David McMillan
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Having recently been introduced to the Marvel superhero deck building game, Legendary (you can read my review here), I was chomping at the bit to try out the DC deck building game and I have to admit that I like DC’s offering just a tad bit more than the Marvel game. Like Legendary, in this game you control a group of heroes in their quest to defeat the super villains that are menacing the city. Like Legendary, you accomplish this by buying heroes and abilities from the supply and then adding them to your deck. And that’s where the similarities end for the most part.

Each player begins the game with a ten card deck that is comprised of 7 Punch cards and 3 vulnerability cards. The vulnerability cards do not actually do anything other than take up room in your deck and muddle your hand with useless junk. Punch cards are the cards that you will use to purchase cards in this game. They are worth 1 power apiece and, to simplify things a bit, I will simply refer to power as dollars and refer to a card’s cost as its dollar amount. Hence, a Punch card is worth $1. After the players have been dealt their starting hands, they are then dealt a random large superhero card. Depending on the superhero they are dealt, they will obtain some extra benefit for as long as they control this superhero. In the game that I played, I was dealt Aquaman. His ability gave me the ability to place any card that I purchased during the round with a cost of $5 or less on top of my deck instead of into my discard pile. The significance of this will become clear shortly. For now, just file it away and don’t worry about it.

Once the players have been dealt their hands and superhero cards, seven super villains are chosen at random and placed into a separate pile face down with Ra’s al Ghul placed on top of the pile face up. Then the main card deck is shuffled and placed face down. Five cards are then drawn from this deck and placed face up into the Line-Up. These are the cards that players will buy to add to their decks. Then all that needs to be done is to place the Kick pile face up along with the Weakness pile. The Kick pile is comprised of nothing but Kick cards. These function much like the Punch cards, but they cost $3 to buy and provide purchasing power worth $2 each. After everything is set up, a person is chosen to go first and the game begins.

Each player will draw 5 cards from the top of their deck and add these cards to their hand. If there aren’t 5 cards to draw in subsequent turns, the player draws what they can, shuffles their discard pile which then becomes their deck, and draws the remaining cards. Each card in the game has several components in common with every other card in the game. First, each card has its cost displayed on the card inside of a circle. Secondly, each card has its victory point total displayed inside of a star at the bottom of the card. Thirdly, each card has text on it that explains what the card can do. The vulnerability cards in your starter deck have $0 purchasing power and are worth 0 victory points. The Punch cards have a purchasing power of $1 and are worth 1 victory point each. The goal of the game is to have the most victory points at the end of the game.

So, you’ve drawn your 5 starting cards and you’ve got the following hand:

- 2 vulnerability
- 3 Punches

This gives you an effective purchasing power of $3. Looking at the Line-Up, you see cards that all cost more than $3, so you purchase a Kick from the Kick pile. Like me, you also control Aquaman. So you add your newly purchased card to the top of your deck instead of your discard pile. Once you have made your purchase, you place all the cards from your play area into the discard pile along with the remaining cards from your hand. On your next turn, you draw these cards:

- Kick
- 3 Punches
- 1 vulnerability

You now have a purchasing power of $5 to work with. This time you can buy a card from the supply, so you do. It is a villain card that costs $4 and gives you an additional $2 purchasing power. Since it cost you less than $5, you place it on top of your deck (which still has 1 single card in it) because you want to know that you’ve got a guaranteed $3 purchasing power next turn ($2 from the card that you just bought and $1 from the Punch remaining in your deck). Once you have made your purchases, you discard the remaining cards in your hand and the cards from your play area. The top card of the main card deck is flipped over and used to replace the card that you just purchased. Then you draw 5 new cards. First, you draw the 2 remaining cards from your deck. Then you shuffle your discard pile and place it face down on the table and draw 3 cards from it.

