Pokemon XY Ancient origins Theme Decks Iron Tide and Stone heart review and unboxing

Pokémon.... I always thought it was for kids. Mainly that's due to me being a little older when Pokémon first started airing as a cartoon, and the cards came out.  At that point I was into Magic the Gathering, therefore looked down at all other card games, and so it was forgotten about.  until now.  Being a dad myself with a young one, she's always watching cartoons, and has on occasion watched Pokémon, so when we where lucky enough to try these she was excited and I went into with trepidation.  Did that trepidation stay? you will have to wait and see.
 We got two starter decks that could battle against each other, above is the Iron Tide deck, a metal and water energy one that came with everything you need to play, which is good, as I had no idea about how to play this or build with boosters.  The box is nicely presented, with a holo (foil for MTG players) card displayed in the front window.
 on the back of the box, it gives you a list of contents, what cards come in and a bit of background about the deck and how it should work
 When you open it you can see it has some nice pamphlets all folded up, a plastic coin for use in game and all your cards.
 The opposing deck is a fighting and grass energy deck called Stone Heart, again nice artwork and the holo card you get that's exclusive to the box on display.

So what else is in these boxes?

 Inside each pack you get your coin with heads and tails side, a sheet of punch out tokens for damage counters and special effects like poison or burn, which I thought was a nice touch.
 A little double sided sheet that explains what is new in XY ancient origins, it didn't mean a great deal to me being totally new to Pokémon in general but I am sure will be handy
 On the back is a checklist of all the cards in the XY ancient origins card set which is a useful guide for a collector.
Each deck is then in its own card box nice and safe, again with good thematic art, so far I am liking what I am seeing, its nice high production values.
Lastly you get your themed playmat, which folds out showing you where your cards go and having handy rules hints to the side.  On the back are the rules, its a simple game in conept, but very deep in play.
One of the suprises of the pack is it comes with a code card, it said to unlock this deck online input this code here which then let me download the Pokémon online trading card game for free, and play it online with a few decks, and the ones from the unlock codes.  I could explain how to play it, but the free online game has an excellent tutorial system that will guide you smoothly into the world of Pokémon and allow you to battle online against other players, or the AI all the while earning virtual coins you can spend on booster packs, and other theme decks to unlock in game.  When you buy a booster in real life you also get a code to unlock online, its a fantastic idea that I am very pleased with and surprised other card game systems (looks at you MTG) have not adopted as a free format.
The very basics are you battle your Pokémon, they are a certain energy type, grass, metal, neutral etc, you equip the relevant amount of energy and decide what attack they use and they inflict damage, there are several other types of cards, trainer cards that can help in other ways, or items to enhance your Pokémon.  The first to claim all your prize cards (you get one each time you knock an opposing Pokémon out) is the winner, or if your opponent runs out of cards you win, or if you destroy their last active Pokémon (you can have one active and up to 5 at a time on your bench).
You can head here to download the rules for free, and also the online game for free which will both do a better job of telling you about the game then I can.
 The Stone Heart deck was my deck of choice, it is fighting and grass type Pokémon.
 You get some quite powerful cards in here in the form of Regirock, Vileplume and Virizion, with others like Ariados posion ability able to help even when he is on the bench.  The art is varied and not all one style, but is bright and colourful, and pleasant, I actually really enjoyed looking through the cards.
 Iron Tide was Olivias deck of choice, a water and metal energy type deck.
 It has some real powerful hitters in the form of Regice, Registeel, Metagross and Gyarados in it.
 Here is a shot of us all set up in game, the coin is used for some actions that will say flip a coin if heads then this, if tails then that, or for some attacks that will say flip a coin 3 times damage is 20 X the number of heads. some attacks are more straightforwards, Vileplume just does 70 damage but must have 3 energy equipped.  You can retreat your Pokémon id they are damaged at the cost of discarding energy attached to them which is displayed on each card.  you can see that Virizion has taken a beating so has fallen back.
 Ariados has used his poison ability to poison Registeel so he will take regular damage each turn until he is cured of it.
 Olivia is preparing her next move, thinking over how she will destroy me
 I'm concerned about the powerful Pokémon she is building up at the moment the game is level with one prize card each
but the next card could decide my fate!
So what is my opinion of Pokémon?  I have to say I really quite enjoyed it, there is more depth to it then I imagined, and it can be very tactical and competitive as well.  Olivia has mastered it quite nicely, though her sitting with me and playing the online helped her immensely.  I have to say this is a great system to get into if you have children as the resources here are superb, and by having the online element each time you get cards you never feel the physical packs are wasted, as they provide the codes for online, and if you are playing together in person it is always more fun.  Though of course, I  have been known to play a few sneaky games online when Olivia is in bed!
You can pick up packs of boosters or theme decks from your local GAME store, and frankly I would rather these then a video game for Olivia, it helps her thinking, and her maths working out how much damage she has done or taken.
All in all, I must say I had a great time with Pokémon, and am certainly now a convert, pick some up, give it a try yourself, or try it online first for free. 
The Theme Decks RRP at £9.99, and the boosters retail for £3.49 with 11 cards.  They also include the relevant online codes as well. 


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