Discussion Pokemon, the seriously flawed TCG?

Salan

Aspiring Trainer
Member
I am struggling with Pokemon.

I come from a developer side of board gaming, programming, modding, and artistry work. My son, 10, loves pokemon and we plan to go to worlds this year as a JR.

After all of my personal experiences with pokemon I am all but convinced the basic ground rules for the start of a game of pokemon is flawed.

It is beyond frustrating that so much of your game play in this game is utterly dictated by PURE RNG with zero recourse.

Test a deck so many times without issue or fail then play a best of 1 game in a tournament. Draw 6 energy and the worst pokemon you could start with, while your adversary lines up perfectly to KO even a good start 2nd turn.

This is utter trash, and it happens over and over and over to way better people then me.

This game needs the player to have the option to mulligan regardless of their hand.
Make this game competitive and enjoyable for all.

It is utterly flawed, and while we will still go to worlds for the experience my son could have in his only year as a JR (we are newer), I am reluctant to think much beyond that...

what is your take on this issue?
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
Test a deck so many times without issue or fail then play a best of 1 game in a tournament. Draw 6 energy and the worst pokemon you could start with, while your adversary lines up perfectly to KO even a good start 2nd turn.
Welcome to Magic-likes. I am extremely surprised you claim to come from a developer background, but haven't yet analyzed the most popular TCG in the world and all of it's derivatives. (Even if Pokemon isn't a direct Magic-like, it was still designed by the same people.)

There are two angles here - design and play. On the design side, the mana/energy resource system has been flawed for decades now and even new TCGs from Wizards that use "similar" systems have done everything to move away from them. While it's definitely a part of skillful deckbuilding, it's ultimately too random and Wizards excuse of "well, it helps a bad player beat a good one" is completely moot, by the fact of how hollow such wins feel.

Now, on the play side, complaining about drawing too much energy (or "flooding") is completely counter-productive. It's a random game with a random draw and every deck is going to flood or screw from time to time. The goal of designing a competitive deck is consistency. If you cannot set-up properly, you're running a slow and janky deck. If your deck needs to draw very specific cards and doesn't have enough ways to reach them - you're asking to get dead games.

No game that has player input can be "pure RNG", because RNG equalizes over time. Ultimately only your skills at choosing correct decisions will matter. The only question would be - is the format skill-testing enough to let the RNG equalize fast enough to stop being an issue. Currently, I would say no: most top decks are complete auto-pilot with one angle of attack. But just a couple of months ago, before Tag Teams really kicked off, I'd say it was actually much more complicated.
 

CrownAxe

Aspiring Trainer
Member
That’s just... card games in general. It’s also why tournaments are a series of games. The randomness of card games averages out and because less of a factor in determining a tournament winner.

randomness is also another opportunity to test player skill as player choice can greatly influence outcomes. Things like optimizing deck lists and actions like deck thinning mid game help increase the odds of success and differentiate players of different skill levels
 

Salan

Aspiring Trainer
Member
Welcome to Magic-likes. I am extremely surprised you claim to come from a developer background, but haven't yet analyzed the most popular TCG in the world and all of it's derivatives. (Even if Pokemon isn't a direct Magic-like, it was still designed by the same people.)

There are two angles here - design and play. On the design side, the mana/energy resource system has been flawed for decades now and even new TCGs from Wizards that use "similar" systems have done everything to move away from them. While it's definitely a part of skillful deckbuilding, it's ultimately too random and Wizards excuse of "well, it helps a bad player beat a good one" is completely moot, by the fact of how hollow such wins feel.

Now, on the play side, complaining about drawing too much energy (or "flooding") is completely counter-productive. It's a random game with a random draw and every deck is going to flood or screw from time to time. The goal of designing a competitive deck is consistency. If you cannot set-up properly, you're running a slow and janky deck. If your deck needs to draw very specific cards and doesn't have enough ways to reach them - you're asking to get dead games.

No game that has player input can be "pure RNG", because RNG equalizes over time. Ultimately only your skills at choosing correct decisions will matter. The only question would be - is the format skill-testing enough to let the RNG equalize fast enough to stop being an issue. Currently, I would say no: most top decks are complete auto-pilot with one angle of attack. But just a couple of months ago, before Tag Teams really kicked off, I'd say it was actually much more complicated.


I totally understand your point about mana/energy and the flaw within it.

Of course I only chose to present 1 of the issues, drawing too much mana but in fact that is only 1 small way you are indeed screwed in this game, there a so many variables that can kill you at the start. I for one need to stay off of their online app, it is nothing but infuriating at times with how it randomizes stuff.

I of course am struggling with standard at the moment exactly for the fact that if I want to play competitively i am forced to play linear auto pilot decks. I love the expanded potential, although wish it wasn't so far back as it is but that's a personal taste thing.. MelMetal, Gardevoir, Nagandal/Guzzlord, Greens Charizard, even ADP and +1 attacker of your choice (kaldeo, MegaL, or MelMetal depending on matchup), and things like Pikarom. These decks are all excessively linear and bland and so utterly boring in comparison to evolution complicated decks that get utterly screwed by the start of the game mechanics and comparatively slowness.