Play continues in this fashion as the players each add to and improve their decks until eventually one of them has enough power to defeat a super villain. The super villains, when defeated, are added to your deck. Each super villain has an effect on it just like the cards purchased from the line-up. In addition to this effect, they also have a first time appearance attack. Once a player has defeated a super villain and added it to their deck and clean up has been performed (i.e. - discarding unused cards, replacing purchased cards, etc.), the next face down villain is flipped face up and its first time appearance attack happens. These attacks often have negative consequences. Some will knock your superhero card out of commission for a while while others will add weakness cards to your deck. Weakness cards, much like vulnerability cards, waste room in your deck and, unlike vulnerability cards, are also worth -1 victory point at the end of the game. These negative effects are just a couple of examples.

Once there are no more super villain cards to flip over or there are no more cards from the main deck to flip over, the game ends. Players then add up all of their victory points. The player with the most wins. If there is a tie, the player with the most super villain cards wins.

What I really liked about this game was its simplicity. It was easy for the person that was hosting it to set up. It was easy for him to explain and it was simple to play. My wife and I caught on very quickly. We have played many games where the rules are so long-winded and complicated that our eyes just sort of glaze over after a while. This was not one of those games and I really liked that about it. Legendary had a lot of components and there was a lot to go over and a lot to take in and that kind of detracted from my overall enjoyment of that game.

This is not to say that DC’s deck building offering is perfect, however. In Legendary, you felt like you were in the middle of a narrative recruiting superheroes to defeat whatever scheme the evil mastermind had come up with. This game doesn’t draw you in like that. The whole process of purchasing and then adding villains to your deck kind of destroys any illusion that you are constructing a team of superheroes to fight for justice. This doesn’t feel like a deck building game in which you are a participant in the pages of a comic book. It feels like a deck building game that has pictures of comic book characters on the cards. While the game is a very enjoyable experience, I feel that DC really missed the mark on that. If I were recommending one of these two games based on the ease of learning and playing, I’d recommend the DC deck building game. If I were recommending a game based upon the story and the narrative, I’d recommend Legendary hands down. In the end, even though I wasn’t drawn into the narrative, I still had a great time and I recommend this game highly for that alone if for nothing else.
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Since the game combines pretty well with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game, I suggest "Heroes vs. Hobbits".
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Mark West
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the DC-CD-BG
 
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DC Comics Deck-Building Game: It's better than you think!
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Matt Sommer
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I haven't played either game, but I do see the DC game being knocked for having less/no theme when compared to Legendary.

And yet, how thematic is it to have five different people with the same heroes (Legendary)? Or the possibility of having the same villain in the rooftops as well as the sewers (Legendary)? Neither game (from the outside) seems to be all that representative of thematic presentation, and yet nearly every review I've seen praises Legendary and knocks DC.

Can you explain a bit more why you feel Legendary is much more immersive/thematic?

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DC Comics Deck-Building Game is an Ascension: Deckbuilding Game killer....

Has a theme and a far better application of the game mechanic.

For me The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game has a little edge over the gaming, making different enough to not be very compatible and a bit better to consider purchasing it over DC. BUT i do already have many LOTR games so DC comic fill great the comic gap in my gaming collection.
 
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SommerMatt wrote:

Can you explain a bit more why you feel Legendary is much more immersive/thematic?


Legendary has more boardgame feeling since there is a scheme (that vary from enemy to enemy) and you play with the marvel heroes rescuing bystanders and kicking opponents.

DC is more an straight deckbuilding game, very abstract for some minds since you use the same number for purchasing and kicking opponents, no bystanders.

Dc is a fast game with more abstract concept, Legendary is abstract as well but more complex that you could feel the theme a bit more. Both are great games.
 
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David McMillan
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SommerMatt wrote:
I haven't played either game, but I do see the DC game being knocked for having less/no theme when compared to Legendary.

And yet, how thematic is it to have five different people with the same heroes (Legendary)? Or the possibility of having the same villain in the rooftops as well as the sewers (Legendary)? Neither game (from the outside) seems to be all that representative of thematic presentation, and yet nearly every review I've seen praises Legendary and knocks DC.

Can you explain a bit more why you feel Legendary is much more immersive/thematic?



