Jeremy has watched and played Digimon since childhood, and probably far too long after.
Digimon TCG Review
So, is the Digimon trading card game good? Well, yes! What started as a review article quickly turned into a highlight of why the game works. Fans of the shows and video games will certainly have an extra nostalgia factor, but anyone looking for a fast-paced and surprisingly affordable card-battler should check it out—here are ten great aspects to the Digimon TCG, and how it compares to other trading card games.
1. The Memory Gauge Is Awesome
Games of Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh often revolve around maintaining card advantage and explosive plays, rewarding players for continuously adding to their hand while setting up game-winning combos. But this also means a player can easily fall behind and suffer a slow crawl towards defeat as their opponent plays their 20-card combo.
But not Digimon; with its unique gauge, what limits players isn't card advantage, but the memory resource—everything you do inches memory towards your opponent, not only giving them more resources on their turn but ending your own once it passes to their side.
In this manner, you have to pick which cards to play and how to use them; whether to digivolve or straight-play what you have in order to form the optimal board state. It's more strategic and interactive than waiting five minutes while your opponent plays 20 cards (as can happen in other games), easily one of the best new mechanics in years.
2. Digivolving Works Great
While hard-playing your Digimon definitely has its place, digivolving is such a fun mechanic, and unlike the Pokémon TCG, you aren't limited to one per turn. Digivolving greatly reduces the cost of playing high-level Digimon, gives you a free draw, and lets you accumulated inherited effects from lower evolutions, which still makes earlier stages relevant (something rarely present in Pokémon).
Take a game like Magic, where you might want bigger creatures, but there's downsides to using them—they're bad early-game when you don't have the mana to use them and you suffer a big downside if they get counterspelled or instant-removed.
With Digimon, the ability to not just play your big guns but also digivolve into them helps ensure they're not just clogging up your hand, and they're also a welcome sight in your security stack—speaking of which…
3. Security Helps Players Catch Up
Rather than give you a life total, Digimon has a security stack of five face-down cards (picked from your deck's top five cards) your opponent attacks, and you lose after being hit again once it runs out. But attacking security is risky, as Digimon will be deleted if they reveal a stronger Digimon. Security checks can also trigger options and tamers, which often play themselves for free.
Thus, while a bit luck dependent, security checks discourage reckless plays and can set an early-lead opponent back enough to give you a fighting chance.
4. The Game Moves Fast
Thanks to the memory gauge system, turns are pretty quick—you rarely can play more than three cards in one turn. More than that, there's no mulligan and almost no shuffling, just the initial mix at the start of the game.
This is a good thing, as it prevents you from having to repeatedly stop and shuffle your deck; in this game, cards that find other cards can only pull from the top few of your deck, and place anything extra back on bottom. Between the lack of shuffling and the memory gauge limiter, gameplay is fluid and fast, with lots of back-and-forth interactions between players.
5. Combat Is Engaging
Here's how Digimon's combat works. You can either attack your opponent's security stack (which will eventually score the win), or one of their Digimon, but only if it's suspended (meaning it attacked on its last turn—think tapping in MTG).
This provides another reason to hold off on attacking security with weaker 'mons, as even if yours survive, they'll be easy pickings for stronger opposing Digimon. I enjoy this system, letting players risk premature attacks as a last resort while also punishing reckless charges.
6. The Game's Surprisingly Strategic
Despite having relatively simple rules, this game is surprisingly versatile—you're usually not limited by how many cards you have, but which cards you want to play and how. Do you hard-cast a Digimon for its "on play" effect? Do you go for the "when digivolved" ability? Will you pick stronger Digimon with no inherited effects, or weaker ones that reward you with extra abilities once they digivolve? How many tamers do you use? Do you run multiple to increase chances of drawing them, or only a few because their memory-setting effects don't stack?
Because of your numerous options, few Digimon feel "useless", as opposed to MTG and YGO, where thousands of monsters never see the light of day—even effectless Digimon can be useful via lower play or digivolve costs.
7. Picking Colors Is Fun
Here's a strength the game shares with Magic—picking your color identity, with each color feeling unique by prioritizing certain strategies, listed below.
- Red: Aggression, boosting DP
- Blue: Trashing inherited effects and jamming (attacking security without risk)
- Green: Quickly digivolving at reduced costs
- Yellow: Recovering security and lowering enemy DP
- Purple: Utilizing your discard pile for various effects
- Black: Defense and reboot (unsuspend on opponent's turn)
Colors matter because Digimon have to evolve onto matching-color Digimon, but you have freedom in the exact pathway (any blue champion can evolve from any blue rookie), unlike say Pokémon, where a Charmeleon pretty much has to become a Charizard.
8. First and Second Players Are Equal
In both card and board games, it stinks when a certain player (usually the first) begins with a notable advantage. Take MTG and Pokémon, where the first player gets the jump on playing a land or energy, giving them a massive resource lead. Or Yu-Gi-Oh, where they gain the ability to combo off (and setup negation effects) without having to worry about negative interactions from the opposing field.
This means that, despite the second player getting an extra draw, they're usually at a disadvantage sheerly by playing second—heck, this even extends to chess, where the first player (white) has a higher win percentage. But in Digimon, not only does the second player have the draw, they'll also play their initial turn with more memory (since the first player starts with zero and has to leave their opponent at least one), helping make both turns feel about equal.
In a more general sense, the game simply seems to have better balance than other TCGs, keeping players invested as you'll usually feel like you have a shot even when losing (especially with the right security effects).
9. It's Easily Learned
Every card game has its quirks and tricks to master, but the entrance barrier here is low, and it's helped by the game's fast pace, which maintains interest when you're teaching new players.
Once you learn how to digivolve and attack, you've got most of what you need. Some Digimon have special effects, like Piercing (attacks security after deleting a weaker Digimon in battle) and Jamming (can't be destroyed in security checks), but these are easily understood, similar to Magic's keywords. And you'll also find helpful rules guides in the game's starter decks, which are surprisingly attainable…
10. It's Affordable
For the budget-conscious, this game's one of the cheapest in terms of getting tournament-ready. Most starter decks provide enough solid cards for a backbone to meta-worthy decks. I especially recommend the yellow/purple Parallel World Tactician starter, which strives to DNA digivolve (combine) Angewomon and LadyDevimon into the fierce Mastemon; nab your own for less than $15!
Thanks to impressive card balance, even many commons (like the memory-blocking Gazimon) and uncommons hold their own against the rares, so a healthy majority of your deck won't break your budget. Yes, some of the rarest megas get a bit pricey (lookin' at you, Omnimons), but as a whole, I'm pleasantly surprised with how inexpensive this game is.
The Digimon TCG in Multiplayer
I definitely rate this game a 10/10, combining the deck-building and card-collecting fun of previous TCGs with modern mechanics. Perhaps its only downside is no official multiplayer support (how the memory gauge would function in multi is a tough barrier). But for now, share your reviews of the Digimon TCG and I'll see you at our next countdown!
© 2022 Jeremy Gill