Thursday, December 18, 2014

DC Comics Deckbuilding: First Look at Forever Evil

Forever Evil, the name says it all.


One of the marvelous innovations in Cryptozoic's release plan is making all of these different versions completely intependent of each other. This has allowed me to play many games of each version and enjoy the unique aspects of each. The designer (Matt Hyra) gets to really go off the rails, in completely different ways, for each game without having to worry about how the changes interact with what's already out there. I'm sure there ARE people who dump all the cards together, but those people are W-R-O-N-G. It is not the "Ultimate Throwdown" trust me.

The first big change, the one everyone already knows about, is players are now super-villians and the goons you defeat are actually Earth's Mightiest Heroes (wait, those are the Avengers, I have no idea what JLA's tagline is). 

In my first game, playing as Black Manta, I have to say…Black Manta had probably his best day ever among the surface dwellers. When you've bagged and tagged Flash, Superman, Batman and Constantine you feel like a pretty good super-villian. Unfortunately Aquaman evaded me…he wasn't even in the deck!

Initial setup. Good grief, who bumped these cards! Notice the crazy Bizarro Power super power.

The Places We've Been

In the first 2 games, Locations were allowed to have a common mechanical theme. in DC Comics "TOG" you drew a card when a condition on the table had been met. In Heroes Unite you reveal a card, and if its the type the location is looking for you draw it. Forever Evil goes different and has Locations not draw cards at all. They don't even share a mechanical theme this time around! A few cards allow you to trash specific types of cards, others give you bonuses depending on the types of cards you have in play. There might be more that do completely new things

Victory Point Chips

Taking inspriation from whatever Dominion expansion that was, Forever Evil makes it possible to acquire victory points without being attached to cards. Now certain cards give you a victory point whenever a certain action is done or condition met. A prime example is Forever Evil's version of Heroes Unite's "Manhunter".

Manhunter gave you more power depending on how many additional Manhunters were in the discard pile. Forever Evil has the Royal Flush Gang. The Royal Flush Gang gives you VICTORY POINTS (whoo whoo!) every time you play more than one Gang from your hand during a turn.

By the end of my first game, Firestorm was a: Punch, Vulnerability, Communication Device, another Punch, Blackgate Prison, Power Girl and Man Bat. All of these cards triggered when I played my last Firestorm.

Firestorm Fever

Two of the most complex addititions to the deck involve the DC Hero Firestorm. Both Firestorm and the equipment Firestorm Matrix remove the top card of your own deck from the game. In the case of Firestorm, this removed card becomes part of the text on his card. So every time you play Firestorm, he adds another card to his collection and gets a little more powerful.

Firestorm Matrix is a little different. Cards removed by Firestorm Matrix are placed in front of you in a special zone. Any of these cards you can get the effect of once during your turn. 

Finally, the cards removed with Firestorm still count to your victory point total at the end of the game, while the ones removed with Firestorm Matrix don't, because it says so on the card.

Sound complicated? It is! I'm not sure I personally would have added something as "completely different" as these 2 isolated cards. But they do not break the game, and down the road (10 games or so) I'm sure they will feel perfectly natural.

Sifting through piles of cards

Forever Evil continues Heroes Unite's movement towards more cards to affect other zones other than "in-play" zone. Now, in Forever Evil, it matters what cards are in the destroyed pile. Cards like Power Ring want to see heroes, and give you extra power for every dead hero in the pile. "Super Heroes" like Superman and Batman (who you've captured and forced to do your bidding?) actually pull out super powers and equipment from the destroyed pile for you to use.

Even though I love being able to pull my own cards out of the discard pile and put them back in my hand, I can see why its an annoying mechanic. One of the most annoying parts of Heroes Unite is waiting for your opponent to finish digging around in his discard pile for the right combo of power-maximizing cards. Forever Evil takes it up to 11 by having you dig through your discard pile, sometimes your opponent's discard pile, and of course now the destroyed cards pile.

A pretty good hand to draw. This was before Man-Bat had been absorbed into Firestorm's ability

Pass your cards

Finally the part I thought I would despise, but instead love. A couple cards in Forever Evil allow you to pass cards from your hand into the discard pile of your opponents.

The reason behind the negative feelings is because it echoes the decidedly brain-dead "passing parties" seen in previous sets from super-villians such as the Joker and Brainiac. These otherwise cool Super-villians were saddled by a mechanic that took too much time and effectively did nothing in 99% of situations.

Cards such as Mallet in Forever Evil speed up the process (and make it seem like its actually DOING something)  by making the action asymmetrical. Only YOU are passing cards, and you get to pass one card out of your hand into the deck of your enemy. This is much more like destroying, and I was able to quickly move a punch or vulnerability from my hand into my opponent's discard pile and I got nothing in return much to my satisfaction.

Bizarro Hate Game

I was extremely pleased to see a return for Bizarro, who really didn't get a fair shake in the original game. There is a Bizarro super-villian you can play as, and special Bizarro themed super powers that actually hurt the person playing them. I loved the theme, but don't know if these cards are any good or not because neither of us were Bizarro. If you aren't Bizarro, they look absolutely terrible. So that will have to wait for another day to examine.

Bad Guys, Good Game

The theme of this game is excellent. You FEEL like a super-villain in many subtle ways. First, acquiring victory points feels like you are getting more powerful independent of your minions. Destroying cards and getting more powerful also feels very villainous. After the first play though, I want to give it a bunch more goes to see what else comes flying out of the stack. Next time hopefully I will get the opportunity to stock up on Bizarro Cards.

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