10 Reasons Why You Should be Playing Vs. System (Or How to Convince Your Friends to Play)

By Melody Maysonet

I admit it. I was once a junkie of another trading card game. I had tried playing other TCGs, but none of them held up to what I considered one of the best games ever invented. Either the mechanics of the other games were copycats, or the theme of the cards didn’t interest me (robots . . . vampires . . . squiggly-puffs?).

Then an acquaintance introduced me to Vs. System. This guy had been an avid player of that other TCG too, but he convinced my husband and I that Vs. was a better game. We’d been getting bored with our old standby (and my husband was tired of his “mana screw” curse), so we bought a Vs. starter set and learned how to play.

If you read Metagame.com, you probably already play Vs. System, so I don’t need to tell you why it’s such a great game. But maybe you have a friend who needs convincing. Maybe your friend is a fan of that “other TCG” and refuses to play any others. Or maybe your friend doesn’t play TCGs. Maybe he’s not a gamer at all. Whatever the case, link your friend to this article (preferably while he’s at work so he doesn’t feel like he’s taking up his free time to read it) and let him read for himself the ten reasons why he (or she) should play Vs. System.



I hate learning new games. Playing games should be fun, so who wants to take up valuable fun time to study a rulebook? But learning to play Vs. wasn’t like that. I learned to play with the X-Men vs. Brotherhood starter set (there are other starter sets available, too), which comes with two theme decks and a blessedly brief and easy-to-read rulebook. My husband and I read the rules through once and were ready for our first trial game. After only one game, during which we referred to the rulebook a couple of times to clarify some things, we were ready to open some booster packs and cobble together our own decks.

If you don’t want to buy a starter set to learn the game, or if you like interacting with a computer, you can let Professor Xavier of the X-Men (you know, the bald guy in the wheelchair) teach you on ude.com/marvel. Just go to the Learn to Play section and click on Demo, and Xavier will coach you through a simulation game, explaining the rules as you go. (Note: You can do this at work, too. Just be careful not to get caught, or else you might have to do some kind of superpower mind wipe on your boss.)



Like chess, Vs. System is easy to learn but difficult to master, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s such an amazing game. Looking back at the first few games I played, I realize that I didn’t fully understand the importance of where you place your characters in play. But it didn’t matter, because I didn’t need to know that to play the game. The point is that novices can enjoy Vs. just as thoroughly as experts. It’s multi-faceted enough that you can play it on many different levels, so don’t worry about trying to “catch up” to your friends’ level of play. Just remember that all Vs. players were once scrubs.



Vs. designers did a great job of mirroring the cards’ mechanics with the worlds of Marvel and DC. Character cards “act” like the characters for which they are named. Hulk and Thing character cards, for example, are stronger than most other characters of the same cost because in the world of Marvel, Hulk and Thing are physically powerful. Likewise, Superman character cards can fly, because everyone knows that Superman flies. As another example, Invisible Woman, the Invisible Girl can negate an attack on herself, because someone who’s invisible should be able to evade an attack. The character Bizarro, Imperfect Duplicate can actually switch his own attack (ATK) and defense (DEF) values, because he’s bizarre, of course. And for added flavor, the card’s “foil” version flips the card, as though you’re looking at it in a mirror.

Other cards called plot twists throw curve balls into the game to help change the outcome of the “story.” Take Acrobatic Dodge, for example. The picture on the card shows Daredevil in a cartwheel-like pose while bullets fly around him. The card itself weakens a defending character’s ATK (because someone dodging wouldn’t pack as powerful a punch) but strengthens the character’s DEF (because someone who’s dodging would be harder to hit). Likewise, It’s Clobberin’ Time! temporarily strengthens a character’s ATK and DEF. And to reinforce the concept of clobbering, the picture shows a very mean-looking Hulk and an equally mean-looking Thing, both with fists clenched as though they’re ready to pummel.



For starters, the character battles in Vs. System mimic real battles. In a military battle, it makes sense to have soldiers on the front line and soldiers in the rear to support them. Likewise, each Vs. player’s “battlefield” consists of a front row and a support row. Characters in the support row are protected by characters in front, but because support row characters are in back, they (usually) can’t attack. Then again, some characters (like Superman) can fly, so logically, he can fly over the opponent’s front row to attack characters in the support row. Similarly, some characters, like Boomerang, have range, which means they can attack from the support row. After all, Boomerang wouldn’t be Boomerang if he couldn’t attack from a distance.

