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Subject: A New Hero Emerges -- DCCDBG 2-Player Review rss

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Chris Leder
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I got the DC Comics Deck-Building Game (DCCDBG) last week and have now had a chance to play several two-player games. I’m sure the game plays differently with more players, but I wanted to relate what I’ve seen with two. I apologize if I ramble.

GAMEPLAY:
Totally basic deckbuilding fare. You start with 10 cards, consisting of 7 Punches and 3 Vulnerabilities. You shuffle them and take the top five. You use cards that provide Power (this game’s currency) to purchase from the ever-changing Line-Up of 5 cards in the center of the table. Alternately, you can purchase an upgraded Punch card (called a Kick) or go after the current face-up Super-Villain (who requires a bit more Power to defeat). At the end of the turn, discard and draw a fresh five cards, then replenish any Line-Up cards that were taken, and flip a new Super-Villain if the old one was defeated (and resolve the new Super-Villain’s Attack). As your deck grows, you will be able to purchase better cards, as well as perform myriad actions and even directly Attack other players with the Villain cards you’ve purchased. The game ends when you can’t draw any more Line-Up or Super-Villain cards. You then add up all the victory points on all your cards, and the highest number wins.

COMPONENTS:
I love the artwork on the cards. All kinds of different heroes, villains, and gadgets. When I first read the rules before I go the game, I was worried that the text would be too small on the cards, but it’s fine. You can easily see your Power values when the cards are splayed in your hand.

The box is wonderful, and (unlike other recently-released superhero deckbuilding games) actually features an intuitive way to organize your cards, making setup and breakdown ridiculously simple – seriously, this game is out of the box and ready to play in 45 seconds, with put-away taking just a minute or so of card separation.

THEME:
Let me make this perfectly clear. There’s simply no semblance of a story here. No real point to what you’re doing or why, in the context of a comic book world. I thought that this would be a giant problem for me, and indeed my buddy and I were scratching our heads trying to figure out why Batman is taking Heat Vision and a Power Ring. Why weren’t the members of the Justice League cooperating? Our gut reaction was that this game missed the mark big time. But then we played a few more rounds, and suddenly, we totally stopped caring about a plot. The game began to work. We found ourselves spotting combos, and competing to get the cards we wanted. We raced to defeat Super-Villains and screw each other out of victory points. It was glorious! We found that even though there was no actual plot, the theme of the game is incredibly strong because the abilities of the cards are spot-on for the heroes and villains they depict. Two-Face’s ability has you choose evens or odds, then draw the top card to see if what you chose matches the card’s cost, and if you guessed right, you get the card, otherwise you discard it. Perfect! The Superman cards feel epic, and the Batman cards focus on Equipment and gadgets. The supplemental sidekicks, heroes, and foes add flavors of their own. Even without a plot, the theme comes through loud and clear.

THE GAME ENGINE:

Look, the comparisons to Ascension are apt, as you only have one currency and you are really just purchasing cards each turn, and maybe using some special abilities sometimes. Does that sound dry and boring? Heck yes! But in practice, it’s fun and fast. Within three turns, you are building combos and your gameplay style is forming. I can’t stress enough how much flexibility is magically created out of such a rudimentary ruleset. I think this can be attributed to the abilities on the cards themselves, and the balance of the Line-Up deck. In all the games we played, we never got bored of trying out new strategies to either a) race to claim cards to boost our score, b) totally mess with the other’s plans, or c) do a and b simultaneously.

COMPARISON TO LEGENDARY:
(I had to put this in because it is certainly something I was wondering about...)

Okay, so… Legendary has a lot of things going for it that are unfortunately tempered with odd design choices. The cooperative nature of the gameplay can be exhilarating and unique (though it’s hindered by that damned “semi-” qualifier, which basically ruins the cooperation if you have players who wish to compete). The idea of a specific mastermind and an overall scheme with plot twists is true to the comics (except the way it is handled creates very little epic action between heroes and villains – you’re more scared of Scheme Twists than you are of the Mastermind a lot of the time). For a game seemingly built to tell a story, Legendary leaves you wondering exactly what role you are embodying in the universe (as evidenced by BGG threads postulating that you are some sort of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive officers of something, which is cool, I guess, but is it canon?). Finally, the layout of the box with those stupid dividers, the setup time, and the breakdown time are utterly ridiculous for new players. Even with experience, the crazy chaos that ensues when putting it all away is daunting at best.

