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Dueling: Anime Vs Real Life

Updated on August 20, 2015
Yugi Moto, the King of Card Games. Too bad he doesn't know how to play them.
Yugi Moto, the King of Card Games. Too bad he doesn't know how to play them.

Duel Differences

The Yu-Gi-Oh card game can be challenging to learn, but once mastered, playing's a lot of fun. Well, at least when you're not dueling against cheaters. Like almost every character in the anime. Don't believe me? Well, let's take a look at just how many rules of the official card game are broken by those ludicrously-haired fools.

Pay attention, there will be a quiz later.

This Blue-Eyes White Dragon is turned sideways to indicate its Defense position.
This Blue-Eyes White Dragon is turned sideways to indicate its Defense position.

1. Summoning into Defense Position

For those who don't know, when you play a monster card, you put it into either Attack or Defense position. If you choose to summon it into Defense, the monster card is "set" face-down, preventing your opponent from seeing what it is. The card will be flipped face-up if it's attacked or you later choose to switch it to attack position. Not too hard, right?

Apparently it is for Yu-Gi-Oh characters. Almost every duelist in the first four series will summon monsters into Defense mode face-up; face-down monsters (an integral part of the game) virtually never make an appearance. In the real game, many monsters are even designed for the face-down position, and will utilize "flip" effects when turned face-up. However, thanks to the anime's rules, these flip effects can't happen. Yugi, if you've got time to dye your hair two colors and spike it, you've got time to learn face-down position.

To be fair, the most recent anime (Arc-V) has actually started utilizing face-down monsters. About time you got your cards in order, Konami.

Dark Magician of Chaos. Powerful, yes. But just try using him in an official tournament.
Dark Magician of Chaos. Powerful, yes. But just try using him in an official tournament.

2. No Forbidden/Limited Cards

Some cards in the game are considered somewhat overpowered; thus, in official play, they are either entirely banned or limited (meaning you could only have one or two copies in your deck instead of the usual three). Now, if you get together and play with your friends (assuming you have any; we duelists are not known to be social butterflies), you can use whatever rules you like. Un-ban the forbiddens, go crazy, whatever. But in official play, remember that many cards aren't even allowed.

Yet, in the anime, even when playing in worldwide-tournaments, every card is fair game. More than once, we've seen a duel where too many copies of a limited card were played, and the duelist should have automatically lost. Would losing due to using forbidden cards make for an exciting episode? No. But would it accurately simulate how a real-life tournament would go if someone played those cards? Yes.

Oh, and for any curious, the frequently updated forbidden/limited list can be found here.

Dark Rebellion XYZ Dragon. Despite its effect being readable when played, it never ceases to surprise opponents in Arc-V.
Dark Rebellion XYZ Dragon. Despite its effect being readable when played, it never ceases to surprise opponents in Arc-V.

3. Checking the Effects of Opponent's Cards

Any duelist worth his or her salt knows to read the effects of their opponent's cards. When your adversary summons a monster (unless they're first set into face-down Defense mode), you're allowed (and encouraged) to read the effects of that monster. Well, duh, it makes sense. If you weren't able to read opposing monster effects, your rival could easily cheat by making up new effects.

So why is it then in every anime, duelists are surprised by card effects? As soon as a monster (or magic/trap) comes out, its capabilities should be immediately revealed. Even Arc-V proves guilty of this fault. Yea, I get that leaving a monster's powers a surprise makes for better tension, but it's yet another difference between real life and anime.

Similarly, cards in your and your opponent's Graveyard (discard pile) are always allowed to be checked, yet no one in the anime ever does, often to their later chagrin.

Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon
Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon

4. Made-Up Card Effects

If duelists failing to assess their opponent's cards upsets you, wait til you hear this: Anime cards are often entirely different from their real-life counterparts. Monster cards are particularly vulnerable to this. Usually, their Attack/Defense will be the same as their real-life versions.. but their effects differ. Typically, the effects are skewed towards the anime's favor, offering our protagonists strategies we could never employ. Occasionally, you'll find a card whose effectiveness is actually hampered in the anime. For example, examine a favorite card of Arc-V protagonist Yuya: Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon. In the show, this monster doubles battle damage when battling level five and above creatures; in real life, it'll double damage against any opponent. A subtle change, yes. But one that could easily make a large difference in a duel. Minor changes like these are the norm for the anime, and occasionally you'll even a spot a huge difference between effects.

