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Players assume the role of a Pokémon trainer and use their Pokémon to battle their opponents'. Players play Pokémon to the field and attack their opponent's Pokémon. A Pokémon that has sustained enough damage is knocked out, and the player who knocked it out draws a Prize card. There are usually six Prize cards, and the primary win condition is to draw all of them. Other ways to win are by knocking out all the Pokémon the opponent has on the field such that the opponent has none left, or if at the beginning of their opponent's turn there are no cards left to draw in the opponent's deck.
Players begin by having one player selects heads or tails, and the other flips a coin; the winner of the coin flip will decide who goes first or second. The player going first cannot attack on their first turn. (Dice may be used in place of coins, with even numbers representing heads and odd numbers representing tails). Players then shuffle their decks and draw seven cards, then play one Basic Pokémon onto the field. This Pokémon is known as the Active Pokémon, and is usually the one that attacks and receives damage. If a player does not have any Basic Pokémon, they must shuffle and draw a new hand, and the opponent may draw one additional card. Once both players have at least one Basic Pokémon, they can play up to five more Basic Pokémon onto their "Bench" (representing the maximum-carry limit of six from the video games). Players then take the top six cards of their deck and place them to the side as Prize Cards. Play then begins with the player who won the coin flip.
Play alternates between players who may take several actions during their turn, including playing new Basic Pokémon, evolving their Pokémon, playing Trainer cards and Energy cards, and using Pokémon Abilities. A player may also retreat their Active Pokémon, switching the Active Pokémon with one on the Bench. At the end of their turn, a player may use one of their Active Pokémon's attacks, provided the prerequisite amount and types of Energy are attached to that Pokémon. Effects from that attack are then activated and damage may be placed on the Defending Pokémon (some attacks simply have effects but do not do damage). This damage may be modified depending on whether the defender has a Weakness or Resists the attacker's Pokémon type. If the final damage exceeds the defending Pokémon's HP, it is Knocked Out, and the active player takes a Prize Card and ends their turn