The Fincastle Gym Leaders started playing Pokemon when Logan got a starter deck for his birthday 2 years ago. After opening it and looking at all the cool stuff inside, we soon realized we needed another starter deck to be able to do anything. So after another trip to Toys R Us, Logan and I (Joel) faced off, as Marthe stood by with a rule book in hand, reading it to us like stereo instructions as we took our turns. About an hour and half later, we completed our first Pokemon match. From there, Logan began to collect and we sought out places to play (which are few and far between). We traveled to a tournament in Winston Salem where we all got destroyed. Since then we’ve all started playing and improving and have become competitive on the state, regional and national levels. However, we wanted somewhere to play that was a little closer than Winston Salem or Charlottesville.
The Fincastle Pokemon Gym originally was set up to be an instructional league. We had trainers bring unmodified starter decks to a three week (3 Sundays) training session. Our goal was 8 players, we started with 9. The sessions started with formal classroom-style instruction about the “anatomy” of specific cards, rules and game mechanics. It culminated in a tournament among the class members. The plan was to host more training sessions in the same manner over the weeks that followed. I guess this is where the quote about “the best laid plans of mice and men” should go. Little did we realize how difficult it would be for us to manage the active league and try to conduct another session.
Through our children, we learned about the Gym Leader concept from the video game and cartoon. This was what we wanted to center league play around. In addition to league rewards, we thought it would heighten interest and drive the more competitive trainers to improve their decks if there was less attainable reward offered. We did this in the form of a league badge which could be won by defeating one of the Gym Leaders. League badges were part of the 2009 league rewards, which was before we got started playing Pokemon. We’ve tracked down a few sets of badges on EBAY, but the supply is thin. We are currently working on a replacement idea for when the badges run out.
Pokemon supplies our league with promo cards, patches, posters and the player cards used to track the number of games played by each trainer. Mary, a friend of The Gym, very graciously made us business cards, a vehicle magnet and league posters which have been great for getting our website and email out there and have resulted in some great contacts for the Gym. Most of the other “extras” at league are supplied by Georgia and Logan. They have had great success in larger regional tournaments and events and have been very unselfish with their winnings. They pick a few select items and cards out for themselves, but forward most of the items into our “stash” for the league.
We have been amazed at the attendance to date. Weekly league play typically consists of over 20 trainers. We’ve hosted two open tournaments, both with attendance over 20 trainers. We have 50 people signed up currently in the Gym. If everyone who has attended a league day since the beginning all showed up at once, we’d have over 60 people! Needless to say, we’re beyond the ability to conduct the instructional sessions with just the two of us, but with the help of Logan and many of our league regulars, we still can help new players with some one-on-one instruction. Everyone at the league is great at helping teach while playing.
I did say “brief” history, so that’s where we are today a little about how we got to this point. Everyone who comes to the Gym, keep bringing new players. Anyone who is interested, come check it out. We have decks to share if you are curious about the game. If you’re interested in helping in anyway, come by. Marthe and I do not mind admitting that we need all the help we can get! See you there!