Thanks for your perception, I definitely am open to the comments and knowledge you offer.
 

Salan

Aspiring Trainer
Member
That’s just... card games in general. It’s also why tournaments are a series of games. The randomness of card games averages out and because less of a factor in determining a tournament winner.

randomness is also another opportunity to test player skill as player choice can greatly influence outcomes. Things like optimizing deck lists and actions like deck thinning mid game help increase the odds of success and differentiate players of different skill levels

If you play a best of 1 tournament game how does it average out over a series of games?

You are out the instant you brick or flood at the start of those games.
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
@Salan
I would suggest a break until Sword & Shield comes out. SwSh will feature many consistency cards that were lost in the rotation, such as Quick Ball and Evolution Incense. It will give Evolution decks a massive kick they needed.
Hopefully they'll #BanWelder too, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
 

Number51x

Blasting off at the speed of light!
Member
If you play a best of 1 tournament game how does it average out over a series of games?

You are out the instant you brick or flood at the start of those games.
That's incorrect. Each match is timed (70 something minutes I believe) and there are rules against slow play, so each match tends to be 2 or 3 games. Also they tend not to be sigle elimination at least on day one. I'm not 100% sure how it is structured, but you will play multiple games againts multiple opponents.
 

snoopy369

Aspiring Trainer
Advanced Member
Member
That's incorrect. Each match is timed (70 something minutes I believe) and there are rules against slow play, so each match tends to be 2 or 3 games. Also they tend not to be sigle elimination at least on day one. I'm not 100% sure how it is structured, but you will play multiple games againts multiple opponents.

Matches are either best of 1 or best of 3 depending on the tournament. League tournaments are often best of 1, until elimination rounds. Regionals and Worlds are best of 3, specifically.

Tournaments are generally swiss-style, so there is no elimination, but at the same time smaller tournaments in particular have a one-and-done element in that if you're in a league challenge, say, with 8 players, you're playing 3 swiss rounds, and one loss virtually guarantees you can no longer win (barring a bunch of other ties). But that's only for smaller tournaments; larger ones have best-of-three and top cut, so losing one match doesn't disqualify you.

My opinion generally is that Pokémon's format encourages building for consistency, and for the most part that is possible - much more so than in Magic. It's not a pure strategy game, but ability level *does* matter, both in deck building and playing, and you can see from the results that better players consistently win - so it's not nearly as RNG driven as OP is suggesting. It's not Bridge, perhaps, but even that has its random element...
 

Number51x

Blasting off at the speed of light!
Member
Matches are either best of 1 or best of 3 depending on the tournament. League tournaments are often best of 1, until elimination rounds. Regionals and Worlds are best of 3, specifically.

Tournaments are generally swiss-style, so there is no elimination, but at the same time smaller tournaments in particular have a one-and-done element in that if you're in a league challenge, say, with 8 players, you're playing 3 swiss rounds, and one loss virtually guarantees you can no longer win (barring a bunch of other ties). But that's only for smaller tournaments; larger ones have best-of-three and top cut, so losing one match doesn't disqualify you.

My opinion generally is that Pokémon's format encourages building for consistency, and for the most part that is possible - much more so than in Magic. It's not a pure strategy game, but ability level *does* matter, both in deck building and playing, and you can see from the results that better players consistently win - so it's not nearly as RNG driven as OP is suggesting. It's not Bridge, perhaps, but even that has its random element...
Thanks for clarifying!
 

CrownAxe

Aspiring Trainer
Member
If you play a best of 1 tournament game how does it average out over a series of games?

You are out the instant you brick or flood at the start of those games.
The round may be a single game but you're play multiple rounds for multiple games in the entire tournament. Since TCG tourneys are swiss format you play all the rounds and the best scores movea on to top cut. Its pretty common to have 1st seed have a lose or two in their score as a result. So over the course of the entire tournament your luck averages out.
 

Otaku

The wise fool?
Member
Hello @Salan

The idea behind the Pokémon TCG - and most TCGs with which I am familiar - is that luck is supposed to play a part for casual play. Organized Play will then step in and add enough structure to mitigate most of that luck, as @CrownAxe points out. So, if you're regularly drawing into "dead" hands throughout the game, or even just at the start of the game, it is likely a matter of how the deck is built (possibly whether or not it is a good deck build at all).

Test a deck so many times without issue or fail then play a best of 1 game in a tournament. Draw 6 energy and the worst pokemon you could start with, while your adversary lines up perfectly to KO even a good start 2nd turn.

What game can't have a similar scenario? Even if the game lacks a "resource card" like Energy, anything remotely balanced has other ways to keep a player from just throwing their entire hand at the opponent in a single turn. It may not be as obvious as a dedicated resource card is all. Which is not to say I think everything is great in the Pokémon TCG. I've actually got a lot of criticisms and would like a mulligan mechanic added to the game. The catch is that the signature gameplay of the Pokémon TCG makes it tricky to implement. If you'd like to suggest how to incorporate a mulligan mechanic for this game, go for it! :)

Switching gears before returning to the topic at hand:
(Even if Pokemon isn't a direct Magic-like, it was still designed by the same people.)

