Marvel Champions is a one to four player superhero game where players take on the role of one of five Marvel heroes to battle it out against one of three villains. Play as Captain Marvel, Spiderman, She-Hulk, Black Panther or Iron Man and face off against Rhino, Klaw, or Ultron.
During a player's turn, they will play cards. Cards are played by paying a cost in the form of discarding other cards from your hand. They then activate cards and perform a number of actions all in an attempt to defeat the “big bad” and to thwart his schemes. Players can also switch from alter ego to hero form once per turn, as well as activate their characters special ability and basic recovery. Once a player has performed all of their actions it passes to the next player. They repeat the process until all players have performed their actions.
Next is the villain phase. During the villain phase, threat is added on the main scheme based on player count. Then the villain will either attack (if you are in hero form) or scheme (if you are in alter ego form). When they attack, or scheme, a boost card is revealed from the encounter deck and added to the Villian’s base attack/scheme value. Each player (in turn order) is then dealt an encounter card. Any minions in play will also attack or scheme.
As well as hero specific cards players will construct their deck with “basic” cards and choose one of the aspects their character will play; Leadership, Protection, Aggression and Justice. All the heroes and aspects are interchangeable.
Each hero also has an obligation that is added to the enemies encounter deck and must be dealt with if it is revealed and hero specific nemeses are set aside. The enemies also have a side scheme that is added to the enemies encounter deck.
Play continues this way with the hero phase then the villain phase until either the villain has been reduced to zero health and the heroes win, or the main scheme has enough threat to end the game or all heroes health has been reduced to zero.
Thinking like Marvel Champions
I am not a seasoned LCG player. I have played the core Arkham Horror core box and that is about it. So I will not be comparing the gameplay to Arkham Horror or The Lord of the Rings LCGs (much) and I am coming this from a “novice” point of view when it comes to LCGs.
Marvel Champions has a lot of variability and replayability straight out of the box. There are five heroes, four aspects and three villains so there is a lot of combinations and permutations to experiment with. In addition to this, there are various side schemes and nemeses that can be added to the encounter deck to further increase replayability. Each villain also has an additional “expert” card that can be played with to increase the difficulty.
As with all LCGs, there are going to be a lot of extra expansions and card packs over the coming months/years. FFG have the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to go at so there is a lot of potential. The replayability and the scope is almost endless and I am very much looking forward to seeing what is coming next.
But how does it fare as a game? Well, I played this 14 times in the first 10 days. Often playing single or double-handed solo games. It is fantastic. I am struggling to think of what other game might beat this as game of the year for me. It is quick to play (especially solo) and feels streamlined compared to Arkham Horror, which I have played minimally.
The game feels very thematic with the obligations on point with the character. For example, Spiderman’s obligation is his eviction notice which ties in with the films and his character.
The use of the hero and alter-ego form is a very interesting mechanism. When in hero form the villain/minion will attack your hero and deal you damage. However, when in alter-ego form the villain/minions will scheme and add threat to the scheme. You can make some interesting and tactical choices of when to switch from one form to the other. The hand limit also changes depending on which form you are in. For example, Tony Stark’s hand limit is six but when in Iron Man form it will depend on the number of tech upgrades. Again this feels very thematic.
There are a lot of keywords and some edge case rules which might confuse players at first or when certain combinations of cards come up, but I think this is the nature of LCGs in general. In the instances where I have been unsure I have just go with what makes sense. After a few plays though the game feels smooth and streamlined.
Each of the heroes feels and plays differently and comes with their own play style. Add into that the different aspects, villains and side schemes and you have a different feeling game each time.
Marvel Champions, for me, is the LCG that I didn’t know I wanted. I love the universe, enjoy the solo game as well as playing with others. Personally, I like the cooperative nature of it and how thematic it feels. I can see this one growing. Not just in content, but in my love for the game over the coming months/years. Just need to defeat Klaw and then Ultron and I will be ready for more villains.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on 09/12/2019. Updated on 09/09/2021 to improve the information available.