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The BUFFY BATTLES is what UpperDeck call a GIANT SIZED ISSUE (an expansion with 200 cards) in their VS System 2PCG; a pack made up of some card counters and two Decks of 100 cards each.

One deck is, in VS parlance, known as the 'Good Scoobies' (led by Angel) and the other deck is the 'Evil Forces of Darkness' (with Angelus at its helm).

The game comes onto the shelves just as it has been announced that Joss Whedon has signed up to reboot the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series with a brand new cast (there are rumours some of the old stars will be back in 'guest' appearances but Sarah Michelle Geller is apparently not one of them).

Decks include the usual (if you are familiar with the VS System) types of card, Characters (including one Main Character), Equipment, Plot Twists, and Locations; Angelus has two regular locations; the Bronze and the Cemetery while the Magic Box and Sunnyvale High are the two favourite locations for Angel, Hellmouth and The Library are Special Locations.

With Angel being the top main character for both decks this expansion/stand alone game could have been released either straight as 'Angel' or better still 'Buffy & Angel' but, possibly because of the first TV series (and the prequel movie) UpperDeck decided to stick with 'Buffy'. Whoever you choose as your main character, and there are several popular characters to choose from, playing Good versus Evil or Evil versus Good using this pack certainly brought back some memories. If you had asked me prior to this pack who was in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv show I could have named the obvious ones, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Joyce, Angel, Spike, Drusilla, Faith, Oz and Miles. Then after a while of thinking I could have come up with a few more Dawn, Riley, Wesley, Kendra, Harmony, Principal Snyder and Anya. From there on my mind goes fuzzy and blank. I hadn't realised that Nathan Fillion, Brian Thompson, Jeff Kober, Joel Gray, Nick Chindlund, John Ritter and Christopher Goran (all well known to me in a variety of other TV shows) had been part of the Buffy legend but from these cards I immediately recognised some of those names. I also noticed there were a few glaring omissions from the adversaries and aids of the 'Scooby-Gang' that I remember; amongst these are Wesley, Jonathan, Kendra, Harmony and Willy the Snitch, Principal Snyder isn't here either.

 

This is a £30.00 two-player game, which for 200 cards isn't expensive, especially when you consider a pack of 2 x 65 card MtG© cards costs around £25.00. Included in the cost of production is the use of actual photographic artwork from the television show which I imagine is close to the cost of paying for individual illustrations. The photographs are designed not just to relate in some way, no matter how ever tentative, to the card's title, but to drive home the memory of this most popular of shows; the series that put Vampires back onto the map and into your living room.

Fans of the 'Scoobies' will love that they can play Angel, Buffy, Willow, Spike, Xander as Main Characters whilst fans of the 'evil side' have their choice from Angelus, Dark Willow, The First Evil, Mayor Wilkins, or the Master but surprisingly and sadly for me who just loved the character no Drusilla. She turns up as a Supporting Character, of course - you couldn't have Spike (who is also found as a Vampire/Evil supporting character) without Drusilla, but she was more of a Main character than the Mayor, but that's because in my opinion when Juliet Landau had screen time she stole the scene every time.

Just before I get onto the game play itself, and as I only just mentioned them, I thought it would be a good idea to have a quick look at a few of the Supporting Characters from both sides.

Vampires: 
Angelus. Yes Angel's evil side also appears as a Supporting Character. There are several differences between him as a Main Character Level 1 or 2 and the 6th Level Support. The main difference are his Attack and Defence as a Support are better than either his L1 or L2 forms but his Health depends mainly on his ability to KO defending characters from whom he gains 'Hit Point' (in basic terms you add a Vitality counter each time he wins a fight).
The Master. Similar to Angelus as a support he gains health from adversaries defeated because his health at this level is one against six as a Main.
Both Drusilla and Turok-Han Vampire are quite similar to Angelus and the Master, regaining health in the same way but are much weaker in the fight to begin with.

