Marvel Champions: The Card Game

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Rhino rampages through the streets of New York, Klaw peddles illegal weapons to the worlds most dangerous criminals, Ultron threatens global annihilation. The world needs champions to stop these villains, are you up to the task? Harness the power of a hero in Marvel Champions: The Card Game Core Set, a cooperative Living Card Game of super heroics for 1-4 players! Marvel Champions: …
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Stunning Artwork
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Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Deck building can be quick and easy
  • Marvel theme
  • Different play styles of Heroes

Might Not Like

  • Solo play can be swingy
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Description

Rhino rampages through the streets of New York, Klaw peddles illegal weapons to the world’s most dangerous criminals, Ultron threatens global annihilation. The world needs champions to stop these villains, are you up to the task?

Harness the power of a hero in Marvel Champions: The Card Game Core Set, a cooperative Living Card Game of super heroics for 1-4 players!

Marvel Champions: The Card Game sees players taking on the roles of the iconic heroes of the Marvel universe as they try to stop infamous villains from enacting their devious schemes. With over 350 cards, 100 tokens, five hit point trackers, and more, The Marvel Champions: The Card Game Core Set gives you everything you need to start your journey in the Marvel universe. Choose to play as Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and She-Hulk! Combine your powers to take down the rampaging Rhino, the devious Klaw, or the utterly terrifying Ultron!

The game brings the epic battles of the Marvel Universe to your tabletop. Each game sees the players selecting both their hero, and a scenario consisting of a villain and a scheme. Each villain and scheme has multiple forms, shifting the momentum and rules of the fight as the villain continues to enact their plans and the heroes race to defeat them with a wide array of powers and tools. Let the scheme advance enough times, and the heroes will lose the game. However, if you can fight through the villains various forms and thwart them with a combination of teamwork, skill, and luck, your team of heroes will emerge as champions!

But it won’t be that easy, every villain has their own encounter deck full of minions and tactics. Can you withstand Rhino’s assault when he finds a new ally in the dreaded Shocker? Will you be to thwart Klaw when he unleashes a devastating sonic boom? Can you defeat an army of Ultron Drones? These challenges and more await you in each scenario Do you have what it takes to overcome impossible odds and become the champion the world needs?

 

Marvel Champions Box Art

Marvel Champions is a living card game (LCG) from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). FFG are known for their LCGs, so how does Marvel Champions shape up against Arkham Horror and The Lord of the Rings?

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.

Marvel Cards

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.

Marvel Cards

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.

Marvel Cards

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.

Marvel Cards

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.

Marvel Cards

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.

Marvel Champions is a 1-4 player superhero game. Each player takes on the role of a Marvel hero to battle it out against one of three villains. Each Hero is represented by a deck, consisting of basic cards, Hero-specific cards, and aspect cards. Each Villain is represented by a deck of cards, comprising similarly of basic villain cards, villain-specific cards, and a modular encounter set.

Marvel Champions is a Living Card Game (LCG). As such, the publisher, Fantasy Flight Games, is expanding the game with new Hero & Villain packs all the time. You can check out the ever-growing list here

Set-Up

To set up the game, each player will select a Hero to play and place their identity card, alter-ego side up in front of them. The identity card will number the hit points they have and these are entered into the hit point dial. Each Hero will have an obligation card and a set of Nemesis cards, which are set aside for the moment. The player then shuffles their player deck which will consist of Hero specific cards, basic cards, and aspect cards. Hero decks come pre-constructed, but players are free to build their own decks whilst complying with the deckbuilding rules. 

Next, a Villain is selected and is placed on the table along with the Villain's main scheme and the Villain's main deck. The Villain's hit points are entered into the Villain's hit point dial. The main scheme may have some setup instructions which are followed and resolved at this stage. The relevant encounter cards, modular sets, and the Heroes obligation cards are added to the Villains the main deck and shuffled to form the encounter deck. 

