I really enjoy deck-building games. A couple of my favorites are Legendary Encounters and Eminent Domain. I’ve also played several others such as Legendary (Marvel), Dominion, and Arctic Scavengers, to name a few. One of the newest games to enter into the genre is DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals – Batman vs The Joker.
Rivals is a two player deck-building game in which one players takes on the role of Batman and the other the role of The Joker in an effort to destroy each other. To defeat your opponent you must either over-power all 3 of their Character Cards or if the Main Deck empties before that happens, have more points in your deck; most cards are worth 1-3 victory points. The three Character cards require 9, 12, and 15 Power to defeat in that order.
Each player starts out with 7 Punch cards and 3 Vulnerability cards to make up their initial deck. Most cards provide Power which allow you to purchase or draft new cards from the Main Deck into your deck. Cards in the Main Deck might also contain special abilities that take effect when playing; like drawing more cards, destroying a card, or making an attack. During your turn you can choose to use Power to get new cards or you can declare a confrontation. If declaring a confrontation, you cannot get new cards but if the cards you play add up to more power than your opponents face-up Character card, you defeat that card and the next one is revealed. If it is the last Character Card, you win.
The Vulnerability cards simply dilute your deck and are worth zero victory points. There are also Weakness cards which also dilute your deck and are a -1 to your victory points should the game come down to that winning condition. Kick cards simply provide you 2 Power and can be bought with 3 Power to add to your deck. The Main deck consists of Heroes, Villains, Equipment, Locations, and Super Powers; all of which providing Power and/or special abilities.
Thoughts After the First Play
In our first play through, I played as Batman and my wife (Candace) played The Joker. The rules are really straight forward and if you’ve played any other deck-building game, you should be able to pick it up with a quick read of the instructions. The game lasted longer than I expected it to. It took us both a while to build our deck with enough power to start declaring confrontations. And then once we did have enough power, we both had some pretty good defense built in.
Candace and I both really enjoyed the game once we got into it. However, the biggest draw back of the game is understanding the concept that as Batman, I can buy Villain, Location, and Super Power cards that belong to The Joker and vice versa. We really struggled with this through the first part of the game but as we got through more of the Main Deck and into our 2nd and 3rd Character cards we realized that the game is designed so that Hero cards benefit Batman and Villain cards benefit The Joker in ways that they cannot benefit opposing characters.
The question then became, “How does The Joker buying Batman’s Grappling Hook make sense thematically?” Mechanically, the Power and ability (usually) still apply. It literally is a theme issue. What we found helped was to assume that The Joker stole the equipment, or infiltrated the Location. Batman might have forced The Riddler to do his bidding or used Laughing Gas against the The Joker. As this was the biggest hang up for us, once we got passed it, the game was just plain fun to play and we can’t wait to play it some more.
From what I understand, this game is supposed to replace the existing DC deck-building game at some point. I’m not sure what other Heroes and Villains are planned for a next release. It will be interesting to see how it grows and how you might be able to play The Joker vs Wonder Woman or Superman vs The Riddler. If they keep with the same format, I think the game has some great potential, especially for some mix and match rivals.