R&D Blog - Jumping into DC Comics Deck-Building (Part 1)

By Matt Hyra

In case you've been under a Kryptonite boulder for the past six months, let me be the first to mention that Cryptozoic Entertainment is producing a deck-building game based on the DC Universe, using our new 2 – 5 player Cerberus Engine. And it will be in stores in about a month!

In this game, you get to take on the role of one of the members of The New 52 Justice League: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, or Cyborg. Martian Manhunter, a classic JL Hero, is the promo Hero card. Make sure your local game store pre-orders the game so you can get one, or you can order a copy from our e-store to receive the promo as well. 

Your Hero gives you some direction in the game… a strategy that you can pursue based on the strengths of the character as found in the pages of the comic books. Batman encourages you to buy Equipment cards. And wouldn't you know it, but it's pretty darn easy to figure out which cards might be good for Batman with names like: The Batmobile, Utility Belt, Cape and Cowl, and The Bat-Signal.

Aquaman doesn't encourage you to pick up any particular type of card. Instead, he can give your early game a boost as you get to use the new cards you buy faster than your opponents. Normally, the cards you use your Power to buy go straight to your discard pile. You have to wait until your deck is out of cards to shuffle your discard pile to create your new (and improved!) deck. Aquaman gets to float the cards (with cost 5 or less) he buys to the top of his deck, ready to be used right away. Ride that wave all the way to victory! Of course, later in the game, you will have to decide whether to buy powerful, high-cost cards, or stick to a "5 or less" strategy to maintain his advantage.

This game uses a single “currency”… POWER.

You begin each game with the same starter deck that every other player begins with: 7 Punches, worth 1 Power each, and 3 Vulnerabilities, that are worth no Power. With a hand size of 5 cards, you will draw an opening hand with a Power total somewhere between 2 – 5. Vulnerabilities are just dead cards that you will want to get rid of as they are just clogging up your draws. More on how to do that in Part 2.

This is a "deck-building" game, as you will by buying new and better cards, thereby building up your deck into a well-oiled machine. On your turn, you may play any number of cards from your hand, total up your Power, the buy things. But how do you know what you can buy?

The Cerberus game engine is different from both our Penny Arcade and 3012 deck-building engines. Ben Stoll and I wanted to make a simple game engine, but one that could showcase a ton of characters. In a game like Penny Arcade, you play with 10 or so stacks of cards, where each stack is the same card repeated nine times. But with DC Comics, we wanted to showcase far more than just a handful of different characters from the DC Universe. We decided to use a single row, blind reveal, deck-building game.

What that means is that there is very little setup time at the start of the game. Simply shuffle up the 114 card main deck and you are ready to go. At the start of the game, the top 5 cards from off the main deck will be on display in what we call the Line-Up. Those are the cards that you may buy during your turn, mostly. If you can't afford anything in the Line-Up, you can always buy a Kick card (for a low 3 Power) from a stack of them next to the Line-Up. If you have a lot of Power available, there are also Super-Villains to defeat. More on those in Part 2.

You might also notice the menacing grin of The Joker's gross mouth on Weakness cards. Those you don't buy. You can only gain those when bad things are happening to you and your fellow players. More on those in Part 2.

The cost of the cards in the main deck, and therefore the Line-Up, range from 2 – 8. Here is what the play area might look like at the start of a game (your Line-Up cards will vary). There is no board necessary to play this game.

There are six different card types in the game: Starter, Hero, Villain, Super Power, Equipment, and Location. Starter cards are the cards in your deck at the start of the game. There are no Starter cards in the main deck, so you won't see any new ones outside of the starting decks.

Heroes are various super heroic individuals from the DC Universe, like Robin, Zatanna Zatarra, Swamp Thing, and many others. If you can imagine what they are good at doing in the pages of the comic books, you can imagine what they can do in the game.

Villains are never-do-wells that you add to your deck like any other card. The experience your Superhero gains defeating a Villain will benefit you in future turns. Villains also have ATTACK text that can force opponents to discard cards, gain Weaknesses, and various other nasty shenanigans. Look for names like Bane, Gorilla Grodd, and the truly bizarre Bizarro.

Super Powers are where you will find the feats beyond those of mortal men and women. Heat Vision, Super Strength, and Super Speed will have you ruling the day.

See that DEFENSE keyword on the card? That means you can use this card to avoid an ATTACK by a card like Bane.

Equipment cards are the wonderful toys in the DC Universe. Typically, these cards provide utility abilities to a player, so they are often a means to an end instead of an end in themselves. Look for Nth Metal, Magic Lasso, and Green Arrow's Bow in addition to the slew of Batman gadgets I already mentioned.

Destroying Vulnerability cards (or any cards you don't want anymore!) will greatly improve your future draws! It removes the card from your deck and from the game.

Location cards give you a sense of space. When you buy a Location card, it goes to your discard pile just like any other card you buy. However, when you play it from your hand, it stays in play in front of you for the rest of the game. Each Location gives you the benefit of an extra card draw off of your deck for playing a certain type of card. Think about who hangs out at the Location and you already know what type that would be. Consider The Batcave, Arkham Asylum, or Titan's Tower.

So far I've talked about how to set up and start up a game and the various card types. Next time I'll go into the stuff that makes this game truly unique amongst deck-building games. Stay tuned...


Matt_Hyra's picture Matt Hyra

Matt Hyra has been designing games for 20 years, and has been Cryptozoic Entertainment's lead board game designer since its beginning in 2010. Some of Matt's recent games include Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game, Epic Spell Wars: Panic at the Pleasure Palace, and DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth.