An ode to VS System Part 1

I wasn’t always this enthusiastic about Heroclix. For several reasons that I won’t talk about at the moment, I wasn’t enjoying the game as much as I should’ve. One of my officemates took advantage and introduced me to another comic book-related game at the time – VS System. VS System was a collectible card game (CCG) that was launched by Upper Deck Entertainment after successfully bringing Yu-Gi-Oh! to the western world.

The VS System card back.

Like Yu-Gi-Oh!, VS System revolved around combat using Character cards, with each card represening a comic book character. A player uses his/her Characters to attack the Characters controlled by his/her opponent. Players lose life points via stun damage (when their Characters get stunned), breakthrough damage (damage that occurs when a defending Character’s Defense Value is lower than an attacking Character’s Attack value) and direct damage. Additional card types included Plot Twists and Locations which usually have effects that influence what happens to the game (e.g. improving Character stats, additional card draw, etc.), as well as Equipment cards that enhance Characters. Unlike other CCGs, players take turns together, with alternating initiative to determine who gets to act first during the turn.

The Spider-Man "7-drop". Considered as one of the best 7 cost characters in the game, 
this was the card that my Spider-Friends deck revolved around. This card has won me A LOT of games.

Characters usually have Affiliations which represent their teams. Using Characters that have the same Affiliation allows the player to use some benefits like being allowed to Team Attack (two or more Characters attacking one opposing Character) and reinforce (supporting a character to prevent breakthrough damage). A lot of game effects resulting from Plot Twists, Locations, Equipment and Character abilities affect specific Affiliations only, so running Characters with the same Affiliations mean that they can maximize the cards in their decks.

By now it should be obvious that I like VS System because of the comic book flavor, but there’s another aspect of the game that I really like. In VS System, the placement of the Character cards actually matter during combat. Depending on where a Character card is placed, a player can successfully fend off an attack with a good formation. This is quite different from Magic: The Gathering (who doesn’t know this game) – unlike Magic where creatures can attack any opposing creatures (makes battles static, in my opinion), in VS System a good formation can help you control attacks. So my opponent wants to attack Lois Lane? I can hide her behind Superman and make my opponent worry about taking down Superman first. You think Robin is safe behind your Batman? Too bad, my Green Goblin can fly over Batman and attack Robin anyway.

When I started VS System, I didn’t think that I’d be playing the game full time. I initially opted to have just one deck that revolved around Spider-Man (my favorite character at the time). I ended up enjoying the game a lot and started to build more decks. Unfortunately, VS System was discontinued and as of this writing, the game is almost dead, barely kept alive by loyal players who continue to support the game by creating their own cards and sets.

I don't think this is a real VS System card.

I’m back to playing Heroclix fulltime, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t miss VS. I can say that it’s the best CCG that I’ve played thus far. Why did such a good game die? I’ll talk about the reasons that I think killed it off next time.


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