By CHEE YIH YANG
AS I grow older, the lure of trading card games (TCGs) and boardgames that clock longer than one hour (I’m talking “official” play times that game companies quote, so actual set up and gameplay is closer to two hours), has all but vanished.
However, gone are the days when I actually had free nights to open TCG booster packs, buy (and sell) single cards online, download the latest cool decks, and then tune my own decks accordingly.
This was why Fantasy Flight Games’ Blood Bowl: Team Manager Card Game worked so well for me. My deck was only 12-cards thick, plus five smaller “team upgrades”. I ran the local “league”, even introducing home-brew dream teams and Star Players. It’s awesome fun, and has no “upkeep”. OK, the score-keeping was time consuming, but hey, it’s easy thanks to spreadsheets.
Another genre that’s catching my eye these days is deck-building games, or DBGs in short. Everyone starts with a small selection of cards and slowly builds their decks up by acquiring new cards from the game with every turn (hence the genre’s name).
Deck-building games are arguably most suited for casual (or time-strapped) gamers – like those in my playgroup, as they do not require players to buy additional cards to buff up the decks, which is what LCGs (living card games) and TCGs are all about.
There’s the Legendary: A Marvel DBG based on the famous Marvel Comics franchise, as well as DC Comics one by Cryptozoic Entertainment. Cryptozoic is also making a Lord Of The Rings DBG based on the 2001 movie trilogy.
I was looking forward to the Marvel DBG, having read some of the comics before. I mean X-Men was always my thing, so any game that features them was always going to get my curiosity going.
Unboxing Legendary Marvel felt a little deflating though, as honestly, I was expecting a lot more from the artwork. The layout of the imagery with the text also looked messy. And, while this sounds like a minor gripe, sleeving and prepping over 550 cards for play proved to be tiresome, even with four friends helping out.
Gameplay was solid though this game is definitely an interesting introductory-level type of card game, with some obvious synergy and strategies to be found, once your decks start accumulating enough key cards.
In a nutshell, you start by choosing from a bunch of hero “decks”, which are mini-piles of cards that depict the heroes’ special abilities and whatnot. You start with a very small deck with means of recruiting hero cards (SHIELD Agents) and killing villains (SHIELD Troopers).
Villains are drawn and enter the play, into five spaces within a gameboard (“The City”). Villains “escape” if you don’t kill them with your cards. Each card has a victory point on it, giving everyone a quick way to tally up and see who did the best. The Marvel game has co-operative and solo modes as well, making it accessible for one to five players. The players win when the Mastermind card is defeated four times in the game.
Overall, the Marvel DBG is a decent enough game if you’re looking for something simple, like if you’re a fan of the comics but not a hardcore gamer.
DC Comics DBG
I have to say that my first impression on the DC Comics DBG was excellent: the Jim Lee-inspired artwork really makes the cards look awesome. Mind you, I’m not even a DC Comics fan, being more of a Marvel/X-Men fan.
The card layout makes a lot of sense too, with the names and game text clearly jumping out at the players. There are over 200 cards and the gameplay is simple enough, with key differences from the Marvel game. In DC, you control a Hero card throughout the game (including icons such as Wonder Woman, Batman, The Flash and Aquaman).
You also have a starting “deck” of cards that enable you to buy more cards to add to your deck, and defeat villains, who then go into your deck as well.
Eventually, your decks are beefed up considerably thanks to the heroes, equipment, superpowers and villains that are won, bought and defeated. DC DBG requires two to five players, and is a typical winners-take-all card game.
Overall, the gameplay is simpler compared to the Marvel one, and seems to clock faster too thanks to the easier mechanics. After playing both games, I have to say that there is very little comic book flavour and “realism” in either, especially DC.
That said, I would readily recommend the DC Comics DBG to any DC/comic fan, super casual gamers, or even veteran gamers that are looking for simpler pleasures compared to the time sinks that are TCGs and LCGs. I found it to be a great way to spend less than one hour with four other guys. And did I say that the cards look awesome?
E-mail the esoteric gaming nut at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have comments, questions, hot gaming news and tips, and trading lists and deck ideas. Check out blog.rage.com.my and follow him @arcturus_mengsk.