01 June 2013

Comics & Cards - DC Comics Deck-Building Game Review

By Jason Moslander
Deck Building and Comics: two of the hottest things going right now. Deck builders seem to be in just about every other new board game, and comic book heroes fill the silver screen every summer in the U.S. Therefore, it's no surprise that these two genres would run into each other eventually. This is exactly what has happened in the new DC Comics Deck-Building Game. So, what does this new Deck Builder have to offer to the genre? Well, for starters it has Batman, The Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and others.

Designer: Matt Hyra & Ben Stoll
Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment
Players: 2-5 Players
Time: 45 Minutes
Mechanics: Deck/Pool Building

Overview & Game Play
The main objective of the DC Comics Deck-Building Game (DCC DBG) is to score the most points. Players do this by adding cards to their deck. This is done by defeating villains, gaining allies and equipment, as well as investigating locations. Each of these cards has a different ability that helps the player during the game, and also gives them points at the end of the game. The player with most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Each card in DCC DBG has up to three numbers associated with it. The first is the victory point total. This is indicated by a yellow star in the bottom left corner. This is how many points the card is worth at the end of the game. The second number is the cost. This number is in a gray circle in the bottom right hand corner, and is how much it will cost to add this card to your deck. The final number is the amount of power a card has. This is located in the white or black text box. Any other special abilities the card has are located here as well. Power is used to buy cards, and your power must be equal to or greater than the cost number.

As with most deck building games, each player begins the game with a deck of ten cards. Each player also takes on the role of one of the heroes from DC Comics. Each hero gives the player a different special ability. Most of these either increase your "power" based on the number of cards or types of card(s) you played. Others allow you to draw more cards or take special actions. Regardless of the hero, each turn plays the same. Each player will draw a hand of five cards from their deck. They can then play any number of cards from their hand to gain more cards based on the amount of power they have available. The cards available to buy can be purchased from The Stacks, which contain Super Villians, Kicks, and Weakness cards. Or you are able to buy cards from The Line-up. This is a row of five cards that are constantly changing as they are purchased. The main cards that players will be going for are the Super Villain cards. When eight of these guys are defeated, the game is over. They also offer the most amount of victory points. After all the villains have been defeated, players count up the victory points on their cards and the player who has the most is the winner.
One of great things about DCC DBG is the artwork. Beautiful comic book artwork depicting the different DC heroes was done very well. I also love that they let the artwork be a focal point on most of the cards. I am really glad that Cryptozoic went all out for this portion of the game. The only thing that I didn't much care for on the artwork was the reverse of the cards. Instead of referring to the game on the backside of the cards, there is a large Cryptozoic Entertainment logo. I can't remember ever seeing this in a game before. I wish that the backsides of the cards would have brought in more from the DC world, but the front side of the cards make up for it.

My last complaint about the components is the box insert. There is a ton of dead space in this box. 1/3 of the box is completely empty and simply has labels as to where to place the cards. Another 1/3 is used just for the character cards. This is fine, but the well is way too deep and I have to turn the box upside down to get them out. The rule book is done well, and there is a link to a "How to Play" video. I love that game publishers are adding this, it makes learning the game so much easier--especially for visual learners. And lastly, the price is very comparable to other deck builders at around $40.
Game Play
This deck-builder is based on the Cerberus Engine that was created by Cryptozoic. This is the same engine that the Fellowship of the Ring DBG uses. Part of the idea of using the same engine for these games is that you would be able to mix the characters with the different universes. This is a cool idea to mix and match worlds, but it also leaves you with similar game play. As for the differences between the different games, I don't currently have an opinion because I haven't played all of them. Each of these games does stand on their own, and you should base your purchase on what intellectual property (IP) you prefer.

What I like about the game play for this deck builder is that is is super easy to setup and tear down. One thing that prevents me from playing Dominion more is how long it takes to setup and tear down the game. With DC Comics it goes pretty quick. I also like the fact that if I have money (power) I can buy as many cards as I have money for. This isn't the case in most deck builders and I feel that it slows the game down. There are also lots of opportunities to get rid of useless cards. This is another plus. Nothing I hate more than late in the game drawing a worthless hand. All these mechanics make for a game that flows fairly smoothly.

What I Didn't Like
The big complaint that most people have with DCC DBG is that the theme doesn't really come through, and I have to agree with them. Yes, the artwork is great and I love being in the DC Comics world, but the fact that you use your power not only to defeat enemies, but to gain allies, equipment, and locations doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Then, there is the fact the the DC heroes are giving each other weaknesses and trying to defeat enemies before the other heroes do? I don't really understand that. The story/theme just seems to be disjointed. I enjoy good themes, but sometimes it just doesn't come through very well. I think having a back story as to what was going on in the game would have helped a lot (it would have built on the theme). They could have even included a short comic book as part of the rule book to help bring the game to life.

The other issue I had with DCC DBG is that it lacked any innovation. Yes, each player gets to have a unique role with a unique power, but that really didn't bring anything new to the table. The style of play has been done before. Personally, when a new game comes out, I want it to offer something I haven't seen before or a unique take on an existing mechanic. DC didn't do this in my eyes. If I am missing something, please let me know, but I didn't see it.

What I Did Like
Although the theme was weak, I still  enjoyed playing DC Comics. The fact that you can be The Flash or Green Lantern and beat up on bad guys is always fun. You don't have the huge combos that you can come up with in Dominion, but that is fine with me. I always felt that those slowed the game down as players tried to optimize their hand. DC simplifies all of that, and I am fine with that.

I also like that this is a good entry-level deck builder. It will be very easy to get non-gamers who maybe into comics to try this one out. I can't really say the same for Sentinels of the Multiverse or Marvel Legendary, as these games have a little more depth to them.

Final Thoughts
I enjoyed playing the DC Comics Deck-Building Game. It was a good time. Is it going to be the first deck-builder or super hero game I reach for? I doubt it, but I think it's a game that is worth holding onto and has a place in my collection. I do like playing with Batman and Aqua-man, and I don't have another game that I can do that with. Yes, there really isn't anything new with this game, but I don't have many deck-builders so this one will be a fine addition. I am also curious to see how this one plays compared to the other deck-builders that Cryptozoic is bringing out. It will also be interesting to see if Cryptozoic and the designers listen to the fans and try to bring out the theme in the planned expansion. 


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