How to Play Pokemon Trading Card Game (TCG) – The Basics

If you’re wanting to know how to play Pokemon TCG, this short guide will help cover the basics to get you started.

Pokemon’s a massive brand in anime and video games. Pokemon is considered pop culture. However, some Pokemon entertainment gets overlooked, such as the Trading Card Game. Although popular, many do not know how to play the Pokemon TCG. While this game has been out for decades, it is still a popular card game and collectible hobby. The Pokemon TCG isn’t dead!

One of the most significant aspects of the TCG is that fans can become actual trainers and battle their friends using their favorite cards. This strategic game is appealing to a vast majority of Pokemon followers, and even though who knows little to nothing of the game can enjoy this excellent pass time.

So to help the fans of the franchise expand their love for Pokemon, we have decided to do a short outline on how to play the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Here’s the Official Rule Book.


How To Play Pokemon TCG

For starters, wannabe trainers prepare themselves for battle using a 60 card deck. There are three types of cards that make up a deck; Trainer Cards, Energy Cards, and Pokemon Cards (we will cover more on these later).

There is a limit of six Pokemon cards that can be battling. During these battles, trainers can switch, evolve, and enhance their Pokemon to gain the edge in the fight. Like a lot of video games, the basic strategy is to exploit the weaknesses of your opponent’s Pokemon.

How To Win a Pokemon TCG Battle

You can win the TGC in three ways.:

  1. You can take all the prize cards from your opponent
  2. Render your opponent unable to draw any more cards.
  3. If your opponent has no more Pokemon in play


Different Types of Pokemon Cards

As we mentioned previously, There’s three different types of Pokemon cards. These cards can gain the upper hand in battles. These Cards are:

  • Pokemon Cards- When it comes to deck building, Pokemon cards are the most essential part. The idea is to build a team that has excellent synergy together, so you can flow through battles easily. You’re able to include up to four of the same Pokemon card.
  • Trainer Cards- A trainer card can offer support for the Pokemon throughout the game. They do this by providing different benefits for the player, or harmful results for opponents. Just like Pokemon cards, you can only have 4 of a single named card in the deck.
  • Energy Cards- These cards are the fuel to the fire that burns during battle. You attach an energy card (one per turn) to a Pokemon.  

There is an energy type for each type of Pokemon in the TCG. The different Pokemon Types include:

  • Water
  • Grass
  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Psychic
  • Darkness
  • Metal
  • Fighting
  • Dragon
  • Colorless (Normal)
  • Fairy

Additionally, some energy cards have additional effects that can benefit the battle in your favor.


The Basics Of Playing Pokemon TCG

How to Play Pokemon - Card Layout


Pokemon Card Limits

There are many basics you need to know to understand Pokemon Cards. For starters, you have the name of the card. The name will determine your limits of the amount of that card you can play in a single deck, even if they have different abilities.


Hit Points

Next up, we have Hit Points, also known as HP. A Pokemon’s HP’s determines the amount of damage taken. When the Hit Points reach zero, the Pokemon is taken off the field. Counters are placed on the Pokemon card to represent damage taken. One counter is equivalent to 10 points of HP damage.


Pokemon Types

A symbol indicates the Pokemon type. The specific type of card will determine the weaknesses and resistances of the Pokemon. You can have countless types of Pokemon cards in your deck. However, it is more logical to stick to a single type or limit to a couple of typings. This helps conserve the energy you will be using to use their abilities. You should have no more than 3 different types of Pokemon cards in your deck.


Evolving Stages

The evolution stage determines how you play a Pokemon card. You place Basic Pokemon first. Stage 1 Pokemon are played above Basic Pokemon. A Stage 2 Pokemon is placed above the Stage 1 to further evolve it.

You can only evolve a Pokemon once per turn, and you are unable to evolve Pokemon that have just been called out the same turn.


Abilities and Attacks

You also have different skills and attacks. You will find these attacks and skills in the middle of the card. A card’s skills provide an effect as described. Attacks are only able to be carried out using the corresponding energy cards. On the right side of the attack is the damage that the Pokemon attack will do. If the attack has any added effects, they will be listed in a description below the name.

Pokemon Weakness and Resistances

On the bottom left of the Pokemon card, you’ll find the weaknesses and resistances. These two factors greatly determine the direction of the battle. Pokemon sustain more damage from elements it is weak against. Meanwhile, Pokemon sustain less damage from elements it is resistant to.

You can retreat a Pokemon once per turn. Retreating requires a ‘retreat cost’ by placing energy cards on the Pokemon. The energy cards get discarded.


Trainer Cards

There’s 4 different trainer card types, including:

  • Tools
  • Supporters
  • Stadiums
  • Items

Item cards are the most basic of the four types and have no limit per turn.

Tool cards are similar to item cards, but they are attached to a Pokemon. These cards will give them special effects, and there is a limit of one tool card per Pokemon.

Stadium cards represent the battle area while providing special effects that will impact both players. However, you can only use one stadium card at a time. You can remove a stadium card in play by playing a different one.

Supporter cards are considered the strongest of the four trainer cards and limited to one per turn.


The Game Zone

When the game starts, each player chooses six random cards from their deck. These cards are known as prize cards. You play them in the prize card zone face down, and when a player knocks out an opponent’s Pokemon, they can place one of the prize cards in their hand. The prize cards, once in a player’s hand, can be used normally.

The Bench Zone

There is also a Bench Zone and Active Pokemon area in the game zone. You can only have a single active Pokemon, but you can have up to 5 on your bench. A benched Pokemon card replaces the retreated Pokemon, which retains attached damage.

The Discard Pile

In the gaming zone, you will also find the discard pile. This is where players discard used energy cards, item cards, and knocked out Pokemon.


How To Play Pokemon TCG – Game Play

How To Start A Pokemon TCG Battle

When the game starts, both trainers will shuffle their decks and flip a coin to decide who takes the first move. Your opening hand will consist of 7 cards, and you are able to place a basic Pokemon card in the Active Zone face-down. You can also place 5 basic Pokemon cards face down on the bench.

If a player doesn’t draw a basic Pokemon on their opening hand, they have the option to reveal their hand, shuffle the deck and redraw. There isn’t a limit to how many times a player can do this. However, your opponent can draw after each turn.

Each player confirms their ready to play and places the top six cards face down within the prize zone. Then, all face down Pokemon cards are flipped over, and the game starts.

Rules Of The Turns

At the beginning of each turn, the trainer will draw a card from their library. The trainer holds the card while deciding on their next move. You can perform these moves in any order:

  • A Basic Pokemon card is placed on the bench.
  • You can evolve a Pokemon
  • Attach an energy card to Pokemon
  • Play a trainer’s card.
  • Retreat an active Pokemon.
  • You can use Pokemon abilities.

After these steps, the trainer can attack with their active Pokemon. Then their turn is over.


Those are the basics of how to play Pokemon TCG. However, there are more advanced factors on how to play Pokemon TCG. For instance, there are various conditions and different abilities. Although, the basic rules are enough to start battling your friends.

Note: Building decks and creating strategies in Pokemon TCG are completely different things. Strategies and deck building are both important when playing the TCG. Beginner trainers should buy a starter deck, which is ready-to-play and great for learning the game.