Battling your collected pocket monsters in Nintendo and Niantic’s augmented reality app Pokémon GO require very different skills than the Gameboy games that you mastered as a kid. Now that the game is run on smartphones, Pokémon fights are no longer a turn-based game of skill, but an adrenaline-fueled frenzy of taps and swipes. Catching ‘em all is only half the journey to being the best like no one ever was, so here’s your tutorial on how to fight Pokémon.
Pokémon Gyms 101
To fight Pokémon, you have to go to Pokémon Gyms, which are denoted by big pins on your map. By now, many of these areas have already been claimed by other Trainers, but if they happen to be gray and vacated, it’s yours for the taking.
Each Pokémon Gym is rated on a level from 1 to 7, signifying the number of Pokémon that Trainers have left behind to defend them. The higher the number, the more Pokémon there are you have to fight, gauntlet-style. Stock up on potions and super potions — you’ll need them when you fight at higher-level Gyms.
Every Gym has a level of Prestige, which you can think of like a shield against rival teams. If a rival team defeats all the Pokémon defending a Gym, they don’t automatically take the Gym. There’s a Prestige they have to whittle down, which are measured in numbers like “1000/2000” or “3000/4000” on your map. Once they’ve diminished the prestige of a Gym, only then is it available to take.
How to Fight
Pokémon Battles are a series of three simple moves: attacks, special attacks, and dodges. Doing these attacks have never been more simple.
To attack, tap on the enemy Pokémon as quickly as possible. This is your primary form of combat, although depending on the Pokémon it may be smarter to do more special attacks than tapping like a madman.
To do a special attack, hold for a charge then release to unleash a special attack. However, you must have a full meter to perform special attacks. This fills up over time throughout the battle.
To dodge, swipe left or right to dodge attacks from the enemy. You’ll get a small notice when you’ve successfully dodged.
You may have noticed that every Pokémon have two specific attacks. Take time to train at friendly Gyms to experiment and get a sense of strategy. Is your go-to Pokémon stronger by spamming normal attacks than performing special attacks? Are their special attacks worth a damn at all? Only you will know.
During a fight, when the enemy Pokémon HP hits zero, that Pokémon is knocked out. When your Pokémon HP hits zero, you can swap in another Pokémon depending on the gym level. If you’re at a Level 4 Gym, you’ll have four of your Pokémon to choose from (if they weren’t already all knocked out). If you’re at a Level 1 Gym, you’re only allowed one Pokémon to fight.
Glitches, Etiquettes, and Other Things to Consider
Because the game is still in its infancy, there are a whole lot of bugs and glitches the app is suffering from. Battles bear the brunt of these issues; a battle is supposed to begin at the instant you see “GO”, but a glitch keeps the battle from starting, sometimes as long as ten whole seconds — and sometimes, it stops the battle from happening at all. I’ve also heard from other trainers of a glitch that freezes the app mid-battle, which is shitty luck if you’re on a hot streak and seconds away from taking the Gym.
People are also still trying to figure out proper Gym etiquette, but common sense has thus far dominated behavior. You obviously shouldn’t leave a Pokémon with low CP (“Combat Power”) — that makes your Pokémon cannon fodder and diminishes the Gym’s prestige when a rival tries to take it.
It’s also a smart idea to leave behind a Pokémon of a different type from the others. If there’s a free slot at a friendly Gym, you’re allowed to leave a Pokémon behind to defend it — and we mean really leave it behind, you won’t get them back until they’re defeated or replaced — but you’re not doing your Team any favors leaving a Raichu when the gym is already full of Raichus.
As you might recall, certain types or Pokémon are vulnerable to other types of Pokémon. If there’s nothing but fire-type Pokémon at a gym, a high-powered Blastoise can wipe that gym clean. So leave behind something different, like a rock or psychic-type Pokémon to vary it up. Good luck out there.