Game Review: Crisis Expansions 1 and 2 for the DC Deck Building Game
A stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
A condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
Those of us that read DC Comics can add a third definition:
3. Shit just got real.
And so it has...as Cryptozoic, at the time of this writing, has released two Crisis expansion packs to go with their DC Comics Deck Building Game. The first expansion is designed to be primarily played with the original release while the second expansion is designed to go with the second Heroes Unite set, although either Crisis set can be played with any of the large box sets (original flavor, Heroes Unite and the so far unreviewed Forever Evil) or can be just shuffled together if you like to mix them all together. The purpose of these sets is to bring a tighter thematic feel to the game, something that, up to this point, Marvel’s Legendary had a leg up on. And while some might still bemoan the whole “Playing as Batman and getting heat vision or super strength” (seriously, guys, just think of it as an assist from a fellow Justice Leaguer…contrary to the Internet at large, Batman CAN’T do EVERYTHING. [You know, it’s comments like that that will get you banned from the Internet…just sayin’. – Ed.]), these expansions go a long way to fixing things. This is handled by the introduction of Crisis mode.
So what is ‘Crisis mode’? [It’s what happens whenever your girlfriend calls. – Ed.] Quiet you. The set up for Crisis mode adds another stack to the game’s line-up, the Crisis deck. This is comprised of additional attacks or sacrifices players in the game have to make in order to beat the current Supervillain’s scheme. Notice the word I used there? Yup, this is Cryptozoic’s answer to Upper Deck’s Marvel set-up. I don’t want to confuse you, so let’s kinda go through this step by step. Think of the game now like the old Atari or arcade game Breakout. You, as the player, have 3 levels you have to get through. In order to start making any progress, any villains in the main line up have to be purchased, but this time, instead of taking them into your deck, you destroy them. This gets rid of the thematic hiccup in the starting boxed sets with regards to you as a superhero recruiting villains to help you. Once all the villains are gone, only then can you attempt to take on the current Crisis. When either you or you and your fellow players beat the current Crisis, then it becomes possible to take on the current Supervillain. The Supervillains included in the first expansion set are mostly repeats of those included in the original boxed set but with different abilities, dubbed Impossible Mode. The only new one included here is Hades. And as with the original rules, they’re mostly random. Ra’s al Ghul retains his position of being the first Supervillain you’ll face, but this time, it is a certainty that the Anti-Monitor will be the final Supervillain. As would be expected, the second Crisis expansion gives the Heroes Unite Supervillains their impossible modes, starting with Impossible Mode Vandal Savage and closing with Impossible Mode Nekron. Two new impossible mode Supervillains are introduced in this set, Black Lantern Superman and Doomsday.
Another great aspect of Crisis mode is that it presents an official solo mode to the game, because some of us are just plain anti-social. [And yet you have a website… - Ed.] That being said, there are some adaptations to be made…like just getting rid of the Final Countdown crisis…that’s just not possible for a single player. Also, single player really doesn’t give you much benefit out of the Crisis Mode Superhero cards you choose to play as. Thus, more often than not, I’ll simply play as the normal mode heroes.
An additional new feature, this time on the cards themselves, is a small label telling you which set the cards belong to…in this instance, either Crisis1 or Crisis2. With the original set and the Heroes Unite set, there was no way to differentiate the cards except to simply remember or deduce which one went where by character or theme. All sets going forward (including Rivals and Forever Evil…which I guess I should get around to) look to continue this, thus placating those of us with some serious OCD.
The last thing I want to touch on here is something that I mentioned in my Legendary review. To Upper Deck’s credit, ever since their game was released, expansions, large and small, followed at a fairly regular pace. Cryptozoic, on the other hand took over a full year to get their first expansion out. Granted, it was the same size as the initial release (and a game in its own right)…but still, that’s a LOOOOONG time to wait. Since then, the times between releases has dwindled. Let me show you what I mean in comparing releases from the two games.
DC Main Set – 11/30/12 Marvel Legendary – 11/13/12
Heroes Unite – 2/26/14 Dark City – 6/19/13
Crisis Expansion 1 – 8/6/14 Fantastic Four – 10/15/13
Forever Evil – 12/3/14 Paint the Town Red – 3/12/14
Rivals: Batman vs Joker – 12/24/14 Legendary Villains – 6/25/14
Crisis Expansion 2 – 2/25/15 Guardians of the Galaxy – 10/15/14
JSA Crossover Pack – 3/25/15 Fear Itself – 3/15/15
As you can see, Upper Deck has been phenomenal in keeping their game supported with 3 updates per year…so one about every 4 months. Cryptozoic got off to a much slower start, taking a look at the last 4 releases, we’ve had 4 releases in as many months. Now…finally…the game feels ALIVE! It feels supported! The universe is expanding and along with it the play potential. Cryptozoic has done a hell of a job playing catch-up with Upper Deck and, while I certainly don’t expect them to keep up this kind of pace, I hope they’ve learned that somewhat routinely released expansions, some big, some small, is the way to keep this going. My only hope is that the slow start didn’t kill the interest that DC fans should have in this game.
Pulling everything together, these expansions modify the core DC Deck Building game in such a fundamental way that you get the best of both worlds…or in this case, universes. The game is both competitive and cooperative as well as thematic, forcing players to defeat small time villains before foiling the Supervillain’s scheme…then taking down the Supervillain himself, much in the same structure as Marvel’s Legendary. Unlike Legendary, though, it retains its simple core mechanics and, most importantly, short set up time. If you’re a fan of DC Comics and of card games, with these expansions there is absolutely zero reason why you should not be playing this game…and loving every minute of it.