The Transformers TCG has now released two full sets with the release of Rise of the Combiners, and I feel it is almost a travesty that I have not once mentioned this game in any of my articles before. The Transformers TCG has proven to bring some of the most fun I’ve had playing a card game to the table, to the point where I would absolutely say it rivals Magic, in terms of enjoyment, rather than depth.
In this game, players assemble a team of Transformers to battle each other, using a battle deck filled with Upgrade cards and Action cards to support their giant fighting robots in order to KO all of the opposing Transformers before your own get KO’d. The Transformers that you can choose from are called Character cards, let’s go over the anatomy of a Character card now.
- Point Value: This determines how much of a cost this Character has to play. Your team of Transformers can have up to 25 total star value, and Grimlock costs 10 stars. This means if Grimlock is on your team, you can have any number of other Transformers totaling another 15 star value before your team is full.
- Defense: This is the characters base defense stat, against which an attacking character’s attack stat will be faced. I’ll get more into combat in just a second.
- Health: This is the amount of damage a character can sustain before being KO’d.
- Attack: This is the characters base attack stat, against which a defending character’s defense stat will be faced. I’ll get more into combat in just another second I promise.
- Name: The characters name.
- Type Bar: This bar is to give the characters unique traits that often give synergies in decks based on what traits your characters hold.
- Mode: Most characters are double faced cards with an Alt Mode and a Bot Mode. Characters always begin the game in their Alt Mode.
So, we’ve got the Character cards out of the way and our team of Transformers are selected. How do we play from here? First, we get a battle deck. A battle deck consists of a minimum of 40 cards, but can very in any number of different Upgrade and Action cards, so long as there are no more than 3 copies of a single card. Let’s look at Upgrade cards.
There are three different types of Upgrade cards; Armor, Weapon, and Utility. Each upgrade will affect the Transformer that you put it on in a different way. Armor will usually give a boost in a character’s defense, and weapons will usually give a boost to a character’s attack, but both can add additional abilities as well. Utility Upgrades are often very different and offer a wide array of abilities for your Transformers.
A single Transformer can have up to three Upgrades at a time, but only one of each Upgrade type. You can also only play up to one Upgrade in a single turn, regardless of which type of Upgrade you play.
Upgrades are fun and all, but let’s get some Action going.
Action cards are one-time effects that go to your Scrap Pile (or Graveyard, or Discard Pile) after they resolve. Actions are similar to Upgrades, in you can only play one Action per turn.
If you’ll notice, each Action and Upgrade card has a small colored square in the top right corner. These can be various colors, the most common being Blue, Red, and White. These are important for combat, so keep this in mind when we get to it.
Okay, okay, I have my Characters, I have my Battle Deck, now tell me how to play this game already! Well, that’s one of my favorite parts of the game, it’s extremely simple. First, each player puts their team of Transformers in front of them in their Alt Mode, then shuffles their Battle Decks and draws 3 cards to begin the game. Once a first player is chosen at random, the game begins. Here’s what you do on your turn:
- Draw a card. This is done even by the player who goes first.
- Transform a Character, play an Action, and play an Upgrade. These three things can be done in any order, and only once each turn. You do not have to do any of these things, but they are at your disposal. The exception to this, is on the first turn of the game, the player can not play any Actions or Upgrades, and on the second turn of the game, the player can only play one Action or Upgrade.
- Attack! Once you have finished doing everything you would like to, you can attack with one of your Transformers. Be careful, once you attack, your turn will be over. However, attacking requires a bit of explanation, so with the conclusion of what to do on your turn, let’s finally discuss combat.
To begin combat, take one of your untapped Characters, and declare it as attacking by tapping it. Then, choose one from among the tapped Characters your opponents control to be declared as the defender. If your opponents do not have any tapped Characters, then you may you may choose from any of them.
Once the attacker and defender are chosen, the battle begins. Each player then flips over the top two cards of their Battle Deck. If a Character has Bold or Tough (as shown in the Upgrades above) those extra cards are flipped right now. Then, for each card flipped with a White box in the top right corner, flip two additional cards. This only happens for the first initial cards flipped, meaning you can’t keep flipping cards if you keep hitting White boxes.
After all cards have been flipped, the attacker adds the attacking Character’s base attack and the total number of red boxes in their pile together, and that’s how much they are attacking for.
The defender does the same thing, but rather add together the blue squares and their defense. This is how much they are defending for.
If the attacker’s number is higher than the defender’s number, then the attacker deals damage to the defender equal to the difference.
And that’s it! Those are all the rules to Transformers TCG that you need to know in order to play. With Rise of the Combiners officially out, there are new and unique abilities that allow you to essentially assemble Exodia, but in the form of Devastator and Volcanicus. Another new addition that they have added is cards with green in their corner. If these cards are flipped over during a battle, you are allowed to swap one card from your hand with any other card in the pile. Playing against it last night, it felt very akin to the infamous mechanic Dredge, which was both a good thing and a bad thing.
My favorite aspect of this game by far is the aesthetic. This game looks like something straight out the 80’s, and it captures the feel perfectly with the flashy oversized cards, absurd mechanics that work in organized chaos, and perhaps my favorite part, the old school blocky style artwork for the Transformers. This game would not feel the same if it were the Michael Bay Transformers.