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Cardfight!! Vanguard (Japanese: カードファイト!! ヴァンガード Hepburn: Kādofaito!! Vangādo?) is a Japanese media franchise created in collaboration among Akira Itō (Yu-Gi-Oh! R), Satoshi Nakamura (Duel Masters), and Bushiroad president Takāki Kidani. An anime television series was produced by TMS Entertainment and aired in Japan on TV Tokyo starting on January 8, 2011. An official trading card game by Bushiroad began releasing in Japan on February 26, 2011, in Singapore on May 5, 2011, and internationally on May 12, 2011. A manga series was also announced and began publishing in Kerokero Ace magazine on March 26, 2011.

The basic premise of the trading card game, as explained in the anime, is that the two players represent astral spirits dueling on the fictional planet Cray. The cards in players' decks, called "Units", represent characters from Cray that players can "Call" to the field to fight for them. Players alternate turns calling, attacking, and defending with units. When one player reaches six damage, or there are no more cards in his or her deck, that player loses the game. Each unit has a Name, Clan, Power Level, Shield Value, Critical Value, one or more Skills, and "Grade", which ranges from 0 to 4. Overall strength of units increases with grade, but a unit can only be called if the player's vanguard is of that grade or higher.

A deck must contain exactly fifty cards, including exactly sixteen "Trigger Units." There can be no more than four copies of the same card, no more than four total Heal Triggers, and no more than four cards with the keyword Sentinel (守護者 Senchineru?) in a deck. There is otherwise no restriction on how many cards of a certain clan or grade must be used. There may also be an extra eight cards, but they all have to be G-units, and they do not count in your deck. They are placed in a separate place called the Generation Zone located above the damage.

The game begins when the players place a grade 0 unit, the titular "Vanguard", face-down in the center of their playing area, and each draw five cards. Each player is allowed one "Redraw" by shuffling any number of cards from the starting hand into the deck and drawing the same number of cards. Players randomly decide who goes first and reveal their starting Vanguards; the player who goes first cannot attack during the first turn. To use a unit to attack or activate certain skills, the player must rotate it from its normal position ("Standing") to 90 degrees clockwise ("Resting"). At the beginning of a player's turn, during the Stand Phase, that player stands all his or her rested units, so they can be used again. During the Draw Phase, the player draws a card.

Then, during the G-Assist Phase, the player can put two "G units" and two cards from the deck out of the play area and check for a card one grade higher than his vanguard, and "Ride" it, putting it on top of the current vanguard. However, to G-assist, the player should not have any cards with a higher grade by one in his hand. Next, during the Ride Phase, the player can choose a unit from the hand that is either the same grade or one grade higher than the current vanguard, which rides over top of the former vanguard(the card stack underneath the Vanguard is called the "Soul"). If there was a G-assist and you successfully rode earlier, this phase is skipped.Afterwards is the Stride Step in which the player can put cards in a discard pile called the "Drop Zone" whose grades sum up to three or higher, choose a G-unit from the Generation Zone, and put in on top of the current vanguard, the previous vanguard considered a "heart."

The strided card gets the hearts' name and power and adds it to its own. During the Main Phase, the player can call "Rear-Guard" units to five additional spaces: one each to the left and right of the vanguard, and three to the back row. The player can move rear-guards between the front and back row in that column and can "Retire" a rear-guard to call a new one in that space. Retired units are put into the discard pile ("Drop Zone"). The next part of the turn is the Battle Phase. The player can conduct any number of battles in sequence, and can attack with the same unit more than once as long as it is standing when the attack is declared. A battle is conducted by resting a front-row unit and choosing an opposing front-row unit to be attacked. If there is a standing grade 0 or 1 unit behind the attacker, it can "Boost" by resting, which adds its power to the attacker's.

Then, the defending player has the chance to either take the attack or "Guard" with units from his or her hand and/or to "Intercept" by guarding with grade 2 rear-guards in the front row. Guarding units add their shield value to the defender's power, but are retired immediately when the battle ends. After guards are declared, if the attacker is a vanguard, the attacking player performs a "Drive Trigger Check": the player reveals the top card of his or her deck in the "Trigger Zone" and then adds it to his or her hand. Attacking grade 3 vanguards have the "Twin Drive!!" skill, which causes an additional drive check to occur after the first check is completed. G-units have a Triple Drive!!!" skill, causing three drive checks.

If a trigger unit that matches the clan of one of the checking player's units is revealed during a Drive Check, one of that player's units gains 5000 power, and one of four possible effects may occur: Critical (Yellow): a unit gets +1 critical value. Draw (Red): the player draws one more card from the deck. Stand (Blue): a rested rear-guard unit stands. Heal (Green): the player "Heals" by moving a card from the damage zone to the drop zone, but only if his or her damage is equal to or higher than the opponent's before checking the trigger. The power boost and additional trigger effect can either be given to one unit or divided amongst two units.

When the attacker's power is equal to or greater than the defender's, the attack hits; otherwise, nothing happens. If a rear-guard unit is hit by the attack, it is retired. If a vanguard is hit, however, it remains in play and the defending player makes a number of "Damage Trigger Checks" equal to the attacker's critical value. The process works exactly like a Drive Check, but the revealed card is put into the "Damage Zone" instead of the hand. After the attacking player has finished conducting battles, the turn enters the End Phase, where certain effects may happen, and the strided unit (if the player strode) goes back to the Generation zone face up (Face-up G-units cannot be used to stride), before going on the next player's turn.