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October 19, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist (Part 1)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

Some people waste their time away in Minecraft, Skyrim (I’m gonna get to that one eventually!), World of Warcraft, Fortnite, PUBG, Overwatch… I’m hooked on the damned children’s trading cards.

Someday, maybe, I will watch those shows.
I probably won't find the time for that, though.
Following last week’s review of Duel Transer for the Wii, I found myself wanting more. Thankfully, there is no shortage of Yu-Gi-Oh! video games out there. Konami has been pretty active in releasing new games on all platforms, including for PC. As far as Yu-Gi-Oh! games go, most of them are fairly basic and have a story. They tend to focus on one era of the anime, usually the era the game was released in. Still waiting for the first official game for VRAINS, so I can learn through trial and error how the latest gameplay mechanics actually work.

It only makes sense that some games based on the collectible cards would make their way onto Steam. So far, there are two: Legacy of the Duelist, and Duel Links. Looking up “Yu-Gi-Oh” on Steam’s search engine also brings up the possibility to purchase some seasons of the franchise's various anime. You can also see a lot of DLC packs, all of which are to be used within Legacy of the Duelist. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Are you ready for a trip across twenty years'
worth of Yu-Gi-Oh! history? Count me in!
Duel Links is a game taken from mobile, with different gameplay mechanics to the real game, but I’ll get around to talking about that one eventually. For the moment, we dive into Legacy of the Duelist. Remember when I said that there was a near-infinite replay value to these games? This one seems to embody this mindset, even moreso than the previous one I reviewed, Duel Transer (check out that review here). I could reasonably see myself playing this for hundreds of hours, though it does come with its flaws.

This one is also special in that it doesn’t focus on a single era of the franchise. While it came out during the time of Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V (the fifth iteration, featuring protagonist Yuya Sakaki), it actually prominently features every previous generation and their characters. This game is available on the Steam market for 19.99$.

Come along, it’s time for more Yu-Gi-Oh!

October 12, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Duel Transer (Part 3)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

Some characters who appear later in the anime
are unlocked later in the game.
You thought I was done with this one? Nope! In fact, while I may have discussed most of the Story Mode in Part 2, I still have a lot to talk about. The cards have been released since 1999 in Japan and 2002 in America. The Trading Card Game has changed drastically since then, and has brought to us thousands of cards to be collected, traded, and used in duels. Point being, with every new set released, new cards come out, new archetypes appear… New strategies show up. The fantastic aspect of newer Yu-Gi-Oh! video games is that they serve as a long history of the card game itself, as the creators of the game have access to this large backlog of cards and archetypes, from which it’s possible to build more decks than one could ever envision. It would be a waste to have so many possibilities and not use them.

After Duel Transer’s Story Mode, you unlock a special area called Niflheimr (God, I suck at these Norse mythology names). It’s a special bonus area, 20 floors (when the Story Mode has, in total, 14 floors), with nothing but Transcenders to duel, all with powerful Decks. So, if you want to beat the game, you’ll have to go through every single floor and defeat every single duelist. Each archetype you can think of that predates 2010? Each possible strategy that can prove troublesome, or set of cards that have proven popular, whether it’s in tournaments, or as troll moves in casual play? You bet.

Get ready to see a lot of those.

Example: This deck recipe focused on the infamous Stall strategy
that uses the no-less-infamous card Final Countdown.
Oh, and you want to know the best part? Most of the Decks used by Transcenders on the 20 floors of Niflheimr are ILLEGAL. As in, they use forbidden or limited cards, sometimes in a number of copies higher than you’re allowed to have in your own deck. In Duel Transer, you are allowed to have any card you want in your Deck, but you must respect the Limited (one copy maximum) and Semi-Limited (two copies maximum) state of some cards, all of which have been given this setting precisely because they were overpowered for the meta-game of the day. To fend off the opponents, you are allowed exactly one Forbidden card in your Deck. As an example, you can only run one copy of certain cards such as Swords of Revealing Light or Mirror Force (back in the day, you could only have one of either - their restrictions have since been lifted, due to the power creep).

The Niflheimr Transcenders can have three copies of each.

In short: The computer is a cheating bastard.

October 8, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Duel Transer (Part 2)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

Why is it that most characters in this game have hair that you'd seem able
to pull off their heads like they're some LEGO minifigurine wigs?
In Part 1, I explained the gameplay mechanics of this particular Yu-Gi-Oh game, and touched on the plot a little. This time, I will be discussing the plot in greater detail.