That said, I like Legendary. I have played it over ten times since it came out, with games ranging from solo to four players. Once you get past the setup, people tend to enjoy it, and when the table is working cooperatively, it’s a great time.

It’s a little confusing to say that despite its bigger box, wealth of cards, giant plots, masterminds, and cooperation, Legendary doesn’t feel as epic as DCCDBG. But that’s the truth.

Legendary feels more fiddly, with more things to keep track of, despite being limited in choices. DCCDBG feels more streamlined and agile. You’re up and running so much faster than Legendary! And I don’t mean initial setup (though that’s true too). I mean that the time it takes for one to think “This is a cool superhero game and I feel like I’ve done some cool superhero-y things” come much faster in DCCDBG than it does in Legendary.

It took me a couple of games to really like Legendary. I knew that it was a good game, but I needed some time to wrap my head around it and form a strategy. With DCCDBG, I knew before I was halfway done with the first game that I was a fan. After a few more plays, the feeling is set. And I haven’t even gotten to the fun of playing with more than two.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS:
A lot of people will look at this game and dismiss it as just another deckbuilder. Certainly, it doesn’t do a very convincing job of differentiating itself, with its simple rules and uninspired name. But underneath the layer of ho-hum, there’s a vibrant, fast, fun card game that deserves to be played. The theme comes through loud and clear in the cards themselves, even when there’s no real plot. Seriously, don’t look for a story here, and just forget about shoehorning in a non-canon narrative to explain it away. Instead, shuffle up and get into the game. Besides, you can probably get two or three games in while someone sets up the table for Legendary…
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Scott Sims
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Thanks for the comparisons.

I was wondering which of these games you think plays with two the best?
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Dustin
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thanks for the review. the long set up time of legendary, and time to get going just killed it for me. nice to hear this one plays fast.
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Shane Gelven
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Great review
 
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Tim K
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Batman is taking Heat Vision and a Power Ring, punch and kick cards, no story line, meh. If you weren't into comics I'm assuming this wouldn't bother you. I'd much rather see a Legendary version of DC. Was this a review of Marvel Legendary or the DC game - I couldn't tell. I think I'll save my money for the Legendary expansions and pass on this one.

TK.
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Chris Leder
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SSims wrote:
Thanks for the comparisons.

I was wondering which of these games you think plays with two the best?


I have to give the win to DCCDBG, if for no other reason than the ease of play. Legendary feels like a big, involved experience. DCCDBG feels like a card game, but one that evokes superheroes very well. With two players, it's just much easier to get going.

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John Smith
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Though I haven't played either Legendary or DCCDBG I want to share with you a game I played and still occasionally play which felt superheroey in every aspect. This game is the now defunct VS. System CCG (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/13293/vs-system) from Upperdeck which enjoyed quite a success during its heyday. Though it was a CCG it is dirt cheap to get cards now. And there are lots of it. Almost every major and minor Marvel and DC character has at least one card. There even were a Hellboy set and a Galactus Raid-deck. After it was abandonend by Upperdeck some loyal fans even kept making fanmade sets (see here: http://www.vssystem.org).

Though MTG-derivative, it was pretty well balanced (excluding the last few sets), full of difficult decisions and the best thing was the great thematic implementation of the superhero and- villains in the card-mechanics. It actually felt like the different superheroes were duking it out over the course of a game, surprising plot twists and bomb-out wins included.

Thought you guys should know about this once great game (though you probably knew already).
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Chris Leder
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warmachine519 wrote:
Batman is taking Heat Vision and a Power Ring, punch and kick cards, no story line, meh. If you weren't into comics I'm assuming this wouldn't bother you.