Each player then draws a starting hand of cards, as detailed on their identity card, and can discard any number of cards drawing back up to their hand limit. If a Hero has any setup instructions, these are resolved and followed now. 

The game is played over a number of rounds, alternating between the player's turns and then the Villains turn. On a player's turn they can perform a number of actions:

  • Change form from alter ego to Hero or Hero to alter ego, but only once per round.
  • Play cards from their hand, paying the relevant resource costs.
  • Use their Hero's basic attack or thwart ability (only in Hero form, exhausting their identity).
  • Use an ally they control to attack or thwart (exhausting the ally). 
  • Activate an action card they control (and exhausting the card if applicable).
  • Use their alter-egos recovery ability to gain hit points (only in alter ego form, and exhausting their identity).

Once a player has performed all of their chosen actions, the next player performs their actions until all players have passed. At this stage, players can discard any remaining cards in their hand (if they want) and draw up to their hand limit (This may change depending on the form they are in). Each player then readies all of their cards (identity, allies, action cards). 

Next is the Villain phase. At the start of the Villain phase, threat is placed on the main scheme as detailed on the main scheme card. The Villain and any minions then activate against each player. If the player is in Hero form, the Villain attacks. If the player is in alter ego form, the Villain schemes and adds a threat to the main scheme. Each time the Villain activates, they draw a card from the encounter deck and add the number of boost icons to his base attack or scheme value. The Villain then deals each player an encounter card, face down and in turn order. Each player reveals and resolves the encounter card.

The first player token then passes to the next player and the player's start the round again. 

The game continues this way until the Villain has been defeated, by reducing his hit points to zero, for both stages and the player's win. Players lose if the Villains scheme threshold reaches its maximum or they all have their hit points reduced to zero. 

Strategy

What I love about Marvel Champions is the way the Heroes and Villains play differently. The key to success is figuring out how the Heroes play. Their strengths, weaknesses, and how to best utilise them to take down the Villain. Certain Heroes require a certain amount of setup to become strong. These Heroes are best left in alter ego mode as you build up their suit, armour, and weapons. Once they are up and running they can be formidable characters.

Figuring out when to stop building and when to take the fight to the Villain comes with practice and experience, but it is worth that time investment. Where it might seem that you are not making progress by hitting the enemy, it's wise to learn the "arc" of the Hero and play into that. Being efficient with your cards and trying to not have any cards left in your hand at the end of the turn is a good idea. 

The board state needs to be managed very carefully. Often the best move is not necessarily just smacking the villain in the face. Controlling the minions and the side schemes that can mount up is often a better move. Keeping an eye on the main scheme threshold is also key. Knowing how the Villains play and what's in the encounter deck can help you decide how best to defeat them. At some point, you will have to start dealing damage to the Villain. But knowing when to push and when to hold off and control the threat/minions is critical. Like the Heroes, each Villain and modular encounter set has a different feel. Knowing how to handle them is essential. The timing of when to defeat one stage and advance to the next is often a critical step. 

Aspects

There are four aspects in the game that all have their unique playstyles. 

Aggression. As the name suggests, this is all about hitting the enemies hard and fast. Generally, aggression based Heroes are not great at thwarting and removing threat from a scheme. Subsequently, it is often a race against the threat build-up and taking the Villain down

Justice is more focused on removing threat from schemes. Justice based characters are good at managing threat and keeping things under control however they are not typically hard hitters. 

Protection is all about defending, preventing damage, and healing. It can react to incoming attacks, prevent that damage, and sometimes cause reactive effects based on that. 

Leadership is a very versatile deck and can do a lot of things, but is mostly about bringing out Allies. Allies can be good for attacking, thwarting and defending and is a good all-purpose aspect if used with a large selection of ally cards. Protection is reliant on these allies so Villains that target allies can make this aspect weak.

Editors note: This blog was originally published on September 12th, 2019. Updated on October 7th, 2021 to improve the information available.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Deck building can be quick and easy
  • Marvel theme
  • Different play styles of Heroes

Might not like

  • Solo play can be swingy