Super Powered Gameplay – The DC Deckbuilding Game
The DC deckbuilder is a simple deck building card game at its core. The big twist that makes it unique is that you get Heroes with powers that will help you decide how to build your deck. Some, like Wonder Woman, will press you to utilize Villains, while others, like Superman, will push you into Super Powers. As you add expansions and play longer, you can get to the point where you are playing 20+ cards in a turn, similar to a Storm deck in Magic the Gathering, or a Yu-Gi-Oh combo deck. If you enjoy combo decks in any trading card game, you will enjoy this game. It Is a different puzzle to solve every turn so that you can generate the most power, while taking advantage of effects that let you manipulate your deck, add cards back from the discard pile, or add cards from the Line Up to your hand. The end goal is to have the most Victory Points, but sometimes the decks that can do the most don’t end up winning because they have less cards. While less cards can allow players to draw their whole deck every turn, it also leaves them with less victory points at the end of the game, so it’s important to find a balance between buying cards for victory points and keeping your deck functioning.
The game has a few “base sets” such as Forever Evil, Teen Titans, and the first 2 Core Sets, all of which play out-of-box by themselves. There are also other expansions that offer new mechanics in each that can change the game modes played. I’m mostly going to be talking about the normal game mode in this article (i.e., if you picked up the base set and started playing) but sets such as Rivals offers a 1v1 experience, and the Multiverse Expansion offers new rules if you have all the expansion.
The following is a brief overview of the mechanics and cards in the game, but the rule book included is actually very good at explaining how the game works. I’d recommend a newer rulebook such as that from Teen Titans or Forever Evil, due to the added card types and the rules involving them. These are also better thought out and the card synergy is more interesting as they have had more time testing and developing the game.
Types of Cards
The two kinds of Starters are Punches and Vulnerabilities, and make up your “starter” deck. Punches add 1 power, while Vulnerabilities are blank 0’s making them duds at all points of the game. You want to destroy these as soon as possible and replace them with better cards.
There are times where the cards in the Line Up aren’t good for your deck or you can’t afford them, especially early in the game. There is a pile of cards called “Kick” that you can buy at any time which generate 2 power and still improve your deck (in the early game), but you don’t want too many in your deck as the game goes on, since they have diminishing returns as the game progresses.
These cards will get added to your deck through various “Attack” cards from the main deck. They don’t generate any power and are -1 victory point at the end of the game, so you want to destroy them as quickly as possible.
The Main Deck:
This is where cards from the Line-Up come from.
The game starts with 5 cards in the Line-Up and is refilled from the main deck at the end of every turn if there are less than 5 cards in it. These will be what you buy throughout the game to improve your deck until you can afford the Super Villains. There are times where buying one of these is more useful than a Super Villain so that you can guarantee that you will keep hitting the power needed to buy more Super Villains later, but in most cases the 5+ Victory Points from a Super Villain is too much to pass up.
The goal of the game is to defeat all the Super Villains in the stack. The rules say you should start with 8 but you can play with as many or as few as you want in order to change the length of the game. I generally find it more fun to play with more in a 4 player game but 8 is a good amount for 2 players. 1 Super Villain in each set will tell you it starts on top of the Villain deck. I prefer a version of Ra’s Al Gul that helps add cards to the Line-up when no one buys anything in there. This helps speed up the early game when the cards that get flipped are too expensive. When someone buys a Super Villain at the end of their turn a new one will get flipped and resolve what is called a First Appearance Attack. Usually these will give you Weaknesses, make you discard cards, or sometimes even destroy cards that you would have liked to keep. This not only adds flavor to the game, but can often swing games that are close into the better prepared player’s favor.
Some of the earlier sets don’t use this much, but when you “Destroy” a card it is removed from your deck and put aside unless another card allows you to take cards from the pile and add it to your deck. Cards that take from the destroyed power can often be the most powerful, since they can grab high impact cards for less power than they are worth.
Deck Construction and Card Types:
The basis of the game is playing cards to generate power which let you purchase new cards to add to your deck, and eventually Super Villains, which usually cost significantly more than cards in the Line-up and have more powerful effects when played. You will start the game with 7 Punches and 3 Vulnerabilities in your deck. The Punches generate 1 power, each while the Vulnerabilities generate 0. As the game goes on and your deck gets more powerful, you will want to buy cards that let you destroy your less powerful cards to increase the consistency of your deck. Each Hero will have different benefits based on the card types you play, so it is important to build your deck towards the Hero you are Given.
Ongoing cards will sit in front of you until you or an opponent use an ability that says to discard it. All Locations will be ongoing as well as a few other unique ones that appear in sets like the Teen Titans version. Locations are a great way to gain card draw and card filtering as you play the game, as they have recurring effects that you get every turn—sometimes even the same as the Hero effect you have.
Attack cards, like Super Villains, will let you mess with your opponent by making them discard cards, giving them weaknesses, and sometimes destroying their cards. They are the main way you can interact directly with your opponents, and create a tension between going for high “power” cards and “Defense” cards.
Defenses let you avoid attacks from your opponents or Super Villains. They are one of the best ways to keep your best cards safe, and often have bonuses when you use them.
The cheapest expansions are the Crossover Packs and they offer a new mechanic in each one. The primary issue I have had while trying to use them is that they rely on having other cards with the same mechanic. These work great if you mix them in with a single base set, but poorly when you add them to a larger collection of sets. With such a large pool of cards, they don’t work as intended because your chances of seeing other cards from the set is lowered significantly.
I have bought all of the expansions and use the Multiverse box for storing them, but you will find that some cards (like the Crossover Packs) don’t function well when you have that many cards and some mechanics (like those from Rivals) only work in 1v1. I’ve cut many cards and have tried to remove duplicates to make every game different. This keeps things fresh, so people aren’t just playing the same cards repeatedly. There are many ways you could construct the game with all the expansions. It is important to keep the main deck balanced on card types so no one Hero is a better choice than another based solely on card types available in the deck. There are many cards that can become frustrating or have interactions that were not intended when they were originally printed. That being said, the DC Deckbuilding game is one of the best deckbuilders on the market, and the customization available with all the different expansions creates a dynamic gameplay that is worth picking up!
~ Sean Armstrong