One of the earliest films that I have a distinct memory of anticipating is the original Ghostbusters. I would have been 8 years old, but I remember the commercials for it, a mix of humor and horror that I eagerly wanted to dive into. I wasn’t really allowed to watch scary movies, but this, this was one that I’d be allowed to see. In the theater!
Over the following years I watched the cartoon series (both the bizarre Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon series, which had no connection with the film continuity at all, and the later The Real Ghostbusters, which most definitely did) and of course the sequel, Ghostbusters 2. Though I never felt that any of these quite captured the greatness of the original film, over the years I came to realize that’s what tends to happen with many of the things we loved in our childhood. We want them to never change, but they do.
While I haven’t maintained a strong Ghostbusters fanaticism over the recent years, I’ve never fully lost it. There’s usually at least one Ghostbuster walking the halls of GenCon, even after all of these years, and seeing that jumpsuit always makes me smile. Every time I’m in our local comic book store, I notice that there are ongoing adventures in the comic book realm, including a recent cross-over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The recent announcement of an all-female reboot of the franchise has caused some turmoil, to be sure, but it guarantees that there is interest. For my part, I tried to argue for a different direction in the new series, still largely female but no reboot, but I guess they didn’t take me up on it. And for Christmas, I did get this LEGO Ecto-1 kit from my mother. (Last year she bought me the Back to the Future DeLorean LEGO kit, so this is apparently becoming our thing.)
So… okay, I guess that I’m still something of a fanatic.
Which brings me to the news of the day: Cryptozoic Entertainment has started a Kickstarter for their new Ghostbusters: The Board Game. I was able to ask some questions of the Cryptozoic lead board game designer, Matt Hyra, about the game.
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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.
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There are two deck-building games out built around the major comic book franchises: DC and Marvel. I’ve had the chance to play them both, so want to share how they stand up against each other. For this comparison, I’m playing the core Marvel Legendary game (Amazon) and the upcoming stand-alone Heroes Unite (Amazon) expansion to the DC Comics deck-building game.
One of the first points of difference is the basic scenario being played out, which leads to slightly different thematic feels for each game. In both games, there are two basic actions in play: acquiring heroes and defeating villains. The games are very different in their approach to this, however, and each approach has different benefits and drawbacks.
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I wasn’t sure what to expect upon opening The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck Building Game (Amazon) from Cryptozoic. I was familiar with the basic concept of deck building games and had played both Ascension and Marvel Legendary, but the only deck building game I actually owned was the science fiction game Eminent Domain. Fortunately, LOTR: The Two Towers contains some engaging variations on basic deck-building strategy, resulting in a fun competitive game that is sure to entertain fans of the series for endless variations of play, especially when combined with other deck-building games in the series.
If you’ve never played one, here’s the basic mechanic behind deck-building games: Each player begins with a small default deck of cards (10 starting out in all of the above games) and goes through rounds in which they play cards from their hands to buy more cards into their discard pile. When they run through all their cards, the player shuffles it back into the deck. Many of the cards have a secondary ability, such as letting the player draw more cards out of the deck, take cards from the discard pile, or eliminate useless cards from their hand or discard pile. The goal is to gain effective cards and streamline your deck to get as many effective cards into your hand as quickly as possible.
The first thing that makes The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers stand out is that each player gets to assume the role of one of the characters from the film: Samwise, Frodo, Legolas, Aragorn, Merry & Pippin, Gimli, or King Theoden. By drawing from a selection of oversized Hero cards, the player randomly determine which character they are (or you can just choose). Each different character gets a unique card that goes into their starting deck. For example, Frodo’s card (called “It’s Getting Heavier”) allows him to gain control of The One Ring card while Samwise’s card (“There’s Some Good in This World”) protects from possible negative results from cards and allows you to draw another card.
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