Kenny’s Laboratory

Brainstorming Rule Changes for the Pokémon TCG

Hey all! Because of the lack of tournaments as of late and the fact that Roaring Skies isn’t out yet, I thought I would take a second to talk about potential rules changes to the game. As someone who loves games and game design, I think about this sort of thing quite a bit, and I’ve gathered a few of the more interesting ideas I’ve had floating around. Please note that while I believe all of these ideas are my own, it is likely that someone else has thought of some of these at some point.

Also, writing about these ideas is not necessarily an endorsement, and in the paragraphs following the outline of the suggested change I will discuss the positives and negatives.

I’ll start with the most plausible/least crazy idea and work my way down!

Reversing Prizes

Instead of taking Prize cards when Knocking Out an opponent’s Pokémon, your opponent would take that many Prizes instead. The idea is that the player taking the Prizes is already winning the game and therefore shouldn’t also be rewarded with more cards.

Duel Masters/Kaijudo implements a similar mechanic and, while I’m going to mostly refrain from comparing Pokémon to other games (partially because I feel that Pokémon is the hardest to compare because of its unique mechanics and partially because I feel that Pokémon is the most well-designed game), I do think it’s been proven to be successful and makes a lot of sense.

The downside is mostly that it changes the way the entire game is played, and it would lead to errata on various cards. It’s also possible that a rule doesn’t need to be made because cards like N and other “catch up” cards will continue to be printed. However, I would argue that if your justification for changing a rule is that you can always print cards that correct it, it may just be time to fix the rule in the first place.

Tropical Beach Always
Endless summer!

This rule would add another effect that would end your turn, similar to how attacking or Mega Evolving does now. It would read something like “Once during each player’s turn, that player may draw cards until he or she has 7 cards in his or her hand. If he or she does, that player’s turn ends.” As the name suggests, it would be Tropical Beach, but built into the very rules of the game.

While being an enormous boost to consistency across the board, this rule would also help the slower types of decks that relied on Tropical Beach in the first place. I can imagine a world in which a slow setup or control deck would use this effect on as many as its first four turns. Dead draw would be a thing of the past, though it would come at a very real cost.

With all of that being said, I’m not sure this is something most players would want. I’m a firm believer that variance is key to a card game’s success, and I believe an effect like this would throw off the delicate balance between luck and skill. At the very least, there would have to be some sort of restriction or downside, such as disallowing the effect on the first turn of the game.

At the same time, I’ve repeatedly stated that I would be fine with Tropical Beach being legal in all formats all the time, but that is mostly because jamming 4 Tropical Beach into your deck is a much larger cost than just getting to use it for free whenever things aren’t going your way.

Mulligan Changes

Mulligans are an entire article in themselves so I’m not going to go over every possibility, but I will briefly touch on a few of the most realistic options.

1. Push Your Luck

The first being a system in which each player is given one free mulligan, in which they don’t have to reveal their hand to their opponent and their opponent gains nothing (i.e. doesn’t draw cards). However, if they fail to find a Pokémon in their mulligan hand, their opponent will get to choose whether to go first or second and get to draw 2 cards for every time their opponent mulligans. This idea allows a completely free mulligan, but at a huge risk.

Though I believe this would be interesting to test and would add another dimension of skill to the game, I’m not sure it’s the right direction, since it’s sort of confusing and would probably lead to longer setup times at the beginning of rounds and between games.

2. Magic Mulligan

The second option would be to just copy the Magic mulligan rules, aka the Paris mulligan. This would involve either player choosing to mulligan as many times as they like, but drawing one less card with each mulligan draw. The obvious problem is that in Pokémon you have to start with a Basic in your opening hand, so I imagine there would have to be some sort of rule in place that if you mulliganed to one and didn’t have a Basic, your deck was Judge Balled and you started with no cards in hand. Not only is that clause likely too punishing, I believe that in almost any other scenario the rule wouldn’t be punishing enough. There’s not much of a difference between a 5-card hand and a 6-card hand when Professor Sycamore is available, after all.

3. Bottom Draw

The last idea is the one that I think would work best. After drawing their initial 7 cards, each player has the option to put any number of those cards on the bottom of his or her deck and draw that many cards. Again, Basic Pokémon are an immediate issue with this idea. I think the best way to solve that problem would be to either require players to play their Basics before mulliganing OR to make it so that if a player completes their mulligan and doesn’t have a Basic Pokémon, they revert to the classic mulligan rules.

Outside of the Basic Pokémon issue, the only downside is that this ruling might actually make certain aggressive decks too good. Can you imagine a Seismitoad-EX deck that opens with Seismitoad and then sends five of the cards in their hands away to try to draw their Double Colorless and Hypnotoxic Lasers? That being said, I think this is both the best and most realistic mulligan rule, as it would provide players a way out of a poor opening hand and is relatively easy to understand.

Experience/TM Cards

This is by far the most extreme change to the game rules, and the one that I expect to be the least accepted. Under this rule, there would be an entirely new card type introduced to the game: “Experience cards” (or attacks, or a new kind of Technical Machine, or something — I haven’t decided what the optimal choice would be, yet). They would look something like this:

Dragon Rush
Trainer – Item – EXPERIENCE TOOL

(At the beginning of the game, shuffle your six Experience cards and place them in the play area face down. Whenever an opponent’s Pokémon is Knocked Out, reveal one of your Experience cards and attach it to your Active Pokémon.)

The Pokémon this card is attached to can also use the attack on this card. (You still need the necessary Energy to use this attack.)

CCC Dragon Rush
Discard 2 Energy cards attached to this Pokémon. Choose 1 of your opponent’s Pokémon. This attack does 120 damage to that Pokémon. (Don’t apply Weakness and Resistance for Benched Pokémon.) This Pokémon can’t use Dragon Rush during your next turn.

As you can see, these cards would replace your Prize cards. This would act as the TCG version of gaining experience/leveling up and therefore learning new moves. Experience cards would also eliminate the downside of Prizing certain cards (which can be a good or bad thing, depending how you look at it), while keeping the random draw aspect of Prize cards.

Realistically I think that in order to not have every deck just run whatever the best six Experience cards are, you would need to implement a type restriction on them. However, this would play poorly with the fact that you have to immediately attach them to your Active Pokémon, which I believe is a vital function of how the cards work, as it would analogous to leveling up in the video game, and would force players to make decisions about which Pokémon could benefit most from the Experience.

It may be possible to expand them to attach to any Pokémon on your field, but I would never want to do away with the immediate attachment clause. Perhaps it would be fine to just remove them from the game entirely if your Active doesn’t match up with the type on the Experience card? Without testing out the idea I can’t be sure what would work the best.

I came up with this idea about a year ago and I’ve thought about it every once and a while since then. It opens up a whole new world of design space and I think it would be a boon for the game both from a playskill standpoint and a flavor one.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Let me know what you think of my ideas in the comments, and also be sure post your own game design ideas! I believe that actively thinking about game design can only be healthy for a competitive player, and I encourage all of you to come up with new rules and card designs as often as possible.


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