Yep. My son is seven and a half, and it was bound to happen sooner or later. He heard about the show from a friend, hit one up on our On Demand service (with my permission first, of course). And so as Christmas neared, we started talking about it – and I asked the all important question. Paper or plastic?
Or, more directly – Nintendo DS, or the Pokemon TCG. He gave it a great deal of thought and decided on the TCG. I was both excited, as a longtime (though now former) Magic: The Gathering player, and also mortified, as I pictured CARDS EVERYWHERE.
But I bit the bullet, and Santa brought two decks, on for son, and on for Harby. And we have honestly had a great time with it. I was worried about being bored, but it was an unfounded fear. The game has enough strategic elements in it to hold my interest. The only problem has been that I got the best possible deck in the world for me, and the worst for him to play against.
I picked my deck solely on the cool, Egyptian like theme of sarcophagi and crocodiles. Which I decided was much more bearable than unicorns, centipedes, or bizzare electric mouse/cat hybrid pets. More manly or something.
Okay, maybe not quite, but the point is I had no idea what kind of deck it was. Turns out, its a straight up Denial Deck (cards are selected around a theme of winning by preventing your opponent from doing what they want to do – in MMO parlance – a controller type). And a pretty darn nasty one at that. Which was also my favorite deck type to play in M:TG. This is good – for everyone except my son.
Because I picked up how the deck (Black & White Dark Explorers set, the Raider deck, for the curious) worked by the end of the first game, and a few weeks later, he is still learning the rules. And believe me, I have tried like mad to lose without looking like I am doing it on purpose. One of our games stretched for two hours as I deliberately withhelt higher stage Pokemon and energy cards trying to let him take a game. No dice. For my son, winning the game consists of evolving and presenting one of his favorite Pokemon. Even if it has no energy (for the layperson – no energy = no attacks = no winning).
So the biggest thing has been trying to keep him from getting discouraged. And so far I think I’ve done a good job. We play a game or two every other day, and I try to be teaching as we go. The awesome thing is that this week my daughter (nine and a half) finally admitted that she was interested. She said it was “kind of embarrassing” but she got over that in a heartbeat as she watched us play and I taught he the rules. She finally looked up and said: “So…its basically like logic and math and stuff.” And then she was all in. That’s my girl!
We’ve even tried out the online version, which appears to have been in Beta forever, and has some bugs and tweaks needed still. But its a good place for them to learn when I can’t play with them, with a nice set of parental controls.
The one thing we seem to be missing is that its much easier for my kids, and more enjoyable, to go through and buy, say, a handful of 10 cent common cards than drop five bucks on a random booster pack. But our local gaming store got wiped out last year, and the owner is not interested in investing the money to rebuild his singles trade at the moment. And by wiped out, I mean, yes, somebody with entirely too much money bought literally everything in the store. On the one hand, the owner hates that this has cost him some traffic, on the other hand – in this day and age, facing off against Amazon and such, small game store owners can’t be too picky – take the sales when you can get them, especially the big ones.
All that aside, we’ve been having a great deal of fun. I enjoy the games as much as my kids do, and it has given us some common bonding time. I get now why it has been such a phenomenon over the years. It simplifies a lot of the common TCG dynamics, and eliminates a number of the hassles. Well designed, and fun to play. I think it will be a game of choice in our family for some time to come.