I actually said in a reply to a comment about my review of Legendary that the game could have been even better if I were just controlling a single super hero. The things that Legendary has going for it thematically are as follows:

- There is a Mastermind with a clearly spelled out scheme that you are trying to defeat
- This is accomplished by recruiting heroes to your cause
- Your attempts to defeat the Mastermind are constantly interrupted by lowlife criminals that have taken hostages and are causing all kinds of chaos within your city
- There is a very real possibility that your super hero team could fail and that evil will win the day

DC lacks any of this. There's no threat of an overall impending doom if the group doesn't perform well. There's no head honcho villain that you're trying to defeat and no plot to foil. In fact, you can actually purchase villains from the line-up to add to your deck. It's just weird defeating supervillains by using the powers of other villains. I mean, I guess you could pretend that the regular old villains are trying to take the super villains down a peg so that they can step in and take over, but why would Batman be helping them accomplish this? Thematically, it just doesn't make any sense. Legendary avoids this kind of weird conflict by placing the villains that you have defeated into a seperate victory point pile instead of adding them to your deck.

But, narrative aside, I found myself enjoying the game play of the DC game moreso than I enjoyed playing Legendary. It was a much simpler setup and there was less to keep track of. My wife and I had never played it before and even with the rules explanation, we were able to open the box and start playing just two of three minutes later. Of course, one could make the argument that having played Legendary and Dominion before, the rules didn't take as long since we weren't altogether unfamiliar with deck-building games.
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SommerMatt wrote:
I haven't played either game, but I do see the DC game being knocked for having less/no theme when compared to Legendary.

And yet, how thematic is it to have five different people with the same heroes (Legendary)? Or the possibility of having the same villain in the rooftops as well as the sewers (Legendary)? Neither game (from the outside) seems to be all that representative of thematic presentation, and yet nearly every review I've seen praises Legendary and knocks DC.

Can you explain a bit more why you feel Legendary is much more immersive/thematic?

You are correct. Legendary is not that much more thematic in terms of mechanics. The scenarios probably do more in this regard than anything, but the deck-building with superheroes is pretty unthematic.

Also, DC has slick card design with art from comics. Legendary has ugly card design with original non-comic art. I prefer having real comic art. For this reason, DC does better aesthetically. Legendary is a huge pain in the neck to set up and tear down as well.

I bought both. I sold Legendary, but I would rebuy it if they re-released it with better art assets. I am keeping DC for now, but could easily see dumping it as it's not an amazing game.

Ascension is better than either mechanically, but I don't consider any of them great. I prefer the comic-branded ones simply due to childhood comic fanboy nostalgia.
 
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Thanks for the responses. I guess I just feel like LEGENDARY is also a bit weird thematically, as I said... are players supposed to be pretending to be latter-day Nick Furys or Agent Coulsons? I understand how the masterminds and schemes more thematically represent comic books than the generic mechanics of the DC deckbuilding game, but the nitty-gritty stuff with everyone having a deck full of the same heroes, etc., it seems almost as silly.

I'm torn on this. I generally tend to like DC characters more, and a streamlined Ascension would go over well with casual gaming partners... and yet I hear everyone hype Legendary as one of their favorite games of all time (despite the massive set-up/break-down time involved).

Decisions, decisions.



 
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SommerMatt wrote:
Thanks for the responses. I guess I just feel like LEGENDARY is also a bit weird thematically, as I said... are players supposed to be pretending to be latter-day Nick Furys or Agent Coulsons?


Actually, that is basically it. You are assembling and improving a team of superheroes, trying to make them work together by matching skills and complementary special abilities with bonuses for canonical groupings. If you play it solitaire then this makes complete sense. Multiplayer, you are actually being competitive as well as cooperative, so collectively the same team is fighting the enemy each turn but you are seeing who would have been the best Fury/Coulson.

Maybe it would be more fun for some people if each player used a different hero deck, each taken from one team. (Some game effects that affect the hero line-up would need to affect all of them.) Then you could find out whether the X-Men are better than the Avengers. (However, the game wasn't designed to be balanced that way, so you would probably get a definitive answer.)
 
