Pokémon alive and well in Sewickley with club

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Janet Huddleston of Glen Osborne paused to look at the children laying out their Pokémon cards, eating cookies that featured the Pokémon symbol and chatting with one another.

“It just looks like chaos to me, but they all know what they're doing,” she said as the meeting for the new Pokémon League began in the Sewickley Public Library last week.

Grant, 9, and Drew, 11, along with their mother and father, Tom, started the new Pokémon League earlier this month. Nineteen middle and elementary school children, including several home-schooled children from other areas, showed up at the first meeting.

The league consists mostly of boys, except for Phoebe Morrill, 11, an Osborne Elementary fifth-grader. As she organized her cards on one of the tables set up in the community room, she said she doesn't ever battle.

Phoebe mostly likes to have fun looking at the cards and drawing the characters on paper.

“These shiny ones are my favorite,” she said.

For Grant, a Osborne fourth-grader, Pokémon is about more than trading cards and battling.

He calls the game “very strategic and very structured.”

Players must use addition and subtraction for some of the tasks, and they are responsible for keeping cards organized and in good condition by storing them in a binder.

Grant said he likes the league because it helps him expand his collection. He and Drew, an Osborne fifth-grader, have about 400 cards each.

He likes that he can be comfortable walking up to someone he doesn't know, asking about their cards and making friends with others who already share a common interest.

His mother said the game involves no computers and is “very social.”

“I'm just thrilled about it. To get kids to do that in this day and age is great,” she said.

Huddleston said her sons originally joined another league in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood over the summer. When they met two others there from Sewickley, they thought there probably would be enough interest in their own area to start another group. According to www.pokemon.com, there are six leagues in or close to the Pittsburgh area, in Shadyside, West Mifflin, Oakmont, Tarentum, Cranberry and Butler.

Member Robinson Kastan, 14, a Quaker Valley seventh-grader, had been going to Shadyside but switched to Sewickley. The Huddlestons call him “the expert” because he has 2,397 cards and knows the ins and outs of the game.

He said he seriously started collecting about a year ago and likes the league because he can “get a lot of good cards, and there are some nice people.”

Pokémon debuted in Japan in 1996, first as a video game. The game is based on fictional “species” — collectible, evolving characters that are pitted against one another.

Anyone can come to the league in Sewickley. They don't need to register or join, and there is no cost unless players want to purchase cards provided by Fun by the Pound of Sewickley at each meeting. The average cost is about $4 for 10 cards.

The group is in the process of becoming an officially sanctioned league, which will entitle it to receive promotional items and allow players to register their playing activity with the Pokémon organization.

In addition to collecting and trading cards, players battle card against card.

If a player knocks out a card, he receives a prize card. The first player to get all six prize cards wins.

By trading and collecting cards, players try to build a powerful deck by collecting cards featuring certain high-value characteristics, making them stronger in battle.

Some cards can evolve or get stronger if they are paired with other cards; some can put other cards to sleep or poison them. Some require the player to perform certain tasks that can make their character stronger or weaker.

For those just starting to trade and battle, the library has several Pokémon books to help children catch onto the game.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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