The franchise began as a pair of video games for the original Game Boy that were developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo. It now spans video games, trading card games, animated television shows and movies, comic books, and toys. Pokémon is the second best-selling video game franchise, behind only Nintendo's Mario franchise, and the highest-grossing media franchise of all time. The franchise is also represented in other Nintendo media, such as the Super Smash Bros. series.
The Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) is a collectible card game with a goal similar to a Pokémon battle in the video game series. Players use Pokémon cards, with individual strengths and weaknesses, in an attempt to defeat their opponent by "knocking out" his or her Pokémon cards. The game was first published in North America by Wizards of the Coast in 1999. However, with the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Game Boy Advance video games, The Pokémon Company took back the card game from Wizards of the Coast and started publishing the cards themselves.
The Expedition expansion introduced the Pokémon-e Trading Card Game, where the cards (for the most part) were compatible with the Nintendo e-Reader. Nintendo discontinued its production of e-Reader compatible cards with the release of 'ex' FireRed & LeafGreen.
In 1998, Nintendo released a Game Boy Color version of the trading card game in Japan; Pokémon Trading Card Game was subsequently released to the US and Europe in 2000. The game included digital versions cards from the original set of cards and the first two expansions (Jungle and Fossil), as well as several cards exclusive to the game. A Japan-exclusive sequel was released in 2001.
Players assume the role of a Pokémon trainer and use their Pokémon to battle their opponents'. Players play Pokémon to the field and attack their opponent's Pokémon. A Pokémon that has sustained enough damage is knocked out, and the player who knocked it out draws a Prize card. There are usually six Prize cards, and the primary win condition is to draw all of them. Other ways to win are by knocking out all the Pokémon the opponent has on the field such that the opponent has none left, or if at the beginning of their opponent's turn there are no cards left to draw in the opponent's deck.
Players begin by having one player selects heads or tails, and the other flips a coin; the winner of the coin flip will decide who goes first or second. The player going first cannot attack on their first turn. (Dice may be used in place of coins, with even numbers representing heads and odd numbers representing tails). Players then shuffle their decks and draw seven cards, then play one Basic Pokémon onto the field. This Pokémon is known as the Active Pokémon, and is usually the one that attacks and receives damage. If a player does not have any Basic Pokémon, they must shuffle and draw a new hand, and the opponent may draw one additional card. Once both players have at least one Basic Pokémon, they can play up to five more Basic Pokémon onto their "Bench" (representing the maximum-carry limit of six from the video games). Players then take the top six cards of their deck and place them to the side as Prize Cards. Play then begins with the player who won the coin flip.
Play alternates between players who may take several actions during their turn, including playing new Basic Pokémon, evolving their Pokémon, playing Trainer cards and Energy cards, and using Pokémon Abilities. A player may also retreat their Active Pokémon, switching the Active Pokémon with one on the Bench. At the end of their turn, a player may use one of their Active Pokémon's attacks, provided the prerequisite amount and types of Energy are attached to that Pokémon. Effects from that attack are then activated and damage may be placed on the Defending Pokémon (some attacks simply have effects but do not do damage). This damage may be modified depending on whether the defender has a Weakness or Resists the attacker's Pokémon type. If the final damage exceeds the defending Pokémon's HP, it is Knocked Out, and the active player takes a Prize Card and ends their turn
Basic Pokémon are the foundation of all decks. Without them a player cannot play the game, since both players begin the game by placing a Basic Pokémon in the Active position on the field. Each Pokémon card depicts a Pokémon from the video games. Each player may have up to six Pokémon on the playing field at a time: one "Active" Pokémon and up to five on the bench. Each Pokémon card has a name, a type, and an amount of Health Points (HP). All Pokémon feature attacks; these typically deal damage to the opponent's active Pokémon, or occasionally, their benched Pokémon; however, an attack may also perform different functions, such as drawing cards, inflicting Special Conditions, or altering the opponent's board state. The vast majority of these attacks require Energy, which comes in the form of Energy cards. Abilities (known as Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies until 2011) are not attacks but simply effects that either are activated under certain conditions, or remain in effect as long as the Pokémon with the Ability remains in play.
The other type of Pokémon card is an Evolved Pokémon. Basic Pokémon are Pokémon that have not evolved, and can be played directly onto the Bench. In contrast, an Evolved Pokémon cannot normally be placed directly onto the field; they must be played on top of the corresponding lower-stage Pokémon. Stage 1 Pokémon evolve from Basic Pokémon, and Stage 2 Pokémon evolve from Stage 1 Pokémon. As a Pokémon evolves, it gains HP and its attacks change, typically becoming more powerful. Pokémon ex or EX cards were first introduced in the TCG set EX Ruby and Sapphire, and typically have higher Hit Points than other Pokémon, yet award an extra prize card to the opponent when defeated. Baby Pokémon cards, introduced in Neo Genesis, are a special kind of Basic Pokémon that have low HP but attack with strange (sometimes very powerful) effects. Mega Pokémon, introduced in XY, evolve from Pokémon-EX, but are a special stage; as such, effects on Stage 1 Pokémon do not apply to Mega Pokémon. Break Pokémon were also introduced later on in the XY series. Variations of Basic, Evolved, and Baby Pokémon cards have appeared in many sets, usually indicated with a word before or after the Pokémon's name. Secret Rare Pokémon cards are some of the rarest cards. They are usually represented by a shiny holo foil and a gold outline. These cards include Shiny Pokémon, Trainers, alternate-art Pokémon, and some rarer Mega evolution cards. Pokémon-GX cards were introduced with the Pokémon Sun & Moon expansion. These cards have a specific move set at the bottom of their card that can only be used once per game. Only one GX move can be played per game, so if there are three different Pokémon-GX cards in your deck only one of the three GX moves can be used. Also with the new Pokémon Sun & Moon sun and moon expansion are Alolan Pokémon, these Pokémon are monsters that have an alternate form from their original look that is specific to Alola and the Sun & Moon series.