Also like a real battle, characters pick and choose who they want to attack, and they attack one character at a time rather than attacking a whole swarm of defenders. Characters who are allied (who share the same team, such as Fantastic Four) can team attack another character or reinforce each other so that the attack doesn’t break through to you, the player.

And as in real battles, the characters get to move around. Every turn, each player gets a chance to rearrange her characters in a way that (she hopes) will strengthen her position.



There are several reasons why Vs. will never get boring. First, Upper Deck releases new cards every few months. An influx of new cards means the emergence of new deck types, so you’ll never get tired of playing the same old game. Also, if you play Sealed Pack or Booster Draft, you consistently have new cards from which to build your decks. Each new set of cards also introduces new game mechanics. Marvel Knights, for example, introduced concealed characters that, because they’re hidden, cannot be attacked by another character. As another example, Avengers introduced leader characters, which give bonuses to other characters as long as they’re positioned adjacent to the leader.



Anyone who’s enjoyed reading comic books will be pleased with the fantastic artwork on Vs. cards. Even those who have never opened a comic book in their life can appreciate the depth of talent involved in creating the images on the cards. It’s worth noting that Vs. System doesn’t recycle comic book art. Each card displays a unique piece, many from top-name artists in the comic industry. And the cards feature a wide variety of artistic styles. So whether you like cartoonish-looking characters or paintings that are more realistic or conceptual, you’re bound to find artwork that appeals to your taste.

Likewise, the “flavor” text on Vs. cards (text on the bottom of the card that helps bring out the ambiance of the comic book world but has no bearing on the game itself) is creative and, at times, witty. Often, the flavor text reflects what a character might say in the Marvel or DC storylines. The flavor text on Lex Luthor, President Luthor, for example, reads, “The people chose me, Superman. Not you.” And Hulk, Gamma Rage says simply, “HULK SMASH!!!” The text might also help illustrate a certain location to add flavor. Batcave, for example, reads, “I found this place as a child. The bats were here, even then.”



Any game that has players drawing random cards has some luck involved, but the designers of Vs. System managed to minimize that luck. Many TCGs rely on the luck of the draw to determine whether players can pay costs that allow them to put their cards into play. Often, a player loses a game simply because he didn’t happen to draw the source that would let him pay a card’s cost. But Vs. System doesn’t have that problem. Vs. uses something called resources to pay the cost of characters, plot twists, and other cards. And because any card can be played as a resource, players don’t have to hope that they draw a certain card just to play what’s in their hand.

Vs. further minimizes the luck factor by having players draw two cards a turn rather than one, which doubles the chance that they’ll draw what they need.



Each fourteen-card booster pack contains one rare card. There’s also one foil card in every pack (the front of the card is shiny, similar to aluminum foil). Like baseball cards of old, many of these rare and foil Vs. cards are highly collectible. Some people enjoy simply acquiring the cards, putting them in notebooks, and showing them off. Others like to trade them or sell them on the secondary card market. Many of the cards are valuable enough that people put them in card sleeves to protect them while they play.



How does $40,000 sound? That’s the prize for first place at a UDE Pro Circuit Championship. Cash prizes at each PC are awarded to the top seventy-five players for a total payout of more than $250,000! If you can’t qualify for the Pro Circuit, set your sights on a $10K event, where anyone can participate and the top prize is $2,500 (plus a trophy and cards). Players eighteen years and younger can win $1,000 for college in the Scholarship Circuit. For competition on the local level for some impressive prizes, Hobby League is the way to go. Smaller tournaments (check your local hobby or game store) give out prizes, too, like Vs. T-shirts, deck boxes, booster packs, special collector’s cards, and more.



. . . So fun that I sometimes spend the whole day doing it; so fun that what I consider to be a big Friday night out is actually a Friday night in playing Vs. with my hubbie. So what are you waiting for? If you’re on the computer now, just go to ude.com/marvel and click on the Demo to start learning to play one of the best games in the universe.


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