DC COMICS DECK-BUILDING GAME (Cryptozoic)
By Scott Brownlee
“In the DC Comics Deck-building Game, you take on the role of Batman™, Superman™, or one of their brave and heroic allies in the struggle against the forces of Super-Villainy! While you begin armed only with basic combat maneuvers, you will add new, more powerful cards to your deck as you go, with the goal of defeating as many of the DC Comics Super-Villains as you can. In the end, the player who has accumulated the most Victory Points from the cards in his or her deck wins the game!”
Welcome to DC Deck Building™, a Brownlee™ Family Favourite™ game. The release date of the original set™ was late 2012, which means that the majority of the earlier stuff closely follows the DC™ New 52™ timeline. This can be a Good Thing™ or a Bad Thing™, depending on how you look at it as a comics fan. There is little to no story™ involved in the game, but the art™ is almost all lifted from comics™ of the time, so you may recognize a lot of the panels.
You may also notice a lot of little ™ marks all over the game. This is kind of an unfortunate distraction but apparently necessary. Interestingly, the ™ seems to appear all the time on Batman™, but not necessarily as much on the other heroes. Go figure.
Your starting heroes in the basic set are Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman (my personal favourite), The Flash, Green Lantern, and Cyborg, a.k.a. the New 52 Justice League. There was also a promotional Martian Manhunter card that was a little difficult to find if you’re not an owner of Heroes’ Beacon, but since said owner happens to be a generous guy, I happened to get my own copy, too. Each hero provides a different super-power within the game.
Like most deck-building games, your turns consist of playing cards from your hand that are worth power points, and using those points to purchase other available cards to increase your deck’s size and power. The ultimate goal of the game is to defeat the Super-Villain cards, which are just like regular cards but more expensive to beat! If the main deck runs out before all the Super-Villains are defeated, then the players all lose to the Super-Villains. Once the final Super-Villain is defeated, the players count up the victory point values on all their cards, and the highest total wins.
Simple, right? Well, it’s the interactivity of the cards that makes this game so much fun. As you use your power points to “defeat” villains or “recruit” heroes and such, all of which result in those cards being added to your deck, your hands of cards can become much more powerful depending on the order you play them in. You can graduate from Punches to Kicks, exploit your opponents’ Vulnerabilities, and even load their decks with useless Weakness cards that take up space and reduce their point totals at the end. Some cards attack other players, some allow you to defend against attacks, and some allow you to sift through your discard pile for particular cards.
And what deck-building game would be complete without PILES AND PILES OF EXPANSIONS?!? Once you get used to the cards in the base game (i.e. know what they do and how much they cost from a casual glance at the art), there are many more options available. These aren’t just “more cards” expansions, though. Each of the expansions, large and small, comes with a fun new twist to the rules. For instance, there’s a “Crisis Mode”, which is a much more co-operative experience featuring a world-altering Crisis combined with an extra-powerful Super-Villain. The Legion of Super-Heroes expansion features Time Travel. The Watchmen expansion gives you hidden objectives.
As a side note, like many comics, DC Deck Building has its fair share of sexist art. The Starfire character card is particularly guilty of the “look at my boobs” style – I’ve had to stop my kids from colouring her entire body in with a purple crayon. Occupational hazard when dealing with comic book properties sometimes, I suppose.
I have found this game appeals to DC Comics die-hards and casual gamers alike. It’s a quick game to learn, and although some of the combinations can get a bit complex, everything builds a step at a time so it’s easy to take in. The most time-consuming part is reading the cards to find out what they do, but they generally follow a couple of thematic patterns. DC Deck Building is also billed as being compatible with other Cryptozoic properties, so if you’ve ever had a hankerin’ to see how Hawkman would fare up against the Nazgul, now’s your chance. (I can’t say I’d recommend it, though.)