Written by Mekkah and Cassie The Pokemon Trading Card Game can seem pretty overwhelming at first glance, but no worries! This guide will explain everything you need to know to start playing the current metagame sanctioned by The Pokemon Company International. If you are in need a refresher on the basic rules, TPCi has made a great rulebook for beginners. While this guide is great tool for learning TCG, it is not a substitute for actually playing, so be sure to try League (which can easily be found by searching for them on pokemon.com) or one of the online TCG simulators! What Does a Deck Consist of? The current format requires a 60-card deck and a limit of 4 of each card except Basic Energies. A deck consists of a variety of Pokemon, Trainers, Supporters, and Energy. How to use these cards to build a deck is explained later on. Set-Up A playmat detailing how cards are placed can be found here. At the start of a game, each player shuffles their deck, and draws seven cards. These cards are your "hand". The rest of the deck is put on the table; this is your "deck" from now on. Next to your deck is your discard pile, where, as the name implies, all discarded cards go. Then, the set-up begins. Each player picks a Basic Pokémon card from their hand to play as their Active Pokémon, and puts it face down in the middle of the playmat. This Active Pokémon will be the one that attacks and (generally) is attacked by the opponent. After that, each player can play up to five other basic Pokémon onto their Bench (your Bench is close to your side of the table). Benched Pokémon generally cannot attack or be attacked, but during the game there are several ways you can exchange the Active Pokémon for one of your Benched Pokémon and use those for attacking. You can compare it to how you have one Pokémon out at a time in the regular Pokémon games, while the rest are, well, warming the bench! If you have no Basic Pokémon in your hand at the start, you show your opponent your hand, then shuffle the seven cards back into your deck in order to draw seven new ones. Repeat this process until you have at least one Basic Pokémon. There is a rule that states that whenever someone has to "restart" for having no Basics, their opponent can choose to draw a card from their deck. After both players are done setting up, each player takes the top six cards from their deck without looking and puts them face down on the playmat, none of them on top of another. These are your Prize Cards. This is usually the preferred way of setting up Prize Cards, but you can always put down prize cards after the first set of seven cards, even if you do not have any Basics. Their purpose will be explained later. Finally, a coin is flipped to determine who gets to start. This will be the first of many coins that will be flipped throughout your TCG career! After flipping, both players reveal what cards they put on the table, and the first turn begins. What Can I Do During My Turn? A turn always starts with drawing the top card of your deck and putting it in your hand before doing anything else. Then, you can do the following things in any order: Putting a Basic Pokémon on your bench Like at the start of the game, just put a Pokémon from your hand onto your bench, though face-up. You cannot have more than five Pokémon on your Bench. You cannot put a Pokémon Active right away, either. Evolving a Pokémon Put an evolution card from your hand on the matching Pokémon (the card specifies whether a card is a basic or evolution). Stage 1 cards are put onto Basic Pokémon, and Stage 2 cards are put onto Stage 1 Pokémon. You cannot evolve a Pokémon you put onto your Bench that same turn, and you cannot evolve a Pokémon you already evolved this turn. Attaching an Energy Unlike most other things, you can only do this once per turn. Simply take an Energy card from your hand and slide it under either your Active Pokémon or one of your Benched Pokémon. On the Pokémon cards, you will see their attacks, with symbols before them indicating their Energy cost. To attack, a Pokémon needs the right type of Energy attached. Each symbol next to an attack represents an Energy card of a certain type. The white "colorless Energy" symbol means you can use any type of Energy. Usually when talking about cards letters instead of symbols are used. The types and their matching letters are: Grass (G) Fire (R) Water (W) Lightning (L) Fighting (F) Psychic (P) Colorless (C) Dark (D) Metal (M) Playing a Trainer card Put the Trainer from your hand onto the table. Do what it says, then discard that Trainer. Playing a Supporter card Playing a Supporter works the same as playing a Trainer except you can only use one per turn. Playing a Stadium card This card plays out like a Trainer, except that both players can use it as long as it is in play. A Stadium card stays in play until an opponent plays their own Stadium. You cannot play a Stadium card that has the same name as one already in play. Retreating your Active Pokémon Look at the lower right corner of your Active Pokémon. There is an amount of colorless energies shown there: that is the amount of attached Energy you have to discard before being able to retreat. Using a Pokémon Ability Some cards have a Pokémon Ability listed on them. Sometimes these can only be used once per turn, and sometimes you cannot or do not need to use them at all. Pokémon Abilties can be used by Benched and Active Pokémon unless it says otherwise, and often you cannot use Pokémon Abilties on a Pokémon that is affected by a Special Condition. Simply follow the instructions on the card. Attacking Once you are satisfied with those actions, it is time to attack with your Active Pokémon. Attacking is the last thing you do in your turn, so after you attack you cannot do anything else. Just like with Trainers and Poké Powers, you just follow instructions of what the attack says. On the right side of a Pokémon's attack is stated how much damage an attack does to your opponent's Active Pokémon (also called the Defending Pokémon), if any. You use damage counters to denote how much damage they have, one counter for each 10 damage. Once a Pokemon has equal to or more damage than their HP, they are Knocked Out. The Pokémon and all cards attached to it are discarded, and the opponent of the player whose Pokémon was Knocked Out gets to blindly pick one of their Prize Cards and put it into their hands. The Active Pokémon is replaced with one of the Benched Pokémon. Passing While usually not preferred, you can also end your turn by passing. Of course you do not have a choice if you don't have enough energy attack, so you will probably use this method of ending your turn more than you want to. As you get better at the game you will find times when passing is the better option, even when you can attack. Once you are done executing the attack or passing, there is a "between turns" phase (sometimes cards have effect between turns, and some Special Conditions do as well). After that, the other player's turn begins with drawing a card, et cetera. How to Win There are three ways to win the game. You win if: Your opponent cannot send in an Active Pokémon (i.e. you Knocked Out his or her Active and all their Benched Pokémon) You draw all your Prize cards Your opponent has no more cards in their deck at the start of their turn There is a lot more to it (such as the important Special Conditions), but with these instructions you should be able to play some practice games at least; other players are almost always willing to answer questions you may have so feel free to ask!