, as well as any Wailord card.
    • Most EX pokemon that let your opponent take two prizes instead of one when they're defeated (the rules eventually changed so newer ones don't follow this). This is a generalization however; playing them when you have one prize left regardless is still a potent strategy, and some (though not all) EX cards really do have enough potency to justify it.
    • EX Mega Evolutions are this in general; they have high HP and very strong attacks, but can't attack the turn they Mega Evolve, and usually have difficult Energy requirements for their attacks, sometimes paired with insane drawbacks. Both of Charizard's Mega Evolutions are textbook examples. Because they (unsurprisingly) have attacks that deal 300 damage, some have noted that their unplayability prevents their price from shooting through the roof on the secondary market.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: The Flashfire expansion's name in Italian (Fuoco Infernale) translates to "Hellfire". And it prominently features Charizard, making this even cooler.
  • Bowdlerize: Some of the attack names were Bowdlerized; for example, God Blast was changed to Supreme Blast and Death Sentence was changed to Fainting Spell.
  • Canon Immigrant: Flail, Destiny Bond and Nightmare started out in the TCG before appearing in the second generation. However, TCG!Nightmare is only similar in a "effects sleeping targets only" clause with game!Nightmare.
    • After items gained actual appearances in FireRed and LeafGreen, they all (bar TMs) appear as they did in the TCG.
    • The crazy useful "dash" on the overworld debuted in the GBC game before it appeared in generation 3.
    • The "Pokemon Power" mechanic, which was around since the card game started, is extremely similar to the Ability mechanic the games introduced in their third generation.
      • And in a case of reversal, starting with the Black and White expansion, PokePowers and PokeBodies were thrown out and replaced with Abilities.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Imakuni? Up to Eleven. And yes, the question mark is part of his name.
    • As well as some card illustrations. Search "Pokemon Picasso Touch," and you'll be confused... Very, very confused.
  • Color-Coded Elements: Normal/Colorless is white, Fire is red, Water (including Ice) is blue, Grass (including Bug) is green, Lightning is yellow, Fighting (including Ground and Rock) is brown, Psychic (including Ghost) is purple, Dark is black, Steel is gray, Dragon is gold, and Fairy is pink.
    • Poison types were previously grouped in with grass types (which made some amount of sense, due to how many grass/bug types are also poison). At some point, they were moved into the Psychic category. The logic behind this seems to be "poison and psychic are both purple".
  • Comeback Mechanic: Most of the Pokémon-star cards had one attack that had pitiful strength but became overwhelming if the player is about to lose the game. Same with the additional attacks granted by the Mystery Plates in "Skyridge." A few attacks that have popped up here and there deal more damage the more Prize cards the opponent has taken, most notably Shaymin EX from "Next Destinies."
  • Continuity Nod: The online simulator lets you give Lance's hairstyle to male avatars and Misty's hairstyle to female ones.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to other cards, Pokemon Prime makes heavier use of shadows, and gives closeups of pokemon with them generally looking very serious, or sometimes downright evil. See Lanturn Prime and Gengar Prime.
  • Distracted By The Shiny: Collectors put a premium on the "holo" cards, allowing the competitive players to easily trade one valuable card with little game utility for multiple (much more useful) trainer cards.
  • Gratuitous English: The Japanese versions of the Mega Evolution cards in the XY series set has the Pokémon's attack name written across the card art in English...
  • Gratuitous Japanese: ...whilst the English versions of the same card have the attack name written out in katakana. Also counts as as Surprisingly Good Japanese; while the Japanese cards' English attack names are a bit Engrish-y, the English cards' Japanese attack names are lifted right from the Japanese versions' attack text.
  • Heads or Tails: Each player has a coin of his or her own. Players flip to see who goes first. Then there are several cards where the player flips his or her coin to determine the number of cards they draw from their deck, the amount of damage a move will do, and so on.
  • Inconsistent Dub: There are some changes that make sense in the context of the card game (see Woolseyism below), but there are plenty of translations that differ from the video games' translations for no discernible reason, such as a move called "Teeter Dance" in the video games and "The Hula-la" in the card game.
  • Item Amplifier: Magnezone has the effect "Double Brain" that lets the player use 2 Supporter cards per turn instead of the usual 1.
  • Joke Character: Imakuni? is an incredibly weird guy. He has his own rap group to promote the series, specifically the card game, called Suzukisan, which consists of him, an enka singer named Sachiko Kobayashi, and an American guy named Raymond Johnson (who also had The Danza as a minor character in The Movie of the anime) who speaks Surprisingly Good English. He also makes some joke cards and does illustrations for serious cards. He has a blog at
  • Joke Item: The Imakuni? card, which just confuses your own Pokémon... There's even a card just to tell you that it's useless!
