If you are a massive comic book superhero fan like me, you’re probably squirming in your seat in anticipation of the upcoming Justice League movie.
Yes, there may have been questionable decisions made about it. I mean, Ben Affleck as Batman? Really?
But come on, who doesn’t want to see legendary superheroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman join forces to serve out some righteous justice?
If you can’t wait two years for the movie’s release, however, let me suggest the next best thing: the DC Comics Deck-Building Game, made by Cryptozoic Entertainment. With it, you don’t need superpowers (or a big budget!) to create your own epic battles of good vs evil. By collecting cards, you and your friends can build powerful decks to defeat super villains, and ultimately triumph over each other.
The game is very easy to pick up. First, players choose a character from the who’s who of the DC Comics super-roster: Superman, Batman, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or the Flash. (Yes, I am slightly disappointed that the Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, and Black Canary are not options, but they do appear in game cards and expansions.)
Each hero has a unique ability: Batman, being a gadgeteer, gets a bonus for each Equipment card he plays, while fastest man in the world Flash always goes first.
The game’s beginning sees you sort of limited, with your hero only able to punch. This is represented by the Punch card (no, not the kind you see in government offices!). Each Punch offers you a resource called Power, which can be used to buy other cards. These are balanced by Vulnerability (and later Weakness) cards, which deduct points from your score.
After each player receives a few Punch and Vulnerability cards, the playing table is laid out. Several stacks are set up: the main deck, which comprises most of the cards; as well as separate stacks for Kicks, Weakness, and Super Villain cards. Five cards are chosen from the main deck and laid upon the table – this is the Line-Up.
Using Power, you can buy more powerful cards from the Line-Up to use in your deck; these include other Heroes, Super Powers, Equipment, and Locations, each having its own abilities. The X-Ray Vision card, for example, allows you to see your opponent’s decks, while the Bat Signal allows you to summon a hero into your hand from your discard pile. Alternatively, you can get your kicks by obtaining Kick cards, which increase your Power.
You can even pick up Villain cards to help you sabotage other players! My personal favourite is Bizarro, who, appropriately for his nature, becomes more valuable the more Weakness cards you have.
To win, you must be the player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game. While each card obtained gives you a small number of these points, the best way to collect them is by defeating Super Villains (more powerful than your standard Villain cards!) who appear in the game one at a time.
Defeating all of them means the game ends. While the rules recommend you play each round with eight out of the 12 Super Villains provided, I personally found this made the game too short. It was far more fun with the full amount of villainy!
Each Super Villain usually triggers a nasty effect when brought into play: Deathstroke, for example, forces each player to dispose of a Hero, Equipment, or Super Power card, while a Lex Luthor appearance usually results in everyone receiving Weakness cards.
Once defeated, however, not only do the Super Villains give you a nice chunk of points, they also get assimilated into your deck, giving you extra abilities to use.
There are no limits to what cards you can use in your fight for justice; it is entirely possible, say, to play Wonder Woman and defeat the Joker using the Heat Vision and Batmobile cards.
While this is necessary for gameplay (it would really suck if you got stuck with a lot your Hero couldn’t use) it doesn’t really make sense from a lore perspective. It would have been nice if the game creators had addressed this by, say, providing bonuses if a Hero used power cards related to them – Batman could receive extra Power if he used the BatCave and Robin cards, for example. But these are minor nitpicks.
All in all, the DC Comics Deck-Building Game is a lot of fun. With 114 main deck cards, a vast number of strategies are possible, and no two games will be exactly the same. The rule book also provides several ways of playing; also, this game runs on the Cerberus Engine, which means it can be combined with similar Cryptozoic Games (such as Teen Titansand the Crisis expansion) for variety.
DC Comics fanboys will also be delighted that the cards cover a wide spectrum of comic book characters and places, from Arkham Asylum to Zatanna Zatara. Also, the art is gorgeous!
This game is very easy to pick up and learn: this strength, however, is also its main weakness, as experienced card gamers may find its relatively simple gameplay far too easy for them. If you are a beginner in card games, though, or a “Why So Serious?” type, this game may be right up your alley.
So whether you choose to play in brightest day, or in blackest night, the DC Comics Deck Building Game should offer a ton of entertainment. Have fun creating your own superhero action scenes; who knows, you might accidentally end up with the next Justice League storyline!
Novel Games is a monthly column in which we review board games inspired by books, reading, and storytelling.