DC Comics Deck-building Game Series Overview – Super Frenemies of America
DC Comics Deck-building Game (DBG) is a competitive deckbuilding card game in which you take on the role of a famous DC Comics Superhero – or in the case of Forever Evil a Supervillain! Your goal is to acquire the most Victory Points (VPs), mostly by defeating Villains and Super-Villains – or Heroes and Super Heroes when you’re playing Forever Evil. To accomplish this, you’ll have to build a good deck by acquiring more and more powerful cards from the Line-Up, defeating Super-Villains, and ridding your deck of Vulnerability and Weakness cards as quickly as possible. Defeating Villains and Super-Villains is much like acquiring Equipment, Locations, Super Powers and Heroes from the Line-Up: you simply buy them with Power. Your only real Attacks are against your fellow Super Heroes. So you’re more Super Frenemies then Super Friends in this game.
DC Comics DBG takes deckbuilding back to the basics with a particularly simple setup. As in most deckbuilders, players all begin with the same small deck of cards. In DC Comics DBG your starting deck consists of 7 Punch cards and 3 Vulnerability cards. Punch cards provide you with a little Power so you can buy better cards from the Line-Up. Vulnerability cards represent things that can make your Super Hero falter and really just clog up your deck, so you’ll want to get rid of them as soon as you can.
In addition to a starter deck, each player takes one of the 7 large Super Hero character cards to play. Your Super Hero character provides you with your very own special ability. For example, The Flash always gets to go first (because he’s really fast). He also gets to draw a bonus card the first time he plays a card that allows him to draw one or more cards during his turn. Batman gains +1 Power for each Equipment card he plays, so he’ll want to focus on acquiring Equipment – as Batman is wont to do. Wonder Woman gets bonus cards, when drawing her next hand, equal to the number of Villain cards she bought or gained during her turn. Superman gains +1 Power for each different Super Power card he plays, so by focusing on Super Power cards, he can build a really powerful deck. He is the Man of Steel after all. From Heroes Unite, Batgirl can discard a Punch card once each turn and draw a replacement. Booster Gold gets +1 Power for each Defense card he plays during his turn; he also gets to draw a card whenever he avoids an Attack.
Super Heroes in the original set include: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or Cyborg. Heroes Unite includes: Batgirl, Hawkman, Nigthwing, Shazam!, Booster Gold, Red Tornado, and Black Canary.
After handing out starting decks and randomly dealing, or letting players choose, a Super Hero card, the only other setup necessary is to:
- Shuffle the Main Deck and place it near the middle of the table, turning up the top 5 cards to form the starting Line-Up.
- Prepare the Super-Villain deck: Remove the appropriate Super-Villain from the Super-Villain deck (Ra’s Al Ghul for base game, Vandal Savage for Heroes Unite). He’ll go face-up on the top of the Super-Villain deck. Then shuffle the remaining Super-Villains and deal 7 face-down, to form the rest of the deck. If you’re playing Forever Evil, prepare the Super-Hero deck the same way with Flash on top (because he’s really fast).
- Place the Super-Villains deck, the Kick cards and the Weakness cards in separate stacks near the end of the Line Up.
- Players should all draw 5 cards for their starting hand and you’re ready to go.
On your turn, you can play cards from your hand in any order you want. When you play a card, resolve any game text on it immediately. Most cards have simple effects like +x Power or draw x cards. Some cards allow you to make an Attack against your fellow players. Some allow you to defend against such attacks. After and/or while playing your cards, you can use your Power to purchase Kick cards and/or cards from the Line-Up and/or defeat the current Super-Villain. Card costs appear in the grey circle in the bottom left corner of the cards. Super-Villains tend to be pretty expensive, costing 8-12 Power, while cards in the Main deck run 2-7 Power (World’s Mightiest Mortal Hero card in Heroes Unite costs 8). Any cards purchased (or defeated) go in your discard pile, not in your hand. When your deck runs out and you need to draw a card, you’ll shuffle your discard pile, containing all of your acquisitions, then play from your improved deck. Rinse and repeat until your deck is a well-oiled machine.
When you’re done playing and purchasing cards, place your played cards and any cards left in your hand in your discard pile and draw 5 new cards. Refill the Line-Up as needed and turn up a new Super-Villain if needed. Play then passes to the next player.
Ending the Game
The game ends immediately when you’re either unable to refill all five slots of the Line-Up or can’t turn up a new Super-Villain because the respective deck ran out. Players then add up the Victory Points (star values) on the cards in their decks, subtracting for any Weakness cards acquired. Highest score wins.
