Review: DC Comics Deck Building Game

Cryptozoic released the first DC Comics Deck Building Game in November of 2012. It was a stand alone for well over a year. In that time, it introduced the world to the Cerberus Engine, a new way to play games. Easy to learn and quick to set up, this game soon became the most played game in my household.

They have since added additional properties to this new set of mechanics; in this case, the theme is DC Comics. You play as one of seven different Super Heroes who are out to stop the Super Villains from committing dastardly deeds and thwarting their mischievous machinations. To do this, you use the special ability provided by your Hero and the deck you build and tailor to your Hero’s strengths.

The Heroes

CryptSupermanDCAt the start of the game, you can choose your Hero randomly or just pick one. Personally, my favorite is Wonder Woman but I’ve played all of them and like most of them (even Aquaman, who seems to be hated by so many people).

Each Super Hero  provides you with an ability that is always active. It may give you extra Power Points when you play a Super Power card or allow you to draw an extra card when you satisfy something dictated by the card. It’s important to remember this as you are purchasing cards for you deck.  At first, the balance seems off, like some may be more powerful than the others. After playing with them  a few times, you start to see that they are pretty well balanced. It’s just a matter of learning how to play to their strengths. 

 The Super Villains

The Super Villains are piled into a deck of their own and shuffled, except for Ra’s al Ghul, who always starts the game on top of the CryptJokerDCdeck. Normally, you play with eight of Super Villains, but I tend to use them all. It doesn’t have any effect other than lengthening the game.  With the exception of Ra’s al Ghul, all of the other Super Villain cards have effects called “First Appearance – Attack” that occur as they are flipped over. These affect all players, except for those who have a defense card. Some attacks require you to discard cards, others require you to destroy cards which permanently removes the cards from play. Hey, they’re Super Villains, they never claimed to play nice!

Building a Deck

Cards in the game represent a variety of different concepts from comics. You have Villains to capture (not to be confused with the Super Villains), Heroes to recruit, Locations to acquire, and Super Powers and Equipment to gain.  Everyone starts the game with the same deck: ten cards in total, seven Punches, worth one Power Point each,  and three Vulnerabilities that are worth nothing.

How does all of this tie together? Well, let me tell you.


CryptRiddlerDCAll cards except for the Heroes you choose at the beginning of the game have three attributes: Cost, Ability, and Victory Points.

Cost is located at the bottom right corner of the card and is how much the card costs to acquire for your deck. You pay the cost, acquire the card and place it in your discard pile, assuming the card doesn’t state otherwise.

The Ability of the card will be written below the picture. It could be something as basic as +1 power or something as complex as all players reveal a card and you choose one to play this turn as if it were your own.

Victory Points are in a golden star in the lower left corner of the card. This is how much the card is worth at the end of the game for tallying score.

Setup is quick and easy. At the beginning of the game, you draw the top five cards from the main deck and lay them out forming the Line Up. These cards are available for purchase, if you have the points. You also have the Super Villain deck, but they cost more and only one is available at any given time. Usually these can’t be picked up for a few rounds due to higher cost. You also have CryptLassoDCa pile of cards called Kick that cost three points which are worth two Power Points when played and one Victory Point at the end of the game. Early in the game, these are good choices.

Each player draws a hand of five cards. The player with the Flash goes first. If there is no Flash, figure out who goes first based on whatever you like.  A good fallback is who looks most like their Hero. That never works for me.  I don’t look anything like Wonder Woman, just ask my wife.

First player plays their cards, resolved abilities, tallies up Power Points and begins spending them on the cards in the Line Up.  When they run out of points, they discard all cards and draw a new hand.  Any cards purchased from the Line Up are replaced from the main deck. That’s it folks, doesn’t get any easier than that.

The game ends when either all the Super Villains have been defeated or the main deck runs out of cards. At that point, all players tally their Victory Points and the highest total wins.


This game is easy to learn, but not only due to the simplicity of the mechanics. The cards are very well designed and clearly marked in addition to each type being colored differently than others. If you ever wanted an example of good game design, this would be one. When it comes down to it, this has been our go-to game for the last several months.  When we have game nights, this game is always played.  It even appeals to people who have no interest in comics. My wife is not a comic geek, never has been, but she loves to play this game. She played it once and immediately wanted to play it again. This made it all the easier for me to convince her that we absolutely had to buy the expanded core set called Heroes Unite when it hit the shelves.  Same mechanics, new cards and combos. I was particularly happy because this set included Batgirl, Nightwing, and Shazam!

On the Horizon

Cryptozoic has two expansions slated for a Q3 release. One is called Crisis Expansion (Pack 1) and the other is called Forever Evil.  Crisis Expansion will introduce co-operative game play and “Impossible Mode.” While it is intended mainly for co-op play, they are including new cards that can be worked into the original style of play.

The Forever Evil is for those of us who prefer to walk on the darker side occasionally.  According to Cryptozoic’s site, “Card destruction is rampant in the set! Like every good Villain knows, henchmen you leave behind don’t count toward the bottom line. If you’re tired of ending the game with Starter cards still in your deck, then this is the set for you! Whittle your deck down to just the essential cards and your victory is assured.” In other words, looks like shatko just got real.  I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on this one.

Final Review: 9/10

For more info, check out the game on Cryptozoic’s site.

That’s all I have for you now. Have you played the game? Let us know what you think. Inquiring minds want to know!

Now, go play games!


About the author


Shane is a tech support jack-of-all-trades, technical writer, Confluence lover, and geek. RPGs of the pen & paper variety are his favorite, followed closely by deck building games, board games, and anything associated with Felicia Day. Currently resides in Indianapolis, IN.


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