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When the first Pokémon Battle Academy was released in 2020, we called it ‘a wonderful introduction to trading cards’ and two years later it would be hard to say anything different for the updated release. For those unaware, Pokémon The Trading Card Game Battle Academy is an entry-level ‘board game’ version of the massively popular Trading Card Game, or TCG. It treats itself as a tutorial to any age of player who wants to learn the ins and outs of playing the game, without having to go out of their way to build their own decks or go in-depth into ‘the meta’.
This year's release exists predominantly to bring Generation 8 creatures from Sword & Shield to the Battle Academy, as well as the ‘V Pokémon’ mechanic, which replaced GX cards from the Sun & Moon era, meaning that anyone who plays this updated edition will be up to date with the current rules (well, until Generation 9, Scarlet and Violet's cards likely bring in their own new mechanic next year).
Battle Academy includes three different decks. Pikachu and Cinderace set themselves up as the beginner, pre-organised tutorial decks. First time players can follow a guide to the opening plays of a battle (before being set free), whilst a more advanced Eevee deck is included to bring more in-depth strategies, allowing players to truly improve.
It's a great feeling as a newcomer to the game to have both players following a set guide to the opening turns of a battle, as it presents an even playing field while allowing both combatants to slowly ease into the rules, before being let loose to duke it out four turns in. Even though the Pikachu and Cinderace decks are arranged and numbered for the tutorial, they can still be played as normal decks once players feel comfortable releasing themselves from the reigns.
Included in the box is everything you need to play - a coin, damage coins and even a code card to unlock extra goodies in the TCG LIVE online game. Most importantly, though, is the board itself. This is where Battle Academy truly takes form as a board game.
In a usual Pokémon TCG battle, players would duke it out on their own rubber playmats (or any available surface) but here you get a rigid, fold-out game board that lays out specific card placements to make the process of playing as seamless as possible - even going so far as to include a ‘what you can do during your turn’ box on each player’s side, to make sure both players never feel lost while learning the ropes. Of course, even if down the line players decide to build their own decks, this game board is still a perfect basis to compete on.
The only criticism I can truly leverage at the 2022 Battle Academy is that it has been released in what we expect to be the last year of Sword and Shield TCG releases. Having this product released around the same time as Sword and Shield Base Set in 2020 would have made this the perfect introduction to V and VMAX Pokémon. But now as it stands, newcomers will be introduced to this gimmick just as a new one is potentially set to be revealed.
As mentioned in our 2020 edition review, for £19.99 (on the Pokémon Center UK store) the value for money is excellent. Considering just one Pokémon TCG pre-built deck can cost upwards of £14.99, the Battle Academy containing three ready to go decks, guides, a coin, damage tokens and a game board can’t really be beaten. This is, of course, an entry-level product. Anyone with a good amount of experience will get nothing here unless they plan to introduce friends and family to the game.
Pros: Introduces V Pokémon, official board, replayability, easy to learn
Cons: Not for veterans, late release in Pokémon TCG release cycle, no sleeves
For Fans Of: Trading card games, two-players board games, Pokémon
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