Most of the Main Deck cards are only worth 1-2 Victory Points (VPs). However, some cards’ Victory Point value depends on other cards in your deck; an asterisk (*) appears in the star on these cards. For example, if you have Green Arrow in your deck along with four or more other Heroes, Green Arrow is worth 5 VPs. The Utility Belt Equipment card can also earn you 5 VPs if you have four or more other Equipment cards in your deck. The Suicide Squad likes to gang up, so each one is worth 1 VP for each Suicide Squad in your deck. There are six total, so that could add up to 36 points if you had all six! The Power Ring Equipment cards in Heroes Unite work similarly, but there are seven of those. In one bizzare case, the Villain Bizarro awards you 2 VPs for each Weakness card in your deck. This essentially is a gain of 1 VP per Weakness card, because each Weakness card in your deck costs you 1 VP. Sciencell from Heroes Unite earns you 1 VP for each different Villain in your deck. Super-Villains are Villains, too.
It’s All in the Cards
While we’re at it let’s look at some of the other cards in the Main Deck of DC Comics Deck-building Game. After all, it’s these cards that really bring out the flavor and theme of the game. Hero cards include other famous DC Comics Heroes like Robin, Catwoman and Supergirl in the original set and Raven and Superboy in Heroes Unite. Most Hero cards give you additional Power or let your draw a card or two.
Aquaman’s Trident, Batmobile and Lasso of Truth are just a few of the Equipment cards in the original set, while Batarang, Soultaker Sword and Helmet of Fate appear in Heroes Unite. Equipment cards also usually provide additional Power or cards. Many provide a Defense allowing you to discard the card to avoid an Attack from a Frenemy or Super-Villain. It’s good to have Defenses.
Locations like the Fortress of Solitude and The Batcave provide an Ongoing effect once you get them into play – they remain in front of you for the rest of the game instead of being discarded with your other played cards. For example, Fortress of Solitude allows you to draw a card after playing your first Super Power each turn. The Batcave works the same way, but after playing your first Equipment card. Metropolis, from Heroes Unite, allows you to reveal the top card of your deck once during each of your turns; if it’s a Super Power you can put it in your hand, if not, you may discard it. Gotham City works the same way only with Equipment cards.
Super Powers like the mundane – in Super Hero terms – but expensive (cost of 7) Super Strength often provide additional Power. Some, like Bulletproof and Super Speed also provide a Defense. Two Super Power cards from Heroes Unite work with the Main Deck. Shazam! lets your reveal and play the top card of the Main Deck, after which you return it to the top – that’s in addition to the +2 Power it provides – making it worth every penny of its 7-Power cost. Teleportation lets you take the top card of the Main Deck into your hand; it’s also a pricey one. The inexpensive Whirlwind, however, costing only 2 Power, lets you discard your hand and draw four new cards if it’s the first card you play during your turn. One of the Super Powers from Heroes Unite, Force Field, has on Ongoing effect: if it’s on the table in front of you, you may discard it to avoid an Attack.
Finally, let’s talk a bit about the Villains in DC Comics Deck-building Games. The Super-Frenemies have to have someone to fight besides each other. (Even though it plays more like you’re buying them off.) The original set contains the likes of Bane, Poison Ivy, The Penguin, Harley Quinn, Two-Face and Doomsday among others. Many give you additional Power or allow you to draw more cards once you’ve paid them off – er defeated them – and put them in your deck. You’re supposed to think of their benefits as the experience you gained from defeating them. Some Villains provide an Attack you can make against your fellow Super Heroes. What can I say – you hired them! Types of Attacks include: making your Frenemies discard a card; pull a Punch or Vulnerability card from their discard pile and put it on top of their deck; or gain Weakness cards. Villains from Heroes Unite include Manhunter, Granny Goodness, Killer Croc and Ocean Master among others.
Super-Villains are not only more costly to defeat – yeah, that’s the correct term – they’re also more powerful. All – except the one that starts on top of the Super-Villain’s deck at the beginning of the game – have a First Appearance-Attack that resolves immediately against all players, as soon as they’re turned up. If you have a card with a Defense you can fend off the attack. For example, Graves’ First Appearance-Attack requires each player to place a card from his hand face down. Then Graves destroys all of those cards. If one player lost a card with a higher cost than everyone else’s, he gets to draw two cards. Once in your deck, Graves provides +4 Power and lets you move a card from your discard pile to the top of your deck. Nice beni. Captain Cold makes everyone shiver with cold when he appears, forcing all players to flip their Super Hero cards, thus negating their special power, until he is defeated.
