Preview season is over, and we’re only 17 days from the release of War for Cybertron: Siege II on November 8th. The release of a new set is always an exciting time for a TCG, and it’s an especially great time for new people to jump into the game, as they can surf the wave of excitement from existing players. Release sealed events are also a great opportunity for new players, as the cards are new to everybody, and you don’t need to prepare by building a deck.
In the spirit of inviting new players to share our game, I’m reprinting an article I wrote in the spring about teaching people how to play. But before I include that, I have a few pointers for teaching sealed play, with an eye towards bringing a friend to a Siege II release event.
Now, ideally, you’ve taught your friend at least the basics of how to play before you arrived at the store, but I recognize that we’re all busy people, so there’s a decent chance at least some of you will have convinced a friend to give it a shot totally blind. Hopefully, they have at least some experience with TCGs before, but we teach with the student we have, not the one we wish we had.
You’re going to need to guide your friend through the deck building process* since they have no context for how to build. Remember, the goal is not to make the strongest deck, it’s to make the most fun deck. Start with the characters and ask your friend which one or two are their favorite (in the lore, don’t worry about the actual card). Do your best to assemble a team that adds up to 25 stars with the character(s) they chose.
* Note, most release events will be run at a casual level, but please check with your tournament organizer or store owner to make sure it’s OK for you to help your friend build their deck.
***IMPORTANT*** Under no circumstances should you deny one of their choices because it’s “weak”. First, they will have more fun if they identify with their team. Second, until a player actually knows how to play, strategic advice only introduces complexity or confusion. Please suppress your instincts to “correct them” and limit your guidance to creating a legal team. This means, “you can’t play this team because it adds to 37 stars” is fine, but “you can’t play this team because Autobots are laaaaaame…” is not. Third, too much strategy up front will rob your friend of the joy of discovering how the game ticks. We are all explorers and want to climb the mountain ourselves, not see the selfies from the top.
Moving on to deck building, I would again keep it simple. The good news is that the Transformers TCG system is very forgiving when building decks. This is a great point to let your friend take the lead. I would mainly intervene for the following three areas:
- Remove blank or mostly-blank cards (e.g. a ranged only card when your team has no ranged characters)
- Include as many two battle icon cards as possible. These lead to exciting flips and unexpected combat results.
- Make sure you don’t cut all the damage. Orange and Black battle icons are great for ensuring that damage happens and the game progresses to an ending. If you build a mostly blue deck, it will slow the games down a lot.
Now, as I mentioned, we hope that you prepared your friend with at least an overview of the game system before the event, but if you’re really throwing them in the deep end, at least communicate the following three concepts.
- A turn is draw, action, upgrade, flip a character, attack. (Don’t forget the first and second turn limitations on action and upgrade plays)
- You attack a tapped character if able, don’t untap until everybody is tapped, and if you have extra tapped characters, you get to keep attacking.
- Resolve battles by flipping cards, adding them to your attack/defense, and deal damage equal to the difference.
A more complete teaching curriculum is included at the end of the article. Enjoy the last two weeks before the new set release and we hope you invite a friend to come to your local group, learn to play, and then join you at the release event.
How to Teach the Transformers TCG
(first posted 4/30/19)
Imagine that you and your friend are at your friendly local game store playing a spirited game of the Transformers TCG. An observer wanders over. Whether the draw was the large character cards with beautiful art, the ridiculous amount of fun you and your friend are having, or their imagination being awakened by the story and characters, they ask about the game and seem interested in learning how to play.
Now, you’re pretty excited about the Transformers TCG, and you’re happy to share that excitement with a new player, but you don’t have a lot of experience teaching new players and you know it can be tricky.
As it turns out, we have accumulated a fair amount of experience in teaching people how to play games, so here are three simple rules that are applicable to teaching people how to play any new game, and then some suggestions for how to teach the Transformers TCG specifically.
Rule #1: Less is more
Everybody has a rate at which they are most comfortable receiving information. The actual rate differs from person to person, but the experience is universal. If the information comes too slowly, they get bored, distracted, and frustrated. If it comes too quickly, they get overwhelmed and eventually shut down. You’ll have to judge your audience, but remember two things. First, you are far more likely to give too much info than too little. Second, the failure state of giving too little information is that your audience wants more. The failure state of too much information is a total shutdown of your audience. We call this “bouncing off” a game.
Rule #2: Get to the fun
What’s your number one goal in teaching someone to play a game for the first time?
