Randy's Blog - VS System 2PCG Review
by, 08-31-2015 at 10:54 PM (5074 Views)
See. I'm not gone. Just doing other things... Like trying this game out.
All I knew about the new VS System LCG (Technically called “VS System 2-Player Card Game”, or 2PCG for short) was that it featured Marvel superheroes, and was an LCG. While not called an LCG, or Living Card Game for those unaware, it’s an LCG for all intents and purposes. That means it’s not collectible. Everything comes in one set. Most LCGs, this one included, follow the model of releasing known expansions a couple times per year. While you’re not spending tons of money on booster packs or singles online, you are dropping $20-30 every other month or so.
The VS System by Upper Deck actually has a long and complicated history. In a nutshell, Upper Deck created the VS System collectible card game years ago, featuring Marvel, DC, Hellboy, and various other properties. Marvel and DC were the most prominent. There were lots of complaints about the balance and gameplay of the old VS. Despite that, the game saw large success. Then Upper Deck went under. Or they downsized. Or something. Bottom line is that they stopped making VS System. Fast forward a few years and Upper Deck decides to give VS System another try. I casually played the old VS System with a friend way back when, so when I heard about its relaunch with the LCG model, I was all about trying it out. Half the reason (ok, 1/3 of the reason) I went to GenCon was to pick this game up, since its official release was at GenCon.
So, I got it. I played it. Here’s what I thought.
It’s awesome. It REALLY scratches that deck-building itch I get. 400 cards come in the starter box, and decks require 61 cards. But given the amount of resources you have, there’s really only enough to make 4 decent decks. After creating some of my own decks, seeing what decks did well at the $10,000 Challenge at GenCon, and then making my decks more like the ones that did well, I feel like I’m getting a good idea of what a good deck takes. But let me get in to some of the game specifics for you.
Main Character. All decks have a Main Character. This is who your team revolves around. They start the game in play, and if they are KO’d you lose. The best Main Characters seem to be Star-Lord, Thanos, and Storm, with Loki, Magneto, and Rocket Raccoon close behind. The other Main Characters are Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Green Goblin, Gamora, Groot, Professor X, Deadpool, and Wolverine. Each Main character has the ability to level up; each with their own different goal that must be met a number of times in order to level up. When a Main Character levels up, you replace their level 1 character card with their level 2 character card, which has an extra ability and increased stats.
Supporting Characters. This game has a ton of Supporting Characters. These are the characters you put in your deck, and get in to play throughout the game. Some of my favorite Supporting Characters include Sabretooth, Daredevil, Drax, and Iron Man. Each Main character also has a Supporting Character version too, with different stats and abilities. So if you don’t want to use Deadpool’s Main Character card, you can put his Supporting Character version in your deck as well.
Plot Twists. Think of these like your actions or sorcery cards from other games. These can give your character a stat increase, extra abilities, or wreak havoc on your opponent’s characters.
Resources/Locations. These are like your mana or energy. You need a certain number of resources to put characters in to play. Any card can be played face down as a resource. If it’s a Location, it can be played face up as a resource. These Locations can give you a specific type of energy needed to activate some characters’ abilities. Once a location is used for its’ energy type, you flip it over to become a face down resource.
There is a very strong reliance on tribalism in this game. Certain Locations or Plot Twists can only be used if they correspond with a specific team affiliation of a character you have in play. Also, you may “Team Attack” opposing characters, with 2 or more of your own characters that share a team affiliation. But too much emphasis on staying loyal to a team affiliation can leave you high and dry, using characters who don’t really help you win. For the best team possible, you must look outside of your chosen affiliation, to see what compliments your team.
There are 2 rows that characters can be placed in during gameplay: front and back. All character are capable of melee attacks. Melee attacks can only be made from your front row, to an opposing character in the front row. If a character has the Ranged icon on their card, that means they can perform a ranged attack, and damage an opposing front row character from their own back row. If a character has the Flight icon, they can fly over your opponent’s front row, and attack a character in their back row. If a character has flight and ranged they can attack from back row to back row.
Most characters that have abilities or Super Powers have a single keyword on the cards, with very precise rules text on the card describing what it does. The cards use the same keywords with the same descriptions with the same terminology. Everything about this game feels very streamlined. The gameplay is almost simple in terms of when you can use certain abilities and cards. Every Superpower has printed on the card what phase of the turn it can be played during, and wether it’s restricted to your turn or any player’s turn. But the deckbuilding mechanic of it seems incredibly deep, with plenty of tinkering to do, finding just what powers and abilities set themselves up nicely for one another.
So, let’s look at what a common board state may look like, halfway through the game.
The team up top has 6 face down resources, and one face up resource that provides red energy. Main Character Star-Lord, Cable, and Yondu are on the back row, while Spider-Man and Daredevil are on the front row. The bottom team has 6 face down resources and a face up resource that can provide any kind of energy, but only to Avengers characters. Cosmo is the lone character in the back row. The front row is littered with Main Character Hulk, Sabretooth, Drax, and Iron Man. (If I went to a tournament tomorrow, I’d take the bottom team with Hulk as my Main Character.) The top team has Star-Lord, Cable, and Yondu on the back row, and all have the Ranged Icon. Since Star-Lord and Yondu are both members of the Guardians team affiliation, they can perform a ranged team attack, and combine their attack values against an opposing front line character. If the character they are attacking, does not have the Ranged icon, (like Hulk, Drax, or Sabretooth) they cannot deal damage back to the ranged attackers. But If Star-Lord and Yondu did their team attack on Iron Man, Iron Man could deal his attack back to either Star-Lord or Yondu, since he does have the Ranged icon. Spider-Man and Daredevil make great front line defenders, because they both have the “Dodge” keyword on their cards. Dodge says, “He can’t be range attacked.” Luckily for the bottom team, they don’t rely on ranged attacks. Sabretooth and Drax both have the “Berserker” ability, which gives them a +1/+1 counter every time they assign to attack.
So the top team in this scenario is hoping to be able to pick enough characters off from distance, while the front line holds strong. The bottom team is just going to try to overwhelm the opponent’s front line as quickly as possible, exposing that back line Main Character. FYI, things do not look good for the top team.
I have yet to play any multi-player games of this, but it seem especially geared for this. And if you distribute the 4 affiliations to 4 players, your game should be fairly balanced.
The plan for this game, don’t quote me, is to release a new Marvel expansion in January, and again April. These will be Secret Wars Part 1 and Secret Wars Part 2. I’m excited to see these. For as much as I’m not currently reading the Secret Wars storyline I will love to see what characters from alternate universes make it in to this game. Future base sets will feature DC Comics, Predator, Firefly, and more. I don’t think this is the kind of game I will gobble up every set that comes out, regardless of IP. But I’ll definitely get the Marvel expansions, and If the competitive scene looks exciting, I may get in to others.
Overall, I think this is a game that will be loved by many Dice Masters players. The low price point, the team building mechanics, being able to increase your “card advantage” a variety of ways and multiple win conditions… I think this game has potential to be an LCG that people are talking about for years to come.