Energy cards are attached to a Pokémon to power that Pokémon's attacks. Typically, only one Energy card may be played per turn. There are two main categories of Energy cards: Basic Energy and Special Energy. The nine different Basic Energy types (which correspond to Pokémon card types) are Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Psychic, Fighting, Darkness, Metal, and Fairy. Two additional types, Dragon and Colorless, do not have their own Energy cards and instead use other types of Energy. Basic Energy cards are used only to fulfill costs for attacking and retreating, while Special Energy cards have additional benefits. Most attacks require a certain type and amount of Energy. If an attack requires a certain type and amount of Energy, then that type and amount of Energy must be attached to the Pokémon. If the attack has a Colorless Energy requirement, that requirement can be met by any Energy card.
Trainer cards perform various functions to affect the game: healing Pokémon, discarding energy from the opposing Pokémon, or retrieving cards from the discard pile are some key examples. Before the Diamond & Pearl expansion, all cards that were not Pokémon or Energy were considered Trainer cards. Trainers have since been subdivided into categories: Item cards directly affect the battling Pokémon, Tool cards are attached to a Pokémon and modify their features, Stadium cards affect the entire field, and Supporters are like more powerful Items, only one of which can be played per turn
A simplified type system was adopted from the video games for use in the trading card game. Instead of 18 types of Pokémon, only eleven exist in the TCG. Seven were introduced in the Base Set (the first ever set of Pokémon cards); Darkness and Metal types appeared when Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced the Dark and Steel types in the video games; the Dragon type was introduced in the Japanese Dragon Selection set; and finally, the Fairy type was introduced in the Japanese XY set to correspond to its introduction in the video games.
Most Pokémon have only one type, three exceptions are EX Team Magma vs Team Aqua which introduced Dual-type Pokémon that have two different types, XY: Steam Siege, and the Heartgold/ Soulsilver era sets. Dual-types were utilized in Pokémon LEGEND cards, to emphasize the multiple Pokémon the mechanic has in the Heartgold and Soulsilver sets. In August 2016, the Steam Siege expansion from the XY Series reintroduced dual-type Pokémon, this time with regular Pokémon being multiple types as well as EX Pokémon.
^ Starting with the Diamond & Pearl expansion, Poison-type Pokémon in-game are now Psychic; they were previously Grass.
^ Starting with the Black & White expansion set Dragon Selection, Dragon-type Pokémon in-game are now Dragon; they were previously Colorless.
Psychic, Ghost, Poison
Fighting, Rock, Ground
Current amount of sets
As of September 2017, there are 74 card sets released in America and 68 in Japan. Collectively, there are 6,959 cards in the Japanese sets and 9,110 cards in the English sets. The large difference stems from non-holofoil duplicates of rare cards included in English sets that are not printed in Japanese sets. As of March 2017, 23.6 billion cards were shipped worldwide.
The Set that started it all
The 1998 Pokémon Demo Game Pack was the earliest Pokémon card pack to be produced and released in the English Pokémon TCG and served as the first introduction to Pokémon cards in the United States. This Pokémon pack consists of 24 Base Set shadowless cards and an instruction guide manual in order to explain the rules and play the TCG. The 24 shadowless cards contained in order are; 1 Doduo, 2 Pikachu, 1 Machoke, 2 Machop, 1 Potion Trainer, 2 Lightning Energy, 3 Fighting Energy, 2 Nidoran, 1 Ponyta, 1 Charmeleon, 2 Charmander, 1 Switch Trainer, 2 Grass Energy and 3 Fire Energy cards. This card pack was printed and distributed in December 1998 to select retailers and at Magic: The Gathering (MTG) trading card shows as a limited production run. The remaining Pokémon Demo Game packs were given to guests and vendors at the annual E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) event which was held from May 13–15 in 1999. Since the Pokémon Demo Game Pack contains the first and oldest English cards it is considered the "Holy Grail" within the Pokémon TCG. This Pokémon pack is limited in quantity and predates all other Pokémon Set cards including the rare 1st Edition Base Set cards and shadowless holographic cards making these Demo Packs extremely valuable and collectable. This is known because the 1st Edition stamps were applied onto shadowless cards after the first print run batch of Shadowless cards and helps explain why error cards existed after the first printing of Shadowless Card Demo Packs. As of 2018 there are only 12 in Total PSA Population and only 7 are graded PSA 10. It is estimated that between 100-200 of these Pokémon Demo Game Packs remain unopened based on scarce eBay auctions and internet sales.
