Pokemon Battle Academy is the most accessible version of the Trading Card Game yet


If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play the Pokemon Trading Card game, this is the best way to do it.

Back in the nineties, most kids used to play the Pokemon Trading Card game… but not many actually played the Pokemon Trading Card Game. If you’re a certain age, you probably know exactly what I mean.

This, in a sense, is why that famed Charizard card was so sought after. In the proper TCG, with the proper rules, it’s a powerful but balanced card. But the proper rules of the trading card game are complicated and relatively slow. Nobody – maybe the hardcore nerds – was messing around with energy cards and such on the playground. That fact made Charizard’s 4 energy, 100 damage Fire Spin move unstoppable. In many cases it was an instant kill; thus the card attained legend status.

I never bothered with the proper rules on the playground, but outside school I became quite proficient at the proper rules of the Pokemon TCG. I taught my grandfather, who began collecting cards and building decks, and I even went to a couple of official TCG events where you could battle ‘gym leaders’ for badges. That was the magic of the TCG – bringing a slice of the anime and games into the real world. Now we have Pokemon Go, of course, but the card game is still thriving.

But learning the card game has always been a hurdle. You buy a starter deck and muddle through the included instructions, and it’s fine but not ideal. It’s been this way for years – but that’s where the newly-released Pokemon Battle Academy comes in.

This board game is basically an introductory package for anyone looking to get into Pokemon cards. It’ll work for lapsed fans or complete newcomers all the same, and there’s even elements here that could be attractive for seasoned players. It’s a neat package.

Inside the traditional board game sized box is a hard board for play – better than thin fold-out mats, and likely desirable even to experienced players – and that board is also annotated with various key rules, like what actions you can take when it’s your turn. There’s also three themed 60-card decks – one each around the electric, fire and psychic Pokemon types, complete with some powerful, rare cards. You also get other things you’ll need to play like counters, a metallic coin, a rule book and other useful odds and ends. It’s a complete players’ package.

The included instructions even have a demo game you can play with the included decks – sort of an on-rails experience that serves to show you all the key moves in an interactive fashion. This takes place with the Fire and Electric decks, while the psychic deck is basically more advanced, held back for when you’re more experienced.

Once you’re comfortable through that tutorial, you can then begin playing with any mix of the included decks, or even mix and match them to create all-new match-ups.

What’s best of all about this won’t be surprising to experienced Pokemon TCG followers, but it is key: all of this is completely compatible with all the other cards on sale right now. That means you can expand the experience with booster packs or additional decks, building all new decks or adjusting existing ones to your liking.

Alternatively, you could ignore all this: there’s plenty in this package to make an effective stand-alone board game that is never expanded. The random element means every game will nevertheless be different, even with the default decks.

Pokemon Battle Academy is a smart springboard into a wider world, and for its price (a little over £20), it’s by far the most cost-effective way to get into Pokemon cards as well as the easiest way to learn the rules.

It works as a package on multiple levels. It’s equally ideal if you’re a newcomer who wants to learn the game, a lapsed nineties player who wants to get back into it, or if you’ve got a partner or kids who you’d like to teach the game to. Pokemon Battle Academy is now the best entrance point to the deceptively deep and addictive world of the Pokemon TCG – it’s an easy recommendation.

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