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Thursday, December 15, 2022

Cryptozoic Challenge of the Superfriends Card Game

Christmas came a bit early this year. Someone who knows me very well gifted me the Challenge of the Superfriends card game by Cryptozoic, knowing that I'm a pretty big fan of any game based on retro DC comic properties.  

Front of box

This is not a new game -- it was released in 2019 and I tried to convince Cryptozoic to send me a sample copy to review for this webzine [ha!] but had no luck. Them's the breaks. Anyone who tells you that blogging is a lucrative side hustle probably isn't referring to DC in the 80s. I like Cryptozoic and when I was experiencing an impulsive DC trading card collecting binge back in 2016 I picked up a few of their trading card sets which I reviewed here, here and here. They produce quality products, and I think they're based out of Montreal, and I know writer Martin Pasko was working with them in some capacity for a while before he passed away. Cryptozoic also created a few board games (i.e., Ghostbusters) and DC comics Deck-Building games that seemed to resonate with fans, so I was curious to see what Challenge of the Superfriends was going to be like. Truthfully, this was on my radar to pick up -- but life got in the way and I completely forgot about it. Better late than never.

Back of box

First up: this is NOT a Deck-Building game. It plays 2 to 4 players, and each player gets 10 power cards to play with throughout the game. In contrast, a Deck-Building game has players start with a small number of cards, but as the game progresses, you add cards to your deck thus altering your strategy. This just means that you only need to buy Challenge of the Superfriends to play it -- it's a complete game, and there are no expansions necessary/available. This is it.    


The game comes with 82 cards: four 10-card Player decks, one 10-card Challenge deck, and one 32-card Objective deck. The Challenge and Objective decks go in the middle. Each player picks a Player deck. You have four Player decks to choose from: Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Batman & Robin. Each Player deck has three Special cards unique to the character, while the other seven are cards that every other Player deck has as well. 

In this scenario, there are three players -- one picked the Superman Player deck, another picked the Aquaman Player deck and the third player picked the Wonder Woman Player deck.

Okay, now that each player picked a Player deck, give your 10 cards a shuffle, pick 3 for your hand and don't show anyone. Now you're ready to play.


This game is based on an old playing card game we all played as kids because we didn't really have the patience or strategic thinking to play cribbage or gin or any other games that required more complexity and understanding of statistics. It was a game called 'war' and was usually played against another opponent who had a stack of cards equal to your cards, and you'd both just simultaneously flip playing cards and the highest-valued playing card would win the 'match'. Challenge of the Superfriends is 'war', but with more reading involved.

Okay, you're all sitting at the table and paying attention? Good. Flip a number of cards from the Objective cards face-side up on the table proportional to the amount of players playing. There's two of you playing? Flip two cards face-side up. There's three of you? Flip three cards face-side up. If there's a card with a negative value face-side up on your first round, put it to the side and flip another card until all cards face-side up have positive values. Shuffle those negative value cards back into your deck. You only do this for your first round

Three players = three Objective cards flipped up. Since Grundy is worth the most points, the dominant strategy is to win Grundy by playing the most powerful card. Second place would most likely grab Manta, and third place would end up with Cheetah. 

Okay, you've got x Objective cards face-side up? And they're all positive value? Great. Each player selects a card from their 3-cards in hand, puts in face down on the table, and then you'll all flip your cards at once. Just like 'war'. And, just like 'war', the highest value card wins, and that player gets first pick of which face-side up Objective card they want to add to their score pile. 

In this case, the Superman player flipped a Green Lantern card, the Aquaman player flipped the Flash card, and the Wonder Woman player flipped the Hawkman card. Green Lantern is worth '10', so he's the highest value in play. Ordinarily, he'd win the match and get first pick.

...but wait, there's more! As Player cards are flipped, there's text on the card that needs to be resolved -- sometimes the outcome will give you a bonus, screw over an opponent, or a bit of both. Some cards are only activated if you are the first player. Sometimes this will involve giving someone (even yourself) a Challenge card. Challenge cards typically aren't good things, so try to avoid receiving them. It's usually a negative modifier or something that will make your gameplay slightly more challenging. Objective cards with negative values will also have text on them, but that only starts to be an issue round two and beyond.

Hawkman's card says that he can swap for another player's card with an even value, so...