4. Starting Life Points

Here's a small change: in anime duels, each player's Life Points usually begin at 4000, half the normal amount. Why? It helps keep the matches concise, allowing the duelists to make comebacks that defeat an opponent in a single turn. And that's exactly why official play has duelists begin with 8000; if one player gains the advantage, the other usually still possesses enough life to have another turn (and thus, opportunity to turn the match around). Shame on you, Konami, shame.

Yea, you two know what you've done.
Yea, you two know what you've done.

5. Whatever the heck happened in Season 1

Pandemonium. A great word to describe the mess of a card game that occurs in the Duelist Kingdom arc of the first series. Basically, the "rules" for the game fluctuated each episode in order to make it look like the antagonist was ahead. Here's some examples:

- Duels may begin with only 2000 Life Points.
- Only one monster could attack each turn. Sometimes. Confused? Me too.
- Machine-type monsters are immune to non-physical attacks. Basically, Machines were ultimate.
- Monsters played in their "favorite terrain" automatically power up.
- Some trap cards automatically activate; their owner cannot choose when to play them.
- Players can summon a bunch of monsters in one turn. Plus, stronger ones don't require tributes. Hey, if you're gonna screw the rules, go all the way, right?

Bonus: Card Games on Motorcycles

Aka, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's. Yea, to my knowledge, we don't have official tournaments where players duel and race motorbikes. And if we do, let me know - those sound like worthy minions to join my dastardly cause. Now, how about that aforementioned quiz?

IQ Test

Which rules make more sense to play by?

See results


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    • profile image

      Pearse Rooney 

      3 years ago

      In season one, monster reborn was limited. Go watch yugi vs marik.

    • Dastardly Duelist profile imageAUTHOR

      Dastardly Duelist 

      4 years ago

      Actually, with monsters who have "flip" effects, face-down can be pretty exciting; Arc-V often even utilizes it.

    • RedRyu profile image

      Justin Nahin 

      4 years ago from Hartland Wisconsin

      The first season was in the middle of making the rules up.

      The monsters face up was for the audience's benefit. What is more exciting to watch? A face down monster you can't see, or one that you can?

      Yeah, in real like the game makes more sense but it is still not focused on that over trying to be entertaining to watch.

    • Dastardly Duelist profile imageAUTHOR

      Dastardly Duelist 

      4 years ago

      Fair enough, Craig; to each their own. The official rules require some learning, but personally I'd take 'em over the chaos of season 1 anyday.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I haven't played Yu Gi Oh for almost a decade now, but I dos till have my copies of the manga, and to be honest, inconsistencies aside, the wierdness and complexity of the early rules did and does still seem a lot more itneresting to me than the actual rules.

    • Dastardly Duelist profile imageAUTHOR

      Dastardly Duelist 

      4 years ago

      Oh, I realize that the rules weren't fully established yet, lord trance. But that doesn't mean it isn't amusing to observe just how different the game is between our world and the anime.

    • profile image

      lord trance 

      4 years ago

      I'm sorry, I also forgot to mention one more major point. The anime was based off of the japanese Manga that was first released on September 30, 1996. The anime was originally released in 2000 in japan, and 2001 in the US. The card game was released in japan in 1999, while the NA card game was originally released in 2002. That is a 1 year gap showing that the card game was only properly developed AFTER the anime was already an season aired in NA.

    • profile image

      lord trance 

      4 years ago

      I don't think you realize that the rules for the card game were developed at least half way into the first season of the show. Even then, changes were made to the rules as seasons went by. They used 2000 and 4000 life points because they didn't want the duels to drag on more than they already did.

      In season 1, they didn't seem to do any actual direct attacks.

      Side node: In the anime, some card effects were able to do things that were not even possible. Half-way into season 1, Yugi had fused Mammoth graveyard with Spell-Shattering Arrow(Living Arrow in the anime), and launched it into Kaiba's blue eyes, in order to make it weaker. Living arrow does nothing remotely close to this.

      The card effects you see in the show are usually changed when converted into cards, because the effects in the anime were most likely not approved/wanted for the card game.


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