VS System was a great concept for a card game. It took fanboy questions such as “what happens when the Avengers battle the Justice League”, and let the players fight it out in a card game to find their answers. It had some interesting game mechanics and design, which set it apart from other trading card games and gave it a feel of uniqueness. Now speed up to the release of VS System 2PCG, where Super Awesome Games got together with Upper Deck to provide a simplified version of VS System. If I had to describe it, VS 2PCG is like Diet Coke – it promises the same great VS System flavor, with none of its calories. While there are a lot of similarities and great things about VS 2PCG there are still some things I miss from original VS System, and normally I share them on the collective. I decided to write about a lot of those game mechanics and design choices I miss, and hope all players, new or returning, let their imagination run wild with mine.
Full disclaimer, I do not just want a reprint of the original Vs System. There are some new game play mechanics & design choice I prefer, while some of the old I prefer. For example, shared turns was at the time of VS System’s release, a pretty unique concept – it may not have been the first game that did it this way, but it still was different for the common games at the time. The idea of shared turns made the game jam packed full of action; players simultaneously played cards, declared attacks, and managed the flow of the game. It felt as if you were in an actual battle, instead of a turned based RPG. VS 2PCG got rid of the shared turn experience, and in my opinion, while some of the old VS System flavor is lost i.e. the game is slowed down, the change is worthwhile. VS 2PCG is way easier to follow. I was able to easily explain the game to my 13 year old niece, and she was able to play and enjoy the game. I can imagine how this could be a big getting used to for returning players, as I have experienced that as well from players who moved to VS 2PCG from VS System.
An example of a design choice I really miss is the “unique” team flavor. Currently with the release of legacy – it seems as if they are trying to provide each team some sort of unique concept, but a lot of the teams overlap too much with their concepts. For example who can tell me whose main flavor is team attacks; is it A-Force, Avengers, or X-Men? Even more specific whose flavor is readying characters, is it A-Force or X-Men? There are examples of this all over VS 2PCG. There are only a handful of teams, and most of them have the too close to the same team concept. In original VS, each team for the most part brought their own play experience. I still remember some of the concepts I enjoyed, like Fantastic Four being equipment based, or X-Men being about recovering characters at a faster rate, I even remember trying to make an Arkham Inmates deck even though the player often “hurt” themselves to get their effects off. Legacy tried to fix that by giving more team concepts in terms of loyalty plot twists, but the loyalty plots did not do enough to set them apart. I can’t even say whether or not any one team is the best at a specific mechanic, as it seems every team does a little of everything. I wish they would make strides to correct this as I would love to be able to say … “well, nobody can stun and KO a support character like the Villains team” or “nobody can team attack like the Avengers”.
Plot Twists are a huge portion of the game, but for the most part I feel they have a hard time balancing the plot twists correctly. Acrobatic Dodge was a very reasonable defensive plot twist. You would sacrifice 3 attack and gain 3 defense. Now they have tossed that aside and provided defensive plot twists higher amounts than attack plot twists (except if you’re playing Femmes or Savage Surprise for defense attack pumps). Personally I think they need to start correctly make plot twists an actual focus in the game. We need more generic plot twists that are good, we need more team plot twists that are good, and we need more characters that support plot twist usage. In Legacy they tried to release loyalty plot twists that were strong enough to convince you to play a mono team deck. I think they went too far with trying not to overpower the loyalty plot twists as the only one really worth playing competitively are Reality Shift & You Are Groot. I think they need to start reconsidering the way they balance plot twists and they should start with Loyalty Plot twists because that X-Men Plot is so under powered.
The biggest and most frustrating change to plot twists is not being able to put plot twists in your resource row, and utilize them. I am one of the biggest advocates for bringing back ongoing plot twists and something similar to the original VS System locations. Just to be clear, by ongoing plot twists I do not mean I want a bunch of marvel team ups, although that would be cool. What I mean is, provide plot twists that can sit in your resource row and provide a consistent benefit, but the benefit can be comparable to that of the original VS System locations. For example, the original Danger Room which read +2 attack to front row characters, +2 defense to back row characters. This is the perfect example of what an ongoing plot twist can do in VS 2PCG. Additionally by adding in ongoing plot twists you can provide a way to play plot twists from the resource row, so decks are not punished for having low resources, while still providing a benefit to the creation of their deck. I for one find it frustrating in decks that only play 12 locations and having to constantly row characters. Also by having them in the resource row it improves the power of cards like Quasar and Build the Hive. Furthermore imagine ongoing plot twists that just provide benefit to your main character, the possibilities for the use of an ongoing plot twist are near endless.
Of course if one missing mechanic had to take the cake: it would be the lack of Endurance. Endurance was your life total, and the way you actually lose the game in Vs System. In VS 2PCG, they removed this in exchange for wounds on your MC. This changes a lot in game design, for one low cost swarm decks are not as dangerous. Why? In original Vs System if all your enemy board is stunned, you could attack directly at your opponent to burn their endurance. In Vs System 2PCG you cannot do this in any form. If you have 5 characters on the field, and only use 1 to stun my character, 4 of yours are sitting there doing nothing. On top of that in Vs System many characters could just burn endurance directly or heal your endurance. So now another possible win condition or character ability is taken off the table. If you factor in that not every MC share the same wound count, which in original was not the case, the game tilts more in favor of specific MCs. As a returning player I find this the weirdest of the changes as it in my opinion slows down the game that it has to take at the least 5 turns to kill an MC (if you can put a wound on every turn). How can this be fixed at this point? I am not sure but let me just say my play group sometimes messes around with the idea of 30 Endurance as an alternate win condition, and mono Xenomorph are so much more powerful when you’re playing that way!
I could go on for days about design choices and mechanics that I miss from original Vs System, but I tried to keep it to the ones that I felt really made an impact on the new version. For one, I was a fan of reservist, and I think this can translate well into VS 2PCG, but not nearly as much as the ones I listed above. Think about it, characters that can provide resources until you decide to bring them up from the resource row, or even characters that when they come into play, they provide a resource for recruiting or using super powers could be really cool and interactive, especially for those characters that have build phase abilities. I can’t be the only one who has specific things they miss from the original Vs System card game that they would enjoy seeing in VS 2PCG. We would love to hear from you, drop a comment letting us know what abilities you would love to see reprinted in VS 2PCG! We look forward to your comments and joining the discussion here or on the Facebook collective!