In a game of Pokémon TCG, players take on the role of a Pokémon trainer, using their creatures to battle. Players play Pokémon to the field and use their attacks to reduce the opponent’s HP. When a Pokémon’s HP is reduced to 0 it is knocked out and the player who knocked it out takes a Prize card into their hand. A player may win the game in 3 ways; by collecting all of their prize cards (initially 6, some cards can increase this), if their opponent runs out of Pokémon on the field or if their opponent must draw a card from their deck but there are no cards to draw.
Players begin by shuffling their decks and drawing seven cards. Both players check to make sure they have at least one Basic Pokémon in their hand. If not, they must reshuffle and redraw and the opponent may draw one additional card. Once both players have at least one basic, they both play 1 or more Basic Pokémon to their play field, 1 in the Active spot, and up to five on the “bench” (representing the 6 maximum carry limit from the video games). Players then take the top 6 cards of their remaining deck and place them to the side as their Prize Cards and flip a coin to see who goes first. (Note: Many players use dice instead of coins, even numbers representing Heads, odd numbers representing Tails.)
Play alternates between players who may take several actions during their turn including playing new Basic Pokémon, evolving to higher level Pokémon, playing Trainer cards, playing energy(one per turn generally, needed to use most attacks), using non-attack Pokémon abilities and retreating their active Pokémon. 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 pokemon. Game effects from that attack are activated and damage is put on the defending Pokémon (some attacks simply have game effects but do not do damage). If the damage exceeds the defending Pokémon’s HP, it is knocked out (i.e. discarded along with any attached cards) and the active player takes a prize card and ends their turn.
As with almost any card game, the “Golden Rule of Card Games” applies, stating that “whenever a card’s text overrides the game rules, the card takes precedence”. For example, the game rules state a player may only play one energy card per turn, but several Pokemon abilities allow additional energy to be played if that card is in play.