This was my fear going into DCCDBG. I was pretty perturbed by the utter lack of coherence with regard to the comics. And indeed that feeling lasted until a little bit into my first game, when I suddenly understood that what DCCDBG is going for isn't to have you play as Batman. You just happen to have a unique bonus based on that hero. The fun of this game is that it plays really, really well as a competitive card game, where you are strategizing to go after victory points. Treated that way, as a card game and not a role-playing game with a plot, this game works well. You can say Legendary has more of a storyline (though that's debatable), so if that's your main need, stick with that game. But DCCDBG is a faster competitive game that deserves its own place in your collection if you like DBGs.

And as for this review straddling both DCCDBG and Legendary, I think you're right, but I suspect that a lot of people came looking for that comparison.
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Jarrod Babel
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MantaScorp wrote:
warmachine519 wrote:
Batman is taking Heat Vision and a Power Ring, punch and kick cards, no story line, meh. If you weren't into comics I'm assuming this wouldn't bother you.


This was my fear going into DCCDBG. I was pretty perturbed by the utter lack of coherence with regard to the comics. And indeed that feeling lasted until a little bit into my first game, when I suddenly understood that what DCCDBG is going for isn't to have you play as Batman. You just happen to have a unique bonus based on that hero. The fun of this game is that it plays really, really well as a competitive card game, where you are strategizing to go after victory points. Treated that way, as a card game and not a role-playing game with a plot, this game works well. You can say Legendary has more of a storyline (though that's debatable), so if that's your main need, stick with that game. But DCCDBG is a faster competitive game that deserves its own place in your collection if you like DBGs.

And as for this review straddling both DCCDBG and Legendary, I think you're right, but I suspect that a lot of people came looking for that comparison.


If I wanted this I would play Dominion or MtG. If I want a more cohesive superhero experience I would play Legendary. If I want a more streamlined version of Ascension with a better theme (and I do) DC is it.
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Clwe
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I can't offer an opinion on DCCDBG as I haven't played it yet, but I have to say, I'm floored by responses like this:

SeerMagic wrote:
thanks for the review. the long set up time of legendary, and time to get going just killed it for me. nice to hear this one plays fast.



If that's how you feel, then whatever you do, never, ever offer to set up or play a game of Thunderstone! Or possibly Agricola, for that matter.

Fair enough, it's a lot easier to simply take one big deck and shuffle the lot, as opposed to Legendary's 'shuffle a certain number of henchmen/villians/heroes and separate the decks' approach. However, it should be relatively quick and painless for anyone who's, say, set up Dominion games in the past. The only major issue is the lack of headings on the dividers, and that's easily rectified with a pen (seriously, do this. It makes things so much easier).

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Daniel Corban
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Pretty much everything you say against Legendary, I would say the exact opposite. From the semi-coop status, to the dividers, to the teardown time, to knowing it was a good game half-way through.
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Nathaniel Yamaguchi
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Great review. Glad to hear you're having fun with the game.

I really don't understand people's hang up with things like "Batman buying Heat Vision." Yes, Batman doesn't have heat vision, but the cards you buy are the tools your hero is using not necessarily what they can do. This includes using your own equipment/superpowers, but also getting the assistance of other heroes and villains.

There are plenty of card combos that allow stories to be told. Look how all the Teen Titans trigger Titan's Tower. It's hilarious how many Titans Deathstroke usually kills when he flips. One of my favorite cards to buy as Batman is Man of Steel, because now I feel like I'm playing the World's Finest. The game is as immersive as you let it be.
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Casey Hughes
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That's a good way to look at it. Heat Vision being used by Batman is it's not Batman using it but Superman showing up and using it. The Equipment and Super Powers of heroes different from your own are aspects of those other heroes. They add pieces to the narrative in forms other than just the hero card themselves.

Now if you want to argue that using Heat Vision to buy a Utility belt is unthematic, I won't fight on that. It's a by-product of choosing to use a single resource system.
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Jarrod Babel
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Quoted from OP:

The box is wonderful, and (unlike other recently-released superhero deckbuilding games) actually features an intuitive way to organize your cards, making setup and breakdown ridiculously simple – seriously, this game is out of the box and ready to play in 45 seconds, with put-away taking just a minute or so of card separation.

