"Transformers: Trading Card Game" Starter Pack & Boosters Review
On September 28, 2018 Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast (makers of the legendary "Magic: The Gathering" card game) released their newest card based game, the Transformers: Trading Card Game! Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast were kind enough to send Ben's World of Transformers the Autobot Starter set and Booster Packs to try out the game and share my impressions.
Before my review, it is important to note that the Starter Set for the card game does not include an instruction manual. Instead, it includes a card with the "basic" rules for quick, simplified gameplay. Instead, fans are directed to the official web site for a deeper look at the game. Here are some important links for you to review before playing:
- Transformers TCG Official Web Site
- How To Play Videos
- Basic & Advanced Rules
- Official Facebook Page
- Product FAQ
- Wave 1 Card FAQ
While I can understand the economic reasons behind not including instructions with the Autobot Starter Pack, the packaging has plenty of room for it and I would have preferred a booklet instead of having to watch videos online. That said, after watching each video twice, my friend and I got the hang of the game and were able to play several rounds without a problem.
"The past is the greatest teacher."
My own experience with card games such as these is fairly limited. In my life I have played three: Star Trek, Battletech and Highlander. I was very serious about these games and played with a couple friends for years. I have fond memories of buying boxes of booster packs and we would split them up amongst ourselves, then trade once we opened up all our packs. These were the fond memories that took me into playing the Transformers Trading Card Game. However, I was never the best at these types of games, so I called upon my fellow (former) Battletech and Magic: The Gathering player friend to test play the game to make sure I had a well rounded experience.
The cards in this game are divided between two sizes. One is a (relatively) giant card that is a couple times the size of normal trading cards. These are the character cards. Each card features artwork from the now defunct "Transformers: Legends" mobile card game. This is one of my favorite aspects of this game as I have wanted this artwork in print for quite some time. Granted, I am still waiting for the day fans get a nice coffee table style book, but for now these will do just fine. It makes sense to recycle this artwork since each character was drawn in both modes. That's right! Each card features the character in robot mode on one side, and then their alt-mode on the other side. The robot mode side features a nice holo foil style shine while the alt-mode is printed normally in color. Each mode has slightly different stats and different special abilities. These stats and abilities of course grow more impressive as the rarity of the card increases. I found the San Diego Comic-Con booster pack Slipstream pretty devastating since one of her abilities is to remove damage from her and place it on an enemy. It both damages enemies and discourages your opponent from attacking her. I highly encourage you to examine the various special abilities in addition the the stats when building your deck.
There are two other types of cards. One is an "Action", which, as the name implies, causes something to happen. That can take the form of repairing one of your warriors, damaging your opponent or even making your opponent toss their entire hand and take new cards. These add an unpredictable element to the game that really makes it fun. Of course, your warriors are robots, so you can bolster them with "Upgrade" cards. These include armor, weaponry and a "utility". These are great not only for making your character stronger, but also forcing your opponent to rethink just how they are going to attack your team.
The card art requires more than just characters in various poses so instead Wizards of the Coast turned to the IDW Publishing comic books. The artwork in these panels feature characters in action or sometimes battle scenes. The style is very different from the "painted" style of the character cards, but it is still nice looking art and it helps add a bit of flavor, keeping the game from looking one-note.
Not being an expert level player of any game, really, this was the part that made me a bit nervous. Would I "get" the game? Would I understand how to use all the cards? Well, I should not have been so apprehensive. The basic "Battle" play is a good way to ease into the game. This basically just uses basic fighting without paying any attention to special abilities or the use of "Action Cards". I found this the best way to start with the game and familiarize myself with the layout of the cards themselves.
Once my friend and I got into the more advanced play, it felt like the true potential of the game had been unleashed. We played maybe three rounds with the "basic" rules, but once we started augmenting our warriors with Upgrades and pulling unexpected moves with Action Cards the game became a lot more fun. It also required us to start thinking more about our moves before we made them whereas the basic fighting game was just a brawl. Perhaps the most "fun" moments were seeing how you could stack cards to work to your advantage and combining the ability of your warrior with those cards. For instance, in one play you could remove damage from Slipstream and automatically damage an enemy, then pour on a Grenade Launcher (which adds +4 firepower) plus using a blaster weapon to add +2 firepower and you turn your move into a rather potent one. The anticipation and uncertainty makes for a lot of fun when going back and forth with an opponent.
With some hiccups (I really want an instruction booklet) this game is actually off to a fun start. I really enjoyed my first few rounds with it. However, I found that with only the starter set gameplay can be a bit frustrating or repetitive as you keep having to reshuffle your stockpile after playing 20 cards. Things got better when we tossed a few extra cards from the boosters into our stockpiles, but I feel that ideally you would want to have 40 or more cards in your stockpile for a truly diverse experience.
From a pure collector standpoint, I find myself conflicted on the different sized cards. They look fantastic and as art pieces I love them. However, in terms of storage it is going to be weird having some of my folder dedicated to gigantic cards while others are "regular". This is a minor quibble, however.
My recommendation would be to pick up the starter pack and about four booster packs and then have at it. This is a fun game with a beloved brand and some beautiful art.
The Transformers Trading Card Game is currently available at retailers such as Gamestop and Target. Here are the official product descriptions for your reference:
TRANSFORMERS Trading Card Game AUTOBOTS Starter Set (MSRP $14.99, ages 8 and up) - The AUTOBOTS Starter Set contains cards for two players to begin gameplay, and features OPTIMUS PRIME, BUMBLEBEE, IRONHIDE and RED ALERT character cards. It is now available for purchase at retailers in the United States beginning on Sept. 28, 2018, and in certain other markets later in 2018.
TRANSFORMERS Trading Card Game Booster Packs (MSRP $3.99, ages 8 and up) - Players can add to their character card teams and battle card decks for full gameplay with Booster Packs. Each Booster Pack contains 1 TRANSFORMERS character card and 7 battle cards from a pool of 40 character cards and 81 battle cards. Starting today, Booster Packs are sold separately and available for purchase at retailers in the United States, and in certain other markets later in 2018.