A trading card game based on the popular Pokémon franchise. As of January 2011, has 50 official English sets, with one on the way in October. 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", 8 (early on, 6) cards representing the different Pokémon types (though there is a 9th 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 8 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.
Awesome yet Practical: Base set Blastoise let you attach unlimited (water) energy cards in your turn. It wasn't quite a Game Breaker since he was a stage 2 evolution and you had to have a lot of cards in your hand. Still...
Wigglytuff was one of the best cards in the early expansions. A Colorless Stage 1 Pokemon that could be out on your field in the second turn dealing a consistent 60 damage per turn with no energy loss, and with enough HP to last a good long while.
Shown in the HeartGold & SoulSilver and the HG/SS Unleashed sets. Rain Dance got reprinted on to the new "Feraligatr Prime", which played much like EX cards from previous sets, minus the "Take 2 Prizes" rule. Pair this up with Suicune & Entei Legend, (which does have the Take 2 Prizes rule, for the record) which has one attack in particular that catches most folks' eye. For Two water energy, and one Colorless, you can deal 100 damage to any of your opponent's benched Pokemon. The cost? Return 2 Water Energy to your hand. Put them back on the table with Gatr, and repeat.
Another combination is the Starmie HS combo. Starmie's attack, Cosmic Cyclone, does 20 damage times the amount of Water Energy you choose from your side of the board. Attach as many Water Energy to all of your Water types as you can with Rain Dance, then Cosmic for 120+ Energy. The best part? The energy return to your deck.
The Reshiram and Zekrom cards are this; they can be obtained very easily, are powerful and easy to set up, and depict fan-favorite Pokémon. Also applies to their newest variants Reshiram-EX and Zekrom-EX, which are even more powerful and will be obtainable as tin promos by the end of March.
Mewtwo-EX from the Next Destinies set is probably one of the biggest examples in the game's history. It shares many of the characteristics of the Awesome but Impractical cards above; it depicts a Pokémon known for being a massive Ensemble Darkhorse, it's an extremely rare holographic card with nice artwork (2 variants in fact), and has big numbers printed on it (170 HP and a Psydrive attack that causes 120 damage). However, the card is far from impractical; its X Ball attack makes it so powerful and versatile that, as of early 2012, most decks needed a Mewtwo-EX in order to stand a chance in the competitve scene. Mewtwo fans have never been more proud. It got even better in September of that year, when Mewtwo-EX was released as a tin promo and became really cheap and affordable.
And for those of us that don't like Mewtwo-EX, Dragons Exalted expansion brings us Sigilyph. While not based on a popular Pokemon like other examples, its immunity to Pokemon-EX and an attack that gets more powerful the more Energy the opponent has gives the impression that it was explicitly designed to punish people spamming Mewtwo-EX (and other Pokemon-EX, but Mewtwo's weakness to Psychic renders it a sitting Psyduck).
Similarly, Black Kyurem-EX from Plasma Storm has an attack that deals 200 damage (the highest amount ever printed on a legal card). And it's a good card of a Badass Dragon Pokémon that's often slotted into the excellent Blastoise/Keldeo deck archetype.
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.
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."
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The bosses in the 2nd game all have special rules that skew to their advantage. Some (Electric Pokemon do bonus damage) can be used to your advantage as well, but how is removing the weakness of fire types going to help against the fire type user who has no water types in the first place? The psychic leader (energy cards that would be discarded are instead returned to your hand) is the only one that is really just a rule change instead of an advantage disguised as one.
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.
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 imakuni.com.
Joke Item: Pokémon Flute, a Trainer card where you choose one of your opponent's discarded Pokémon and put it on his bench. Yeah... what? Also 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: Once you realized that Pokémon Flute actually had a use if you combined 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 could also use it to fill your opponent's bench with low level "junk" they can't evolve to prevent them from playing their intended Pokémon.
Lethal Joke Item: Perhaps more Fridge Brilliance than anything, but if you think about all of the Trainer cards (now literally "Items"), many of them are very silly: Warp Point, Switch, Scoop Up, and Pokémon Flute are just a few of the strange things featured in the card game. But perhaps the most extreme examples would be out of 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.
Also the Pokémon VS expansion, released in Japan between Neo Destiny and Expedition. Essentially it was a sequel to the "Gym" sets featuring the Gold/Silver version gym leaders.
Platinum: Supreme Victors was never released in Italy.
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.
Theme Deck: It'll be really hard to meet the energy requirements for your Pokémon if you don't specialize in one or two types. Though Colorless Pokémon could fit anywhere. This seems to be a diminishing trend now with more emphasis on Colorless Energy for attacks, increased ability to zero in on Energy cards, and more Energy cards that can substitute for any type.