If all you know about Pokémon is that “You gotta catch ’em all,” but you — or the kids in your life — want to learn more about the world of Pokémon Battles, then the Pokémon Trading Card Game Battle Academy is for you.
Designed for kids ages 6 and up, The Pokémon Co.‘s Battle Academy is the first board game adaptation of the popular Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG), which is a classic and screen-free way to enjoy battling Pokémon. For those who aren’t familiar with the mechanics of the Pokémon TCG, picking up a pack and trying to play can be a bit daunting. This new game basically bridges that learning gap for new players, providing step-by-step guidance and a lot of visual guides to get players accustomed to the gameplay.
And when I say step by step, I really mean it! When you open the game, you will find a set of booklets. One has the character Pikachu on it, while the other has Charizard. You will also find the game board, game pieces, and a deck of Pokémon cards that matches each booklet.
Then, the booklets walk you through exactly how to set up the board and exactly what moves to make for the first four turns of your first game. It feels a bit strange having the game instructions tell you how to play your cards, but I promise it’s for a good reason. By the end of those four turns, you will use every basic concept that you need to understand the game. Through diagrams and incredibly detailed steps, you’ll learn what to do each turn, how to evolve Pokémon, how to battle your opponent, and more.
Once you’ve made it through the instruction booklets, there are still plenty of built-in tips and reminders to help you in future games, including a list of what to do during each turn that’s printed on each player’s side of the board. I won’t get into all the details of the game here, but you can check out this official video to get a sense of how to play.
While you do finish out the rest of your first game without the guidebook’s help, I recommend continuing to work together for the rest of that game and deciding that who wins or loses doesn’t count — especially if both players are new to the game. I did this with my opponent, and working together allowed us to clarify points that the other may have missed and start discussing potential strategies, which made our next games far more interesting!
Once you have mastered the basics of the Pokémon TCG, Battle Academy does not lose its play value, as there are ways to make the game increasingly more difficult. First, you can shuffle the Pikachu and Charizard decks out of their predetermined order, making play a bit more random. Then, once you’ve fully mastered the basic battles, you can move on to the (also included) advanced rulebook and additional Mewtwo deck. This booklet takes things up a notch to full Pokémon TCG level, bringing in additional factors such as Pokémons’ weakness/resistance and special conditions.
Overall, I would say this game might not be a great fit for avid Pokémon fans who have already mastered the TCG. However, Battle Academy makes the TCG accessible, easy to understand, and game night-friendly for new players — which makes it a win in my book. (For the record, I had played Pokémon video games before, but never the TCG. Experience playing the video games certainly helped, but I believe I still would have picked it up easily without that background!)
My only note is that, while the game is recommended for kids ages 6 and up, at least one of the players needs to be a strong reader to make sure they get a firm grasp on the rules. If two young kids are playing, they may want to have an adult nearby to help with the directions or each team up with an adult to play.
Now, what are you waiting for? You, too, can be a master Pokémon trainer!