In July Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast unveiled their next collectible trading card game, this one based on the Transformers brand. Focusing appropriately on iconic Autobots and Decepticons, the game pits two players against each other and tasks them with knocking their opponent's characters out.
The Transformers Trading Card Game Starter Kit is all that's needed to jump into the two-player action and it comes with four character cards (which are larger in size than the main deck) and a deck of 40 battle cards - used for the main gameplay. We were also given a pair of Booster Packs that each some with one character card and seven battle cards.
Attendees of Comic-Con International 2018 and Gen Con 2018 also had the chance at acquiring some exclusive cards (including characters Cliffjumper and Slipstream) from Convention Edition packs and luckily we were there and nabbed one! Before we dig into our thoughts on the Transformers TCG, let's breakdown precisely how the game is played to offer some context and comparisons.
Transformers Trading Card Game Rules: How to Play
1. Each player chooses their characters which can have a total maximum value of 25 or fewer stars.
2. Players place characters on their side facing up in alt (car) mode.
3. With the Starter Set, deal 20 battle cards each and place damage counters on the side so both players can reach. This is your table setup.
4. Rock-paper-scissors to see who goes first.
5. Each player deals three battle cards to themselves. This is their hand.
6. At start of every turn, player draws a card for their hand. On every turn, the player can can do all of the three if they choose, in any order:
- Play an action card if you have one. At end of turn, put action card in scrap pile beside their deck.
- Play an upgrade card (weapon, armor, or utility) on one of your characters. Upgrades stay on the battlefield attached to the character of choice, and you can only have one of each upgrade type on a character. You can however, trade upgrades - just discard the one you take off into the scrap pile.
- Transform a character (flip a character card over to put them in bot mode or alt mode)
Note: Whoever goes first cannot play a battle card that very first turn. They can only flip a character and tap one character to attack. Whoever goes second can flip and attack, and play one action or upgrade, but not both. This is only for this second turn.
7. Tap a single character to attack (it doesn't matter if character is in alt or bot mode, that just changes their stats/abilities potentially). If enemy has tapped cards, these must be targeted first. If no enemy characters are tapped you get to choose who to attack.
Note: If enemy's characters are all tapped, you must keep playing your characters until they are all tapped as well. Once all characters on both sides are tapped, reset them all to untap position.
8. During an attack, each player flips the top two battle cards from their deck and note the colored rectangle bars in the top right of each card.
- You want orange on attack and blue on defense, and these values add to your characters respective attack/defense stat.
- If either player gets a white rectangle though, the first time you see this during an attack you get to flip two bonus battle cards for that attack (so you have four instead of two).
9. There are also three character abilities to take note of during combat for certain characters (Bold, Tough, Pierce):
- If you have Bold X on attack you get +X cards
- If you have Tough X on defense you get +X cards
- Pierce X cuts through defense so you at least get X amount while attacking.
10. Once cards are played, add up the total orange attack value (character attack + character ability or upgrade amounts if applicable + number of orange rectangles on battle cards if there are any) and if that's greater the defender character's defense (+ blue values from flipped battle cards + armor upgrades + character ability defense if applicable), add that damage counter to the character.
If damage counter on a character matches or exceeds their health (red) stat, they are KO'd (knocked out) and can be placed in a separate KO pile.
11. At turn's end, place all battle cards in each player's scrap pile. If all characters are tapped at end of turn, untap them all on both sides.
12. Keep going until one player loses all their characters.
Our Thoughts on the Transformers Trading Card Game
The Transformers TCG is fun to play, especially for new and old fans who appreciate the lore and classic characters. It's relatively easy to pick and play as well just with the starter kit and far more simple to understand and get into than Wizard's mighty popular Magic: The Gathering. There are is however, a lack of clarity at times in the rules.
Instructions aren't always specific. For instance, there's an Utility Upgrade battle card which lets attacker remove an upgrade from the opponent but it doesn't specify which player chooses which upgrade, nor does it specify if the removed upgrade has its effects still in play and is removed after, or if its removed at the onset of the attack, nullifying it in the process.
The same can be said for when players each draw battle cards during the attack phase. It's unclear when each player draws two bonus cards if they see a white rectangle on their chards. Is that during every player's attack? Or only once in total for every tap phase? The lack of specificity in the rules and certain cards are deciding factors in who wins a match.
In our experience with the starter kit and a pair of booster packs, the end game usually comes down to 1 vs. 1 battles and this gameplay isn't particularly dynamic or fun, especially if there are upgrades in play that remove upgrades from the opponent. Using the above battle card as an example, since a player can only play one upgrade card per turn, they can never use what's in their hand during this scenario since it's always being removed.
The central gimmick of the game, that being that the characters are Transformers, actually doesn't come into play much. The rules don't allow for transforming frequently between alt and bot mode and of the characters we have, there's barely a difference in their stats - and virtually no time to take advantage of them, meaning defensive bonuses from alt (car) mode can't really be used.
As more cards and sets are issued, we're sure this will evolve with new characters, abilities, and rules being added. Wizards and Hasbro are onto something here even if it's simple and not fully polished yet. The characters and battle card lore/functions are sensible and fit wonderfully into Transformers lore, bolstered by incredible art and depictions of the characters.
The face side of the character and battle cards are impressive, especially when it comes to the larger, foil characters. The battle cards used for gameplay have back art that leaves a lot to be desired - it's not something that'll be iconic like Magic: The Gathering.
And the last nitpick for the Transformers Trading Card Game Starter Set is that the Damage Tokens are 10 pieces of small, perforated cardboard. For any player who wants to take this game seriously and for the long-term, they'll have to come up with their own solution than this shoddy paper one.
How Rare Are The Best Transformers Trading Cards?
The Autobots Starter Set - which we used for this review - comes with Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Ironhide, and Red Alert character cards and 40 standard battle cards but there's so many more to be collected from Booster Packs, like any good TCG title.
40 Character Cards and 81 Battle Cards are available in Transformers TCG Booster Packs. Each Booster Pack contains 1 Foil Transformers Character Card and 7 Battle Cards.
Chance of Super Rare Transformers Character Card 1:79 Booster Packs. Most Booster Packs contain 1 Rare Battle Card.
And more are on the way (and new formats). The Metroplex Deck is already announced for a November 21, 2018 release date and comes with a super massive 8-inch character card (that has 35 health) for Metroplex, along with character cards for his components Scamper, Slammer, and Six-Gun. Drew Nolosco, Transformers Trading Card Game Brand Manager:
“The character METROPLEX is a Titan – he converts into an entire city and towers over most of the other giants of the TRANSFORMERS universe. Keeping that in mind, we knew that METROPLEX deserved an even bigger card than the game’s standard oversized character cards. The METROPLEX character card is 200mm tall – almost 8 inches. Whether in bot mode or alt mode, METROPLEX is one of the biggest TRANSFORMERS characters around, and now he has a suitably Titan-sized trading card.”
Stay tuned for more on this game as future decks are revealed.
The Transformers Trading Card Game launched September 28, 2018.