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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > May 2019 (#30) > Pokémon Trading Card Game

Pokémon Trading Card Game

As Detective Pikachu hits cinema screens, master trainers tell us why the Pokémon Trading Card Game remains just as electric after 20 years


Images © 2019 The Pokémon Company International. TM, ®Nintendo

Pokémon has always been about the numbers. “At least one hundred and fifty or more to see,” sang James ‘D-Train’ Williams on the ridiculously catchy ‘Pokérap’ that closed every episode of the nineties Pokémon cartoon, in-between rapper Babi Floyd exhaustively listing every pocket monster from Bulbasaur to Mewtwo. (Number 151, Mew, was notoriously snubbed.)

More than 20 years later, there are over 800 species of Pokémon for wannabe trainers to catch and battle in the video games, which have shifted over 324 million copies worldwide. Pokémon’s place at the peak of pop culture phenomena was raised further upon the launch of Pokémon Go in 2016 – the location-based mobile app has now been downloaded more than a billion times by players hooked on catching Pikachu and Charizard in their back garden. The animated TV show has broadcast over 1,000 episodes and seen nearly two-dozen feature-length movie spin-offs; the first live-action fllm, Detective Pikachu, hits cinema screens this month with Ryan Reynolds in the role of the yellow electric mouse.

Somehow, though, all of these impressive figures pale in comparison to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Launched in 1996, the year that Pokémon Red and Green debuted on the Game Boy, the collectible card game quickly became a sensation in its own right, flooding school playgrounds, dining room tables and local game shops with fans eager to collect, battle and trade Pokémon in real life. As of last year, over 25.7 billion cards – over three times the number of humans on Earth – had been produced; if you laid every Pokémon TCG card ever made end to end, they’d stretch to the Moon and back almost three times.

“People come [to the Trading Card Game] for all different reasons, whether it’s the anime, video games or toys they had [as] a child, but most people who play have some existing afiity for the brand,” says Pokémon Trading Card Game tournament commentator and PTCG Radio podcast host Ross Gilbert. “It’s been around for years, it’s beloved and there’s a darned good reason. You also have those spikes of interest such as when Pokémon Go was a social phenomenon or when a new main series game is released.”

Gilbert says he played the card game casually during the first wave of Pokémania and only discovered its competitive scene a decade or so later in 2010. It’s a sentiment shared by Joe Merrick, founder of longrunning Pokémon fan site Serebii, who found himself avidly following the competitive side of the game in 2016 after years of collecting cards led him to “[fall] out of it a fair bit”.

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About Tabletop Gaming

In this month’s issue we’re celebrating the Pokémon Trading Card Game as Detective Pikachu hits cinemas, with fans and pros telling us why they catch ‘em all – and why you should join them! ⚡ 🔥 🌿 💧 In a trading card game special, we also take a look inside the UK home of Yu-Gi-Oh!, hearing how the card game plans to make its 20th anniversary its biggest year yet 🎉 Plus: 😨 Jenga creator Leslie Scott tells us how she invented the iconic brick-pulling classic 🌉 Ticket To Ride designer Alan R. Moon shakes things up with Aftershock: San Francisco & Venice 🖌️ Discover the hidden graphic designers behind the stunning visuals of your favourite games 🐄 Inside the weird and wonderful universe of the Secret Unknown Stuff trilogy of board games 📚 The 10 best board games based on books ⭐ Reviews of Lord Of The Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth, Res Arcana, Hellboy, Museum, Call to Adventure, Victorian Masterminds, Warhammer 40000: Shadowspear, John Carter of Mars RPG, Corinth, Red Alert and more! Plus all the exclusive designer interviews, game previews, behind-the-scenes features, regular columns and hobby tips you’ve come to expect in every issue of Tabletop Gaming magazine!