The Mad Titan’s Shadow is an expansion set to Marvel Champions. You need to own the core game in order to play this one, so if you haven’t played Marvel Champions before, check out Matt Thomasson's review here Then once you’re hooked like me, come back here to find out what it’s like to fight Thanos!
He Is Inevitable
The Mad Titan’s Shadow presumably refers to the area of darkness created when Thanos stands in the sun. He’s one of the most infamous Marvel villains! Thanos gained mainstream recognition as the big bad of Avengers Infinity War and Endgame. It was inevitable that Marvel Champions players would be given the chance to try and kick his purple butt.
This is the first Marvel Champions expansion that I’ve played, so I was interested to discover that there is more of a story than the base game. The Mad Titan’s Shadow can be played as a campaign, where you try and defeat different villains one after the other whilst playing as the same heroes throughout. How you play one scenario can affect the conditions in later ones. For example, if you defeat a particular minion you can get access to extra cards to add to your deck. On the other hand, if things don’t go so well you might get dealt some extra side schemes to shut down.
Once Upon a Titan
The story is brought to life in the instruction booklet, which includes good-quality comic book panels in between the information pages. As expected, Thanos is on the hunt for the infinity stones and generally up to no good. Before you get a shot at the titular Mad Titan, you have to take out his personal bodyguards, the Black Order.
However, it turns out Thanos isn’t the final boss. Flicking through the cards as I excitedly opened my new game, I found decks for Thor’s troublesome siblings, Hela and Loki. They’re not featured on the box art, so possibly this is intended to be a plot twist, but I reckon a lot of players will do exactly what I did.
New Heroes, Assemble
To take on cosmic villains it helps to have some cosmic heroes. The Mad Titan’s Shadow comes with two pre-built hero decks, Adam Warlock and Spectrum. I’m a big Marvel fan and have read quite a lot of comics as well as the movies and TV shows, but I didn’t know much about these two. I like that Fantasy Flight Games are willing to introduce less well-known characters, which I’ve also noticed in other Marvel Champions packs I own. I’ve discovered quite a few new heroes and villains from the ally and minion cards, which has inspired me to seek out new comics I might have not come across otherwise.
It turns out both of these characters have been at least acknowledged in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Adam was mentioned by name in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and has been cast for the next movie. Spectrum’s alter-ego Monica Rambeau has been featured in Captain Marvel and WandaVision, so we should see live-action versions of these cards soon.
I Think I Shall Call Him...Adam
One thing I’m really enjoying as I buy more Marvel Champions products is that they often bring in new tweaks to the gameplay. Adam’s quirk is that rather than having a deck dedicated to one “aspect” (Aggression, Justice, Protection or Leadership), he’s required to use an equal number of cards from each. The Mad Titan’s Shadow pre-built Adam Warlock deck is handy because building your own multi-aspect one could be intimidating!
There are a couple of other things that make Adam a bit different to other heroes I’ve played as. He has several cards that involve discarding from your deck to do damage or remove threats. It gives the opportunity for big attacks and thwarts. But it also increases the frequency of your deck running out, meaning you get dealt an extra encounter card. However, you will be relying on these cards because he has low basic stats (1 thwart, 1 attack, 2 defence).
Close Encounters of the Good Kind
He also has some cards that you shuffle into the enemy encounter deck, which give benefits when revealed such as removing threats or healing damage. It’s a nice touch that can give you hope in moments when a bad encounter card could really cost you. However, you only have 4 of them, so the odds of revealing one on any given term are quite low. They have a cost of 2, so it’s usually wiser to focus on playing cards that offer a more immediate benefit.
Somewhere Over The Rambeau
At the other end of the hero spectrum for this expansion, we have Spectrum. In the Marvel Universe, she has previously held the mantle of Captain Marvel, and has some similar energy-based abilities. Her Marvel Champions gameplay is shaped around her ability to manipulate different forms of energy, each of which boosts different actions. Gamma form boosts attack, Pulsar form boosts defence and photon form boosts thwarting.
She also has low base stats, so these different energy forms are crucial in your fight against Thanos and his mates. You can’t always choose exactly when to switch, but there are quite a few cards that give you the option and provide extra benefits when you do.
My favourite is Pulsar Shield, which lets you change to pulsar form when you defend, but then allows you to ready Spectrum. I’m usually reluctant to go into defence mode because it leaves you weakened on your turn, and there aren’t many cards I’ve come across that allow you to ready your hero. Another powerful one is Gamma Blast which changes you to gamma form and does 7 damage to an enemy, gaining overkill if you were already in gamma form. Whammy.
