My group has been playing the relatively new DC Comics Deck Building Game over the last few weeks. I’m a huge fan of Dominion, of course, so I was thrilled when my buddy John bought me a copy of the DC Comics Deck Building Game for Christmas. Even though I TRY to keep my ear to the ground, I’m not always up to date on the latest in card games, and I didn’t even know that a game of this sort existed with a focus on comic books. In fact, I didn’t quite realize that Dominion had spawned a hugely-popular genre of card games.
Players take on the roles of the major heroes of the DC Universe–Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. In fact, the game features the latest line-up of DC’s flagship superhero team, the Justice League. There are 7 superheroes available to play.
You start off with nothing but punches and vulnerabilities, but as the game moves along, you gain new superpowers, equipment, heroes, villains, and locations. You can use these cards to achieve more impressive combos and defeat more powerful villains.
Your goal is to achieve the most victory points. All of the cards (with the exception of the Weakness cards) are worth victory points; there is no distinction between victory cards and the other cards. This is a major difference between this game and Dominion, where victory cards are usually useless until it’s time to count up the scores. Unfortunately, it also seems to result in more of a luck-based game than Dominion, which is largely dependent on your strategy.
Each superhero has a special ability. For example, if you’re playing the Flash, you always get to go first in the game. Also, any time you play a card that allows you to draw an extra card, you get to draw a bonus card. Another example is Cyborg, who gets +1 Power any time he has an equipment card in play, and who gets to draw an additional card any time he has a superpower card in play.
These special abilities are neat, and the game seems balanced. I didn’t notice that any of the characters’ special abilities made them unbeatable. In fact, for the most part, the special abilities of the superheroes just add a little bit of flavor to the game. I think it would be quite possible to win easily without ever using your superhero’s special ability, just because there’s so much luck involved in the game.
Each player starts with a deck of 10 cards, consisting of 7 punch cards and 3 vulnerability cards. You’ll notice that this is very similar to the starting deck you get in Dominion, which consists of 7 coppers and 3 estates.
The game board consists of a main deck, a line-up, and 3 stacks: kicks, weaknesses, and super-villains. The line-up consists of 5 cards that are drawn at random–this is another big difference from Dominion, in which the lineup consists of a limited number of set cards. The cards in the main deck and the line-up each have a power cost, an amount of power they lend the player when they’re used, and a victory point value. Most cards have some kind of special ability, too.
The kick cards in the stack are just like punches, only more powerful. Punches only give you +1 power each, but kicks give you +2 power each. The kicks have no special abilities, though–the other cards in the lineup will almost always have some special gimmick, like the ability to destroy a card, draw a card, or force players to discard cards.
The weakness cards are comparable to curses in Dominion. They subtract one victory point each at the end of the game, but worse, they clog up your hands with useless cards.
The final of the 3 stacks is the super-villains stack. These cards are treated just like the other cards in the line-up, but all of them cost more to defeat. They also (with the exception of Ra’s A Ghul) each have a “first appearance” attack that affects all the players when they become the top card of the deck.
Players can buy as many cards from the line-up as they have power to buy; there are no limits to the number of buy actions a player can take. In fact, the players can also play any cards in their 5 card hand. There are no limits to actions, either
The game ends immediately when all the supervillains are defeated, or when a player is unable to refill the line-up. Everyone counts their scores and compares them to see who won.
The DC Comics Deck Building Game also has some variant rules in the back, and you can control (to an extent) how long or short a game is going to be by deciding in advance how many supervillains to use.
As far as production values goes, it’s hard to complain about this game. The artwork is nice–modern, but nice. I’m not a fan of the New 52 version of the DC Universe, but the market for a retro DC Comics card game probably isn’t very large, so I understand the choice they’ve made here.
I’ve already mentioned that I prefer Dominion to the DC Comics Deck Building Game because strategy plays a greater role in the former. You might be someone who enjoys more of a random card game, and if you are, then this is probably the perfect game for you. I’d describe this as a beer-and-pretzels card game. It’s easy to learn, easy to play, and you’ve got a fair chance of winning even if you’re playing with other, more experienced players. I also thought the price was reasonable. If you like DC Comics and card games, then this one is worth a try, for sure.