The Wonder Woman player now has the Green Lantern card, and Superman now has the Hawkman card. The Wonder Woman player also needs to pick up a Challenge card, as per Green Lantern's card text.

One last thing: If, while flipping your Power cards, two or more players play a card with the same value then it's a tie. The tie-breaker will be whoever has the highest secondary number following their primary number. 

If the Superman player and Wonder Woman player had both played their Green Lanterns, it would've been a tie since both are equal to 10... they'd both need to compare the secondary number to determine the tie-breaker. Superman's Green Lantern has a higher secondary number than Wonder Woman's Green Lantern, so Superman would win this one. Note: both player still need to pick up a Challenge card, as per Green Lantern's text.

Okay, that's everything you need to know. Play for six rounds. and the player with the most points in their score pile at the end wins the game.


The first time I played this game, out-of-the-box, was with one other player as we were 'test-driving it', so to speak. We read the rules, and did our best to follow the gameplay as outlined in the rulebook. Our first few rounds involved a lot of reading as we were trying to determine in what order the text on various Player, Objective and Challenge cards activated (hint: some are activated 'when revealed', some are conditional, and some last until next round) and what to do if a specific scenario came up where two or more text cards contradicted each other. Thankfully, the rulebook included in the game had all the answers -- and it was only 12 small pages. After a few rounds, we quickly got the hang of the game and then it was off to the races. 

After a few games a third player joined us. Of note: it's way easier to learn this game when someone shows you how to play. The game got a lot more interesting when there were three of us playing. We weren't able to recruit a fourth player, but played a few rounds and had a good time nonetheless. I'd describe the game as spontaneous and hard to strategize for. It's really a quick, chaotic little game. 


Alright, first of all, Cryptozoic wisely decided to go with the third season of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon: there was a larger cast of villains, more heroes, and Marvin & Wendy were noticeably absent (and replaced by the far more interesting Wonder Twins). Thankfully, the third season of the cartoon also saw more of the recently-introduced Apache Chief, Black Vulcan and Samurai featured in episodes. They're ALL accounted for in this game -- so, I'm very pleased with that.

The game's 4 starting Player decks (Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batman & Robin) make sense since these were the 'original' Superfriends. The three specials in each Power deck are aptly thematic to the characters, and the designers picked some of the most meme-worthy images. 

That Batman & Robin 'Batmobile' Special is easily one of the best specials in the game -- if you can pull it off. The key thing about this game is that you can select which card to put down AFTER seeing the flipped-up Objective cards you are 'warring' for.

At a quick glance, all villains are represented in the Objectives deck and net you points based on their notoriety -- with Lex Luthor yielding you 15 points for his capture and Toyman getting you the least (3 points).

The Objective cards that DON'T feature villains are ones based on episodes, cost you points and will do something to change gameplay. So, things like this card, based on an episode I don't remember, will cost you 10 points if you have to pick it up, but also subtracts 2 from the value of everyone's Special cards played this round when it's flipped over:

This is an Objective card with a negative modifier.

I did mention Challenge cards, and they do quirky little things to your detriment. The didn't get very creative with these -- it's just white text on a purple background:


I really liked this game and can't think of any way that it could've been improved. It wasn't terribly complex, it only took 30 seconds to set up, the cards and box were very good quality, the game didn't last very long, and the designers obviously had knowledge of the Superfriends cartoon and how the characters interacted.

While this game is probably best played with people who grew up watching the cartoon, the two other players I played with had little to knowledge of the Superfriends and enjoyed it regardless. This is one of those games you play when you're killing time -- either on a coffee break, waiting for a plane, or waiting for your dinner to get delivered.

I also think this game would also be great to play with an elementary school student who is learning about addition and subtraction and has moderate reading skills -- it definitely exercises your logical order/sequence thinking.

What could Cryptozoic possibly do to add to this? I don't know... maybe an expansion integrating characters and episodes from The Galactic Guardians? Maybe get Firestorm and Cyborg in there? Darkseid, Desaad, Kalibak and some Parademons? Maybe that scarier-looking T-800 Brainiac? Hard to say: the game seems to perfectly balanced that I'd be hesitant to add something to alter the dynamics. 

Anyways, highly recommended. I hope Cryptozoic does more with the Superfriends IP someday. 


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