Friends With Benefits
Spectrum uses the leadership aspect, which focuses on bringing allies into play and powering them up. Previously when playing with leadership decks I’ve found that it’s still difficult to get good use out of allies, as they are relatively expensive and don’t seem to last long before being knocked out of play.
However, Spectrum’s crew are tougher than others I’ve seen. Captain America can be called upon, who along with Blue Marvel and White Tiger all have 2 thwart and 2 attack. Cap costs 6 resources, but this is reduced by 1 for each ally already in play. Blue Marvel also lets you change energy form when he joins the fight.
One hero I didn’t expect to see was Blade, the vampire hunter who made it to the big screen 10 years before the MCU existed. He’s cool because he doesn’t damage himself when attacking and thwarting. instead you have to spend a resource to keep him in play after a basic action but only costs 1 resource to play so easy to get at least one turn out of him.
A strange thing about Spectrum is that she has the “aerial” trait, but none of the cards in her pre-built deck reference this at all. I’ve previously played with Captain Marvel and Iron Man who have multiple cards that are boosted in power while they’re aerial.
Get Lost Squidward!
So what’s the opposition? First up is Ebony Maw, a smartly-dressed psychic alien. His unique game element is that his encounter deck includes 8 spell environment cards. These are spells that aren’t activated immediately but instead come into play with 2-4 “invocation” counters on them which are removed one at a time on each turn. Once all counters have been removed, one of a number of nasty effects is applied to the heroes, including discarding, damage or exhausting. Each of these cards gain surge so revealing a spell environment isn’t a free pass!
It’s another example of a subtle but effective gameplay tweak. The invocation countdown can’t be stopped, so these spell environment cards induce a sense of dread. I was able to beat Ebony Maw fairly easily although this may have lulled me into a false sense of security...
In Scenario 2 of The Mad Titan’s Shadow, you fight two Black Order baddies at the same time, which is another gameplay element not seen in the base game. They are Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive, two more super-powered aliens with attitude problems. They take turns to activate against you, and you can’t defeat either of them while the other has any hit points remaining (it makes more sense when you play!).
Another tweak to the format here is that there is an Avengers Tower card in play in the villains’ area, which takes damage over time from your enemies’ and some of their encounter cards. Instead of the game ending when the threat reaches a certain level, the heroes lose when the tower takes a certain amount of damage and is destroyed.
This was a very tough battle, where me and my partner ended up with 3 acceleration tokens on the main scheme! But in the end, we managed to do some big damage to the villains just as Avenger Tower was ready to collapse.
Then we get to the being whose face takes up a large chunk of the box art – Thanos. He comes into play equipped with the infinity gauntlet and all of the infinity stones. The gauntlet is a permanent attachment that increases his scheme and attack by 1, and the stones form their own deck which you draw from each turn.
Multiple infinity stones can be in play at once and they’re all bad news. The worst of these are the reality stone (you have to discard an ally, upgrade or support) and the soul stone (Thanos heals 3 damage and is given a boost card for his next activation). Thanos also starts with a tough status and cannot be confused or stunned. In his second form, thanks to the gauntlet his base scheme and attack values are 3 and 4 respectively. Ouch.
I Know What It’s Like to Lose
So as you can imagine, he’s no pushover. In fact, I haven’t been able to beat him yet. It was a big step up in difficulty from the previous scenarios, and me and my partner couldn’t build up enough momentum with Adam Warlock and Spectrum to endure Thanos’ brutal attacks and scheming.
To me, this isn’t a negative – it would have been more disappointing to breeze past the Mad Titan on the first go. I wanted to see how far I could get with the pre-built decks, but I think I’ll need to take some time to strategise and do some customisation. Also, I feel I would have done better with some of the other character decks I own such as Captain America and Dr Strange, but first I’d like to see the whole campaign through with just the heroes included with The Mad Titan’s Shadow expansion.
I’ve really enjoyed The Mad Titan’s Shadow – but there’s more content I haven’t got to yet! As mentioned earlier Hela and Loki are the next two villains waiting if you can best Thanos and his super-powered mitten. Of course, you can just skip around and play each scenario as a standalone game if you want.
Like the other Marvel Champions content I’ve played, The Mad Titan’s Shadow has the same great artwork. It looks like it’s straight from comic books. They continue to adapt the gameplay with each new character to keep the game from getting stale. Definitely check this expansion out if you like Marvel Champions. see if you can do better than me and succeed in saving the universe!