Thursday, March 27, 2014

DC Deckbuildin' and the Violence Inherent in the System

Do you like violence? What if I told you there was a game where the currency was violence. Not implicit, but explicit. Instead of bribery or blackmail, we were dealing solely with punches and kicks. Boots to the head. A jack booted stomp on a Sunday morning.

The DC Comics Deck-Building Game.

The title sticks in my craw like a shiny bent nail every time I type it.

If you have played Dominion, you would probably be familiar with the rules to the DC Comics Game. If you have played Ascension, you are almost 100% of the way to knowing the rules to the DC Comics Game.

There is a spread of 5 cards you can buy from, the always-available kicks as the go-to option if you don't like any of your choices.

Violence is the currency of your purchases. As a superhero, you buy other heroes, equipment and villains for your deck using a series of punches and kicks in the same way Dominion uses copper, silver and gold. Villains you are coercing into your team, of course. Equipment you are stealing from lesser beings. And of course other lesser heroes gain admiration the more punishment you dish out. At least that's how I envision it.

Much like Ascension, you can't think up any big overarching strategy. If you pick a theme, and try to stick to that theme, you are going to LOSE. You also can't just go "big money" because the currency doesn't really go high enough. The kicks are worth 2. Some heroes/equipment might be worth 3, but you have to wait for them to come around. Super-villains rarely cost 8 to buy, but more likely they are worth 10 or 12.

There also aren't very many ways to trash your cards. So your deck will invariably be big. And gloppy.

The first time I played this, I lost in spectacular fashion with a hand full of kicks. The more savvy players went for what they thought was cool, regardless of the associated ability and ended up doing substantially better.

When I eventually won, I had instead built a balanced deck. Equal parts high power cards and drawing abilities to get those high power cards into my hand. I had to build right, and then I had to get lucky.

Each player will have a unique superhero "role" card to give you an added little bonus, and from my experience you have to pay attention to these because they make all the difference. Triggering an extra card, an extra +1 power or both on a normally good hand is what gets you enough power to buy the super-villains, the big point scorers of the game.

There is plenty of luck, but there is also a surprising amount of skill to be acquired, particularly in the card evaluations.

Green Arrow's bow is incredibly strong.

Granting you +2 power, but also subtracting 2 from the strength of the current super-villain in play.

But other cards feel a lot better once you play around with them for a while.

Two Face, for instance, is a terrible card on the surface.

Playing him gets you +1 power, the same value as a punch. His added ability sounds bad…you call odd or even, draw a card and get to keep the card if the cost matches what you called. But if you a familiar with your deck, it gives you the ability to try to sculpt both your current hand and the hard you will draw next turn.

The DC Deckbuilding Game (not the correct title) is short, sweet, with more depth the more you play. It's currently the go-to lunch game and I couldn't be happier. Pretty cheap (especially if someone else pays for it) and the rules can be found here.

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