BAM! Iron Man lands a Repulsor Blast on Captain America, hurling him off the top of the Daily Bugle building. POW! Spider-Man leaps into action, swinging around a streetlight and landing a strike on Red Skull. CRASH! Doctor Octopus throws a New York taxi straight into Captain Marvel. BANG! Baron Zemo charges into Black Widow. Rest easy Marvel fans, this isn't a 'Multiverse of Madness' style Marvel film you missed coming to the cinemas. This is Marvel Crisis Protocol, a miniature skirmish game where players act out their own epic battles and missions with their favourite heroes and villains.
Bringing your favourite Marvel characters to the world of miniature gaming, Crisis Protocol is a tactical, fun two-player game. Each player recruits a team of champions and pits their superpowers against each other to win victory points. Over six rounds, players whittle down the health of their foes whilst attempting to be the first to complete their mission objective.
"Nothing Goes Over My Head. My Reflexes Are Too Fast. I Would Catch It."
The mechanics of the game are simple and easy to learn, especially if you are familiar with miniature gaming. But don't worry if this is your first foray into the world, the rules are easy to grasp! Each player takes turns to activate character by character before a clean-up phase and scoring points gained that round. Once you have the base rules down, each character has its own card covering everything you need to know about your superhero squad. It includes the base health, how far they can move, and your defence dice.
They also all have a threat level which is used when you come to build your own team. Each player has four actions, including movement and their own specific superpowers. Handily supplied on the card is the range and strength of each attack. You're only a couple of dice rolls away from landing that punch. Some actions are free to play, but some require you to pay with energy tokens that build up as rounds go on. The game also has terrain pieces for your characters to take cover, fly to the top of, or even throw as a weapon. Fantasised about being the Hulk? Now's your chance to throw a building at your enemy!
"I Could Do This All Day"
As well as the energy tokens that you use to pay for abilities, another unique mechanism that Marvel Crisis Protocol brings to miniature gaming is the dazed state. Once your character's health is depleted, it becomes dazed and can't activate for the rest of the turn. However, after that turn, the character card flips, and they get a second wind. There are some buffs for your characters in the new state, feeding into the familiar superhero trope of characters becoming stronger after they have gone several rounds - I can almost hear Captain America saying, "I Could Do This All Day". It makes a refreshing change from seeing your characters die with no hope of revival after receiving a couple of blows.
Your imagination can run wild with the scenarios that could lead to unlikely team-ups. However, the game also has different missions that have you competing against each other to save civilians or collect different fragments of cosmic cubes. You can mix up different maps and missions, swap out your teams, and get plenty of playability.
Having pre-made range markers makes it easy to figure out where you can move and who you can attack. Plus, the variety of special abilities each character has makes combat far more interesting than just attacking with a one-two punch. That said, even with all the different abilities of each character the process of fighting is easy. You roll your dice, your opponent rolls defence and settle the damage. There are no long lists of 'If this happens, then that happens" that can overcomplicate some skirmish games.
The characters and terrain come unbuilt and unpainted. Some of the figures can be a bit fiddly to put together which may put off those just wanting to play straight out of the box. The pieces are well made, with enough detail so they're all well recognisable even before painting. Once your characters and scenery are built, the set-up is quick.
The painting itself might be a challenge if you're not experienced painting miniatures, but the payoff when you see a character you know and love come to life is well worth it! For the more experienced painters, you can have some fun with making them look however you want. Want a Miles Morales Spiderman? Fancy your characters looking more like their comic book counterparts than movie heroes? The world's your oyster!
One of the great parts of Marvel Crisis Protocol is that everything you need to play is in the core set. Unlike some miniature games where the starter set only gives you a flavour, this set gives you the full experience with plenty of characters and terrain and a good amount of playability without further investment. The core box has Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Baron Zemo, Crossbones, Doctor Octopus, Red Skull and Ultron. If your favourite isn't among them you can easily pick up a separate character pack that usually includes two characters.
The terrain includes cars, street lamps, traffic lights, dumpsters and the Daily Bugle building so your characters have plenty to interact with as they battle. There aren't lots of missions in the core set, but enough to get your teeth into initially. Considering how much you get in this box, including lots of tokens, dice, maps and missions, the core set is definitely good value for money.
"That's My Secret; I'm Always Angry."
One of my bugbears with board games is not having places for everything in the box, and unfortunately, Crisis Protocol falls down here. Whilst everything arrives nicely flat packed, once you have built your characters and scenery, you may find characters and buildings sliding around the box without getting inventive with your own padding.
Marvel Crisis Protocol (as most miniature games do) requires a good amount of playing space, limiting those without large tables to accommodate a 3ft-by-3ft gaming space plus room for your character cards and pools of tokens. The game also doesn't come with a playing mat, which is a shame as it requires some measuring to create your gaming space or leads us to use boards from other miniature games. If we were getting picky, it would also be nice to have some sleeves for the character cards, to keep them nice and protected as you play again and again. However, these issues don't hamper the actual enjoyment of the game.
"We're In The Endgame Now"
If you're looking for a pre-made setup and go type game, maybe this isn't the one for you. However, the time investment is worth the payoff, and Marvel Crisis Protocol provides a great introduction into the miniature skirmish world as well as a fun alternative if you're used to them. There is already a community, much like the Warhammer and Star Wars Legion, ready for you to dip your feet into if you like what you see. The game is easy to grasp and, just as importantly, easy to teach others so there is little barrier to entry. All you need are the player cards in front of you and a bit of Marvel magic to create your clash of the superheroes and supervillains. Captain America: Civil War, eat your heart out.