Seventh Generation Sets
The seventh generation sets have Sun & Moon in their name. This comes from the seventh generation video games Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Sun & Moon -- February 3, 2017
This set introduced the new mechanics "Pokémon-GX" cards and the new Alolan variants of Pokémon. It focuses on the two main Legendary Pokémon of the "Pokémon Sun and Moon" video games; Solgaleo and Lunala. It continues to introduce new Full Art Secret Rare Trainer cards and debuting the new Secret Rare basic Energy cards.
Guardians Rising -- May 5, 2017
This set provides more Alolan Pokémon cards. It also provides more Pokémon-GX cards, such as Lycanroc-GX and Kommo-o-GX, and Pokémon-GX of the Guardian deities; Tapu Koko-GX and Tapu Lele-GX.
Burning Shadows -- August 4, 2017
This set introduces more Alolan Pokémon cards and Pokémon-GX cards, such as Tapu Bulu-GX, Ho-Oh-GX, Necrozma-GX and Marshadow-GX. It also features Full Art Secret Rare Trainer cards of the Trial Captains and Team Skull members from the "Pokémon Sun and Moon" video games.
Crimson Invasion -- November 3, 2017
This set debuts the new Ultra Beasts as Pokémon-GX cards, such as Nihilego-GX, Buzzwole-GX and Guzzlord-GX.
Ultra Prism -- February 2, 2018
The first English set to feature Prism Star cards. Prism star cards are limited to one of each card per deck. They go to the Lost Zone when discarded.
The next set to be released will be Forbidden Light on May 4th 2018
The next upcoming set to be released in 2018 will be the sixth expansion of cards from the Sun & Moon Series. It will contain over 130 cards, including 8 new Pokémon-GX, 5 new Prism Star cards and several Pokémon native to the Alola and Kalos regions.
1998 Pokémon Demo Game Plastic Pack
January 9, 1999 - Base set
June 16, 1999 - Jungle
October 8, 1999 - Fossil
April, 2000 - Team Rocket
June, 2000 - Gym Heros
July, 2000 - Gym Challenge
October, 2000 - Neo Genesis
June, 2001 - Neo Discovery
October, 2001 - Neo Revelation
February, 2002 - Neo Destiny
May, 2002 - Legendary Collection
September, 2002 - Expedition Base Set
January, 2003 - Aquapolis
May, 2003 - Skyridge
July, 2003 - EX Ruby and Saphire
September 18, 2003 - EX Sandstorm
November, 2003 - EX Dragon
March, 2004 - EX Team Magma VS Team Aqua
June, 2004 - EX Hidden Legends
September, 2004 - EX Fire and Leaf Green
November, 2004 - EX Team Rocket Returns
February, 2005 - EX Deoxys
May, 2005 - EX Emerald
August, 2005 - EX Unseen Forces
October, 2005 - EX Delta Species
February, 2006 - EX Legend Maker
May, 2006 - EX Holon Phantoms
July, 2006 - EX Cystal Guardians
November, 2006 - EX Dragon Frontiers
February, 2007 - EX Power Keepers
May, 2007 - Diamond and Pearl Base Set
August, 2007 - Diamond and Pearl Mysterious Treasures
November, 2007 - Diamond and Pearl Secret Wonders
February, 2008 - Diamond and Pearl Majestic Dawn
August, 2008 - Diamond and Pearl Legends Awakened
November, 2008 - Diamond and Pearl Stormfront
October 13, 2008 - Platinum Base Set
May 16, 2009 - Platinum Rising Rivals
August 19, 2009 - Platinum Supreme Victors
November 4, 2009 - Platinum Arceus
*HeartGold SoulSilver Base set
*HeartGold and SoulSilver - Unleashed
*HeartGold and SoulSilver - Undaunted
*HeartGold and SoulSilver - Triumphant
*Call of Legends - Reprints & Unreleased cards
April 6, 2011 - Black and White Base set
August 31, 2011 - Black and White Emerging Powers
November 16, 2011 - Black and White Noble Victories
February 8, 2012 - Black and White Next Destinies
May 9, 2012 - Black and White Dark Explorers
August 15, 2012 - Black and White Dragons Exalted
November 7, 2012 - Black and White Boundaries Crossed
February 6, 2013 - Black and White Plasma Storm
May 8, 2013 - Black and White Plasma Freeze
August 14, 2013 - Black and White Plasma Blast
November 6, 2013 - Black and White Legendary Tresures
February 5, 2014 - XY Base Set
May 7, 2014 - XY Flashfire
August 13, 2014 - XY Furious Fists
November 5, 2014 - XY Phantom Forces
February 4, 2015 - XY Primal Clash
May 6, 2015 - XY Roaring Skies
August 12, 2015 - XY Ancient Origins
November 4, 2015 - XY BREAKthrough
February 3, 2016 - XY BREAKpoint
May 2, 2016 - XY Fates Collide
August 3, 2016 - XY Steam Siege
November 2, 2016 - XY Evolutions