TableTopTakes: Marvel Champions
Yes, I did just do a Board Game Battle and a Beyond the Box Cover for Marvel Champions, but I’ve had a chance to play it a handful of times now, with a few different heroes and villains, solo and multiplayer, so I think that it’s time to come back to Marvel Champions and write up my full thoughts and review of it. But, if you’ve checked out the Board Game Battle, you’ll already have some idea.
Marvel Champions is a cooperative superhero game where you play as a superhero who is trying to thwart the plans of a villain and defeat them. On the heroes turn, you can play cards that might be an ally or give you an additional ability or allow you to thwart the villains scheme or attack the villain. But these cards cost resources, and to get the resources to play these cards, you need to discard cards, so while you might want to play all the cards in your hand because they do something good, you are limited in number to how many you can play because they are going to cost, and the better cards cost more. Then the villain goes, and depending on if you are in the alter-ego side of the superhero side of the character card, they will either work on their scheme or they’ll attack you. Plus, then you need to encounter a card, it might be a henchmen that you need to take care of, otherwise they’ll be pinging you for damage, or it could be treachery card where it causes some other action to happen, like scheming or attacking again. This goes on until either the villain has completed their plan or the hero has taken out the villain. If the superhero takes out the villain, the heroes win, but each villain has two versions that you have to face off against, so taking them down once isn’t enough.
This game does some really interesting things. First, let me say that one of the big things about the game is that it’s a living card game. That means that there are expansions coming out. In the base game, you have plenty to play with Ultron and Rhino as villains and the likes of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, She-Hulk, and Spider-Man as villains. But the expansions give you new characters or villains to face off against. You can get Green Goblin so that you have to worry about him and his glider in a fight, and you can get Captain America to face off against him. There are other heroes like Ms Marvel, Black Widow, Thor, Doctor Strange, and Hulk that have been announced or are out. All these expansions, and a Red Skull campaign expansion coming sometime this summer, can make the game more expensive, but also you don’t need them all, if you don’t care about Hulk and Ms Marvel, don’t pick them up, and you can still have a great game with lots of fun things in it. And while the expansions are pretty consistently coming out, they aren’t that expensive, which is nice.
But let’s talk about some of the other cool things, first there is the alter-ego and superhero piece. It’s really clever and gives it a great comic book feel, in my opinion. In the comics (I’m going to mainly be using Spider-Man as an example), it’s common for Spider-Man to get knocked around, Peter Parker then needs to rest and recover, which he can, because people don’t know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but the villain, thinking that they’ve defeated Spider-Man will scheme and plot and get closer to their goal, when Spider-Man then shows up again to stop them. The flipping between sides, alter-ego and superhero, is very much that feeling. Each hero has things that they can do when they are on their alter-ego side and their superhero side that are different as well. For example, Captain America, when he’s in alter-ego form, he can recruit allies easier, but when he’s on the Captain America side, he can un-exhaust so that he can do more actions. So it make sense, Steve Rogers/Captain America is the leader of the Avengers often, so he can go out and recruit a hero, and he also never gets knocked down and out of a fight, so he’s always ready to attack and then un-exhaust and do it again, as he says…
And each hero has their own things like that, which fits their character and makes them unique from the rest of the heroes.
Another cool thing is that the heroes have different aspects to them, and you can change this up. So maybe you want Spider-Man to be more protection cards, you can give him more defensive cards in his deck. That way he’ll be able to stay in Spider-Man form longer and not have to flip back and forth between the two as much. Or maybe you want him to be aggressive you can change out his aspect to that, or Justice or Leadership. That’s going to give you another way to change up things. I played Captain America with a protection cards, and I was able to stay in the superhero side of things for all but one turn because I was taking damage so slowly. But if you wanted to, you could make Cap very aggressive and he’d deal out a lot of damage fast, or leadership makes thematic sense because he often leads the avengers. So you can mess around with deck building that way to create what type of team you want to play with.
Are there any downsides to the game? It takes a few minutes to set-up and if you aren’t familiar with deck building you might just be stuck with the decks that they recommend or you might have some weird deck builds that happen. But you can learn how to do better deck building. I think that the one downside right now is that it is hard to find the expansions, they aren’t printing enough and it takes some time to get a reprint done, and with COVID-19 as well, that could delay the reprints as well. Right now I have the Wrecking Crew villain expansion and Thor character expansion, but those are basically sold out as well. But, with that said, those packs will show up again, and there is enough in the base box that it’s worth it to just grab that and play and learn with those characters.
Now, I’ve done some comparisons already, and that’s in the Board Game Battle with Marvel Legendary, so is there room for both on your shelf, I think if you like Legendary, you will probably will find that this is different enough, and vice-a-versa. But I also want to bring up the other living card games that Fantasy Flight has put out, there is Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Arkham Horror. So how does this compare to the one that I’ve played, Arkham Horror? I think that it’s close between the two, if you go back to my deck building/construction article yesterday for Top 10 in that genre, you can see that Marvel Champions is the spot above, however, it’s close. I like the story driven nature of Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and that’s something that I do miss with Marvel Champions, but that is also coming. I think that I just like the superhero theme a little bit better and being able to pull it out for one game. But because one, right now, is a single game and the other is a campaign, I think that there’s room for both on shelves.
Overall, clearly I like this game. I think that it plays well at both 1 and 2 players and offers unique challenges both ways. There is a lot of really interesting things going on in the game, and it feels like a comic book. If you’re at all interested, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. But, with that said, know that the cost could add up over time if you’re a Marvel fanboy/fangirl, like I am. Because I’ll want to get most of it over time. I also think that this can work for a more casual player to pick up and learn. Fantasy Flight does a good job with their rule book, and the game is pretty simple, but still offers good challenges, so this a game that people interested in it will probably be able to understand easily.
Overall Grade: A
Gamer Grade: A
Casual Grade: A-
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!