If you said “teaching them the rules” you fell into the second pitfall. The primary measure of success after someone plays a new game for the first time is: “Do they want to play the game a second time?”. Someone who knows the rules but didn’t have fun will probably never give the game a second chance, whereas someone who had fun but only kind of knows the rules is now motivated to learn the rest of the rules.
So, don’t make the mistake of trying to teach a new player all the rules. Your goal should be to teach them as few rules as possible and get right into the game. You can explain more as you go along. Remember, the rules aren’t the fun part of the game, they’re the scaffolding that gets you to the fun part. They’re absolutely necessary, but they’re not necessarily attractive and sometimes they can be a bit of a pain to deal with. In fact, in a player’s first game or two, don’t even worry about getting the rules exactly right. If things are humming and they get a minor interaction wrong, just roll with it. You can correct it later, and if it doesn’t break the game, it’s better to play it wrong than to interrupt your momentum to “get it right”.
Rule #3: Leave room for discovery
One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen when people teach the Transformers TCG goes something like this: “OK, these are your characters, yadda yadda. These are your battle cards, yadda yadda. The battle cards also have battle icons, there’s orange and white and blue. Now when you’re building your deck, you don’t want to have more than 6-9 white icons, and you want to commit to going either heavy orange or heavy blue, so keep the other one to a minimum, unless you’re running a pattern matcher like Bluestreak or Metroplex, then you want to reference this spreadsheet…”. This teacher has made two mistakes then, the first is that they’re violating rule #1 and dumping way too much information on the poor player. The second is that they’re taking away the excitement of discovery from this prospective new player as they explore a new game.
The best thing you can do with a brand-new player is to give absolutely no strategic advice. While they’re still learning the game they’re focused on just learning the rules. Giving them strategic advice is distracting from that and may make them feel like they’re playing badly, which could make them not want to play anymore. Further, the lessons you’re trying to impart will be much better received when they are learned firsthand. So, let them make bad attacks, play useless actions, and use superfluous upgrades. They’ll figure it out soon enough.
A Transformers TCG Road Map
So, with that advice in mind, here’s a road map that I like to use when teaching people to play the Transformers TCG.
- Welcome to the Transformers TCG
- This is your team of Transformers characters, this is my team.
- You win the game by knocking out your opponent’s team.
- Your characters start in alt mode and have a bot mode on the other side. They can flip between modes over the course of the game.
- Your characters have three stats – Attack, Defense, and Health (explain these). They also often have additional abilities in their text box. We’ll talk about those as they come up.
- You KO a character when it has damage greater than or equal to its health.
- This is your deck of battle cards. There are actions that are one-time effects and upgrades that get put on your characters. More later.
- Make sure all characters are in Alt mode. Each player draws three cards
- Ordinarily, we’d randomly determine who goes first, but for this lesson you can go first.
- Draw a card (we always draw a card at the start of each player’s turn)
- For the first player’s first turn, they don’t play any cards.
- Choose one of your characters, you may flip it into bot mode (don’t worry about strategy, just start building the habit of thinking about flipping your characters)
- Time to attack, choose one of your characters and one of mine. Tap yours to show it’s attacking.
- Flip the top two cards of your deck. Orange battle icons add to your character’s attack.
- I’ll flip the top two cards of my deck. Blue battle icons add to my character’s defense.
- The difference between your attack and my defense is the damage you deal to my character.
- Now it’s my turn. I draw for turn.
- As the second player in the first turn, I can play an action or an upgrade, but not both.
- I have to attack one of your tapped characters. Because I had no tapped characters on your turn, you could choose any of mine.
- Back to your turn. After you draw your card for the turn, you can play an upgrade, action, and flip a character in any order.
- There are three types of upgrade. A character can hold one of each type (Weapon, Armor, Utility). To play a second upgrade of the same type on a character, you first need to scrap the one that’s there.
- Continue playing
Things to only talk about when they come up or the player asks
- Keyword Abilities (Bold, Tough, Pierce, Brave, Stealth, etc)
- Other character abilities
- Traits (Melee, Truck, Autobot, etc.)
- White Battle Icons
- Green Battle Icons
- Continuing attacking when all of your opponent’s characters are taped
- Untapping all characters when all characters are tapped
- Shuffle your scrap pile when your deck is empty
- Would you like to play again?
- Building a team and a deck. (25 stars, 40 cards)
- Other ways to play (Turbo Mode, Sealed, Draft, League, Constructed)
- Social Media (Transformers TCG Twitter account and Facebook Page)