NHL Power Play Team-Building Card Game

25 Jan

So, this weekend, after a couple year delay thanks to a lockout, the NHL All_Star game finally descended upon Columbus, Ohio. Seeing as how I don’t really like big crowds, I stayed safely away in my house. But, to do my part to spread the hockey gospel, I thought I’d take a look at the NHL Power Play Team-Building Card Game by Cryptozoic.

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In this game, 2-4 players (yes, a sports game that plays more than 2… more on that later) take charge of an NHL team. Starting with just a Captain and a deck of 10 basic cards, players attempt to build the best team possible. The team that is able to score the most goals when the goalie stack runs out wins!

So let’s start out with the fact that the theme here makes no sense at all. Up to four players trying to score goals at the same time? Huh? Now, if this were a cybersport game,, and all the players were robots, I might be able to accept this. But basically they are trying to get us to buy the concept that up to four players are trying to score goals at the same time. It’s unfortunate because the underlying game is solid…but there’s a good reason for that.

This game is barely more than a retheme of the popular DC Deck Building game (which is also the same as the Street Fighter Deck Building Game…beaten horse: near death). If you look at the games side-by-side, it gets even more plain that in most cases, they just changed the art on the cards, and the terminology in the text box. I do want to set that aside for now, and look at how the game works.

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Each player is given an oversized captain card, and a starter deck of cards. Each captain has an ability to help guide the general direction that your deck should follow. These aren’t hard and fast rules, and in fact, if the main draw deck comes up the wrong way…you may never even use your captain’s ability.

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In the middle of the table, there is a line of cards flipped up that designate skills your team can learn, special maneuvers you can teach them, and star players that you can recruit to join your team. These players are broken into attackers and defenders. Interesting thing to note: there are cards representing the captains, so it is totally possible for another player to use your own captain against you. Another time when just plain laziness sticks it’s head into the design.

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After a while, you are going to have purchased enough players and skills that you are going to want to take a shot on goal. This is when the goalie stack, and the best component of the game comes into effect. First off, each player gets to play one Defender card in order to make the goalie tougher to beat.

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Then, you play all your cards out, and you’ll get a “Power” number… because yes, all that matters in hockey is how hard you shoot the puck… Once you get your number, you look at the top card of the goalie stack.

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It’s an actual goal! It holds the goalie stack of cards.

If your power is greater than the goalie’s ability, then you score a goal! The goal card is placed under your captain as a kind of trophy. The game then keeps going until either all the goalies have been defeated, or one player has scored more goals than any other player is able to.

I know I’ve been negative in this review, but that’s because I had fairly high hopes for this game. I know I wasn’t a big fan of Cryptozoic’s 3012 game, but I like the DC Deck Building game quite a bit. And I still feel that there is a chance for this game, but it has the wrong focus as it is.

I just love this picture

I just love this picture

I’ve already gone over how it makes zero sense for four players to be trying to score goals at the same time. Plus, if one player gets shut out early, what incentive do they have to keep playing except kingmaking? I’ve seen that happen, and it’s a pretty lousy feeling for the eliminated player to have to keep going when it’s 100% certain that they cannot win.

I would love to see a game like this, but instead of the focus being on one game, I would like to see one that simulates a season. Build your team, and then at some point, there’s a showdown to see which team has the most wins, and wins the Stanley Cup, or makes the playoffs…something like that.

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One final thing. I really wish Cryptozoic would use better card stock. These cards are flimsy – the “Promo” Zdeno Chara card included in my game got bent because the plastic wrapper it was sealed in was too tight. Plus, black cards backs getting shuffled incessantly? These will start chipping and getting worn very quickly.

With all that being said, I still kind of like the game. The DC Deck Building system is a simple one, but it’s a good one. I do feel like I’m building a team here. The effects all work decently well together. I like the addition of being able to throw defenders into the way of a shot. I love the high action artwork. However, I don’t know if I’ll ever play it as more than a 2-player game ever again. Once you add more players, the fact that this game system wasn’t intended for a hockey game begins to show through. If I’m playing a 2-player deck building game, I’m most likely going to play Star Realms, since so few of my friends that play games also like hockey.

Cryptozoic has stated that they intend to support this game with 1-2 expansions per season. It’ll be interesting to see if they do anything to functionally change the way the game plays over time.

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2 Responses to “NHL Power Play Team-Building Card Game”

  1. roktikitiki February 26, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    Thanks for the review. I am also a big fan of the DC Deck Building game, and was intrigued by this game. The way that it is played is completely different than what I had expected. It appears that Crypozoic is trying to reach different demographics to basically play the same game with just slightly different mechanics. I have the Hobbit Deck Building game with the Desolation of Smaug expansion and that is different enough that it feels like like a completely different game. I may have to give this one a try as well.

    • scooterb23 March 1, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

      Thanks for the comment!

      I’ve never tried the Hobbit game. I may have to give it a look. I saw a comment on BoardGameGeek that Cryptozoic is still working on the expansion that was supposed to be out at the All-Star Break, and that they are functionally one expansion behind already,

      I just hope that expansion, and the one after it (that was supposed to be coming out around playoff time) do make it out. I want to give the full game another chance before relegating it to the dustbin next to 3012.

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