My love for gaming in all forms – including board and card games – is well documented elsewhere in my writing and I’ve also written quite a bit about my […]
My love for gaming in all forms – including board and card games – is well documented elsewhere in my writing and I’ve also written quite a bit about my love for Transformers (including yesterday, where I covered some brilliant Transformers comics), so it should come as no surprise that the Transformers Trading Card Game is also of huge appeal to me. With striking, oversized character cards that you flip over to transform them into the character’s alt mode, it’s a fast and relatively straightforward game that is pretty good fun, but has suffered from a few missteps since release.
The first starter set contained enough cards to learn how to play (with, essentially, half a standard deck of cards for each player), but only Autobot characters – and the instructions provided only gave details on how to play an incredibly basic game that made little use of the cards provided, directing players instead to the website for the full game rules. Given that the full game rules are hardly extensive or overly complicated, it wouldn’t have been difficult or expensive to include these. I understand that the inclusion of Autobots only was to push players into buying boosters in the hope of finding Decepticons, but there should have been a few included to give a better flavour to the basic game at least.
The Wave 2 Starter Set – Bumblebee vs Megatron – fixes those issues, with a decent, albeit small, selection of Autobots and Decepticon character cards included as well as the full game rules (and they fit on a small paper fold out, so there really was no excuse not to include them in the first wave Starter Set). Other starter decks and Waves have become available, including ones with even bigger character cards (hello, Metroplex!) and combiners that create enormous characters from a number of smaller ones. There’s been a brilliant implementation of the possibilities of Transformers characters within the mechanics of the game.
So, how do you play? Each player chooses their characters, sets them up in alt (rather than bot) mode and draws three cards from their deck. The deck of standard sized cards – known as ‘Battle Cards’ – consist of actions and upgrades. Upgrades can be weapons, shields or armour – your characters can have one of each type attached unless otherwise specified on the character or upgrade cards. On each turn, you can flip over a character, play one action and one upgrade.
You then attack your opponent’s character(s) – tap your character (turn them sideways) and announce who you’ll be attacking (if any of your opponent’s characters are tapped, you have to attack a tapped character). Each character turns over the top two cards of their deck, using coloured icons at the top of the card; the attacker adds all of the orange icons they reveal to their character’s Attack stat (which is also modified by any weapons they have) and the defender does the same with blue icons and their defense (also modified by any defensive cards their character currently has equipped). The attacker deals damage equal to the difference between the modified attack and defense stats. If a character is reduced to 0 or less health, they’re knocked out and placed in a KO area away from the battlefield.
Once all characters are tapped, both players untap all of their characters and play continues until one player’s characters are all knocked out.
Barring a few added – but not especially complicated – clarifications and wrinkles to the above, what I’ve described is basically the complete rules of the game. It’s very simple, which is both blessing and curse; it allows you to get moving quickly and is an easy game to pick up for players of pretty much any age, but longer term it may be a little too simple if just using cards from the first Wave.
Thankfully, aforementioned sets that introduce different types of character – including Combiners – and new card types including Secret Actions (that are triggered under specific game conditions) do seem to add a decent level of complexity without over-complicating the game too much.
As you can see from the photos I’ve used here, the character art on the oversized cards is absolutely gorgeous. The oversized cards do, unfortunately, seem prone to warping however – and without easy access to card sleeves due to their unusual size, this may prove to be a problem in the long term. Art on the Battle cards is more variable in quality, but the function of the cards is always clear (though keywords/effects such as Pierce could really use some explanation in the rules).
The sets from the earliest waves seem to be heavily discounted in a lot of stores now, so it’s a good time to get hold of a couple (though the Autobots and Bumblebee vs Megatron decks are sold as two player starter sets, there are only enough cards to make one complete deck if using the full rules). Booster packs also seem to be heavily discounted at the moment; these contain one oversized card and seven Battle cards, so you’re guaranteed a character and a decent amount of cards to build a deck with, once you’re ready to move on to customising – deck construction rules are pretty straightforward, with your total value of characters on your team not allowed to exceed 25 stars (each has a star rating on the bottom of the card), your deck to comprise 40 cards and for there to be no more than 3 of any card with the same name in your deck.
There’s no restriction on mixing Autobots and Decepticons, so it’s very easy to get a team together even if you’re just using characters found in boosters.
I’ve really enjoyed playing the Transformers TCG. It’s got a really unique and appealing aesthetic thanks to the big characters, and it’s a fast-paced game that’s easy to teach, suitable for all ages. There’s a bit of an issue with the Wave 1 starter – that contains only Autobots – only including rules for a very cut down and random version of the game, but if you combine this set with a Bumblebee vs Megatron starter, you’ll have Autobots and Decepticons as well as two full size decks to play with.
I’m definitely the target audience for this game; a Transformers fan with little time to devote to overly complicated rulesets or deckbuilding – from an aesthetic point of view it’s outstanding too. If you can take advantage of the cheaper prices currently out there for starters, it’s well worth checking out.
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