Dale Yu: First Impressions of Marvel: Damage Control

Marvel: Damage Control

  • Designer: Omari Akil
  • Publisher: Wizkids
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Played with copy provided by publisher

Per the publisher: “In Damage Control, each player leads a rival cleanup crew tasked to finding and securing the dangerous artifacts and technologies buried in the rubble. Represented by a pile of scattered, mostly facedown cards, each rubble card represents a powerful item.  You’ll use your deck of Damage Control employees to demolish, uncover, and collect the Rubble Cards in search of valuable items, which you will then add to your deck. You can use the items’ powerful abilities to make your deck stronger and more effective or send them to your vault to keep them safe and earn victory points. Be careful, though! Only the items stored in your vault will score points in the end, so don’t hold on to them for too long!

As members of the organization in charge of processing the zone of destruction, you’ll also have to deal with various claimants—people showing up after the battle to complain about traffic or do their own scavenging. Some rubber-necking citizens are just hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the heroes or villains involved!

Heroes such as Captain America, Shang-Chi, Black Widow and more will appear in the form of the Character Deck. These heroes provide effects and victory points to the Damage Control teams that manage to enlist their help. The game also features four modules: Mighty Asgard, Mystical Manipulation, Pym Tech, and Vibranium Synthesis. For each game, you’ll pick two modules to mix into the standard Rubble and Character decks, creating a variety of stories, strategies, and gameplay options!  As the Marvel Universe’s leaders in cleanup and reconstruction, your team is sure to wreck the competition!”

This is the second Marvel game that I’ve received from Wizkids this spring, so they definitely look to be taking advantage of their licensing deal in bringing these comic book heroes to your game table.   As I’m always interested in trying out deckbuilder ideas, I was happy to see this arrive on the doorstep; and we in fact played it for the first time on the same day it arrived.

To set up the game, you first have to build the Destruction zone, using cardboard pieces of various sizes – there is a different sized ring made for each player count.  You then make up the Rubble deck for your game taking the 40 base Rubble cards and adding to it any two of the four 10-card Rubble modules.  These 60 cards are shuffled together.  Each module has a different focus and players can choose a combination that suits their mood.  Each player is dealt 9 cards, and players drop them one by one facedown into the Destruction zone.  It is ok if they overlap the barriers, but they should have some part within the Destruction zone.  The final card from each player is dropped face up into the DZ.

Similarly, form the Character deck by shuffling together the 20 base character cards with the 2 characters from each of the two chosen modules.  A Lineup of 5 Character cards is dealt face up to the table.  Each player gets a player board (called a Desktop) and a vault board.  They take their 5 card starter deck, shuffle them and draw a hand of 4 cards.  The game starts with the player who most recently read a comic book.

The game will be played in a number of turns until either there are no cards left in the Character deck or there are no cards left in the Destruction zone.  When either trigger happens, the current round is completed so that all players have had an equal number of turns.

On a turn, a player does three things:

1] Use all the cards in their hand (play or discard): To play a card, pay the cost (seen near bottom left) with coin tokens or by discarding cards (each discard worth 1 coin). Do the action(s) on the card and then place the card above the desktop icon matching one of the actions taken.  If there are multiple actions, you can resolve them in any order you like.  Some examples are:

  • Vault – place a card from your hand under your Vault board
  • Extract – take a face up card from the rubble and place in your hand
  • Demolish – Discard a faceup card from the rubble and get 2 coins
  • Uncover – flip a card over in the Rubble if you can see its entire radar circle; also trigger the event seen in the upper right corner.

2] Recruit Characters from the Lineup – you can recruit characters using cards from your desktop.  New Characters have a recruitment cost in the peach area just above the action area.  You can discard cards from above matching icons on your desktop to take the Character, which is then placed below your Desktop. You can never have more than 3 Characters, though you can discard a previously acquired Character to take a new one.  There are four basic types:

  • Endgame – gives VPs in final scoring for artifacts gained
  • Immediate – a one time effect
  • Ongoing – a continuous effect as long as you have that character
  • Activated – an effect that can be triggered once per game, usually with a coin cost for activation

3] Cleanup – Clear your Desktop by discarding any cards not used for recruitment.  Refill the Character Lineup to 5 cards if necessary.  Draw a new hand of 4 cards, shuffling your discards when necessary.  The next player then takes their turn.

At the end of the final round, which is again triggered when either the Destruction zone has no more cards in it or the character deck is empty, the game is scored:

  • Score all the Artifact cards in your Vault
  • Score for your Recruited Characters
  • Score for your Endgame effects on Characters
  • Score 1 VP per 3 coins leftover

The players with the most VPs wins.  Ties go to the player with the most total influence.  This took us a minute to figure out, because we didn’t realize until about halfway through our first game that the coin things = influence.  Not sure how we missed that, but we managed to figure it out in the end.

FWIW, though I haven’t tried it yet, there is also a solo version explained in the rules.  There are some altered setup rules and you play a modified 2p version of the game.  The main goal is to have 20 VP at the end of the game.  To increase the challenge, you can add in objectives which challenge you to finish the games with certain combinations of Character cards – while still achieving the target score.

My thoughts on the game

If you are a regular reader, you know that I’m a big fan of the deckbuilder genre, and I’m always up to try out the newest entry in the class to see what it brings to the table.  One of the most interesting parts of this game is the pile of rubble that serves as the tableau for building your deck.  There are usually a few cards available for you to add to your deck, but you’ll have to hope to be lucky when you excavate to turn up cards that you want to add.

Each game will play out differently based on which modules you choose to add into the game and then, of course, the random order of which cards are visible in the rubble as you play the game. The special abilities/actions on the character cards can also greatly affect your optimal strategy – so you might end up using the actions from your basic starting cards to get you a particular character card; even if that means a less than optimal turn of building your deck.

You start the game with only 5 cards, and as you use 4 cards each turn, you’ll be going through your early deck quite often.  The base cards are really useful, possibly too useful – as in my playing, I have often not found the new cards to be a marked improvement.  That is, I am more likely to choose a card for its VP value and then Vault it as soon as possible to lock in the score.  To compound things, this is one of the few deckbuilders that I wish gave me a longer game – our games have been so short (10-12 turns), that it doesn’t feel like there is a lot of time to add a card to your deck, use it for the action, and then have time to put it in your vault.  It was fairly common for people to pull a 3 or 4 VP card from the rubble and immediately vault it to make sure they could score it.  Again, the base cards off you a lot of flexibility in your actions, and they were oftentimes enough for what I wanted to accomplish.  There was also no reason to try to cull them from your deck as 1) they are not worth any points and 2) they were pretty useful.

Another aspect of the game that seems to keep it hurtling forward was the blue action on the cards causing you to cycle through the character deck.   It also has the effect of forcing you to more strongly consider taking a character card that you want as there is definitely no guarantee that it would still be available in the market by your next turn, because it gets cycled out by the blue reveal action or because your opponents have managed to buy it before you did.  The scoring from the Characters can be quite good, so I’d definitely recommend not letting those opportunities pass you by.

The art is good, and non-surprisingly comic-y.  Duh.  The iconography on the cards is fairly easy to follow, and we really had no problems at all figuring out what the possible actions did.  The game plays really fast, and this is again one of the rare games that I wish went on a bit longer as I felt there wasn’t as much deck building as I would have liked; the game end seems to come on so fast that I worry less about adding good actions to my deck to use again and again, and more on finding valuable action/character cards and scoring them ASAP.  

Damage Control has been fun to experiment with thus far, and I like the way that the different combinations of modules gives each game a different feel.  I still want to try this a few more times to see what else the game has to offer me.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral.  Dale Y
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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