Yes, Pokémon is a game designed for children and it can be picked up by anyone and easily played. However, once you have finished the story mode and want more, you’ll be taking on a whole new monster. Competitive Pokémon trainers have a lot to take into consideration when putting together a team and going into battle. For those who don’t know the ins and outs of Pokémon, once you step into the online community, you will be crushed. Here I have put together a crash course of the basics of competitive Pokémon play, including basic rules, types, strategies, items, competitive tiers, and breeding.
The first thing any trainer needs to know about battling is the basic rules of Pokémon battles. For the main series games, the rules are simple. Each trainer takes turns having one of their six Pokémon act, with the goal being to knock out all of your opponents Pokémon without losing all of your own. In official settings (such as in officially organized tournaments), it is a little more complicated, with additional rules often coming into play. Some common rule variants restrict Pokémon use to different tiers based on their usefulness, prevent two Pokémon of the same species from being on a team, and ban duplicate held items, among several others. These are referred to as Smogon tiers, the Species Clause, and the Item Clause respectively. Additionally, official tournaments also have clerical restrictions, such as preventing two or more Pokémon from having the same nickname, and preventing Pokémon from having the nickname of another species. For a complete list of every rule for every battle setting, please refer to here.
There are countless strategies for approaching and defeating fellow competitors, but the only way that any strategies will work is if you use your six Pokémon as a team. As with any team, there are names for each position of the team, and Pokémon is no different. The first important position to have on a team is a sweeper, which is a Pokémon that hits fast and hard. Some common examples include, Blaziken, Gengar, and Lucario. Another important role to have in your team is a wall, which are Pokémon that have high defenses to absorb hits, with some common examples being, Blissey, Ferrothorn, and Forretress. A really useful Pokémon to have on your team would be a Pokémon that can pass stat boosts, some examples being Ninjask, Gorebyss, and Smeargle. These Pokémon are named Baton Passers, after the move that allows them pass these stat boosts. Another useful Pokémon to have is one that is bulky and slow, but is offensive, commonly called a wallbreaker. Some examples include Slaking and Rhyperior. Many support Pokémon like Skarmory, Venusaur, and Galvantula, can be used to set up a variety of Entry Hazards that negatively impact the opponent. Of course, this means that Pokémon who can remove these hazards are also valuable. These Pokémon use the move Rapid Spin to get rid of Leech Seed, Spikes, Stealth Rocks, and other hazards, which is why they’re referred to as Rapid Spinners. Donphan, Claydol, and Tentacruel are three common spinners. Hazers and Phasers are Pokémon that get rid of your opponent’s stats boosts or force your them to switch Pokémon (named after the move Haze, and “phasing” moves like Roar and Whirlwind), with some examples including Weezing, Suicune, and Skarmory. While putting together a team, keep in mind that it should be balanced to be most effective, though each player has their own style of battling, and that your Pokémon will likely fulfill multiple roles on your team. For a list of how each Pokémon can be categorized, see here.
As of the sixth generation, there are 18 different types of Pokémon, with many Pokémon having two types, referred to as a dual-typing. For example, the starter Pokémon Charmander is a Fire type, while Bulbasaur, another starter, is both a Grass type and a Poison type. Each type has strengths and weaknesses against other types both offensively and defensively. For example, Charmander would hit Bulbasaur for 2x damage with a Fire type move because Fire is super-effective against grass. Conversely, if Charmander were hit by a Grass move it would be “not very effective” and only deal half damage. When taking dual-typings into account, this means that some Pokémon can be hit for 4x damage. Onix, for example, is a Rock/Ground type. Since each of these types share a weakness to water, Onix is 4x weak to water attacks (referred to as double super-effective, or 4x effective). In addition to strengths and weaknesses, certain types are also wholly ineffective against others, which is known as a type immunity. In battle, you should use Pokémon and moves that have a type advantage over your opponent, since doing so will deal more damage. For a list of typings, see here.
Every Pokémon has a pool of specific movies it can use in battle. All moves are classified by their type, but Pokémon from other types are often able to learn them. In all main-series games, each Pokémon can only know four moves at a time. Moves can be special, physical, or status. The first two of these are standard damage dealing options, often with side-effects, while status moves do not deal damage, but have a wide variety of effects that can be to your benefit or your opponent’s detriment. For a complete list of moves, see here.
As mentioned earlier, tiers are an important part of competitive, and act as a sort of ranking system for Pokémon. Pokémon are placed in certain tiers based on their global usage statistics and, occasionally, on their raw battle potential. Tiers are 'exclusive' in only one direction; for instance, in a UU (UnderUsed) battle, Pokémon from higher tiers (OverUsed and Ubers) are banned, but Pokémon from lower tiers (RarelyUsed and NeverUsed) are allowed. Of the different tiers, Ubers is the highest level and contains Pokémon deemed too powerful for regular play. These are typically part of a small subset of Legendary Pokémon, though they may be other Pokémon that are simply overpowered. OU (OverUsed) is the level most frequently seen in standard competitive play. These Pokémon are powerful and easy to use, making them popular enough choices amongst players to relegate them to this tier. The UU (UnderUsed) tier is made of Pokémon that are not used enough to be in OU. They are generally outclassed by Pokémon in higher tiers, often as a result of lower total base stats, available moves, or Abilities. RU (RarelyUsed), is made up of Pokémon that are not used enough to be in UU. Finally, NU (NeverUsed) Pokémon are not used enough to be in RU and typically have little "competitive value" in comparison to other Pokémon. Tiers for current metagames are updated on a regular basis to reflect the current competitive battling environment, though older generations tend to retain the same banlists. For the current tier list, and additional tiers that I didn’t discuss visit here.
Another important aspect of battling is items. A held item may be carried by a Pokémon for a variety of effects. There are many different types of items that may enhance stats, restore health, enable a Mega Evolution, or one of many other benefits. For a full list of items and their effects, visit here.
The last thing I will talk about is breeding, which is exactly what it sounds like. A Pokémon can be bred by putting two compatible Pokémon in the Pokémon Day Care, which is found in different locations in every generation. Pokémon are compatible if they are of the same Egg Group, and of opposite genders. The only exception is the Pokémon Ditto, who can breed with anything aside from other Ditto and genderless Pokémon, since they have no Egg Group. The chance of producing an offspring is determined by the parent’s species, the original trainers, and steps taken (this acts as a timer for receiving and hatching eggs). If the pairing is successful, the caretaker in the Day Care will move out of their usual spot to let you know that they have found an Egg. After leaving the Day Care a certain number of steps must be taken for the Egg to hatch, depending on the Pokémon species inside. The baby Pokémon can inherit moves, stat bonuses, abilities, and other features depending on the generation and whether certain processes were undertaken during breeding. For more stats and lists of compatible Pokémon, visit here.
It is important to keep in mind that everything varies slightly depending on which generation you are playing. Good luck, trainers, you are now on your way to becoming a Pokémon master.