Duelist Nicolas completes the area at the entrance of Yggdrasil and is allowed to walk inside, moving forward in this competition. I should note that the Personal Digital Assistant, sent to each duelist invited to the tournament, grants access to many of the main menu’s features, like editing your Deck or viewing your Status. You also get access to the shop, so every time you gain DP (Duel Points, the game’s currency), you can use them to either purchase new booster packs or recipes of decks you’ve defeated.

Just a big can loaded with knowledge of the cards.
It can go down like any other duelist.

I said they had good decks. That means they can still get screwed
over by bad luck.
Surtr, creator of this tournament, boots up the system required for Stage 2. An odd robot walks into the area, with a light samurai-like design to it. This, Surtr explains, is a Transcender. It has the cards, power and wisdom of a duelist, all it lacks is the soul. So, basically, it’s just a big robot programmed with knowledge of how the card game works. Just a CPU to defeat. One loser from the previous area tries to brute-force his way into Stage 2 but is defeated quickly by the Transcender in a duel. Surtr says that in order to get to the next floor, duelists will have to duel each other to remove weaker duelists, but also defeat the Transcender, which is using a deck modeled after one used by an early opponent in the anime. And from what I understand, it’s going to be that way for each floor of the Yggdrasil tower: Duel adversaries, duel a Transcender(s), move up. That tower seemed to have only 5 or 6 floors, it should be quick.

It's pretty cool that some Duelists have their key cards.
Even Carly! The... Dark Signer... oh crap.
What I love about a game like this one is that you get to duel against the characters of the show, experience their strategies as if you were in the series. Characters start with weaker versions of their own decks, improving over time. Before you know it, you have to duel against the best decks they’ve used in the anime.

I should also mention that among the secrets in the game, there are areas gated off from the rest, containing extra duelists. Those can usually only be accessed by owning particular cards. Those usually lead to the Dark Signers, major villains from the first season of the anime. All of them can be found and fought.

Leo sports the kind of adorableness that can kill.
Can I add something else that I actually like about this game? I like how every character of the anime was given a CGI body that appears in duels. Each one has a duel start animation with a line of dialogue, then other animations when they summon a monster, declare an attack, or get hit by your attacks. Last but not least, they have both victory and defeat animations depending on the duel’s outcome. That’s pretty cool. A lot of important Synchro monsters from the anime also get their own animations, when they’re summoned or when they’re attacking, and those can be collected in a gallery in the game’s Database section. It’s a self-imposed challenge to collect all these animations.

In Part 1, I mentioned that this game was up-to-date with the banlist of the physical card game, up to 2014 when the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection was terminated. This game, which updated until the end, thus has all the Forbidden, Limited and Semi-Limited cards of the time. However, the game is difficult, so we were given mercy by Konami, and we’re allowed a single Forbidden card in the Deck. You’ll be grateful for it. Choose yours wisely…

Yet you can use as many Limited cards as you want..
But only one copy of each.

Ha! Right! There's literally four dozens of you
out there. All small names with big egos!
Now I, Nicolas, will knock you all down!
The second floor of Yggdrasil features the next addition to the room tile puzzle: Locked gates, with one duelist in the room possessing the key. You have to find that duelist, defeat them, get the key and move forward. Keep in mind that the key you get can be used to unlock only one panel - stupid one-use, breakable keys! Things just get more complex from there. On the next floor, you have to defeat two Transcenders. Floor 3 is also where you start to properly duel the Signers, heroes of the show, with Akiza Izinski as one of the first, and she uses a mean deck with plants and effects that steal your monsters. As for the Transcenders themselves, they’re using a Toon deck and a Lightsworn deck respectively. I could say what each opponent uses as an archetype, but those of you who don’t sufficiently know the card game wouldn’t know them.

So we get to the fourth floor, and I have a bad feeling about it. Just remember what the Japanese word for “four” sounds like in Japanese. As if to confirm my thoughts, Surtr says that there are three Transcenders to defeat here! Oh great, just add one more to each floor, why don’t you? There aren’t only Transcenders here, though; there’s also a strange machine that speaks like a human, as if it was some dollar-store Iron Man clad in red and white, that goes by the name of Odin (if the text boxes are to be believed, anyway). If this is just a suit of armor and not a robot, it must be mighty impractical for the person inside. Look at those stupid shoulders!

