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Written Review – DC Deck-Building Game

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I’ve played a plethora of different card games, and one of my favorite card game genres has to be deck-building. With these types of games you really need to put your ability to build combos to the test, and knowing how to assemble your deck is the pivotal point in any deck-building game you play. I’ve had my taste of Ascension and Dominion, and late last year Cryptozoic dropped a brand new game on us that shows their approach to this genre – the DC Deck-Building Game.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first when thinking about playing it, but a lot of players in my circle picked it up and were always talking about how great it was. During this year’s Common Con I took some time to sit down and give the game a go, and I am so happy I did.

I’ve never been a huge fan of DC Comics, save for Batman being my favorite superhero. I know of Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Superman, but none of them have appealed to me over the years – I’m much more a Marvel kind of guy. Regardless, I know a lot of people enjoy this game, and being a fan of previous deck-building games, I wanted to check it out.

Out of the Box/Components

Unlike some of the other deck-building games like Ascension that come with tokens of some sort the DC Deck-Building Game comes with simple components:

  • 214 game cards
  • 7 oversized superhero cards
  • Rule sheet

You get only what you need to play, which are your oversized hero cards (for players) and the 214 cards used in the game. Each of the cards is of great quality, and they’re not frail. I didn’t see any warping on the cards like with the Resident Evil Deck-Building Game, but that’s mostly due to the cards being of a different quality. Cryptozoic took their time in producing cards that would stand up for numerous games.

Sitting Down to Play

The rules for the DC Deck-Building Game are fairly simple, and if you know how to play either Ascension or Dominion you’ll be set. (This is what everyone else was telling me and it didn’t click until I sat down to play.) To begin the game players shuffle the oversized hero cards and deal one randomly to each player. This dictates which hero you’ll be playing in the game. Each hero has different abilities that will help you gain an edge while playing the game, for example: Batman gets bonuses for all equipment he plays during a turn and Aquaman can put cards with cost 5 or less that you buy during a turn on top of your deck. We’ll get into more of how that works here in a second.

Then, out of the 214 other cards used in the game players get a deck of ten cards which consists of 5 Punch cards and 5 Vulnerability cards. These cards will make your starting deck for the game, which gets shuffled. Now there’s more work to do. You’ll then need to separate some of the cards into different piles: the main deck (which includes Villains, Equipment, Heroes, and Super Powers), the Super Villain deck (which contains different Super Villains), a Kick card deck (made only of Kick cards), and a pile of Weakness cards.

You’ll search through the Super Villain deck, grab R’as al Ghul, and set him aside. Then you’ll take 4 more Super Villains (at random) and remove them from the deck. After this you’ll put the Super Villain deck face-down and place R’as on top. He will always be the first Super Villain for players to defeat (or purchase) with the other 7 in the deck completely unknown. The game will end when either: each of the Super Villains from their deck has been defeated, or the main deck runs out of cards to be purchased.

Once you’ve gotten all the cards set aside and each player has both their starting deck and hero card you’re ready to start the game!

You’ll select a random player to go first, and play follows a turn sequence. The main deck will be set off to the side, and the top 5 cards of the deck are flipped over beside it to create the lineup. This is where the Heroes, Villains, Equipment, and Super Powers will be available for players to purchase. Each type of card has its own strength, and they all have different uses (even the Villains!). At the beginning of your turn you’ll draw 5 cards from your deck which will be your hand. In the early stages of the game you’ll only have Punches and Vulnerabilities, so your deck won’t be so strong. Each card has a Power value on it that you will use to either defeat enemies or acquire Heroes and Equipment. Think of Power as strength but also as currency, whereas Weaknesses and Vulnerabilities account for no strength.

Cards that come out in the lineup can be purchased and added to your deck to help make it more efficient. Each card has a cost that’s printed in the lower right-hand corner of the card. This number is the amount of Power you need in order to acquire it. During your turn you’ll play cards from your hand that will do different things, the main one being adding up Power. Then, once you’ve played all your cards, you can purchase things from the lineup or defeat Super Villains from their deck. Once defeated or purchased, you’ll place the cards you acquire into your discard pile and send all the cards you played there as well. You’ll draw a new hand of 5 cards and await your next turn. Once your deck runs out of cards to draw from (it will after your second turn), you simply shuffle the discard pile and create yourself a new deck.

You’ll eventually get the hang of what to buy in order to make your deck operate at is maximum efficiency. Once it’s strong enough you can start grabbing Super Villain cards. These cards have mighty Power bonuses and usually a special effect once you play them from your hand. When you finally pick up a Super Villain another one will be turned face-up from the deck. When revealed, a lot of these cards have immediate effects which hit all players, unless you discard a card from your hand with the Defense keyword on it. Buying Super Villains is a surefire way to become instantly powerful, but they do carry a heavy cost.

Play continues around the table, with each player taking their turn playing and purchasing cards. Once one of the end-game conditions are met, players go through the cards they’ve assembled in their decks. Most of the cards will have a gold star in their bottom-left corner with a number inside of it. This is the number of Victory Points the card is worth at the end of the game. You’ll total up the number of Victory Points you’ve earned, and subtract the necessary amount for the Weaknesses you have. The player with the most is the winner!

The Verdict

I was pleasantly surprised with the DC Deck-Building Game. Games play fast and aggressive, and there’s enough randomness to the game that no two games ever really play out the exact same. Of course there’s some strategy you could take depending on the Hero you’re given, but it still remains fun. Cryptozoic has done a great job, and playing this game makes me eager to try out some of their upcoming titles. I can honestly say this is a game that, while it may not be for everyone, is a great deck-building game for friends. If you’re a fan of either DC Comics or deck-building games in general, this is definitely worth picking up.