That doesn't sound right. MtG is was created by Wizard of the Coast but they didn't create the Pokémon TCG; they licensed it for release outside of Japan. Their influence is there, as they introduced the concept of a rotating format... but they also are the ones who eliminated the 15+ Age Bracket from Organized Play, were not the ones to implement the modern Championship Series, etc. If I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, please let me know. As is, it is embarrassing I cannot give a clear answer as to who developed the Pokémon TCG for its original Japanese release. >.>

Okay, back on topic: I can't completely agree with the idea that the "resource card" system is inherently flawed but the rest of your post sounds accurate, Yaginku.
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
That doesn't sound right. MtG is was created by Wizard of the Coast but they didn't create the Pokémon TCG; they licensed it for release outside of Japan.
It's interesting, I was always under the impression that Wizards developed PCTG, but that appears to not be the case. However, information on this topic is really scarce - I would still classify Pokemon TCG as a Magic-like with the resource system and similar turn structure, even if it's on the edge on the definition.

As for the flaws of the mana system - we had over 25 years to analyze it, it has been torn apart by both designers and players. No system is perfect, so it's absolutely fine to say there are "inherent flaws" about any of them, but I'd say many of mana/energy's flaws aren't a byproduct of another, positive impact on the game.
 

CrownAxe

Aspiring Trainer
Member
@Yaginku I find it hard to call PTCG "magic-like" when pretty much the only thing they have in common is they both use mana/energy which is a fairly generic similarity. Turn structures aren't even close considering PTCG is missing half of a MTG turn (namely the post combat main phase)

More modern card games are implemented better mana systems that don't have such a delta on mana building. Force of Will put the mana into a seperate deck that you can draw from every turn, and Hearthstone just ties it directly to the turn count. These games basically don't have problems of mana flood/screw as a result
 

Frost

Ice/Fairy Stan Account
Member
The only thing Wizards really did was translate the cards that Creatures/Media Factory had created in Japan, yes. They had to jump through a lot of hoops to get Dark Raichu created. It's one of my big pet peeves when uninformed casual/nostalgic fans think that WOTC's cards were "better" when they had nearly zero involvement and viewed Pokemon as the gateway drug to Magic.
 

Yaginku

Aspiring Trainer
Member
@Yaginku I find it hard to call PTCG "magic-like" when pretty much the only thing they have in common is they both use mana/energy which is a fairly generic similarity. Turn structures aren't even close considering PTCG is missing half of a MTG turn (namely the post combat main phase)

I would not call it generic in 1996, only three years after Alpha came out - that's why other similarities like starting with a hand of 7, mulligan on a hand with no resources (which was present in Magic early on), separation of card types into "monsters and spells", the concept of decking out, are all more obvious influences. It's honestly why I thought they've designed it in the first place, given how they've approached Duel Masters and Transformers TCG later.
 

CrownAxe

Aspiring Trainer
Member
I would not call it generic in 1996, only three years after Alpha came out - that's why other similarities like starting with a hand of 7, mulligan on a hand with no resources (which was present in Magic early on), separation of card types into "monsters and spells", the concept of decking out, are all more obvious influences. It's honestly why I thought they've designed it in the first place, given how they've approached Duel Masters and Transformers TCG later.
Again these are all superficial details. When you look at actual core elements of the games (How energy is attached to specific pokemon instead of being a general resource, combat is 1 way damage between only the active pokemon and not a chosen defense amongst all creatures, no opponent actions during the player turn, the 6 prize win condition, etc.) the games look pretty much nothing a like
 

Otaku

The wise fool?
Member
It's honestly why I thought they've designed it in the first place, given how they've approached Duel Masters and Transformers TCG later.

Duel Masters/Kaijudo is "PokéMagic", possibly with some Yu-Gi-Oh added in. Of course, it looks like it began as a manga a few years before even its Japanese debut, so how much of that is coincidence is anyone's guess. If you take generic anime and blend it in with MtG art - not that I've seen a lot of the latter - I wouldn't be surprised if it comes out looking like Duel Masters... which to me looks a bit like Yu-Gi-Oh art (but not quite). "Evolution" is a common enough theme in fiction as well.

I'm getting off topic. I mean, in a sense we were already. I'll risk being doubly wrong by stating I think Yaginku and @CrownAxe are each partially correct. There is a lot of overlap in TCGs. Period. I don't know if it is because folks are cribbing off MtG or because of the very reason MtG did something in the first place: it works. Again, I don't think WotC does everything right. Far from it. I think the only TCG's I've played where decks weren't 60 cards are Chaotic and Yu-Gi-Oh... and Chaotic actually might be 60 cards if you add it all together (barely got to play it before it died). Yu-Gi-Oh's 40 card minimum never really felt right. Draw power was effectively stronger because of this, in terms of accessing your deck: every two cards drawn in YGO is equivalent to three (unless I blew the math) in a 60 card deck game. YGO lacks a resource card as well, so it is like having a 40 card deck where nothing needs Energy... and so all your draws are snagging Trainers and Pokémon.
 
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