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Yu Yu Hakusho
Harry Potter
Vs. System

Bebs at ToyWiz.com 
Play it like a Newbie!
8 Tips for Getting Your Reluctant Friends to play the Pokemon TCG
January 3, 2012

I realize that the crowd here at Pojo is a lot more pro than newbie, but maybe you should consider playing like one, and here's why: you probably hang out with someone who doesn't play Pokemon, and it would be really awesome if they did! You might even have tried to get someone involved before, only to have them quit in frustration, but there are some ways to make it a lot easier.

  1. Start with decks that are geared toward the same beginner level. Because you understand the game so much better, you've got a huge advantage no matter what. And no offense, but most experienced players have a really hard time making a handicapped deck - your choices will be affected by your superior knowledge. And you also need to avoid making decks that are complicated - there's a lot to learn, but nobody can handle everything in their first game! I recommend the Black & White Trainer Set because it's balanced enough to play well without overwhelming the learner and it keeps things very straightforward. With it, your friend will get just enough information to play a fun game, but not so much that it seems like too much work. So for this post, I'm using the trainer set as an example.
  2. Remember that your goal isn't to win - it's to help the other person have fun and learn the basics. And while I won't tell you to try to lose, it's okay if you do. It may only be because of deck imbalance, lousy draws, or even because you helped them make their plays. But it will show your friend that it's possible to defeat you. Now it will be awhile before they defeat your best deck, but at least getting a good game (not a total annihilation) will make them more likely to play again. And I really do mean that part about having fun - your friend probably won't bother learning the basics if you make it tedious, humiliating or too complicated.
  3. Avoid making aggressive or fast-burn style decks. To learn, people need to play games out and see the strengths and weaknesses of different cards and combos. If you burn them down quickly, then they'll just be frustrated and won't learn much.
  4. Let's talk about your attitude. In competition, you might talk a little trash. Maybe not you...but some of you do! When you're teaching, swallow the smart remarks and gloating. It will only make your friend decline the next time you want to play. So when they make a stupid move (and they might), don't scream, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" or laugh at them - after all, is your victory over someone completely new really a reason to brag anyway? Nope! So instead, when they make a bad choice, patiently explain why a different play would be better. And then let them take back the bad move and make the one you suggest, even if it means your own defeat. And keep doing it! This isn't just a "for the first hand" thing - you may have to play several games before strategy "clicks" for your opponent. Patience in the first few games can mean a lot of time in the future for truly competitive play.
  5. Avoid making a "GOTCHA!" move. Yes, against a more experienced player there's nothing sweeter than slamming down devastating combos. And eventually, you'll want to show your student exactly how that can work. But it would be far better to show them by explaining how they can kill YOUR evolved Pokemon with a series of cards in their hand than to just annihilate something they've proudly built up. And just to clarify: I mean yes, if you see a crushing move you can make, consider holding it back unless it's a good end point for the game. See #2 above - your goal isn't winning, it's teaching and getting someone else to have fun learning. If they're not enjoying it, they probably won't come back. And getting smacked-down before you even know what happened is never fun.
  6. Send them home with enough cards to play! If you started by using the Black & White Training Kit, let your friend take the whole set home (or just give it to them as a gift, then play with them after they open it). It has instructions that will help them if they want to play later or if they want to practice against someone else who doesn't really know the game. But even if you're building decks, they still need cards in hand to think about, research and practice with when they leave.
  7. Don't be too generous! Some of you probably have hundreds of Pokemon cards stored up that you never play because they're weak or too common. While it's an awesome idea to give your friend a lot of cards, hold back a bit. If you hand them a million mediocre cards, they'll probably be excited and grateful. But when it comes to building decks with that many, they'll be confused and make a lot of bad choices. A better idea, if you're feeling generous, is to find out which Pokemon they like best after a few hands, and give them some pretty good cards to support the style they like.
  8. Bring them here. If they're interested at all, show them where to find more information on Pojo.com, like deck lists and strategies. Seeing thousands of fun people coming together online is a great way to boost their interest and show them what a great hobby this can be.

It takes patience to teach someone how to play, especially if they're a little reluctant about it. But it will be worth it in the end if you end up with another friend to play with, something fun to do with a family member, and someone to trade with, too. And if you've done everything right, and your friend has a bit of a knack for it, you'll have a new friend tagging along to a tourney soon enough.

Some notes on why I like to use the Black & White Training Kit:

  • You can both can play from the minute you open it.
  • Neither deck is clearly better than the other - both have a chance to win.
  • It's better than starting with booster packs because the decks are already created, and additional counters and a coin are included so that everything is in place. Deck building can wait til after the beginner is more comfortable with how the cards work together.
  • The booklets about how to play each deck are a great introduction to strategy, and the learner can reference them after the game.
  • Because there are only two types of Pokemon, learning them won't be overwhelming. Once they've mastered these, adding more is easier.
  • The booster pack is just right for getting a taste of deck-building. It's not too much, but hopefully there will be a good draw or two that makes your friend want to hunt for more!

For this post, we've reduced the price on the Pokemon Black & White Training Kit, so it's a great time to start teaching your friends. Good luck!

Have you ever helped get a friend learn Pokemon, and how did it turn out? What helped you the most when you were learning? I'd love to know, and you can always email me with suggestions!


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