If you’ve read DC comics for any length of time since the mid-1960’s, the term “crisis” probably triggers memories of monumental, universe-shattering storylines. It began as the name for several of the major DC cross-over events, ultimately culminating in the classic 1986 Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, which was one of the most effective efforts to fix continuity errors in comics with a comprehensive universal reboot. (It has since been followed up by DC universal reboots of varying degrees in their crossovers Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, and Flashpoint.)
So the title of this game-changing expansion to the DC Deck-Building Game (Amazon) should be no surprise. The Crisis expansion (Amazon) introduces significant new elements of gameplay. I’ve played a number of games and expansions, but it’s been a while since I saw an expansion which gave an existing game such a phenomenal revamp as this one.
I first reviewed the DC Deck-Building Game a year ago, in a face-off against the Marvel: Legendary deck-building game. At the time, my 9-year-old son considered the DC game as his favorite, though I came down in favor of the Marvel game, mostly for the following reasons:
- Marvel: Legendary felt more like narratively being inside a comic book, in comparison to the DC game. Marvel is built around a Scheme Card implemented by specific Mastermind supervillains, meaning that each game has a unique storyline and game objectives. The DC game, on the other hand, involves beating up a pile of villain cards to win.
- Marvel: Legendary was at least partially cooperative, while the DC game was entirely competitive. Since I mostly play with my son, I prefer cooperative games. Also, from a storytelling standpoint, I felt like a game where I’m supposed to be Batgirl and my son is supposed to be Nightwing should be more cooperative.
The Crisis expansion adds both a comic-like storyline and a cooperative element to the DC game, and it significantly does so without in any way mimicking any of the game mechanics used in the Marvel: Legendary game. (It also allows for a “solo mode” of play, which was another area that I thought needed added.)
Crisis adds the comic storytelling element through the creation of a “Crisis” deck: a series of cards that each represent a different obstacle the heroes must overcome, starting with “Arkham Breakout” and moving through crises such as “Collapsing Parallel Worlds,” “Atlantis Attacks,” “Death in the Family,” and “Final Countdown.” The face-up card in the Super-Villain pile cannot be defeated until the current Crisis card has been resolved, which often requires some element of cooperation. The game now feels not only that you’re inside a comic book, but that you’re part of a massive annual cross-over event where the fate of the universe is at stake, as you work your way through Super-Villains and obstacles to defeat the Anti-Monitor and save the universe!
This Crisis mechanic also makes sense of some aspects of the game that I found odd initially, such as the fact that when you defeat villains they go into your deck, a mechanic that I first ran into in Cryptozoic’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers deck-building game. In the Crisis-based game, though, this becomes a reasonable consequence of the storyline. How many times have the DC superheroes had to team up with supervillains or their parallel-reality counterparts in order to save the world, universe, or multiverse? It’s almost a requirement of these major cross-over events that the heroes must cooperate with at least some of the villains in order to resolve the situation, and often that they’re working at odds with some of the other superheroes. (Note: Both the DC and Marvel games also now have villain-based variant stand-alone games. I haven’t played these yet, but they look intriguing, for those who like a bit more evil and chaos in their games.)
The Crisis mode of play is completely cooperative, and there are variant rules that amend some of the card rules that affect multiple players if you’re playing in solo mode. If you still want to play competitively, then that’s easy enough: just don’t use the Crisis deck and play as normal! I imagine that you’ll be won over by the Crisis elements, though. The original version of the game was one of my son’s favorite games, but since getting the Crisis expansion he hasn’t wanted to play without the Crisis deck once. The expansion only serves to enrich the original DC Comic Deck-Building Game for those who like it.
And if you, like me, found the original game to be lacking in some areas, it may be worth looking into whether the Crisis expansion will breathe new life into the game.
Disclaimer: Review copy of the Crisis Expansion was provided by the publisher.
Andrew Zimmerman Jones is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest and received Honorable Mention in the 2011 Writer’s Digest Science Fiction/Fantasy Competition. In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Gate magazine, Andrew is the About.com Physics Expert and author of String Theory For Dummies. You can follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+.