I’ve been a fan of Top Trumps ever since I was a kid. Despite its simplicity, it’s a fun, compelling game and the sheer diversity of licences that have been attached to the brand in recent years have made it truly collectible. Gone are the days of sports cars, military vehicles, and relatively mundane subjects… now it’s blockbuster movies, entertainment franchises, kids cartoons and everything in between. Joining the ranks of their first two movie sets and the pack based of Transformers Prime, and released with surprisingly little fanfare, came this G1 set to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of Transformers…
Before opening the pack, I had high expectations. The pack artwork was certainly taking its inspiration (if not taken directly) from one of the 80s comics and the background itself behind the image of Prime was a black and white montage of various panels from classic G1 comic strips. It certainly set the tone for the pack and I dived right in, eagerly anticipating what I hoped was going to be a great set… As with all standard Top Trumps sets, there are 30 cards in the deck and in this case it’s a mix of Autobots and Decepticons. Strangely though, there are 16 Autobot and only 14 Decepticon cards. This seemed to be a bizarre choice and completely removed one way of playing right from the start. While most people would play a typical game with decks completely shuffled, it’s a wasted opportunity to allow players to pit Autobots vs Decepticons, just for the sake of a single card choice.
I mentioned the pack artwork earlier for a reason… I said I had high hopes but this was dashed when I moved onto the cards themselves. The artworkused for all of the characters wasn’t original work created specifically for the pack, nor was it even taken from the comics. Instead, Winning Moves chose to use the original character images from the toy box art from the 80s. While this may be fine for nostalgia purposes, when you want a card set to look as good as possible, even stills from the episodes of the animated show could have looked much better but with the wealth of illustrated material available, there’s no reason why better images couldn’t have been used.
Beneath the artwork are the usual stats needed to play the game (which I’ll mention in a moment) and a brief character bio. Surprisingly for several of the bios they make reference to the car brands when talking about the original vehicle modes even though there is no notification of use of copyrights or trademarks in the packaging anywhere. I’m not quite sure about some of the bios themselves either, with many not really conveying much information about the characters or at least their key personality traits.
There are five stats featured on all of the cards in the game: Size, Speed, Power, Disguise and Top Trumps Rating. While the first four are fairly self-explanatory and are reasonalby balanced amongst the deck, the Top Trumps Rating is somewhat ambiguous. There’s no clarity in what it actually means and something more relevant would have been better, especially if the cards were restricted to just five items. Even better – and this is just the fan in me speaking here – I would have liked to have seen all of the data taken from the character tech specs on the packaging which would have kept in line with the artwork.
By this point, I was really feeling disappointed with this set. There was so much potential with G1 to offer something truly spectacular yet it’s failed on almost every level. Poor artwork choices, a missed opportunity on the stats, bios, the faction mis-balance… and to cap it all off the choice of characters at times left me bemused. On the Autobot front we have Grimlock but none of the other Dinobots, no Wheeljack but cards are given to Topspin, Grapple and Windcharger who I would say are less deserving. The same can be said of the Decepticons and I get the feeling that the set was rushed to meet a deadline.
Really this is something that’s for G1 completists only or for die-hard Top Trumps collectors who feel the need to own as many sets as possible as it doesn’t hold up as either a G1 release or as a good Top Trumps set in its own right.
Note: The pictures of the cards here are from early prototypes and the stats are not the ones on the final release.