clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Welcome to the summer of trading card games

Tabletop gaming is back: 4 new ways to play Pokémon with your friends.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Tabletop gaming is back, big time. After two years of a pandemic, lockdowns, and social distancing, we’re finally reemerging out of our isolated gaming rooms and back where we’re meant to be: playing with our friends.

Trading card games are a big part of the surge in interest, and Pokémon is a big reason why. The classic game has four new offerings aimed at three audiences — the beginner, the Pokémon GO enthusiast, and the competitive player.

Whatever your playgroup, you’ll find a new set that fits. It’s hot trading card game summer and Pokémon is the number one contender.

For the beginner (or former gamer) just warming up: classic Battle Academy

Maybe it’s your first time playing Pokémon. Maybe you’re a former trainer revving up. Either way, the Battle Academy will get you back in the swing of things.

Battle Academy’s board setup will look familiar to experienced players of Pokémon and other trading card games. While vets will be able to walk the newbies through the complexities of gameplay, they don’t need to worry about the basics. Each Battle Academy box contains rules references and deck-specific walkthroughs, three easy manuals that help new players get a hang of the basics of how to work the cards before they get into the more involved, subtle aspects of the game. V Battle Decks, supplemental decks with different lead Pokémon, expand the universe — and at about 30 minutes per game, the learning curve is hardly steep.

One of the benefits of Battle Academy is that it allows you to learn what kinds of strategies work best for your play style. Taking that approach when you’re making your deck more personal and fine tuned will help a lot.

Iconic Pokémon like Pikachu, Cinderace, and Eevee headline the decks with specific powers and tactical advantages, Lycanroc and Corviknight handle the Battle Academy expansions. Fan favorites Sizzlipede and Blitzle are among the other Pokémon for your bench.

For the Pokémon GO-obsessed: the Pokémon GO TCG expansion, the follow-up to the massively popular AR game

Introduced in 2016, augmented-reality game Pokémon GO has been a smash hit for six years running. Those who are all in on the AR game’s approach to catching-them-all will love the new trading card expansion aimed at both current TCG players and the GO fanatic merging various Pokémon fans into one event.

The expansion is for those with a tier or two higher playing experience than the Battle Academy beginners. Pokémon GO-obsessed TCG players will jump in with both feet into the playing experience and get ready to do battle—as soon as they catch the right pocket monster.

Like the app, the Pokémon GO expansion will have players rely on their ability to find and utilize the most helpful, strategic, and powerful cards. And those aren’t always the most obvious. While the set features heavy hitters like Melmetal VMAX, a behemoth with a staggering 160 damage Juggernaut attack, it also has more subtle pieces like evolved Bibarel who protects your deck and hand from discard. Your friends won’t know what hit them — and they won’t be able to easily hit back.

Then there’s Ditto, the amorphous blob who can mimic any basic Pokémon in your discard pile through its Sudden Transformation ability. Of course, first you have to find it — the card is hiding behind a peel-off transform layer that will present as other Pokémon. It’s a way of introducing the search and collect aspect of Pokémon GO to the superfan and makes cracking packs at the table even more exciting.

For the group itching for new strategies and new attacks: the Brilliant Stars and Astral Radiance expansion packs

The heavy hitters, the strategists, the win-at-all-cost players: if that’s you and your crew, you’re going to love the Sword and Shield Brilliant Stars and Astral Radiance expansion packs. Full of blasting power and explosive card interactions, the new packs are sure to deliver high-level competitive play to the experts and serious firepower no matter what your experience level.

New mechanics are what shines brightly in these two new expansions. Take the VSTAR Pokémon in Brilliant Stars: Each one has a special power, a special attack or ability to alter the course of a battle or game — but you can only use one per game, so choose your powers wisely. In Brilliant Stars, Umbreon VMax lets you take control of your opponent, switching a benched Pokémon with an active one. It’s sure to earn some grumbles from the other side of the table. Arceus VSTAR lets you — only once — search for up to two cards in your deck before your turn; Whimsicott VSTAR delivers 60 damage for each energy attached to it.

There are combos galore, too. Café Master and Alcremie help you search for energy cards; Acerola’s Premonition combined with Mimikyu VMAX allows you to hit your opponent’s Pokémon with 13 damage counters for just two energy; combine Pachirisu with the Choice Belt and Windup Thunder for a haymaker of a hit on your friend (or enemy) across the board.

Astral Radiance lets players suit up with powerful Radiant Pokémon (only one in each deck) with incredible powers. Heatran, Greninja, and Hawlucha each have game-changing effects, in the form of huge damage. The VSTAR Pokémon are powerful too — Decidueye VSTAR allows you to draw up to eight cards while Dialga VSTAR lets you take another turn. That’s more than enough time to knock out your friend’s active Pokémon with Typhlosion VSTAR.

Astral Radiance is also the first expansion pack to feature Pokémon from the Hisui region, first introduced in January’s Pokémon Legends: Arceus video game. Be on the lookout for Mount Coronet on several of the cards, as well as Ralts, Hippotatus, and Stantler: if you loved the new Pokemon forms in Pokemon Legends: Arceus, you will find lots to love in Astral Radiance. But here to shake up gameplay even more are the new Radiant Pokémon, who come with powerful new abilities exclusive to their shiny Pokémon form. Consider them the supercharged Pokémon who can really punch up your game.

The Hisuian Lilligant, Miltank, and Hisuian Sneasler combo is complicated, but worth it. First, use the Lilligant’s Twister Lutz for 20 damage, then switch it to the bench. Tag in Miltank to prevent all damage, then use the Sneasler to bring back Lilligant. It’s a combo that will keep you swinging for damage and deflecting the counterattack— all the way to the win.

There’s something for everyone with these new offerings — learn more about the new Pokemon offerings and find the one that best fits you and your playgroup.

Advertiser Content From Pokémon Company logo