Forget the silly haircuts, the lucky draws, the weird card-based drama.
These shoulders are the dumbest thing in the entirety of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.

The majestic performance of Nicolas in this tournament so far has attracted a lot of eyes. There are darker forces at play here. A lot of characters are discussing the Transcenders and how those robots getting proper souls would make them undefeatable. Aw, come on! Card games aren’t a thing of soul! What you need is a good Deck that can beat your adversary, that’s all! Don’t give me that do-goody-good “Heart of the Cards” bullshit!

Odin, huh? The All-Seeing Eye of Norse mythology?
Where's Thor? Still playing Hero on Earth?
Oh, and Odin has to be defeated, as they block the way to the exit. Get ready, though; they’re the hardest boss thus far. That Aqua Deck is surprisingly versatile and strong - and, like every other adversary deck, actually usable once you unlock it and get all of the cards! (Note that, in order to be able to use a Deck recipe, you have to buy it from the Shop, you don't instantly unlock it. You thus need to gather the currency of the game in order to purchase the recipe, then get the cards in the Shop's packs.)

Past Odin is a Transcender using a Monarchs deck, and once it’s defeated Nicolas moves to the next floor. Meanwhile, other characters (such as Tetsu Trudge) lose to the latest opponent. Someone on this floor uses an Earthbound Immortal card, which is the strongest weapon of a Dark Signer. Now, if you actually know the real-life Earthbound Immortal cards, you know they kind of suck, but then again so does every “overpowered weapon” card used by villains of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime that get a nerf when it’s time to bring them to the actual game.

In the real card game, they suck.
They look pretty cool, though.

All of the locks.
The fifth floor is also the last, so it’s where the competition shall end, right? With Nicolas still in the race, Yusei and Jack still around as well. Hm, that game was shorter than I thought. On this floor, there’s no shortcut. You have to go on one path, defeat all the duelists there (including Jack Atlas), then unlock the gate that leads to the second path, on which you duel all the duelists and then Yusei for another key, which unlocks the way to two Transcenders, which must be dueled, after which we go against Surtr. Seems simple enough. Let’s do that.

For the record, there are three levels of locks, with associated Key Cards LV1 to 3. Part of the puzzle aspect of the grid-based levels is to not only find out which character has a key, but also which has the key with the correct level that you need right now. Goddammit, this system’s overly complicated for no good reason.

Fighting Jack? Oh yes, the spot of King of Games is mine!
With all the major duelists on this floor, it feels like the final level. Many memorable duels take place here. Since I’ve had so many hours on my save file, I’ve collected all the cards in the game, all in three copies. Thus, I’ve been able to build for myself a custom deck that relies on the easy summon of Level 8 monsters (mostly Blue-Eyes White Dragon - yes, I am going the Kaiba route), along with ways to bypass the nasty little tricks opponents can have on their side. While replaying through this last floor, I have been saved multiple times by the Fusion summon of the Ultimate Blue-Eyes White Dragon, a monster with 4500 ATK (for the record, the maximum printed value on a card is 5000).

I can't see a thing! I can't play card games in this
Yusei, Jack and the others desperately wanted to ask Surtr about the Earthbound Immortals. Since the organizer of this tournament would only answer to its winner, Nicolas accepts to ask that question for them… But before Surtr can give a proper answer, Odin intervenes. It first mocks Surtr for thinking it’s human (apparently he’s just an advanced Transcender believing to be a human??? What???), and then causes an earthquake that sends everybody tumbling down the tower, ending up in a dark basement. Everybody turns out fine. The plot armor is strong with them. They make sure that everyone’s alright, then wonder where they are. Odin, who is also there, explains that this is Bifröst, located underneath Yggdrasil. And that if anybody wants answers, they’ll just have to go down the floors of Bifröst, all the way to the bottom one, which Odin claims to be Valhalla. Still rocking the Norse theme, huh?

Okay, who applied the purple filter to Armstrong?
Cut that out!
The first floor of Bifröst (which I guess could be called Floor Minus 1) uses the breaking floor tiles explained earlier. Those can severely hinder your movements around the board if they break. All the heroes can really do is explore and defeat the various Transcenders. Forget the faceless human duelists. Now, you’ll be duelist robots almost all the time. With, of course, the occasional battle against the major anime character. As an example, here, after you beat up the three Transcenders (and three is nothing compared to later floors), Chief Armstrong appears covered in darkness, like something’s controlling him. We have to duel him in order to reach the end of this floor. And this, conveniently, frees him from the spirit. Or whatever it is that has taken control. I didn't know a children's trading card game could do that.

