Review: 'Transformers Trading Card Game' Brings The War For Cybertron To The Tabletop
Hasbro is bringing its iconic Transformers characters into the world of trading card games, and we've got a number of impressions to share about the game and whether you should dive in.
For those unfamiliar with it, Hasbro's Transformers Trading Card Game has players battling each other with their favorite Autobots and Decepticons in a game not unlike Wizards of the Coast's other mega-hit Magic: The Gathering mechanics wise, though there are some key differences of course.
First, we're going to take a look at the Autobots Starter Set, which right now is the only starter set available for the game. The Starter Set includes enough character cards to get started in a 1v1 game (four total, two characters for each player), and enables the use of the Basic Rule set.
Before we get into mechanics, however, let's focus on the cards themselves. The Battle Cards are simple but effective, featuring a variety of different Transformers artwork that seems to be straight from the comics. If the cards have extra benefits like attack or defense attributed to them, the graphics representing those additions are bright and easy to spot, but the real magic is in the Character Cards. These cards depict the famous Autobots or Decepticons you all know and love, and their increased size gives the artwork plenty of room to shine, which is given an extra foil-like sheen to put it over the top.
Seriously, they're gorgeous, but when you dive into the Basic Rules, you'll quickly realize that there isn't that much depth to the game, at least in this mode. The basic version doesn't allow for any use of the keywords or terms on your cards, and you only use the Battle Cards as indicators of extra attack or defense, so any complexity they add is removed. That makes it relatively quick and mindless, and while they can be fun for a game or two, it won't stand up to much more than that.
The real game kicks in with the Advanced Rules, but to play that part of the game you'll need to invest in at least two Starter Sets, and preferably a few Booster Packs to really get a customized team going. If you do though, there's a rewarding experience to be had.
With these rules in play, each player gets a team of up to 25 Stars, and those can be found on the back of the Character Cards. Each Character is different -- the Starter Set includes Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Red Alert, and Ironhide -- as characters like Bumblebee feature 6 stars ones like Starscream are 10 stars, so your roster will fill up quickly if you're not careful.
Due to the text on the Battle Cards, you can combo abilities with the other members of your team (like with Starscream and Slipstream for instance), and Utility Cards and Action Cards can boost that even more if you pull the right ones. You can also use flipping a Character Card to your advantage, as certain modes have boosts in certain stats and negative effects in others, so you have to be mindful of which one you're in.
For example, Bumblebee has the same defense in each mode, but in his Bot Mode, he has a Tough 1 ability, which lets him pull an extra battle card when defending. This can really turn the table on battles with him, so you're going to want to pay attention.
The core characters with the Starter Set are iconic sure, but they're not exactly the most interesting to play with. They are generally well-rounded cards, but once you start opening the Booster Packs the gameplay livens up a bit, as characters like Starscream, Inferno, and Dinobot Slug were far more interesting to use.
While Booster Packs are preferred, they are a bit expensive. A Starter Set is only around $15.00, so if you want an advanced game you'll be out around $30.00. That's not too bad, but Booster Packs are around $4.00 a pop, and since they only contain one Character Card (along with seven Battle Cards) you'll want to grab a few, and that can add up quick.
Transformers Trading Card Game Gallery
If there's one thing the game needs it is an upgrade in the health point tokens. The Starter Set comes with tearaway paper versions that quickly end up bent and could easily get lost after a few games, so hopefully, there's a fancier version of them in development. It's a small thing, but it is worth noting. The game also really needs a Decepticon Starter Set, as it seems odd that you can only find stalwarts like Megatron, Soundwave, and Starscream randomly in Booster Packs.
If we're just basing things on the starter two-player rules, this game doesn't have enough complexity to stick around for the long haul. If however, you plan on investing a bit of money into your experience and utilize the advanced rules you will get far more enjoyment out of it, and might even get hooked on the experience. There's a really fun game here, and if you're a Transformers fan you'll definitely want to give it a try.