The DC Comics Deck-building Game Series of Games and Expansions
Thus far, there are three different stand-alone box sets of the DC Comics Deck-building Game: the original, Heroes Unite, and Forever Evil. Each game’s rulebook includes variant rules. In the original set, Two Heads are Better than One allows two players to go head-to-head with each player playing two Super Heroes at once; the Team Game rules let players team up two against two; and the On Patrol variant allows you to immediately refill empty slots in the Line-Up, if you wish. While the latter variant gives you more cards to choose from when making purchases, it also puts you at some risk because if any of the cards have Attacks, you and only you get attacked – immediately. Further, any Attacks that might benefit you – don’t: you get all the bad stuff and none of the good. The only benefit is a better choice of cards.
Heroes Unite includes a Super Hero Synergy variant that allows all players to pull one copy of the Hero version of their character from the Main Deck before play starts. You and only you can buy that copy of your Hero card during the game. The Super-Villain Hunt variant allows you to steal Super-Villains from your opponents’ discard piles. Players can defend against such attacks, in which case, the Power you spent attacking the Super-Villain in a fellow player’s deck is not lost. You can spend it elsewhere, but not for attacking another Super-Villain in a discard pile. To encourage you to defeat Super-Villains on the Super-Villain stack, you gain immunity to the First Appearance-Attack of the next Super-Villain whenever you defeat one. The last variant in Heroes Unite, Super-Hidden Super-Villains, has you shuffle all of the Super-Villains into the Main Deck and use a line-up of six cards instead of the usual five.
Forever Evil turns the game on its head with players playing Super Villains instead of Super Heroes. It also adds Victory Point tokens to the game and card effects that allow players to gain – or lose – Victory Points during the game. Any VPs acquired during play are added to those provided by the cards in your deck when determining scores at game end. Forever Evil also includes a Good Guys vs. Bad Guys variant: one side plays Super Heroes and the other Super Villains. You can use the Super Heroes from the original DC Comics DBG or Heroes Unite. And if all these variants aren’t enough, the rulebooks include instructions for mixing and matching the three sets for even more variety.
Thus far, one expansion has been released, namely DC Comics Deck-building Game: Crisis Expansion. More expansions are expected before too long. The Crisis Expansion introduces cooperative play to DC Comics DBG. Players must beat each Crisis and defeat all of the Super-Villains before time runs out. Time runs out when you need to add a card from the Main Deck to the Line-Up and can’t, in which case the Super Heroes lose and evil prevails. The number of Crises and Super-Villains you’ll have to deal with depends on the number of players. Each Super-Villain brings a Crisis with him, so there are an equal number of Crises and Super-Villains in their respective stacks. During setup, place the Crisis deck next to the Super-Villain deck with the first card turned up. Otherwise there are just four changes to the game when you’re playing in Crisis Mode:
- Whenever you buy or gain a Villain from the Line-Up, place it in the Destroyed pile. When you defeat a Super-Villain, that card is removed from the game.
- Instead of filling all empty slots in the Line-Up at the end of your turn, add just one card to the Line-Up, whether there’s an empty slot or not. This means the Line-Up may shrink or grow dramatically. This also turns the Main Deck into a game clock. Time is running out: you must act now!
- Before you can address a Crisis – what’s required to Beat it is listed on the card – your team must remove all Villains from the Line-Up.
- Your team must Beat the current Crisis, before you can defeat the current Super-Villain. Don’t turn up a new Crisis card until after you’ve defeated the Super-Villain.
Some Crisis cards go away after certain conditions have been met. However, if there are still Villains in the Line-Up, the Crisis doesn’t end until the last Villain is removed from the Line-Up and the Crisis’ condition is still met.
The Crisis Expansion includes 14 new Super Heroes and 32 cards for you to add to the Main Deck, as well as new Super-Villains, and of course, Crises. Rules are also included for Solo Play.
If you’re looking for a Super Hero- or Super Villain-themed game with a quick set up and some good player interaction, look no further. Super Frenemies it is! Er, I mean, DC Comics Deck-building Game it is! The Equipment, Locations and Super Power cards are fun and thematic. When you also consider the numerous variants, as well as the different sets, there’s a lot of replayability here. Which box should you start with? I recommend choosing the one with the most characters you know and love. It’s more fun that way.
DC Comics Deck-building Games support 2 to 5 players ages 15 and up and solo play with the Crisis expansion. Younger players could certainly play. I suspect the age rating has more to do with violence – Super Heroes fighting Villains, Super Villains and each other – than with the difficulty. All of the games in this line are easy to learn and play and quick and simple to set up. Not many deck-building games can say the latter, that’s for sure. Play time is about 45 minutes for the base games. Expect to double that when playing the Crisis expansion.
Copyright © 2015 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.