I'm trying to stay away, but you're the one challenging
me to a duel right now!
So what now? Well, on Floor Minus 2, it’s Hunter Pace who gets possessed and has to be defeated. Still not that bad. Expect this to become a regular thing on each floor of this “building”. Floor Minus 3, it’s Randsborg’s turn. Floor Minus 4? It’s Leo’s turn. Floor Minus 5? It’s now Crow who gets possessed. Meanwhile, Odin just watches and gloats. Because, y’know, they're a generic anime villain with no real reason to exist. Nah, worse than that; feels like a generic anime filler villain. “Here, your friend is mine now, you’re getting weak, haha, goodbye, see you at the end!” Floor Minus 6 continues the trend with Luna, and Floor Minus 7 sees Akiza being possessed as well. So, if I understand right, only Yusei, Jack and the protagonist are strong-willed enough to not fall into the villain’s trap.

And the award of "Most Unpronounceable Name" goes to...
...But Hlidskjalf is a close second.

Past Bifröst Floor Minus 7, we reach… Um… Okay, I’d like to buy a vowel. I’ve done well so far, but I don’t think I could pronounce this. I can at least try writing it correctly. This is Hlidskjalf. Hey, I thought we had been promised Valhalla?  Both Yusei and Jack have decided that enough is enough, and are ready to stop Odin if that’s the last thing they do… But the protagonist, Nicolas, is there as well and only one of them can go duel against Odin.

First the past King, then the current King of Games...
And then, the Big Bad!
Only one way to settle that out: Duel! And this is the last floor of the actual Story Mode, so as you can expect, the battles here are going to be very difficult. Yusei and Jack are at full power, and will use every trick they know. Mass summon of Synchro monsters? You bet. Crazy powerful effects? Certainly. Still, they’re not impossible to defeat. You might have to customize your deck to counter their tactics, though. Both Yusei and Jack have a Level 3 key card, and two Level 3 lock panels block the way to Odin, so you need to defeat them.

You're saying this like I'm the bad guy!

So much stuff in this maze. So complicated.
Disadvantage of the board game panel system: You won’t be able to get every item on a board unless you’re extremely lucky, the rolling of Action Points can be a pain in the ass, and there are hidden Transcenders on bonus levels that you won’t know about till you’ve rolled for AP enough times. Makes completion very difficult. The advantage is that the boards are made so that many duels can be skipped, if you’re not aiming for completion. The plot-relevant duels can’t be avoided, and if you’re looking for a key card owned by a nearby duelist you might have to duel (and defeat) everybody around you before finding what you need. At least you don’t have to duel every single opponent on a floor unless you do it on purpose. I made use of a guide from GameFAQs after a while, once in order to beat the bonus floors, once more in order to find the Transcenders and other duelists I still hadn’t defeated in the game.

Oh, also, every opponent has a Level, from 1 to 50. What does it do? Almost nothing. Your character levels up by gaining experience from duels (measly amounts, no less), up to Level 50 as well. The only reason you could ever be interested in that grind is that various packs are unlocked when you reach a certain level - though they also require you to defeat the final boss. As you progress, other packs are unlocked permanently, so you should be able to get all the cards after a while. The grind to get all the cards and reach Level 50 yourself is easier if you duel many opponents who own high-level Decks (which is the only real reason why opponents have Levels in the first place). The rewards in Duel Points for winning duels are also greater depending on your level.

So far I'm coming out on top.
So, it’s the final duel against Odin, and the red and white robot is using a Fairy-theme Deck reliant on the easy summon of strong LIGHT monsters through the use of Spell cards. Its Level 40 deck is pretty tough, relying heavily on Special Summons - so if you can block that, it should be much easier to win. When it’s defeated, it wonders how the protagonist can be so strong… only for Surtr to arrive and, having learned the true path of the duelist from his defeat against Nicolas (geez, you just lost a duel at a children's card game, dude, it’s not supposed to be a life-changing revelation), strikes Odin. The armor shatters, revealing…

Thank Slifer, the shoulders are gone!

…whaaaaaaa? There was a woman in that suit of armor?

As a Nintendo fanboy, I really should have expected that as a possible twist. Shame on me!

