With Pokemon Go at its highest ever player base and the Pokemon video games doing so well I thought it would be time for me to get back into the card game. To see what I’d been missing all these years, I went hands-on with the latest expansion for it, called Celestial Storm.
As a child of the 90s I grew up in a time when Pokemon was massive in school playgrounds around the country, causing arguments between friends over unfair trades. In fact, I still have most of my original cards in a box, never wanting to get rid of them.
The card game may have faded away from the public spotlight there is still very much an active community with some great events and players.
With the amount of cards sold numbering in the billions worldwide, it’s fair to say that this lo-tech but highly addictive branch of the Pokemon franchise remains a phenomenon in its own right.
If you enjoy the video games and the Pokemon Go app, you find a lot to like in the card game.
For many Pokemon TCG players, the buzz of collecting the cards themselves is a huge part of the experience, and with a LOT of different types to get your hands on there’s always something new to discover. But while it could all become costly without trading with other players, getting started with your first deck can be very straightforward.
You can buy Themed decks featuring your favourite Pokemon, which provides you with a battle-ready deck to practise with against friends.
The game is relatively simple and if you don’t know the rules there are in-depth tutorials on YouTube showing you how to get started. In terms of the basics, your deck is made up of 60 cards, with subcategories of Energy, Trainer and Pokemon, which sits in the desk slot. Once you’ve determined who goes first:
- Draw 7 cards
- Find your basic Pokémon and place them on the active and bench place spots on the playing field
- Pick your active Pokémon
- Draw your six prize cards
- Put the remainder of your deck to the side
- Face your cards the right way up
One you’ve got this basic set-up sorted, each turn a player draws one card from the deck and can use one energy card (unless stated). The energy cards are there to allow you to attack as the moves require certain energy cards.
You can evolve your basic Pokemon once per turn and this removes any status effect on them but keeps any damage done. You cannot evolve a Pokemon on the first turn unless it has a skill or you have a trainer card to do so. To end your turn you attack the opponent if you can, and the person who goes first cannot attack on that turn.
To win the game you must beat your opponent’s Pokemon and collect your prize cards, Once you have collected all 6 prize cards you are the winner. If either player runs out of basic monsters on the field, you win.
Building a deck
As well as picking up the aforementioned Themed decks to hit the ground running, you can buy booster packs from different expansions to fully customise your own suite of Pokemon.
One of the collections I spotted at the preview event I attended was a Dark-type deck with some amazing legendary Pokemon in it. If you find it hard building a deck – especially when it comes to figuring out what synergises well together – there’s an official online deck guide that can help you make your own.
The new expansion
The new expansion Celestial Storm brings 160 new cards to the game with a mix of new GX cards, Prism cards and Trainer cards. Booster packs include at least one rare and one basic energy card.
I managed to try these out, and they added a great new dimension to the game. Seeing some of the old Pokemon with the new artwork is fantastic and I must say the designs have come a long way since the 90s. There are three distinct art styles from what I saw, with some rendered in 3D CGI, others that have a more traditional hand drawn effect, and then the GX and shiny cards which blew me away.
The new GX cards available in this expansion are Articuno-GX, Blaziken-GX, Scizor-GX, Stakataka-GX and Rayquaza-GX. The three Prism Star cards are Latios, Latias and Jurachi.
The Celestial Storm expansion card prices start at £2.55 for a booster pack and the Elite trainer pack is £29.99