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SommerMatt wrote:
Thanks for the responses. I guess I just feel like LEGENDARY is also a bit weird thematically, as I said... are players supposed to be pretending to be latter-day Nick Furys or Agent Coulsons? I understand how the masterminds and schemes more thematically represent comic books than the generic mechanics of the DC deckbuilding game, but the nitty-gritty stuff with everyone having a deck full of the same heroes, etc., it seems almost as silly.

I'm torn on this. I generally tend to like DC characters more, and a streamlined Ascension would go over well with casual gaming partners... and yet I hear everyone hype Legendary as one of their favorite games of all time (despite the massive set-up/break-down time involved).

Decisions, decisions.





IMHO

Legendary is about building the best superheroes team.

DC: Simplicity is about being the best superhero.
 
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CarcassonneFreak wrote:
This doesn’t feel like a deck building game in which you are a participant in the pages of a comic book. It feels like a deck building game that has pictures of comic book characters on the cards.


Yes! That is what I want.
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SommerMatt wrote:
I'm torn on this. I generally tend to like DC characters more, and a streamlined Ascension would go over well with casual gaming partners... and yet I hear everyone hype Legendary as one of their favorite games of all time (despite the massive set-up/break-down time involved).


FWIW, the DC games gets played to death around here. I can be guaranteed to get it played every time I take it to a gaming session. Legendary, on the other hand, has already died. Nobody wants to play it. A new guy had the expansion and brought it one day and I tried it again. Nope. Legendary is still lame.
 
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Matt Sommer
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Trump wrote:
SommerMatt wrote:
I'm torn on this. I generally tend to like DC characters more, and a streamlined Ascension would go over well with casual gaming partners... and yet I hear everyone hype Legendary as one of their favorite games of all time (despite the massive set-up/break-down time involved).


FWIW, the DC games gets played to death around here. I can be guaranteed to get it played every time I take it to a gaming session. Legendary, on the other hand, has already died. Nobody wants to play it. A new guy had the expansion and brought it one day and I tried it again. Nope. Legendary is still lame.


Random question, then -- why do you think so many reviewers are loving Legendary and panning DC?
 
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Stephen Glenn
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SommerMatt wrote:
Random question, then -- why do you think so many reviewers are loving Legendary and panning DC?


These reviewers obviously prefer the experience that Legendary gives them to the experience that DCDBG gives them.

Of course there are those reviewers who feel the opposite.

What should matter is which experience *you* prefer. Thanks to *all* of the reviewers, this is relatively easy to figure out.

After reading reviews of both games, I'm certain that DCDBG is the way I want to go.
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Michael Denman
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SommerMatt wrote:
Random question, then -- why do you think so many reviewers are loving Legendary and panning DC?


The simple answer is what Stephen said. Different strokes, eh? Tom Vasel would be one of those reviewers. I agree with him on almost nothing. Should I base my opinion on his preferences? He'd be one of the first to tell you NO. Don't listen to the crowd. Find like-minded people. More importantly, IGNORE the opinions and read the CONTENT. I am often reminded of a game review I read where a guy really hated a game that I thought was fun. I get to his last paragraph and I find out he hates auction games and that's exactly what this game was. He rendered his opinion totally meaningless right then. All reviewers don't extend the courtesy of letting you know their biases up front. In the case of Legendary and DC, I have heard far FAR too many opinions that focus on which comic book company they like. That doesn't mean jack about the game itself.

I think you're right in looking at the DC Deckbuilder as a good casual gaming alternative. If you're hoping for the second coming of deckbuilders though, you're going to be disappointed. As far as Legendary goes, the setup time means little to me. That's so easy to work around that it's just not that big a deal to me (although it is undeniable that DC sets up WAY faster). I think I can sum up my dislike of Legendary with four points. The strategy is so obvious as to require ZERO thought. The designers made nearly no attempt to adjust for scaling for number of players (you have to use an optional rule and even then you're left to your own devices as to how to implement it). There's a runaway leader problem. And the pretense that the game is cooperative is a complete joke. Oh, and as a bonus point, their card manufacturing is absolutely TERRIBLE.
 