Scoobies:
Buffy's sister Dawn steps in front (and sacrifices herself) of your opponent's first attack.
Buffy's Mother Joyce prevents a 'stunned' character from being wounded.
Tara, Cordelia, Giles, Oz and Anya are also selective support, along with Angel, Buffy and the First Slayer

 

For regular players of the VS System the main difference between the Buffy Battles and the game you are used to which is mostly Super-Heroes vs Super-Villains, are the Vitality Counters. In Buffy these are used to add health to certain characters (some already noted) who begin on very low Health and have to fight to survive, literally. 

New players to the system need to read the rules and understand about the statistics on each card, mainly in the four corners Level (top left) Team (top right) ATK/DEF (bottom left) and Health (bottom right) plus the type of card it is (eg; Supporting Character) which is found under the card's title and the skills and/or powers found in the text box under the main photo. Buffy Battles is a game of card comparisons, luck and the skills that come with experience of building a deck of 60 cards (within the confines of the rules) from the 100 cards available to each side and knowing when to use and which cards to use as resources. Apart from Locations which remain face up and in use all cards chosen to be resources are placed face down with their powers/skills etc not coming into play - thus building a deck means knowingly adding cards to it that you know you are very unlikely to ever use for what they actually are. For players of games like 'Magic the Gathering' (tm) where specific 'Land' cards with no other perceived use are used for mana (resource) this may be a bit of a surprise as mana/resource cards in the VS system do have a secondary use if required.

 

The BUFFY BATTLES is, according to what I have read on the internet, often noted as 'Part One' giving the distinct impression that UpperDeck have more Buffy/Angel links in the pipeline. Personally I think they have taken the Buffy/Angel story as far as they can with this being a stand-alone game or compatible expansion rather than just an expansion. The majority of the known and better characters have been used so there would seem to be little mileage in publishing another deck of cards for Buffy when there are other films, shows and comics etc ready to be ploughed for ideas. With Joss Whedon already onboard (to my understanding from internet research) with the release of this Buffy game then other Joss Whedon products could well be just a signed contract away. Who wouldn't be interested in FIREFLY VS System for example ? There are already FIREFLY Dice and BUFFY has seen previous publication as an UpperDeck card game for their LEGENDARY system. Note: Having asked about Firefly as a VS system game I checked on the UpperDeck site to make sure it wasn't a game I had already missed. I found sites asking about it but not the game itself so it may well be in the making. Meanwhile I did find this list of rules for UpperDeck games which you may not have been aware of.

PDF Bring Out Yer Dead    PDF Contest of Champions Battlerealm    PDF Dread Draw    PDF Dungeon Draft    PDF Firefly Shiny Dice     
PDF Quest for the Antidote   PDF Shark Island   PDF The Crow: Fire It Up!   PDF The Dingo Ate the Baby    PDF Legendary Encounters - Alien     
PDF Legendary Encounters - Alien Expansion   PDF Legendary Encounters – Firefly   PDF Legendary Encounters - Predator   
PDF Legendary – Big Trouble in Little China   PDF Legendary – Buffy the Vampire Slayer   PDF Legendary - Captain America 75th   
PDF Legendary – Champions  PDF Legendary – Civil War  PDF Legendary - Core Set  PDF Legendary- Dark City   PDF Legendary – Deadpool   
PDF Legendary – Fantastic Four   PDF Legendary - Fear Itself  PDF Legendary - Guardians of the Galaxy  PDF Legendary – Marvel Noir 
PDF Legendary - Paint The  Town Red  PDF Legendary - Secret Wars v1  PDF Legendary - Secret Wars v2   PDF Legendary – X-Men 
PDF Legendary – Spider-Man Homecoming  PDF Legendary- Villains  PDF Vs System 2PCG – A-Force  PDF Vs System 2PCG – Legacy
PDF Vs System 2PCG – Brotherhood of Mutants PDF Vs System 2PCG – Deadpool & Friends   PDF Vs System 2PCG – The Defenders   
PDF Vs System 2PCG – Monsters Unleashed   PDF Vs System 2PCG – New Mutants  PDF Vs System 2PCG – The Alien Battles  
PDF Vs System 2PCG - The Marvel Battles  PDF Vs System 2PCG – The Predator Battles  PDF Vs System 2PCG – SHIELD vs Hydra

 

