10 February 2005

Review: Vs. System: Marvel Knights, Part I

The idea to explore the world of Upper Deck's Vs. System came to me by chance, thanks to a late-night reading session online when I stumbled across this article on Pro Circuit Los Angeles, an official Vs. System tournament where the champion won $40,000.

I'd seen Vs. cards for months, but it looked like they never sold and from what I'd gleaned at the local comic stores I visit, it seemed that it wasn't a popular game. This article suggested otherwise, and after some further investigating, it was clear that Vs. System was no joke. Legions of fan sites are on the web, each one stacked with information. Everything from strategies on how to beat a "Teen Titans" deck, to helping players get together to start local tournaments.

So I decided to see if the game lived up to the hype.

I purchased a DC Starter Deck, a few booster packs, a bouquet of flowers, and was on my way. The flowers were to bribe the wife into participating in the play test! She and I have been hooked ever since. (Well, I've been hooked ever since. She still needs to be bribed to play.)

[For clarification purposes Vs. System refers to all five editions of Vs. System Cards: 3 Marvel (Origins, Web of Spider-Man, Marvel Knights) and 2 DC (Origins, Man of Steel). All cards are compatible with one another, so seeing the Fantastic Four battle The League of Assassins is not uncommon.]

That was a few weeks ago, at which point I set my sights on February 5th. Throughout the nation on that day, "Sneak Preview" tournaments were being held and I was determined to enter a tournament in the area. The "tournament in the area" turned out to be at Comic Connection, in Margate, FL, about a 50-minute drive from my house in Miami. Nevertheless, I wanted to experience what is in essence, the first step into the world of tournament play.

I'd been preparing for the event by playing matches on the weekends for about a month. In the back of my mind I fully knew that I was probably not ready to play with the big boys. At the same time though, I didn't know what to expect. Would I be walking into a lion's den or a kiddie playground? Regardless, I was mentally preparing myself for whatever may lie ahead and I was ready to go.

These Sneak Preview tournaments give fans the chance to playtest the latest edition of Vs. System before it's officially released for sale. According to Feroze Ramcharan, one of the judges at the event, the preview tournaments are held anywhere between 2-4 weeks before the edition is released. For this latest release, Upper Deck has introduced the Marvel Knights edition, featuring the gritty underbelly of the Marvel Universe.

Players pick sides between characters affiliated with the Crime Lords, Underworld, Marvel Knights, or X-static. Some of the heroes featured include Ghost Rider, Blade, Punisher, Moon Knight, and Elektra, while villains like Kingpin, Owl, Dracula, Werewolf, and Mephisto are all among the 221-card expansion set.

The biggest addition to the Vs. System is the introduction of Concealed Characters and the Concealed Area. This allows players to recruit characters with the Concealed power to enter play in the Concealed Area. Once recruited, they stay in the Concealed Area unless otherwise noted. For example, Cloak: Child of Darkness comes into play concealed. Unless an opponent utilizes a plot twist or an ability that either makes him vulnerable to attack or enter the normal play area, he cannot be attacked. All the while, though, Cloak can attack as any normal player can. This addition has created dozens of new possibilities for gamers to explore.

You can find the official rules for Vs. System here, but the Online Demo shows what it's really like. With it, you'll follow a mock game, with Professor X as your guide, learning the basics of gameplay. The tutorial lasts about 15 minutes, laying the foundation for players to build on. While learning to play, I referenced that tutorial at least 3 times, an indispensable tool for beginners.

In part two of my review, I'll chronicle my actual journey through tournament play.


Ryan Murray said...

Since I still read Wizard, I have been getting one of these cards with each magazine for months now. I am not a real big fan of card games, but your piece on it has me slightly intrigued. Perhaps I will look into this game further.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Yeah, I've been holding on to those cards, too, resisting the temptation to take on another $$$-sucking hobby. Dan's the one that got me into Pokemon a few years back and I'm still recovering from it!

Dan Diaz said...

Guy, you not supposed to tell people about that! Pokemon is that dirty little secret that I try not to let out. Vs. System on the other hand serves as a declaration of my geekhood. I've never played Magic The Gathering ,but for my money, Vs. System is the best game in town. I'm in the process of selling of Pokemon cards to replace them with my new drug, Vs. cards.