Augh, Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon!
A behemoth of its time.
Odin hasn’t been quite defeated, as she (they?) now has a second deck for the real final battle. A LV50 Deck, no less. This one relies on Special summoning Dragon-type monsters en masse thanks to its key cards (especially Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon), while also setting up the hand and Deck in order to summon enormous Dragon-type Fusion monsters, especially Five-Headed Dragon, which has 5000 ATK and DEF, the highest values that can ever be on a card.

Odin’s weaknesses here are pretty much the same as they were in the Fairy Deck; since she relies so much on Special Summoning, any card that prevents those will stop her strategy dead in its tracks. (All alternate summons, whether they be Ritual, Fusion or Synchro, also count as Special Summons). Her Deck is all about dragons and much of it focuses on DARK monsters, therefore anything that can stop dragons and DARK monsters easily will be a plus. Not only that, but since she’s so reliant on Special Summoning high-level monsters (Level 5 or above, which need a Tribute for Normal Summon) from her hand, if she’s stripped of her Special Summoning trick she ends up with a hand full of monsters she can’t even bring out! Personally, the card below has become one of my favorites, since it destroys the strategy of both decks used by the final boss… as long as you can keep it on the field, that is.

The Koa'ki Meiru archetype is willingly OP, with
cards having amazing stats and effects, but huge
drawbacks as well.

Time to leave that damned island for good!
With the boss defeated, the protagonists manage to convince Odin that their soul, which has been rotting for millennia and lived in hatred for so long, is no longer pure enough to represent true power, hence why it was defeated. It can now move on in peace - Ha! Nope. Instead of seeing the error of its ways, Odin decides to bring the place crashing down again, in hopes of killing everybody. But that fails when some of the minor characters - Tetsu Trusge and Mina Tidewell - find an exit at last. The entire group flees as the place crumbles down, and they reach the ground floor of the island and the boat that will take them back to land. Geez.

The end!

Well, okay, that’s the end of the Story Mode - there’s much more to see. This will be continued… in Part 3!

Woo, rhyme.

October 5, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Duel Transer (Part 1)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

You want to talk about a game that takes over the world and becomes more important than life itself? Try the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe. Or multiverse.

Left to right: Yusei, Yuya, Yugi, Yuma, Yudai (Jaden).
"Yu" can count on them to win some card games.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is an important part of my geek life. I collect the trading cards; I got over 7000 total. Yes, I am addicted and need help, but at least that money isn’t going into drugs. I watched the first season of the original anime, thanks to VHS tapes (yeah, I’m that old). The first Yu-Gi-Oh! game I reviewed was a poorly thought-out game that applied Pokémon-like type matchups to the cards, and that just didn’t work. Plus it had a self-insert hero who stole every protagonist’s story arc. My knowledge of the anime is spotty past the first series, but I’ve been keeping up with information. I had stopped collecting cards during the first series, resumed during the third; I came back when Synchro monsters were a thing. I saw the rise of Xyz, Pendulum, and now Link monsters. Those three are none of our business for now. I have also gained access to newer Yu-Gi-Oh! games on Steam; I’ll get to those later. But, most important of all…. I watch the Abridged!

In their universe, Duel Monsters went from a game for high school students to a city-wide competition, to having academies that teach how to play. Then society evolved to a point where everything gets solved with card games. Then it follows into the far future, and all technology evolves just so it can result in more impressive card game duels. And then it spread across multiple dimensions, and then it gets virtual too. The seventh series will have card games at the molecular level, you just watch. Molecules dueling with tiny cards against body viruses or something. Oops, I might give Kazuki Takahashi ideas there.

One special element of the franchise is how a new series appears when another ends - and since 5D’s, each series introduced a new card type, a new gameplay element. Since today’s game is based on the 5D’s anime, third one of six, I’ll focus on that one. This is when Synchro monsters were introduced.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s is the story of Yusei Fudo, who after a strange series of circumstances, becomes one of the Signers. Those are six talented duelists, each having control of a powerful Synchro Dragon-type monster card. My knowledge of the series’ mythology is limited, even with the research I’ve done, but eventually five other Signers are revealed and become valuable allies to Yusei. There’s Jack Atlas, the main rival of the protagonist; Crow Hogan, expert in the swarming Blackwing archetype; Akiza Izinski the plant champion; and Leo and Luna, awesome twins.

