Hello everybody. My name is Carlos Vergara. What, is something wrong with my name? Maybe it is. It doesn’t sound like the names you tend to be used to, like Josh or Peter, and that last name is something you maybe haven’t ever heard about. And you’re completely right, since I don’t live in the USA at all: I’m from Chile.
“Ok Carlos, what have you got to offer me”, maybe you are wondering. “Any achievements you have ever got?” Well, none at all. “Are you an experienced player at least?” Nope. Neither that. I’m just a beginner who has been playing for some few months and trying to get the hang of the metagame. I’ve been playing, though, for years, and my last tourney was several years ago for the EX: Aqua vs. Magma set prerelease, where I didn’t even get a decent prize besides the deck, booster packs and the prerelease card. After that I quit playing since I had no way to improve as a player.
“Then, what is all of this about?” No, this article won’t help you improve as a player. It’s about something not many people have wondered about: The state of the game in Chile. There’s something interesting you might want to know about before I keep on going: We don’t have POP or P!P right now, yet the game is still being played. How? First, let’s get to know a little bit of Chile, to get more into the context.
Chile is a country in the southwestern part of South America. It is officially known as República de Chile (“Republic of Chile”) and its official language is Spanish. Its capital is Santiago de Chile, and its President is Sebastián Piñera (pronounce it as /sebastia’n pinyera/). It has a population of over 17 million people and an area of over 292,000 square miles. Geographically it has two special characteristics. First, it is a really long country from north to south, having a length of 2,700 miles. And second, it’s a really thin country from east to west, having only a width of 109 miles on average. It is also separated of Argentina by Los Andes Mountain Range.
Since Chile is a long country, it has a huge variety of environments, ranging from a desert in the north to ice zones and rainy forests in the south. That also means there are some cultural differences between the north and the south, this being boosted by the different kinds of native people present in each part: Aymaras at the north, and Mapuches at the south, just to give you two examples.
I stated already that Santiago is the capital of the country, but other main cities include, from north to south: Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Copiapó, La Serena, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Rancagua, Curicó, Talca, Chillán, Concepción, Temuco, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Montt, Coyhaique and Punta Arenas.
A Little Bit of History
Now, a little bit of history. No, not the ones you would find in history books, we don’t really mind of that one. I mean, the history of the Pokémon TCG in Chile.
Salo was a company dedicated to make sticker albums about nearly everything, and it was quite famous back then. However, they also had the rights to distribute Magic: The Gathering and every tourney license. That helped MtG to grow strong around here. But, they also had released some Pokémon sticker albums, and, why not? They decided to release the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Reactions? It was a huge success. People bought cards, played with them and held tournaments.
As in everywhere, the TCG began its downfall after the last Neo set, Neo Destiny, and more and more people had stopped playing. Once Nintendo got the license, the corresponding sets were still being released. However, the places where people could play were each time more scarce around the country, and the card games here had a strong competitor: Myths and Legends. It was a cheaper game with really decent mechanics and a each time more growing community.
What really killed Pokémon in Chile? Salo itself. Once they had the license to make POP around here. I can even remember getting into a legal league and getting my stamps in a card. However, they had a huge mess with the prizes they gave to people (can’t remember exactly what, but it had to do with that), so Nintendo revoked the permissions to make POP in Chile to Salo, and didn’t grant it to anyone else. Since then, in Chile, the Trading Card Game has gone slow and without big events, unlike Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic or Myths and Legends.
But, during the summer (January) of last year Salo broke, and its card game stopped being produced despite it was popular. That shut the door for many players to keep playing (but, my city is a particular case. I’ll tell you about that later.) Later, a company called Devir got the rights for the Platinum sets but they didn’t really make an effort, focusing more on MtG,YGO and other tabletop and roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons.
Very recently a newly born company named Big Bang (composed by some ex Salo executives) took the rights for distributing the TCG, and recently they released the HS: Triumphant set in Santiago, Valparaíso and Rancagua (you can see the website with the news here.) They are also soon to release a tournament to inaugurate the TCG. Given all of this, it is highly likely we will get P!P anytime soon. People are getting really excited about it, and their Facebook profile is full of questions asking if they will release the set anytime soon in their cities. Not only that, but one of the tournament prizes also include two invitations for the Call of Legends set prerelease tournament.
Regarding the organized play, Big Bang has announced recently they are finishing the conversations to get not just the league, but also Battle Roads and City, State, Regional and National Championships anytime soon and that they are planning to expand everywhere in Chile. They are also getting judges and league leaders (likely to be Professors) for the different tournaments and leagues.
Underground Importing and My City
During all of this time, though, there has been a kind of “underground” where some people would import and sell booster packs and decks, and others would buy it. This also created buying, selling and trading fodder for many people who still played the card game. They even have a Facebook group where they buy, trade and sell cards. This has somehow kept alive the game through all of these years, and that also meant that there were people willing to play actively.
I live in Iquique, a small seaside desert city at the north of the country. Historically, we had a store named “Mundo Alterno” where they would import and sell cards, as well as organize tournaments and sell several anime related merchandise. But then, they lost their place in the department store they were in, and it was (sadly) replaced by a clothes store. After Mundo Alterno there was another store that sold cards and organized tournaments, but it broke since apparently the owner wasn’t earning enough money to keep it up.
The same owner of Mundo Alterno opened later a store in the same department store, named I.N.K. Although they just sold anime merchandise before, they began importing YGO and MtG cards and making tournaments a time later. They had relative success, so they tried something else: importing Pokémon cards, again. They sold out in no time, so they decided they would keep buying boxes, decks and tins from online stores and reselling them here. They had enough success, and since then they’ve organized tournaments and made their own “Pokémon League Challenge” where the players must beat competitive decks played by the store sellers.
Not having P!P around here, and hence, no Professors, is kind of harsh. As a beginner, I have to rely on ruling and help with nearly any player, and that is a risk since I don’t know who to trust (when usually I would trust in the Professor). One of my other complaints is that sometimes they apply rules that don’t really work like that right now, or rely on old information or rumors. Such is the case of Rare Candy, which is commonly accepted that it must not be played in the first turn if the player can play Trainer cards. Another example is that very recently they had the rumor of a mid-season rotation, and because of that they have stopped bringing any pre-Platinum sets, including the ones in the legal rotation (although they are aware already that it was just a rumor.)
Chile is a rather interesting country. With its environments and cultures, it’s nice to live here and know that you will always find something different in every city. The TCG also has an interesting but harsh history; One where Chilean players have always wanted to play but never had the chance to do so correctly with official Organized Play. This is the case with my city, too, but there have been efforts by different stores to get some Pokémon Trading Card Game going around.
I hope you have enjoyed my first article, and got to know a little bit more about my country. ¡Hasta pronto!