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I GET why and how reviews work; I was just curious as to why people thought nearly every "big name" video reviewer seemed to pan the DC game and praise the Marvel one. Most of them complained about lack of theme in DC, which goes back to my original question about how Legendary didn't seem all that much more "thematic."

As you said, guess it's just "different strokes."

 
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Michael Denman
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SommerMatt wrote:
I GET why and how reviews work; I was just curious as to why people thought nearly every "big name" video reviewer seemed to pan the DC game and praise the Marvel one. Most of them complained about lack of theme in DC, which goes back to my original question about how Legendary didn't seem all that much more "thematic."

As you said, guess it's just "different strokes."



You're also only sampling video reviewers. I listen to a lot of gaming podcasts. I'd say DC is generally BETTER liked amongst them than Legendary is.

 
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SommerMatt wrote:
And yet, how thematic is it to have five different people with the same heroes (Legendary)? Or the possibility of having the same villain in the rooftops as well as the sewers (Legendary)? Neither game (from the outside) seems to be all that representative of thematic presentation, and yet nearly every review I've seen praises Legendary and knocks DC.

Can you explain a bit more why you feel Legendary is much more immersive/thematic?

I haven't played the DC game, so I can't offer comparisons--but I can tell you what I appreciate about Legendary in terms of theme.

Each game has its own antagonist with a specific villainous goal that the players need to thwart. You're not just gathering victory points for the sake of getting victory points. There's an actual plot and goal. As has been mentioned earlier, it is quite possible to lose to the mastermind. Sometimes, based on the combination of villains, schemes, and heroes available, we really struggle to gain any ground (or even hold our ground). To me, that really adds to the comic book feel.

Most of the hero cards really fit their characters (a notable exception being Spider-Man, but that's another tangent). There is a lot of potential synergy among the different heroes, which adds to the superhero team feel of the game.

I have to add that the first time I played Legendary, it felt a bit wonky due to the fact that everyone had access to all the same heroes from the recruiting area. I was expecting something more along the lines of Sentinels of the Multiverse, where each player controls a single hero. What I realized, however, was that each player's turn isn't a hero turn, and each hero card isn't a hero, but rather a hero maneuver. Once I started treating each player turn as a comic panel (or page, if you have a lot of synergy and actions going on), it made a lot more sense. When we play at my house we like to verbally describe the scene playing out and build on previous narratives.
 
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Thanks for the insight. And great BGG name -- I'm a huge King of the Hill fan.
 
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Very late reply:

Every card game needs abstraction to work. But the ones that better convey theme are the ones that better present a narrative.

My turn in Legendary:

I play the Hulk card that gives a wound to your hand, play two X-men cards that combos with each other to finish him off. I also play a recruit card with Maria Hill and get a Spiderman card.

In my mind:
Hulk goes at the abomination at the bank and ends up hurting the party in its reckless approach while Cyclops and Storm finish the job. Meanwhile, Maria Hill recruits Spiderman to the ongoing fight against Magneto.

My turn in the DC deck Building game:

I, playing as Batman, play the Wonder Woman's lasso, the Green Lantern ring, the Joker and a heat vision card. I get a vilain, Zatana and the Batmobile.

In my mind:
Batman, borrowing some things from the Justice League locker-room recovers his batmobile with the help of the Joker. In the way he recruits Zatana for the fight against whomever is at the top of the villain deck at the moment and punches Clayface.
Superman might have been passing and landed a brief help. Or Batman mutated.

The second example looks more disjointing. It requires more effort to put together a plausible scenario.

But it is not set in stone. Both games have abstractions and your mileage may vary. In general, though, I think that in Legendary the narrative process comes more intuitively: There is an overall plot, the villains have objectives, Cap does not borrows his shield and so on.
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