Unfortunately, my crash course in all things 5D’s proved to be of little use, as I soon discovered that this game had a completely original story, not even based on any sort of filler anime arc. The advantage is that it features most of the characters from the anime, from major protagonists to villains and then some. It also means that it’s non-canon, therefore we can actually play some no-name generic duelist that will steal the honors from everybody else, and I have no reason to complain!

I hadn’t played this game in a few years, so I was shocked when I saw my old save files. The main one? 450 hours. I knew I had played that game a lot, but… wow! And to think most of that time was spent making random decks, summoning impossible monsters just to see if I could, and beating up the same weak duelist six hundred times to get money so I could buy more cards!

October 1, 2018

How does one play Yu-Gi-Oh!, anyway?

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
How to Play
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

This is the main reason why I haven't been posting much lately on this blog. I am currently writing two reviews of Yu-Gi-Oh! video games, which, as you can guess, are very long to play. I am doing my best to get the first part of the first review posted this Friday, and finish the second review in the meantime. These games have a lot of content, from the cards you can own to the hundreds of duelists that can be battled.

However, before I can discuss the games, I felt a crash course in Yu-Gi-Oh!'s gameplay mechanics and rules was needed for my readers who aren't quite as knowledgeable in this card game.

How does one play Yu-Gi-Oh!, anyway?

Both players have a deck that contains between 40 and 60 cards, an Extra Deck with 0 to 15 cards, and a side-deck (also containing up to 15 cards) thanks to which they can edit their deck between duels of a match (A format in which two to three duels are played, the winner of two duels wins the match).
A regular victory VS a victory achieved through a special win condition.
Both players start with 8,000 Life Points (LP). The main method of defeating an opponent is to take down their LP to 0, but there are alternate ways to win, such as the opponent decking out (a player automatically loses if they are required to draw a card but their Deck is empty) or special cards with win conditions.
The player that goes first is determined by rock-paper-scissors, with the winner of the rock-paper-scissors choosing whether they want to go first or second on the first duel (and in the case of the second and third duels of a match, the one who goes first is the one who lost the previous duel). Each player draws 5 cards.

Left to right: Draw Phase - Standby Phase - Main Phase 1 - Battle Phase -
Main Phase 2 - End Phase

Each turn is split in six Phases:
  • Draw Phase, where a card is drawn from the Deck.
  • Standby Phase, in which some effects can be activated.
  • Main Phase, where the turn player can play the cards from their hands, activate effects, summon monsters.
  • Battle Phase, in which the turn player can select one of their monsters in Attack position and use it to attack a monster controlled by the opponent (or launch a direct attack at the opponent, if they control no monsters). 
  • Main Phase 2, which is identical to Main Phase 1, allows a player to Normal Summon/Set (if they didn't do so during Main Phase 1), Special Summon, or play or Set more Spell or Trap cards from their hand.
  • End Phase, where the turn player ends their turn (some effects may activate during that Phase).

There are three types of cards: Monsters, which can be Normal or Special Summoned to the field, or Set; Spells, which can be played almost exclusively on your own turn; and Traps, which you must Set on the field ("Set" means "Placed face-down") and can’t use until at least your opponent’s following turn, but afterwards you can activate them anytime, even on your own turn.

Left to right: Monster card, Spell card, Trap card.

5 stars = needs 1 Tribute.
Each player is allowed one Normal Summon every turn, of a monster that can be summoned to the field with no requirements. A Level is indicated by the stars on the right side of the card, underneath the name and Attribute. Monsters with a Level of 1 to 4 can be Normal Summoned without any requirements. Monsters with a Level of 5 or 6 must be Tribute Summoned or Set from your hand by tributing one monster on your side of the field, while those with a Level of 7 or higher need two (A Tribute Summon still counts as a Normal Summon). Tributed monsters are not considered "destroyed" but are still sent to the GY.

Special Summons can only be achieved through card effects or the Summon requirements of monsters in the Extra Deck (more info on that below), but there is no limit to how many you can do per turn. Same for the number of Spells and Traps you can Set or activate on your turn, no limit, except you can only use those in your hand or activate the ones on your side of the field. Monsters that are Tributed, removed from the field, or destroyed are sent to the Graveyard (recently shortened to GY), same for Spells and Traps whose effects have been used. There are effects that banish cards from the game, to a Banish Zone, located near the GY, that is harder to recover cards from.

Click the picture to zoom and view where every Zone is located.

