yu gi oh playing mat

The Yu-Gi-Oh TCG (Trading Card Game) has gone through some significant changes in the last few years.

This is one review I’ve been itching to write for a while now, but just didn’t know where to start. I mean come on, the game’s been around for about 16 years or so (longer in Japan).

Now, I started playing back in 2002 or 2003 and I’ve been playing on and off for the last 15 years or so. Of course, I’m a long way behind the times it seems, because everything is different and it all keeps changing!

Let’s get started by refreshing our memories a bit. If you’ve never played or even heard of the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG, don’t worry I’ve got you covered.

Just a quick note before we get started: I’m not going to talk about the anime or manga in this review – I’m focusing entirely on the card game that came out of them.

Yu-Gi-Oh TCG
The 3 Egyptian God Cards and a piece of Exodia the Forbidden One, 4 of the hardest cards to run – Source: me

Crash Course

The game is primarily a 2 to 4 player, with one on one and tag team matches being, at least as far as I know, the most common types of matches played. You can play with up to 8 players (two tag team matches), but anything higher than that and things will likely get very complicated in an already complicated game.

Each duel is three rounds, and each player starts out with 8000 Life Points and a deck of 40 to 60 cards. The players use monster cards, spell cards and trap cards to decrease their opponent’s Life Points. Victory goes to the player who successfully brings his/her opponent’s LP to 0.

Best two out of three wins the match.

“That’s not complicated!” I hear you say. And you’re right, it’s not. But this is all general stuff. It’s about to get very complicated.

Monsters: Attributes, Levels, Attack and Defence Scores, Card Types and Effects

There are different types of monsters (fiends, warriors, dragons, beasts, spellcasters, etc.) and each has an attribute (light, dark, earth, wind, water, fire) and a level (number of stars below the name and attribute of the monster in question). Each monster also has an attack (ATK) score and a defence score (DEF).

Damage is done when two monsters do battle and the damage is equal to the difference between the two ATK scores. There are also different types of monster cards (normal, effect, fusion, ritual, synchro, XYZ, Pendulum and Link).

That’s just the monsters! We still have spell and trap cards to worry about because all spell and trap cards affect gameplay in different ways – as opposed to specific monsters which have effects on gameplay.

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG: Archetypes, Mechanics, Rules, Terminology

Summoning mechanics is an easy starting point. In the original format, which is what I grew up playing, we only had two special summoning mechanics: Ritual summoning and Fusion summoning.

Both mechanics require the use of spell cards and a tribute (in the case of fusions, it’d be the monsters you’re trying to fuse and in the case of rituals it’d be monsters equal to the level of the monster you want to summon).

Now, however, we have synchro summoning, XYZ summoning, pendulum summoning and, most recently, link summoning. This means that the game board/mat/whatever you want to call it has changed from this:

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG
Yu-Gi-Oh! is a pretty simple game – Source: l33meatwad.deviantart.com

To this:

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG
Umm…guys, what happened to the board? – Source: reddit.com

And guess what? Each of these special summoning mechanics have their own set of rules – in addition to the usual gameplay rules. Does your brain hurt yet? No? Okay, there are also specific terms – jargon – that you should know as a player. i.e. floating, pop, etc.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Just follow the rules and you’ll be fine” you’re right – sort of. See, there are certain rules that are a bit more obscure than those in the rule book or dictated by card text. This can make things a bit more complicated in the long run.

If you would like more info on confusing rules in this game, then definitely check out this video by Team APS where they go over a couple of them.

As for archetypes… well… the best way to explain it is that Dark Magician used to be just a card but now there’s a whole archetype built around him.

Now, that we’ve refreshed our memories a bit, how have these changes affected the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG?

Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG
Some of my personal favorite cards – Source: Me

Well, the added mechanics certainly are a game changer (excuse the pun), and they certainly make things complicated – especially for younger players. They’re also – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – a breath of fresh air to the game.

Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, the game actually did need these changes. The new summoning mechanics present a significant challenge, making it freaking hard to swarm your opponent with extra deck boss monsters.

It also means that deck construction has to be more tactical since you have to include link monsters in your build if you want to use your extra deck to any degree of efficiency.

This has made the game more interesting as players have gone to various lengths of adapting to the new format. Some integrated link monsters into their decks without issue, while others, like me, went into using Ritual decks as a means of adapting.

So, now that we’ve covered the changes to the game and their effects, what is the general verdict of Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG?

Overall I think the game is a lot of fun to play. It’s a game that you really need to play in order to understand. To quote a favourite film character, “the only way to learn it is to do it”. I’ll leave the character’s identity a mystery and see how many of you lovely readers can tell me who it is (hint: it’s a Disney film).

The fact that no two duelists will use the same deck makes the game very unpredictable.

The cards are beautifully illustrated and the game is, at its core, a fairly simple TCG that pretty much anyone can play – in fact, the game is billed as a kid’s card game.

Factoring in online free-to-play duelling platforms like Yu-Gi-Oh! PRO, Duel Nexus, and Duelling Book, the game is available to a wider audience of both avid players (casual and competitive) and people just curious about the game.

That said, outside of the online free to play platforms, the TCG is quite pricey. Last time I checked, a deck of 40 cards goes for about $20 AUD, which is about 200 bucks in my South African currency, with booster packs going for about $2 or $3 AUD (20 or 30 bucks in South African currency). That’s just the cards; you still have to worry about card sleeves, a deck box, play mat with its tube and a trade binder – among other things.

The prices on these items were through the roof the last time I checked and competitive players still have to worry about their tournament entry fee as well as food and drinks and so on. Side note: How good is food and drink?

Is this really a kids game?

Yes and no. As I said before, the game is simple enough to understand and once you’ve been playing for a while the more obscure rules become much easier to understand. It’s a lot of fun and collecting the cards is just a cool thing for a kid to have as a hobby – something he can show off to his friends.

Thematically the cards have changed as well, going from night terror scary to whimsical, happy-go-lucky, which is definitely something I think kids can appreciate.

On the other hand, the game is constantly changing. With new mechanics, archetypes and so on being added all the time it makes it hard to keep up with sometimes. The more obscure rules of the game can also throw players off their game (which doesn’t help if you’re already nervous about competing).

As previously stated, the price is also quite steep, which works very much against it, often preventing younger players from purchasing cards/card sets they need for a specific deck. Team APS did a video on this subject as well, which you can watch here.

How will the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG change in the future?

The question of ‘will the game change’ is moot, simply because the game has to change in order to compete with other TCGs like Magic: the Gathering and Pokemon. The question is: how will this game change in the future?

With the near-constant releases of different box sets containing archetype support cards and the ever shifting gameplay, it’s very hard to give a definite answer. The changes in the game seem to follow the new anime releases as well since the link summoning mechanic was announced, much like pendulum summoning before it, with the launch of the franchise’s seventh anime series.

Maybe the next set of changes will be related to a new series; I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

Final Thoughts: What do you think?

So, those are my thoughts on the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game and now I want to know yours. What do you think about the game in general? Have you played/do you currently play? What do you think is going to happen with the game in future – how do you think it’ll change? Why? Would you like me to do more on the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG? If so, what would you like to see/read?

Hit me up on Twitter and tell me all about that stuff!

And if you want more gaming greatness then check out this article on Steam Policy Changes in Australia.

I've been writing fiction since 2012, and published my first novel to Amazon Kindle in August of 2016. My second book has just been finished and is on its way to editing and I hope to have it published soon.I'm a huge fan of anime and manga series and I started doing reviews of those mediums and others late last year.