The first thing each player should do is create (aka 'build') their own deck, that is personalise the 100 cards you are given for your side down to 60 cards. Building your deck needs certain amounts of information. There are rules to Deck Building that can be found on page 32 of the Rules book. There are two Universes for the VS System, Photographic (like this Buffy pack) and Illustrated (like the majority of the VS system) and according to UpperDeck you are not allowed to mix cards from each universe to form a deck, ie only Phot cards in a deck or only Illustrated cards in a deck, not some of each - no idea why because I couldn't see any difference in the card's use for the game but rules are rules so they say. If you are using just the cards from this Buffy pack then this is nothing to worry about. Cards should generally have the same Team Affiliation (icon in Top Right corner of card - noted above as 'Team'); some Locations and Plot Twists have a specific Team Affiliation, others are not specified for any Team. There are other Vs 2CPG card sets that are made up of photograph cards, many of these are from the recent films like the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy etc. You are okay mixing these with your Buffy cards, though I'm not sure how well they would mix with them because of the different settings and themes even though they are photo cards, but Buffy (and the Scoobies) versus Thanos (and his underlings) could be quite interesting in its own inimitable way. I suppose that Buffy and the Scoobies fight monsters such as Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, Witches etc but many of the other decks with photo cards are Sci-fi and thus would set Buffy up against aliens using technology and weapons beyond even the scope of Sunnyvale.

It helps to know your opponent when building your deck. If you know what they are likely to put in their deck then you can build a deck to rival it. Of course guessing how another player is going to build and gearing your deck to be a direct rival deck can go well wrong if your opponent deliberately leads you to think one way while they are taking another route. With only using 60% of the cards available to you there is plenty of scope to create your deck so that it is fun, playable, challenging and with a good opportunity to win no matter what the opposition deck is composed of. Deck building is not the game but it is a large part of it.

The Buffy Battles pack suggests two 60 card decks for players to begin with. These are fairly well balanced so that you can learn the rules, plus tricks, combinations and how to play, better as you progress. It is a 'battle' game so you will be attempting to damage your opponent's deck so that you can eventually KO their Main Character - don't forget they will also be attempting to do the same to you.

The Decks suggested have Buffy as the Main Character on one side and The Master on the Evil side, not Angelus as you might expect; this is probably because one of Buffy's first major villains in the TV series was indeed The Master and Angel didn't go all 'Vampy' until later. Both decks have 31 Supporting Characters, Willow, Faith, Riley & Spike helping Buffy, with Evil versions of Faith, Spike & Angel among those on the Master's side. Both sides also have 20 Locations (4 each of 5 with only The Library exclusive to Buffy and Hellmouth exclusive to the Master - the other 4 x 4 are all duplicate sets) and 9 Plot Twists (2, 2, 2, & 3 duplicating 'Life on the Hellmouth'). Apart from being two well balanced, rules learning, beginner's decks these are great examples of how to use the cards in your 100 and thus good decks to begin playing with even if you are already accustomed to the VS System 2PCG.

 

Things to remember are that you only need one Main Character for each side, but many of the 'leads' available also can be found as Supporting Characters. You need to include several cards that you don't mind losing as Resources so make sure you have enough cards that you don't mind not using. Try to ensure that the Supporting characters you select can actually support each other and your Main Hero/Villain. To really build a great deck you need to read and study every card and cross reference them with each other. Of course this takes time but it is what many CCG/TCG players live for. Others, like me, choose their cards by the Character's names and/or because they like the look of the pictures (illustrations or photographs). This isn't the wisest way to create a winning deck - believe me, I know, because I lose most games when I play with a deck designed this way, but I have a lot of fun while losing - this doesn't mean I like losing, it just means that the game is that enjoyable that win or lose it is still fun.

You can find the BUFFY BATTLES and other VS Sytsem 2PCG boxed sets at your local Game Store  

The two cards below are not of this set (obvously, the are Guardians of the Galaxy) but they show how Illustration and Photograph cards are equally as interesting. What they do not show is the reason why you are not allowed to mix the two card types together in a single deck. They are the same size and have similar information in the same positions on the cards, but there must be a feasible reason otherwise UpperDeck wouldn't say they shouldn't mix.

 
             Star-Lord Illustration                                                 Star-Lord Photograph

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015