Published on September 19th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich0
A Crisis in Need of a Hero
Review of the DC Deck Building Game: Crisis Expansion Pack
If you aren’t familiar with the DC Deck Building Game or its stand alone expansion, we recommend reading those reviews first to better understand the basic gameplay, the mechanics and lingo I reference in this article. Andrew recently gifted us a copy of the Crisis Expansion to the popular DC Deck Building game to play and review. It will be the first add-on expansion of many and we were excited to see new cards, play in a cooperative gameplay mode, and of course the appearance of John Constantine as a hero card.
The Crisis expansion is a book-sized box which includes a new cooperative gameplay mode, These new superheroes are redos of the heroes included in their previous games with minor alterations to their abilities for co-op play. For example Wonder Woman in the base game gets to draw an extra card at the end of her turn for each villains she buys or gains from the line up that turn. Crisis Wonder Woman grants a player the ability to destroy a Vulnerability or Weakness in their hand or discard pile when she buys or gains a villain from the line up.
The art included on the cards and box are once again gorgeous illustrations from the latest DC comics. The previous editions of DC Deck Building game include extra room to include the heroes and main deck cards from expansions like this so transporting the extra pieces isn’t an issue.
The Crisis expansion also includes more main deck cards to include that help with searching a player’s discard pile and revealing the top card of their deck. The reason cards of that nature are so prevalent in the Crisis game is because players need to discard and sometimes destroy certain card types to successfully combat the Crisis in play. Overall the look of the new cards are on the same professional level as the previous games.
The Crisis Expansion adds a cooperative gameplay mode to Cryptozoic’s staple deck building rules where the Crisis Superheroes work together with a variety of abilities that help their teammates build a more efficient deck, search for a specific card from their discard pile, let them draw extra cards and much more. The target goal of defeating the Super Villains (Impossible Mode Super Villains in this expansion) remains the same but there are two more barriers to defeating these super villains than just gaining enough power. Before players can get to fight the super villains, they must first deal with the world-ending crisis on the table which is usually an ongoing effect like not being able to access your super hero ability or all equipment is rendered useless and is only worth +1 power. But before tackling the crisis, the team must clear the line up of all villains. This time the villains are defeated from the line up and do not go to a player’s discard pile or deck (unless otherwise stated).
On paper, the idea of Crisis mode gameplay sounds poetic and fits a superhero comic: a super villain is causing a crisis that the team of DC’s finest superheroes must work together to take down. Standing between our heroes and defeating the crisis and super villains are the goons: your average thugs and street level villains who love to interfere in our heroes do-gooding. However that wonderfully tiered DC story arc does not translate as well into gameplay. To combat a crisis, each player usually discards or destroys a card type like a Super Power, Equipment or Hero at the same time which sounds simple enough except that not all super heroes are optimized to take on extra card types. I played as Cyborg who has an ability that keys off of playing both equipment and super powers; but there are crisis cards that require revealing heroes and sometimes even a weakness from your hand to destroy the crisis. What this does is clutter each player’s deck and searching for the right tools at the right time is a pain.
Out of the box, the Crisis Expansion extended a quick deck builder game to more than 2 hours of repetitive play and turns that were out of control. The late game feel of Crisis was reached at less than halfway through the super villain deck (for our 3 player game there were 11 Impossible Villains to defeat). We had turns where a player reached 18 Power easily. I had one turn where I searched my discard pile or guessed the top card of my deck four times. The Crisis game mode presented unique challenges and tough status effects but playing the new mode felt more like an endurance run. Thankfully, there is an easy fix to prevent a game from running too long by only playing with half the super villains than what is recommended and if a game is ever going too long and no one is having fun, feel free to stop play. This work around still doesn’t solve this issue I have with a deck builder game telling me that the way to play is to add more cards that I may need and if I have a deck that is too large, buying more cards to help me search for those other cards that I need is the best way to resolve that. We all know that playing a fun deck building game is about efficiency and being able to culling your deck in a way that reduces the probability of drawing cards you don’t want.
If you’re a fan of DC and have the DC Deck Building game(s), purchasing Crisis is worth it for the additional cards and card variations. I do like the Crisis mode cards and feel that they could possibly stand on their own as an interesting challenge without super villains but since so many cards interact with the card types this would be difficult to pull off. Maybe on Earth 2 this Crisis Expansion plays like an excellent co-op game but I feel there are much better co-op games out there with less fiddly gameplay and the feeling of a much bigger pay off.