There are various types of Spells and Traps.
  • Normal Spells and Traps are sent to the GY after they're used.
  • Continuous Spells and Traps remain on the field and their effect either lasts through multiple turns, or can be activated repeatedly.
  • Equip Spell cards can be equipped to a monster, and give them a stat boost or an additional effect. Those are usually sent to the GY when the monster they're equipped to is destroyed or removed from the field.
  • Quick-Play Spell cards can be activated on any phase on your turn, or on the opponent’s turn if they were Set to your field during your turn.
  • Field Spell cards have effects that encompass the entire field. Before 2014, there could be only one Field Spell on the field at a time, but since 2014 it is possible for both players to control a Field Spell. Of note, those particular Spell cards have their own dedicated Zone on the playing field: The Field Spell Zone.
  • Ritual Spell cards only serve the purpose of Ritual Summoning Ritual Monsters (which counts as a Special Summon).
  • Last of all, Counter Trap cards are activated to counter specific situations on the field.

There are many kinds and sub-kinds of monsters. The basic ones are Normal (yellow card, nothing special) and Effect (orange card, has an effect described in its card text). Every other type of monster is special.
  • Ritual (blue cards): These monsters can only be summoned if you have, in your hand, a precise Ritual Monster and a Ritual Spell card that is able to Ritual Summon that monster, as well as monsters in your hand or on the field whose Levels are equal to or higher than the Level of the Ritual monster you’re trying to summon. Ritual monsters stay in the Main Deck.
  • Fusion (purple cards): These monsters require a Spell card that allows fusion (the main one being called Polymerization, though there are others), as well as usually some precise monsters on the field or in your hand (called Fusion Materials). A Fusion monster usually needs two Materials, but may require more. Some Fusion monsters may function differently. Fusion Monsters are in the Extra Deck. (For Fusion and Synchro monsters, the Materials used for the Summon are sent to the GY.)
  • Synchro (pale grey/white cards): These monsters can only be Special Summoned with monsters on the field. They require one Tuner monster (a kind of monster created along with Synchros) and one or more non-Tuner monsters. The levels of the monsters used for the Synchro Summon must also be equal to the level of the monster being summoned. Synchro monsters are also in the Extra Deck. Most Synchro monsters can be summoned with any Tuner monster, but some require precise monsters (such as the example below).
  • Xyz (black cards): Pronounced “Ex-ease”. These creatures can be summoned by having two (sometimes more) monsters of the same Level on the field. You can then summon the Xyz monster from your Extra Deck, with a Rank equal to those monsters’ Level (example: A Rank 4 monster for two or more Level 4 monsters), placing the monsters used for its summon underneath the Xyz monster as “Xyz Materials”. Most Xyz monsters have an effect for which the cost is to remove an Xyz Material from it. The other detail about Xyz Monsters is that since they have a Rank instead of a Level, effects that involve Levels can’t be applied to them.
  • Pendulum: Half-monster, half-Spell card. Those start off in the Main Deck. Can be summoned as a monster to the field, or used as a Spell Card and placed on a Pendulum Zone. Those monsters have a Pendulum scale, and if both Zones have a Pendulum monster in them, you can Pendulum Summon (a form of Special Summon) as many monsters as you want from your hand whose levels are between those cards’ Pendulum scales (example, you could Special Summon Level 4 monsters from your hand if your scales are 3 and 5). Most Pendulum monsters have both a monster and a spell effect. Also, when a Pendulum monster is destroyed, it is sent to the Extra Deck instead of the Graveyard, and destroyed Pendulum monsters in the Extra Deck zone can also be summoned to the field again through Pendulum Summoning. Note that Pendulum monsters, aside from being half-Spell cards, can have their other half be a Normal, Effect, Fusion, Synchro or Xyz monster, with the Summoning conditions of each. (Recently, Pendulum Zones were integrated to the Spell and Trap Card Zones, but from 2014 to 2017 they used to be their own separate area on the board.)
As an example, this is a Normal Pendulum monster.
  • Link (blueish card with a hexagon pattern?): Those have no level, no Defense (thus cannot be placed in Defense position), and must be Special Summoned (using the required cards as stated in the card’s text) so that you can summon more than one monster from your Extra Deck. Even then, you could only summon Extra Deck monsters to an empty Monster Zone that that Link monster points to. (Those did not exist until 2017, so they're not in either game I'll be reviewing over the next few weeks.)

