A notable topic of discussion in the Marvel Champions LCG community of late has been that of power creep. The arrival of the Doctor Strange hero pack sparked the debate and it has been a rich discussion. Are we now seeing power creep in Marvel Champions? Does power creep even exist in a co-operative game like this? Personally - I don’t think it is an issue in the game right now, and I don’t think it’s going to be one in the future.
Who are you Calling a Creep?
Let’s define power creep, first of all. Power creep is the process by which a card game (be that a trading card game, living card game, or collectible card game) sees an imbalance between old and new content as more material is released for the game. The phrase itself comes from Magic The Gathering, a competitive game which sees an endless stream of content released.
The Doctor is in
The Marvel Champions community has been discussing power creep in the wake of Doctor Strange’s arrival. The Sorcerer Supreme has already proven to be an immensely powerful addition to the ranks of heroes, particularly thanks to his five-card invocation deck that allows Strange to cycle some exceptionally powerful spells. In many scenarios, his hero deck almost becomes irrelevant beyond keeping him alive.
Doctor Strange, a time-bending, dimension-hopping wizard, is thematically not going to struggle with Rhino or the Wrecking Crew. He’s got bigger fish to fry. Strange seems to do a lot of things very, very well in Marvel Champions. Captain America, for example, isn’t excellent at anything, but he’s pretty good at everything so he’s a popular hero to play. Cap of all trades, master of none, am I right?! Strange does have weaknesses though.
He is quite easily overwhelmed by minions, because there’s nothing in his decks - hero or invocation - to really handle them. You can build for them with your aspect cards, sure, but beyond Aggression, what is there, really? This leaves Strange really struggling with the Ultron scenario, and players have reported mixed fare against the two Green Goblin scenarios. I would argue, therefore, that while Doctor Strange is a very, very strong hero, he is in no way game-breaking and has some glaring weaknesses.
Does Power Creep Even Exist in a Co-operative Game?
It might, but certainly not like in competitive games. There’s no tournament play, so there’s no real meta game that changes with every release. New hero packs bring new ways of handling existing scenarios, sure, but it’s not the same thing. Moreover, every hero can beat every villain with the right deck and piloting.
Could Stronger Villains Require Stronger Heroes?
The Kang scenario pack was recently revealed, and this looks to be by far the biggest challenge in Marvel Champions yet - depending on what nasties the designers have in store for us in the forthcoming Red Skull campaign expansion. New keywords, new mechanics - this looks fantastic and it’s going to be a joy to see better players than me work out how to take Kang down.
As stronger scenarios get released, will the designers feel it necessary to release stronger heroes? I doubt it. Aspect cards keep being released, making heroes more viable in new ways. For example, some of the aspect cards in the upcoming Hulk pack are insane for Thor. Yes, this could lead to early aspect cards falling out of use, but nobody’s playing this game to use Enhanced Awareness or First Aid. We’re here to swing Mjolnir or melt dudes with a Repulsor Blast.
Furthermore, designers have a keen idea of where this game is going. They’re two years ahead of the release schedule. Many have worked on other LCGs so have a wealth of experience to inform their choices. I’m confident they’ll make very few mistakes.
The Future of the Game
The core set heroes of Rhino/Klaw/Ultron let players get used to the aspects of the game in increasing difficulty. Wrecking Crew was a nice experiment with fighting multiple villains at once, and Green Goblin has the best two scenarios so far with lots of cool new stuff. Red Skull brings campaign elements and doubles the villains we have, surely with lots of new mechanics, while Kang looks to be an incredible challenge with some marvellous design choices. As the player base grows, the complexity will likely increase to some degree and the designers will really stretch their legs.
This naturally means more complex heroes that will not necessarily be better than Ms Marvel or Black Panther. Just new and different. For example, Spider-Woman in the Red Skull box will require two aspects in her deck - how cool is that?! Additionally, aspect cards will get more varied to bring those heroes back into relevance. So yes, new stuff will come out as designers try new things, but it’s not to say the old stuff will be boring or inadequate.
The Game of Thrones LCGs ran out of content twice and saw power creep despite rotation because it’s inevitable once source material dries up (Release Winds of Winter please, GRRM). You get stuck for ideas, so you release a stronger Robert Baratheon, or a better Ned Stark.
Marvel Champions for Life
But Marvel is going nowhere - the MCU continues to be a powerhouse and will surely continue to thrive going forwards. Comics have seen a resurgence in popularity, and are always offering new content, stories, and characters.
Marvel Champions is still only on Avengers and pals just now and that will go on for another year or two before even needing to look elsewhere. They could of course be bringing out different characters to widen the theme, because let’s face it - some Marvel fans just don’t like the Avengers.
X-Men lie in wait and while it does look like releases follow the MCU schedule to some degree, Marvel Crisis Protocol has suggested X-Men content in the future and surely Marvel Champions will be the same. There’s a sea of content there alone and the release of the X-Men will almost certainly bring an influx of players.
Add the Guardians of the Galaxy (likely a part of this Avengers run), the Fantastic Four, Inhumans, Eternals, Defenders - this is an insane amount of heroes and associated villains yet to come. The game will not grow stale any time soon, and that will help designers keep engaged with the product, releasing interesting heroes and villains without just making existing stuff stronger.
It’s a very bright future for Marvel Champions, and I’d be very surprised if power creep was in that future.