Review: DC Comics Deck-Building Game by Cryptozoic
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. Magic: The Gathering. Like any good young nerd, I was introduced to it back when it first came out, back when I was in high school, by a friend of my older brother. Heh, in some ways, looking back at it, I’d almost say he was my gateway nerd. Anyway, while I enjoyed the game, well, the fantasy settings turned me off to it. But that wasn’t his fault…that was the fault of my own friends and their many, MANY Dungeons and Dragons pissing contests. THAT is what pretty much ruined fantasy for me. Then came Star Wars: the Customizable Card Game from Decipher. And I fell in love. But…problem. As a high school student, I didn’t NEARLY have the cash to get involved into pursuing the game as I’d have liked. To buy pack after pack after pack (after pack after pack…you see where this is going)…and still no Vader??? It was disheartening. Later on, when I’d heard about Upper Deck’s VS system…well, by that point I was already a broken man when it came to collectible card games.
Eventually, I would circle back, thanks to two big factors. First, getting a job that paid really well! And second, this game: DC Comics Deck-Building Game from Cryptozoic Games. You see, with deck building games, you get everything. I don’t have to buy box after box of cards hoping to get a Superman or a Darkseid, they’re already in the set. There’s no hard-to-find-uber-kill-everything card. And if there is…it’s in the set! You see where this is going? To borrow from EA Sports…”if it’s in the game, it’s in the game”.
The game itself is comprised of Super Hero, Hero, Villain, Super Villain, Location, Super Powers, Equipment, Punch, Kick, Vulnerability and Weakness cards. Super Hero cards represent the character you’re playing as. Hero cards are fellow heroes that you can recruit. Villains are small-time (ish) evil-doers that you can purchase to use their powers against the true big-bad (and yes, sometimes they attack!). Super Villains are those big-bads…the villains that take increasing amounts of power to defeat (we’ll talk more about power later). Locations can give you bonuses. Super Powers are just that (and before you gripe, fanboy, about Batman not being able to actually use heat vision or super speed, just imagine that he called in Superman or the Flash for an assist. Contrary to your belief, Batman CANNOT handle EVERYTHING on his own). Equipment is also self explanatory. Punch and Vulnerability are the two types of cards that everyone starts with…the basics. Kicks are a step up from Punches. Lastly, depending on what type of game you’re playing with the cards, Weaknesses can either be cards that detract from your victory point total or they can be the game’s time limit.
So let’s get into mechanics. Everything in this game revolves around power. With power, you can purchase cards to make your deck more powerful. Here’s what I mean. You start out with 7 Punches (1 power each) and 3 Vulnerability cards (mainly…whammies. These are just cards that just take up space preventing you from having any degree of power from that spot…essentially, these are the douchebags of your deck). Your hand consists of 5 cards. Totaling up the power of the cards you have from these cards in conjunction with any other effects that are ongoing or occurring (that sounds complicated, I know, and as the game progresses, it DOES get hard to keep track of things…lot of strands to keep in the old duder’s head…but at the beginning it’s pretty easy with the only ongoing effects coming from which Super Hero you’ve chosen or been dealt). From there, you can either buy from the center “Line-Up” which is created from the main deck (which is comprised of the Hero, Villain, Location, Super Power and Equipment cards), buy a Kick or opt to take on the Super Villain.
The game and its system prove to be both simple and challenging…and fun! (Okay, that’s three things…so technically I can’t use the word “both”…but I write ‘stream of consciousness’…get used it.) Games are never overly long and setup and tear down is easy.
If you’re just using the basic set.
But there’s an expansion…and it blows the doors wide open. With the expansion, you can make the game as complicated as you want…or you can keep it as simple as it is with the initial set. In playing around with both sets, you can set up decks that are Superman centered, Batman centered and Green Lantern centered…telling a story that focuses on villains and events from their own adventures instead of a shared JLA perspective. Well, okay, with Superman, you do have to go a little in the JLA direction for the Main Deck, but not with the Super Villains. And even if you decide to go the JLA route (and since, combining the sets, you’ve got 11 other characters…13 if you count the Martian Manhunter and Starfire promo cards…so yeah, you’re likely to go the JLA route!) there’s LOTS to choose from…if you want to. If not, play it as is…and it’s still good fun.
Now, there are a couple of little nit-picks. First…once you decide on your main deck…I gotta tell you, that’s a LOT of cards to try and shuffle. Seriously. I’m thinking about buying an automatic card shuffler that can handle 6 decks just so I can get a main deck that is thoroughly mixed, because trying to shuffle with everything in card sleeves…yeah, I’m not lovin’ it. Second, the Super Hero cards are oversized and just don’t fit in with the other cards. I can see why this was done, but as I like to keep my things nice…well, there’s no card sleeves out there that really fit these oversized cards well. I did eventually find a solution that required sleeves that were too big, a pair of scissors, an iron, some wax paper and a lot of trial and error. If there’s interest, let me know in the comments and I can post a tutorial or something like that.
But those are two minor quibbles. All in all, this game is fun, captures a theme that I love, and you don’t have to spend all day setting the game up and putting it away (I’m looking at you, Marvel Legendary!). Both sets (the initial and the expansion) will run you $40 each (cheaper on Amazon), but again, you get EVERYTHING you need in the box. No need to hunt down your favorite characters, which I felt that fact alone justified the asking price, but your mileage may vary. Oh, and I should mention, even though I’ve called it “the expansion” above, the expansion can also be played as a standalone game…it has everything you need. So…thumbs up, highly recommended or whatever metric I decide to end up using for these reviews. If you’ve been turned off to card games because you didn’t want to chase cards down or things just got too damn complicated, Cryptozoic’s DC Comics Deck-Building Game might just bring you back into the fold. It did me.