30th Jul2018

‘Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game’ Review

by Matthew Smail

super-dbz-box

As a fan of trading card games for many years, I’m always interested in exploring new systems and figuring out what makes them tick. My mainstay in this space is most definitely Magic: The Gathering, but I’ve also dabbled Yu-Gi-Oh, Vanguard and more. Of particular interest are TCG’s that weave thematic elements tightly into their mechanical features, which in the case of the madcap action that Dragon Ball Z is famous for, could be quite a challenge.

The Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game (to give it’s full title) is actually a reboot of an older game, but as far as I can tell, the two are not at all interlinked in terms of product lines, rules etc. This new version was released in 2017 and I’ve been able to get my hands on a couple of Starter Decks: Dark Invasion and Extreme Evolution. Whilst I’m only filling in the blanks considering I can’t speak from experience, the past iterations appear to be relatively complex and a little unbalanced, whilst this latest version is nothing if it’s not fast and streamlined.

Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game is remarkably simple in terms of structure and whilst it has a few unique (or at least unusual) features, it should be immediately familiar to TCG regulars. Each player builds a fifty card deck and chooses a single leader card. Where the starter decks are concerned, each comes included with everything a player needs to get started, although based on what I’ve read, they are not the most powerful decks imaginable.

The leaders are placed to the side of the battlefield and then each player draws six cards. A single mulligan is permitted, allowing players to shuffle back any number of cards and then draw the same number up again. Next, each player draws the top eight cards of their deck and placed them face down under or near their leader. These represent the life of that player, but they can’t look at them at all, or at least not for now.

The first player is decided randomly and will then be able to place one of their cards (usually upside down) in the energy zone. Cards in this zone can be turned sideways to pay the energy cost for battle, extra and combo cards. If the player has a card in their hand that can be paid for by the energy cards currently in play (including the brand new one) then they may do so right now. In a twist that offends my sensibilities as a Magic player, it’s permissible for new fighters to attack right away in Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game (except the first player) which is all part of keeping the pace up, I guess.

Anyway, fast forward a few turns and assume there are a few energy cards out, as well as a few battle cards on each side. Battle cards that are turned sideways (which is what happens after they attack) are said to be resting. The active player can declare an attack against any resting battle card, or the opposing leader. Each battle card has a value (like 20,000, for example) which will be compared against the target of the attack. At this point, combo cards can be played into the combo area for their energy cost to boost that 20,000 by whatever the combo cards combined combo value is. The loser is removed, or if the loser is the leader, then that player loses a life by drawing one of the eight face down cards that they set aside earlier.

The game also features extra cards, which are a bit like spells or trap cards in other TCG’s. Generally they will allow a player to draw cards, search their deck, deal damage directly to an opposing battle card or otherwise influence the flow of the game or the outcome of one of the normal phases. Again, these must usually be paid for with energy, which (whilst I have a convenient moment to mention it) must also satisfy any energy requirements of a specific colour that the card being played has.

There are many, many different situations that can occur once cards hit the board. Some of the printed rules require a bit of reading and rereading initially, but the same could probably be said of other, similar games if you’re not familiar with them. What is good about Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game is the fact that whenever a card has an effect, the timing is clearly highlighted to the left of the relevant text. Once you get your head around the timing and context, the actual rules start to get a lot more simplistic.

With a few practice games out of the way, I settled in to playing one match a time, swapping decks with my long time TCG partner in crime. Both played very differently and we commented often that there is a real opportunity in this world to create some diverse and exciting decks. Each leader is dual sided, with an awaken condition that flips them to a more powerful version – another cool feature that we really liked. The most noticeable thing about Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game is the speed of play and the to and fro nature. Attacking with battle cards makes them vulnerable and unlike in MTG, for example, I never felt like the game had gone beyond me because of a single opposing card hitting the table.

It’s always a real challenge to review a large, sprawling card game based on a single pair of starter decks, because I can’t say what the experience is like holistically. I don’t know what the draft game plays like, or what pro level decks do differently, but structurally, I really like Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game. It’s a very fast game and the components are incredibly beautiful. The card game feels just like the video game and I am amazed that the designers have been able to catch the balance of play between precision and chaos so very nicely. All in all, it’s a game that I’m keen to explore more of and may even invest in. Recommended.

***½  3.5/5

You can buy Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game and expansions online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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