  • Lethal Joke Item: Several. They may overlap with Fridge Brilliance, as is common with many quirky TCG cards.
    • Pokémon Flute, a Trainer card where you choose one of your opponent's discarded Pokémon and put it on his bench. It seems like it would only help your opponent, until you realize that it actually has several uses: You can combine it with Gust of Wind, using the former to revive a Pokémon with very low HP and using the latter to force the opponent to switch to it. Then you could effortlessly kill the poor Pokémon AGAIN and score another prize. You can also use Pokémon Flute to fill your opponent's bench with low level "junk" to prevent them from playing their intended Pokémon.
    • There are some extreme examples from Team Rocket Returns, a set with crazy-sounding names such as "Pow! Hand Extension," "Surprise! Time Machine," and "Swoop! Teleporter" - all cards that would break every format they were legal in.
  • Loophole Abuse: Each time someone tries it and is caught by a judge (or the opponent calls a judge over), it's recorded and a ruling given in case it happens again. As of date, there are over 300 cases of this. There haven't been any cases nearly as extreme as Chaos Orb in Magic though.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Sabrina's ESP lets you re-flip coins.
    • A Victini card with the ability "Victory Star" lets you do this for all attacks that require coin flips.
  • Mana: Energy cards. Most attacks will require at least one. Unlike traditional Mana, though, it isn't consumed unless the attack you use says otherwise (like the Charizard at the top of the page).
  • Non-Nazi Swastika: One of the game cards, the Koga's Ninja Trick card, originally had the symbol on it in mirror image until people complained and it was altered.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: The Beginning set for the Black and White expansion is split into a "boys" set and a "girls" set. The boy set is black and contains cool-looking Pokemon; the girl set is bright pink and contains cute-looking Pokemon. Obviously, though, there's nothing stopping you from buying a set of the opposite gender.
  • Portmanteau: Approximately three quarters of all competitive deck themes are the names of the central Pokémon of the deck put together. The remaining quarter either involve too many important Pokémon to avoid a confusing portmanteau or becomes associated with something among tournament players before a portmanteau name is formed.
  • Power Creep: The bar is raised with each generation. Compare Slowbro in the 1st-generation Fossil to Slowbro in the 5th-generation Dark Rush, for instance.
  • Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage: _____'s Pikachu, where you are supposed to write in your name and birthday, and if it's your birthday, then you can flip a coin to potentially do more damage. Banned pretty much from the start to avoid complications such as actually having to verify the birthdate is correct. In actuality, this card was only a non-playable promotional piece back in Japan. The most common theory is that they simply didn't catch on when bringing it overseas and hastily banned it to fix the mistake.
    • Ancient Mew, which came with movie tickets to Pokémon: The Movie 2000, doesn't even look like a proper Pokémon card on the front or back (and once deciphered, has rather poor stats, anyways), and thus can't be used.
    • Some of the promo cards you win in the game from the Cups, such as Farfetch'd and Mankey, have the EXACT SAME STATS as their alternate (and easier to get) cards. Only real difference is their art and level descriptions. Unless you're going for full completion, you should probably skip any Cups giving them as prizes.
    • The promotional cards received by participating in pre-release tournaments are identical to the card in the set except for a shiny stamp reading "Pre-Release" indented into the lower-right corner of the illustration (or a shiner stamp reading "Staff", if you were one of the people helping run said tournament). In EX series sets and the most recent sets, the stamp is replaced with the set's logo.
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors: The Trainer cards "Misty's Duel" and "Team Galactic's Wager" makes the players do this. Zig-Zagged on Misty's duel, where players have the option to flip coins in case of the very unlikely chance the opponent "does not know how to play Rock-Paper-Scissors"
  • Serious Business: Valid in the real world with tournaments, but taken to near-Yu-Gi-Oh! levels of extremes in the video game adaptations.
  • Shout-Out: The online simulator lets you give Aerith's hairstyle to female avatars.
  • Standard Status Effects: Akin to the games, they can be put to sleep, confused, paralyzed, poisoned, or burned.
  • Sudden Death: This is played with only one prize card, so whoever grabs the prize card first wins.
    • Also happens if you have no Benched Pokemon when your Active Pokemon faints.
  • Supernatural Is Purple: The Psychic type is represented by the color purple.
  • Theme Deck: Beginner play encourages specializing in one or two types in order to more effectively meet energy card requirements, although in advanced play one finds that there are enough special energies that can count as multiple types and ways to search energy that sticking to any one type isn't as necessary, avoiding Crippling Overspecialization.

Alternative Title(s):

Pokemon TCG