I just got my copy and I must say I feel exactly the opposite. The first thing you notice is how 1/3 of it is useless.



There are 3 sections, the left is 1 large hole for your oversized super-hero cards (more on this in a moment).
The next is the middle section, this is a solid design though somewhat limited in it's shortsightedness. The top is 4 divided sections, there is a medium sized middle slot and a large slot on the bottom (some of the top slots are kinda small when thinking of expansions, mostly the super-villain part).
Then we come to the useless 1/3, the right has a sticker that has some markers to show you recommended placement of the cards in the middle section. While nice, it is unnecessary and makes this last third of the box lost space. So instead of a smaller box (and cheaper cost/shipping) or extra storage for expansions we get a sticker...

Back to the first third for the oversized super-hero cards. I just have to ask what the heck were they thinking!? There is no way to store the cards in this slot (without an additional support piece of some kind) without them laying flat in the slot. What's so bad about this you ask? The pre-cut finger slot only goes about half way down and the cards fit snug enough that unless you have long nails (and wish to risk scraping the edges of these cards) or turn the box upside down you cannot get the cards out!
You can't put them on their side and use foam behind them because they stand too tall so the box doesn't close tight (especially with the instructions in the box since they can't lay flat due to the cards sticking up higher).

Yes I sleeve my cards and even if I did not the space issue would be a concern, just instead of a concern for the first or second xpac it would be the second or third.

The OP says the box is intuitve way to organize your cards, this is true because there's only 1 way that make's sense to put them in and even that is not 'intuitive' because there's a spot for both punch and vulnerability cards (the starter cards, 35 and 15 each) and I just put them all in the punch area because I pre-setup my starting decks.

The wasted third, poorly thought out oversized slot and short sighted pre-cut middle section make me give this box a big thumbsdown
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Scott
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houjix1138 wrote:
That's a good way to look at it. Heat Vision being used by Batman is it's not Batman using it but Superman showing up and using it. The Equipment and Super Powers of heroes different from your own are aspects of those other heroes. They add pieces to the narrative in forms other than just the hero card themselves.

Now if you want to argue that using Heat Vision to buy a Utility belt is unthematic, I won't fight on that. It's a by-product of choosing to use a single resource system.


That's how I see it, too.

Thanks for the review!
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Scott
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Goodbye insert. Yuck.

Hopefully if there is an expansion it well be better designed. DBG inserts should be simple. Thunderstone really nailed it definitively in their expansions IMO.
 
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Chris Leder
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jbabel wrote:
The wasted third, poorly thought out oversized slot and short sighted pre-cut middle section make me give this box a big thumbsdown


I should have mentioned the poor section reserved for the giant superhero cards -- you're right about it being a bad design. I have a piece of paper tucked around those cards to get them out.

Still, though, I stand by the fact that having to create a better way to get the superhero cards out in DCCDBG is substantially better than having to LABEL YOUR OWN DIVIDERS in Legendary. Plus, the amount of empty space left in the Legendary box (without sleeving cards) is pretty huge.

IMO, both boxes have flaws, but I give the point to the one that is 1) easier to work with and 2) won't make the unsleeved cards fly all over the box if it's turned sideways. On both points, DCCDBG wins.

(Oh, and though I like when a company is generous about leaving room for expansions, it shouldn't be the #1 priortiy! Make it work effectively for the original set first!
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Jarrod Babel
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Labeling my own dividers is fine by me. I put the wound, shield officer, bystanders and starting decks in the 4 small sections. I then have a 'randomizer' tab that holds 1 of each card for randomization purposes. My scheme tab has all the different schemes, the twist and master strike cards.
This set up is probably different from other people and would not have been possible if I couldn't label my own. And how tacky would it look if there were some professional ones and then my own personal ones to make up for what I didn't like?
While I would like professional ones I can accept why they weren't done.

I do like your idea of a piece of paper to help get the oversized cards out and I will do that.

