DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals – Batman vs The Joker - Board Game Box Shot

DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals – Batman vs The Joker

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DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals - Batman vs The Joker banner

It’s the head-to-head showdown comic book fans have been waiting for! This set contains everything two players need to settle the question once and for all… Can Batman take down The Joker or will he go mad trying?

The action is fast and furious, as players vie to add the right mix of components to their decks. When you’re ready, you can launch an attack directly at your arch nemesis! The first player to drop their opponent three times wins the game instantly, however, it will be harder to do each subsequent time. Also, if the main deck runs out, victory points are counted to determine the winner.

DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals - Batman vs The Joker components

This set is a great introduction to the Cerberus Game Engine, which is used in the best-selling DC Comics Deck-building Game line of products. The addition of the direct attacks will appeal even to seasoned deck-building fans.

Batman and The Joker each come with three oversized character cards. When one is beaten in direct combat, the next one is revealed. The new one will have a boosted-up ability and will be harder to take down than the previous one. Naturally, the combatants can utilize Block cards to protect themselves. It’s a brand new experience, not to be missed!

 
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“The Best of Enemies”

DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals – Batman vs The Joker takes the core elements of Cryptozoic’s Cerberus Engine-driven DC DBG and applies them to a direct head-to-head style game. Where it is possible to play any iteration of the DC DBG core sets with as few as two players (solo variants notwithstanding), the “race to punch Supervillains in the face” aspect leaves something to be desired in those situations. In the Rivals set, the Dark Knight Detective gets to go toe-to-toe with his arch-nemesis, the Clown Prince of Crime.

Basic mechanics for Rivals are unchanged: players have a starting deck of Punch and Vulnerability cards, have a stack of Kick cards to purchase from, and a stack of Weakness cards which may be gained through the course of gameplay. All of these starting setup cards feature thematic artwork. Players take turns using cards in hand to purchase from a Line-Up of cards flipped from the top of a Main Deck. The main difference here is that there are no Supervillains (or Superheroes) on a stack to be defeated — instead, the players must accumulate powerful cards to directly assault each other.

The Batman and Joker oversized starting cards come in a group of 3, with incrementally higher costs (9, 12, and 15). Each level has a slightly different ability: the 9-cost card allows the player to draw an extra card at end of turn if they acquire one or more of an appropriate card type during their turn (Equipment for Batman, non-Kick Super Powers for Joker). The 12-cost card requires two card types (adding Heroes for Batman and Villains for Joker), and if one of each is played, the player may play the top card of the Main Deck and return it. The “final form” 15-cost card lets the player gain +1 Power during a Confrontation (see below) for each card of the two appropriate types for the character which they play.

The Confrontation replaces the usual SuperX stack. To declare a Confrontation, a player decides at the beginning of their turn that they have the potential to punch the lights out of their rival, either with raw power in hand or via the abilities of the cards they play. The confronting player then plays cards from their hand as normal, but they cannot use their Power to buy any cards from the Line-Up during this turn — all of their focus is on attempting to defeat their rival. Several of the Main Deck cards in Rivals have abilities which only trigger during a Confrontation, allowing extra card draw, extra Power, and other shenanigans. The player being confronted does not have much that they can do, but if they have purchased any Block cards from the Line-Up and have them in hand, they may now play them in an attempt to thwart the Confrontation. Block cards temporarily raise the cost of the defending rival’s character, making it more difficult for them to be defeated. If, for example, the Joker player uses a Block card that raises their cost by 3 during the first Confrontation of the game, then the Batman player who initiated the Confrontation would need at least 12 Power (9 + 3) to win.

The trick to the Confrontations is that the attacking player plays out their hand first, then the defending player chooses whether or not it is worth it to Block. If a confronting player beats their rival by a sufficiently large margin, it may not be worth it to play any Block cards at all, as doing so removes them from the defending player’s hand before their next turn begins. If the attacking player wins the Confrontation, they acquire the top oversized card of their rival (which does not enter their deck), and the defending player now uses the next card down as their character. If a player successfully confronts their rival three times before the game ends via other means, they win immediately, having defeated their opponent. In this way, strategic use of Block cards can keep a player from losing their topmost character card, and waste their rival’s turn with a failed Confrontation.

With a buyable Main Deck and Kick stack that is roughly half the size of a DC DBG core set, Rivals encourages a tighter gameplay. The interaction of the cards is fairly elegant, with adequate deck-thinning, card synergy, and potential combinations. With only two players, the back-and-forth Line-Up purchases on each turn will lead to roughly equal Victory Point (VP) totals if the Main Deck runs out, encouraging the players to initiate Confrontations instead. Top character cards are worth 4VP, middle cards are 6VP, and the bottom cards are helpfully stamped with “You Win” in the middle of the VP star.

Since it is a smaller set, there’s less need to provide off-theme “filler”. Every card in here belongs to the Batman milieu, from the supporting Heroes and Villains to the Locations. While it may seem odd for Joker to play the Billionaire card, or Batman to let out a Maniacal Laugh, at least the cards thematically fit just the two characters and their environment.

Gameplay can be fast, and is frequently rewarding — with the back-and-forth of a head-to-head game, there’s little downtime, little “analysis paralysis”, and the effect of “hate-drafting” is mitigated — both characters operate better when they stick to their “native” card types, but a player can build a solid deck development strategy even with off-brand cards.

Components are fairly simple, with oversized character cards and other cards for gameplay, but the small box they are packaged in is horrible for storage, with one small central gap in the cardboard insert which does nothing to prevent cards from sliding around once the shrinkwrap is removed. A plastic bag or two for the cards can go a long way towards keeping things organized.

This is not a set that lends itself to using the expansion packs for the DC DBG — Crossover Packs would lose the starting Superheroes that offer thematic cohesiveness, and the Crisis Expansions, with their cooperative nature, defeat the whole purpose of Rivals. As a standalone two-player game, however, it is quite good, either as a starting point to teach someone about DC DBG, or as a simplified version of a tabletop favorite when it’s just you and a friend. While many of the cards in the Main Deck are specific to the Confrontation / Block mechanics of the game, several of them are sufficiently generic to be good additions to a customized combined DC DBG deck.

Pros:
Thematically pristine
Good mechanical design for head-to-head play
Well-balanced and easy to learn

Cons:
Confrontation mechanic can be somewhat confusing at first
Box is terribly designed to store cards

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