Cryptozoic has been in the deck-building business for a while now, having created roughly a bazillion games leveraging popular properties such as Adventure Time, Lord of the Rings, Walking Dead, and, of course, DC comics. Despite this, I hadn’t yet been lured by one of their shiny boxes until they released DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Teen Titans. Having discovered them through the excellent Cartoon Network shows, Teen Titans is one of my favorite properties in the DC universe. This game is based on the New 52 iteration of the team, which is not without its issues–but this being a deck-builder, you don’t have to worry about story at all, just bring your own!
The presentation is impressive. Cryptozoic has leveraged their assets well and every card is pulled straight from the comics. The abilities, locations, and characters are all familiar to anyone who’s spent any time with the Titans. There doesn’t seem to be as much (or any) humor, but then this is pulled from New 52, where grimdark isn’t just a concept, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a shame, really, because I challenge you to say “Birdarang” over and over again with a straight face. A bit of that Teen Titans levity would have made this edition stand out even more.
Gameplay starts out pretty standard. Like most deck builders, you create a base deck of low-point cards and try to leverage them to acquire higher point cards from the center. What’s interesting is that, in those base cards, there are zero-power cards that don’t help you at all, just take up space. A bad hand early on can hamstring you in the mid-game if your opponents can snag the good cards first. There are villains to defeat, similar to Marvel: Legendary, but here you’re acquiring them to boost your own deck (as well as score points). Initially, I found gameplay to be somewhere between Star Realms and Marvel: Legendary. With the new Ongoing cards, the Star Realms comparison is even more apt–they act similar to bases in that they give you abilities you can trigger each round. Unique to Teen Titans, though, is that those abilities usually come in the form of comboing off your played cards, making big moves like playing extra cards, saving your heroes, or acquiring all of a certain type of card from the center.
Depending on the heroes chosen, the game is well-balanced–there are a few abilities and characters that will seem overpowered at first, until you figure out how to mitigate them. And even if things are running away in favor of one player, the final boss, Trigon, has an ability that drops Weakness cards into your deck every round–these count against your final point total. It’s rather satisfying to see someone who’s built up an impressive deck panic as they realize they don’t have enough card removal abilities to clear out point bombs. Speaking of the final boss, two player games can run longer than you’d expect. There’s no way to attack the final boss early, like you do in Marvel: Legendary. You just have to burn through the villain deck till you get to him. And if the cards don’t shuffle in your favor, that may take a while.
My son and I have played multiple times and, being huge comic book fans, will be going back for more. Overall, it feels quicker than Marvel: Legendary, which is important when you’re trying to squeeze in games on school nights. We’ve already started eying expansions, like the JSA or one of the other core sets. My only concern is that those all seem to have unique mechanics, so there will be a bit of rule massaging to get them to play nice together. And unfortunately, the Arrow set is done with TV stills–great if you’re a fan of the show, not so much if you’re OCD like us and can’t take comic and real-life art mashed together. At the end of the night, Teen Titans is a great gateway drug in to the DC deck-building universe. Especially if you’re a fan, you’ll want to pick this up.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received a copy for review.