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November 10, 2014 / Jett

DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Crisis Expansion Review

The latest entry in the DC Comics Deck-Building Game franchise is Crisis Expansion Pack 1. This expansion is compatible with the main game and Heroes Unite, though it cannot be played on its own. By adding this expansion to your collection, you’ll get new heroes, new main deck cards, and new cards to support Crisis Mode. This new gameplay variant turns this competitive deck-building game into a cooperative one by forcing players to collectively fight through adverse gameplay events in order to defeat the villains and super-villains before time runs out. Having this as an alternative to competitive play makes a lot more thematic sense, as it was bothersome before to think that the heroes would intentionally hurt each other in order to be the better hero. However, the execution of this gameplay variant leaves a lot to be desired.

The crux of this expansion is the all-new Crisis Mode. You’ll need to use the special Impossible Mode superheroes and Impossible Mode super-villains to play this way, though both sets come with the expansion. In this cooperative experience, your team will need to defeat all of the super-villains before the main deck runs out of cards. The problem is that super-villains have more ways to hurt players this time around. Much of this pain comes from Crisis cards, which act like schemes and are based around major DC events, such as the Robin-killing Death in the Family. When a Crisis card is active, it usually triggers an adverse effect each turn. In order to beat a Crisis, players must band together in order to complete its victory condition, which usually involves some sort of group sacrifice. Besides the benefit of removing their negative effects on the game, you have to defeat a Crisis before you can defeat a super-villain.

Furthermore, in order to beat a Crisis, the main line-up must be clear of enemies. Unlike in standard play, where villain cards can be used in your favour after they’ve been obtained, villain cards can’t be kept in Crisis Mode. Instead, each card you purchase with your power points are destroyed. To recap, you have to defeat all of the enemies in the line-up in order to take on the Crisis. From there, you must defeat the Crisis before you can take out the super-villain. Once the super-villain is defeated, a new super-villain and new Crisis card are revealed until there are none left.

DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Crisis Expansion

The inclusion of cooperative play is one that has paid dividends for Marvel Legendary, which is DC’s biggest competitor in the space. In concept, I like the fact that DC is trying to build a cooperative experience into their existing game, as it makes much more thematic sense than having superheroes battle each other to be the best superhero. However, the bolted-on nature of this expansion really deflates any hope of DC providing a comparable cooperative experience.

The root of the problem comes from the Crisis cards. They aim to evoke the drama of the event they’re referring to, but really they’re just one more negative effect to resolve during your turn. For the most part, most of these negative effects work like any other card in the game that brings the bad news with it. This is a far cry from the Scheme cards in Legendary, as those can dramatically change the way a game is played while doing a much better job of translating that comic book event into the game.

Furthermore, taking out the super-villains now is a more more laborious process. Having to clear out all of the enemies first, then clear the Crisis (which isn’t something that can be done on every turn) and then hope you have enough power to finally take down the super-villain is a lot of work without generating much in the way of fun. In the regular game, you can quickly see the benefits of building a stronger deck as you’ll be able to obtain more cards from the main deck and defeat the super-villains. However, because there are so many roadblocks in the way now, many of your turns are wasted because your group wasn’t able to clear off all the villains or defeat the Crisis.

DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Crisis Expansion

Besides ripping the fun out of the core formula, Crisis Mode and its myriad of roadblocks also causes the game to drag on for far longer than it should. Having followed the recommended configuration for a two-player game, this dragged on for over two hours before we reached our inevitable demise. Compared to our competitive games, which take about 45 minutes each, this was a slog. Even if you play with house rules and shorten the super-villain and Crisis decks, you can still run into scenarios where your team will be stuck in the same place for a long time without having any way of working out of it.

If there is any consolation, the main deck cards that come with the Crisis expansion can be incorporated into the competitive game, which adds a little more flavour to that. Also, a set of six characters for the standard game have been included. While Green Arrow, Robin, Zatanna, Constantine, Swamp Thing and Animal Man can’t hold a candle to the original cast, they’re far better choices than the sad list of heroes that came with Heroes Unite.

Cryptozoic and DC Comics attempted to address the one big weakness of their deck-building game with this Crisis Expansion Pack 1 and failed miserably. Instead of allowing players to simulate a battle between heroes and villains in the DC universe, the game simply becomes a chore where you and your friends are trying to slug through a myriad of obstacles that are simply in the way to make your life worse. Maybe you can justify purchasing this for the extra competitive mode characters and the additional main deck cards, but even then I don’t think this is worth the price of admission.

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