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Published on March 10th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen


Cryptozoic Deck Builders Redux

Recently Cryptozoic has distinguished itself in the card/board game market. It has done this by consistently producing affordable, easily accessible and non-complicated games, many of which use licensed properties. Two of its most highly visible games are the company’s leading deck building games: the DC Comics and the Lord of the Rings series.

Appearing at roughly the same time, these two games introduced a new crowd of people to the deck builder genre. Now that the original sets have been out a while, Cryptozoic has published a couple expand-alone games to lengthen the playability of their series.

Expand-alone games are games that are technically an expansion to a previous game, and that you can use as an add-on to that game but also can be played completely separately and require no components (cards, dice, etc) from the original game. Each expand-alone comes with instructions on how to mix the new cards with the old ones, if that’s something you’re interested in.


DC Comics Deck Building Game: Heroes Unite

cryptozoic deck builder

What does this game add if I already have the original DC Comics deck builder?

Well, all of the non-starter cards are different. You’ll see repeat ideas (cards that just give you +power on your turn or just let you draw a card) but for the most part the cards are fresh. There seems to be a much larger focus on combos and completing sets. Chaining card draws and manipulating your discard pile are also strategies that developed a lot more.

What new Super Heroes are there?

Well, the “playable” heroes available are now former Teen Titans and Justice League D-Listers but don’t let that stop you from liking them. The characters are Nightwing, Batgirl, Shazam, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Black Canary and Booster Gold. If you pre-ordered the game then you’ll also have access to Starfire. The characters are all in their New 52 renditions, which means Barbara Gordon as Batgirl and “I wish this outfit were as classy as a chain mail bikini” Starfire.

cryptozoic deck builder

Any cool new non-playable supers or equipment?

Yes! We were really excited to see that Jason Blood/Etrigan were mirror versions of each other. There were also more Teen Titans like Raven and Superboy, as well as some great villains like Granny Goodness and a legion of Manhunters. The Green Lantern comics also get a large boost in cards here with all seven colors of Power Rings, the white Power Battery, the Red Lantern Corps, the Black Lantern Corps and Kyle Rayner being added.

Which Super Villains are there?

Honestly, I was kind of disappointed. I’m a huge DC Comics fan boy and most of these villains seemed like they were really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Black Adam, Nekron, Mongul and Trigon are really solid but I wasn’t a huge fan of Amazo, Graves, H’el, Mr Freeze, and Hector Hammond.



Lord of the Rings Deck Building Game: The Two Towers

cryptozoic deck builder

What does this game add if I already have the original Lord of the Rings deck builder?

The biggest difference is the addition of the Wall Deck. This game is set around the Battle at Helms Deep, the fight scene that takes up 2/3rds of the Two Towers movie, and as such it features a mechanic meant to draw that “defend the wall” theme into the game.

Sometimes when enemies enter the line up they will tell you draw a card from the Wall Deck which at best does nothing, but is usually something terrible. If you draw the Breached! card then you will be at -1 gold every turn for the rest of the game, and most enemies get more powerful for all players.

Additionally, the way that cards add bonuses is totally mixed up from the last game. Now, instead of heroes giving bonuses for having tons of heroes you’ll find artifacts and enemies giving bonuses for heroes instead.

cryptozoic deck builder

Who are the new Playable Heroes?

Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Merry & Pippen, Frodo, Sam, and Theoden is the official list of playable characters. Eowyn is available if you pre-ordered the game, continuing Cryptozoic’s trend of only including female playable characters as pre-order exclusives in their LotR games (really you guys? c’mon).

I mean, if Merry & Pippen are squeezed onto a single hero card why couldn’t we do that with the other ambiguously gay duos of Legolas & Gimli, Frodo & Sam or even Aragorn & Theoden (“Now is the time that we draw swords together,” indeed…).

Anything else I need to know?

Not really. If you’ve seen the movies then you’ll know what to expect from the card names and places. The special enemy cards are mostly just prominent orcs from the movie, given names that never come up in the book or movie.

The starter cards got better names this time around, presumably because “Aragorn’s Sword” is the lamest name ever given to a one-thousand year old magical sword that cut a weapon of mass destruction out of the hand of an angry god of evil. Now you’ll be graced with “Dark Have Been My Dreams of Late” and “I Fear Neither Death Nor Pain” so there’s improvement.

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About the Author

Luke Turpeinen

was raised by lava wolves deep in the Vesuvian sulfur jungles. He played board games with his family often. The discovery of games like Risk led him to the 1993 TSR classic Dragon Strike which fueled a life long love of games. Luke tends to like games that have high production values, quick-to-learn rules and hard-to-master strategies. Current Favorite Game: Argent: the Consortium.

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