The Good, The Bad and The Lantern
The first DC offering, the “Justice League” set presented you with characters from across the broad sweep of DC’s history, including familiar faces from the endless Batman / Superman reboots to be found on TV, and the various series knocking around on Sky at the moment from Arrow / The Flash.
“War of Light” is a bit different, zooming in on a particular event (albeit a fairly large, multi-title event) in DC history.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should say at this point, that my familiarity with DC comics is much more limited than my knowledge of Marvel, and most of my DC knowledge is around Batman and the folks of Gotham, or related to Arrow/Flash and often filtered through the TV version of things. As a result, when I cracked open War of Light, there were large numbers of characters I had simply never heard of.
However, that isn’t why I think this set is the weakest one of the superhero sets we’ve seen so far.
The set feels like it’s lacking in a coherent aim, and dabbles in different areas without really committing to one, at the same time as showing significant inconsistency with previous sets. For example, Green Lantern: Hal Jordan is swapped around in terms of character and card title, with the previous version lacking a Lantern Corps affiliation and the new lacking a Justice League marker.
Overall there are (roughly) 8 characters from the previous DC set being re-implemented here, but there is fairly little continuity – The Flash still has a variation on the “If X, the Flash cannot be blocked whilst attacking alone” (like super-rare Wolverine, only much worse) but most of the others (Atom, Batman, “Green Lantern” Lantern [Power] Ring, Lex Luthor, Sinestro, and Wonder Woman) go in fairly new directions.
Most Lantern characters (which is almost everybody in this set) have at least one version which either works in very close synergy with your other lanterns, or else targets your opponent’s lanterns. Generally speaking, this set feels a lot more self-referential than most of the previous ones – like it’s been designed with the Rainbow Draft format in mind, rather than for mixing into open / constructed formats. (This is particularly ironic given the recent Rainbow Draft Weekend, where retailers were required to buy in stock for older sets rather than being encouraged to run the event out of War of Light.)
At the moment, at least in our local meta, there’s very little I’ve seen that would persuade me to run any Lantern hate in a team – which is potentially a good reason to run an all-lantern build! Of course, it’s worth keeping things in perspective, and remembering that official release for this set was less than a week ago, so those of us who only collect this game piecemeal (rather than the folk who pre-order cases) will take a while to build up a collection.
The dice in this set are quite unusual. Generally speaking, the quality is good – no return to the bodged paint-jobs of AvX, although the colour choices are sometimes unusual, particularly with returning characters like Batman or Green Lantern whose dice are incredibly similar whilst slightly different.
There are also A LOT of pink dice – which seems to tie in somewhat to the Star Sapphires, one of the key affiliations of this set – this is purely an aesthetic thing, but it does make War of Light stand out from previous dice spreads
At some point in the design process, DC must have had to sit down and decide whether or not to include the “Teen Titans” in this set. I’m not really sure what they decided: there are four characters with this affiliation, making 12 versions in all, and 6 of those (all three Starfires, 2 Ravens and 1 Wonder Girl) have powers that key off of other Teen Titans in some way. For example, the Super-Rare Starfire deal a damage to your opponent for each other Teen Titan you have active when she attacks – which might be a nice ability if it wasn’t maxed out at 3!
In this set, there are various cards which allow you to use energy sitting in your reserve pool to your advantage. This can take the form of directly damaging your opponent or preventing damage, either by outright cancellation, or by redirecting it onto characters. It can provide dice acceleration or buy action dice at a reduced rate, or even alter where dice go when you buy them.
This feels like it could be the most enduring aspect of the new set, both in terms of future effects like these, and making it more viable to run a global-heavy team.
For me, where this idea of holding onto excess energy gets really interesting when you get to the Lantern Ring and Power Battery. While active, the rare ring allows each of your characters to do one damage to your opponent for each energy symbol in your reserve pool that matches their type. This feels like it has massive potential: if you’re running a team heavily based around a particular energy type, which is doing lots of attacking, then suddenly every time you fail to roll a character face, that energy turns straight into direct damage to your opponent.
This mechanic doesn’t feel fully developed yet, but it’s certainly one with potential that I hope we’ll see developed further at a later point.
The component quality is high – even if the pinkness of the dice isn’t to your personal taste. Whilst the similarity of dice (with previous sets) might frustrate some, it does make it slightly easier to use them as proxies for casual play.
This set has some nice Villain options – there are some interesting possibilities with Sinestro (slightly less synergistic than the Justice League version, but perhaps more versatile) and some playable low-cost options for Lex Luthor – I can see this making a major difference long-term, as I’ve generally found the main difficulty with putting together a viable Villain build is the lack of cheap characters: you either take non-villains to buy early and ramp, or you just struggle to buy things.
There are enough higher-cost mid/late-game cards which can hurt an opponent based on the number of different villains you control that even a blank 2-cost villain might be worth a look, although personally, I think I’m likely to go for the 3-cost version that can draw you an extra dice.
The cards which play around with energy in your Reserve Pool are also interesting, and seem like they’d offer a good incentive to put together a build which made more creative use of globals. I haven’t had much chance to try them out yet, but certainly hope to soon.
The Iconography in this set is a best fussy, and at worst just plain confusing – there are 6 or so different “Lantern Corps” each with their own suspiciously similar icon which works fine in full size and colour at the top of the card, but is often hard to distinguished when miniaturised in black and white for card-text.
Lanterns only: Too many character abilities that work work with/against Lanterns – for the 5th superhero set (7th overall) there seems to be too little utility to running these dice outside of restricted formats. For a game that is putting out a very large quantity of new product, we want to be able to actually use the cards and dice in our games, rather than just collecting for collecting’s sake.
Teen Titans don’t feel viable as a build, with only 4 unique characters, but fully half of the different character versions available offer no benefit whatsoever unless they are being used a part of a concerted attempt to construct a Teen Titans build.
If you’re playing Dice Masters competitively, you’ll get this set, same as the others. There are certainly some cards of interest here, but for the most part, this feels like most of the cards and dice will only be usable in restricted formats. Time may well uncover a few gems, particularly for those seeking cheap-early game options for their villains build, but I don’t expect to be using many of these in 6 months time.