I think both have flaws as well but even now I only have half the legendary box filled (and the 4 smaller sections as mentioned above). The heroes are all in one and kinda tight, all others are in a smaller section in front. Assuming the counts from the expansions are correct I should be able to get a big box and 1-2 small box xpacs in the base game.
In the DC box there isn't much more room in the main deck area. I hope in the xpac they use the wasted third as a giant main deck area with a provided piece of foam that can be cut down as more cards are added. I am curious how they will work xpacs b/c the way Ascension does it stinks (who wants a 500+ card main deck), I just don't know how they will fix it with the way the game plays at this time, have to wait and see.

I like both games but they are very different and (as I've stated elsewhere) they scratch different itches. DC will make Ascension collect a lot of dust on my shelf.
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A. B. West
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Thanks for the review. The game continues to get somewhat luke-warm reviews. If the comparison to Ascension is indeed apt, then this game likely isn't for me. Ascension had a very short duration in my collection. The cards in the end just were not interesting at all.
 
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Paul Glickman
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This appears to be one-currency Ascension with much more interesting card interactions.

I don't own it (yet) and have never played it, but it seems that there are much cooler combos altogether.

As far as Heat Vision is Superman showing up and saying it, yup. Comparing the theme of this to Legendary is silly though, Legendary makes even less sense. Recruitment points that you use to recruit certain parts of heroes and... *gives up*
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Josh
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I don't get why heat Vision or a Power Ring on batman bother anyone. Batman can't make a visor/googles/contacts to supply him with heat vision in a pinch? He cant' build a power ring/hasn't gotten one from various time hopping incidents? Can't say I think it's too hard to sort those types of things out.

That said I haven't played the game and have no opinion on whether it is good or not
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Pete Shirey
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I have played 10 games + of legendary and while I do hate the set up and put away time, in a 5 player game if everyone pitches in it takes less than 2 minutes to get it back in the box.a little bit longer if you only have 3 or 4 players but its tolerable. I know Legendary isn't perfect but from my short expierences with DC I am not impressed with it at all.Its a decent game on its own but it does not even stand close to Legendary . the customization of Legendary is far greater when you mix masterminds with different schemes and heroes and villan groups, it gives you a different expierence every time.I think DCDBG will do good things but if I had to only play 1 I would choose Legendary hands down.
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Casey Hughes
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They're two different games that do different things. One is a sort of fixed Thunderstone(really a TS-Ascension hybrid, but I feel it is closer to TS), the other is a simpler, fixed Ascension. I never really compared those two games directly and I don't feel that they are close enough to be compared as each game is a different experience. If you're more of a Thunderstone guy you'll probably like Legendary. If Ascension is your thing, then most likely DC is your choice.

Me, I loved Thunderstone. I own almost all the expansions except the most recent Advance one. However, I'm burnt out on the massiveness of even playing a single game of Thunderstone. I can't even remember the last time I got it out other than to play may 1 or two games of the first Advance version right after it released. The Facebook version probably spoiled me by removing all the tedium of the game. Legendary has all the makings of becoming that same experience. I like some of the changes over Thunderstone, but don't like a few others. I'm sure I will enjoy the game when I play it, but it feels like it could easily burn me out.

Now I really don't like Ascension. I've played it. I will play it again, but I don't really enjoy playing it. It could be the theme, the limited player interaction, the potential for all money in hand and only monsters on the board or vice versa, whatever. There's just something about it that never clicked for me. DC by all accounts is a lot of the same, but I like the changes they made. Single currency is good, more player interaction with the villian attacks and defense cards, fun theme(although I'm more of a Marvel guy), and the starting hero cards are pretty cool. Since I don't own Ascension, DC will fill that void in my game library for a quicker, easier deck builder that I can play with my kids as well as my less hardcore gamer friends.

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Troy eland
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long set up time for legendary? it's like 5 mins max. and back in the box in less time. i don't know what you guys are doing and this is me by myself
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Dustin
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I have no idea how you do it in 5 minutes. heck, just decided who to play with and against and seperating them takes longer than that, let alone getting them all out of the box and having to put the ones you are not playing with back in.
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