Many regular Effect monsters (the orange cards) can have an additional special ability attached to them: Flip, Toon, Spirit, Gemini, Union… Those, along with "Tuner", are attributes written on the card immediately after the monster's Type and card genre.

Monsters can only be Normal Summoned in face-up Attack Position or in face-down Defense Position (also known as "Set"). Attacks can only be carried during the Battle Phase. An attack from an opponent monster will flip a face-down monster face-up. Afterwards, damage is calculated based on the monsters’ Attack (ATK) and Defense (DEF) stats.

If the attacked monster was in Attack position and weaker than the attacker, the weaker monster is destroyed and its owner loses LP equal to the difference in ATK (example, a 1700 ATK monster destroys a 1300 ATK monster, the latter's controller loses 400 LP).
If the monster being attacked is in Defense position and destroyed due to its DEF being lower than the attacker's ATK, its controller doesn’t lose LP. However, if that monster’s Defense was higher than the ATK of the monster attacking it, then the attacker’s owner loses LP equal to the difference but the attacking monster isn’t destroyed.
If an opponent has no monsters and the player has at least one monster in Attack position on the field, that monster is able to attack the opponent directly, inflicting to the opponent's LP in damage the total ATK value of that monster.

Bam, 2600 ATK to the face!

Various effects also exist to damage a player’s Life Points (through what’s known as Effect Damage), while there are effects that require a cost in Life Points to be paid so that you can use them. Effect damage is also called by fans "Burn", and Decks focused on Effect damage are called "Burn Decks".

So yeah, that’s the basics. Do note that a lot of card effects play around these rules and may change them a bit, so always make sure to read each card carefully (thankfully, games like Duel Transer allow you to read the cards played by opponents so that you know what to expect from them).

In official tournaments, there are restrictions on Decks based on banlists. Konami releases hundreds of new cards each year, and revises the list of banned cards accordingly. Most cards can be used in up to three copies in a Deck, but others have limitations.

  • Forbidden: This card is not allowed for use in a Tourmanent.
  • Limited: This card is allowed in a Tournament, but your Deck can only contain one copy of it.
  • Semi-Limited: Same as Limited, but that card is limited to two copies in your Deck.

Random questions:
-Is it possible to end a duel in a draw? Yes, but it’s extremely rare. So rare, some video games have a special achievement for it!
-Is it possible to surrender a duel? Yes, in video games it's done by clicking the Duel and selecting "Surrender", while in real life a common way is to put the hand over the Deck.
-Explain some other terms on cards? "Excavate" means you look at a certain number of cards on top of your Deck, without adding them to your hand. Effects that involve this mechanic often indicate what to do with the excavated cards. "Mill" is a fan term referring effects that send cards directly from the top of the Deck to the GY, disregarding the kinds of cards - basically, you don't control which cards from the Deck get sent. "Bounce" is another fan term referencing effects that return cards from the field to the hand (and, in the case of Extra Deck monsters, returns them to the Extra Deck.) Cards returned to the hand or Extra Deck are not destroyed. Other effects exist to send cards back from the hand or field to the Deck, those are also not destroyed. "Stall" is a type of Deck focused on blocking the opponent's strategy, usually by preventing them from attacking, uasing effects, activating cards and so on.
-What's an archetype? Archetypes refer to a group of monsters, Spells and Traps who usually share a common term(s) in their card names. Those can be referred to through that archetype name. Modern decks tend to focus on one archetype, as the game has evolved to make use of them above anything else. Name examples include "Lightsworn", "Elemental HERO", "lswarm", "Odd-Eyes" and "Melodious".

-Can a duel be won in one turn? Yes! Those strategies, known as "OTK" (for "One Turn Kill"), involve getting the opponent's Life Points from 8000 to 0 in a single turn. There are even rarer cases of OTKs, such as the First Turn Kill (where an opponent wins on their first turn) and Zero Turn Kill (where a player wins without even having a turn... good luck pulling that one off.)
-Are there formats? Yes, Traditional and Advanced. Advanced is the format for official tournaments, with the banlist that updates depending on new releases, usually adding new cards that become Forbidden or Limited, while on rare occasion other cards can be removed from the banlist or go from, say, Forbidden to Limited. The Traditional format is a lot more lax, allowing more cards, though it still has restrictions on some cards.

As an example, this monster is Forbidden in Advanced, but only
Limited in Traditional (meaning you can have one copy of it).

Let me know if there are still questions you may have, and I'll add them to this article.

Well! This was a pretty long article!