Marvel United Base Game

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In Marvel United you take the role of iconic Marvel Heroes cooperating to stop the master plan of a powerful Villain controlled by the game. Each Villain unveils their unique master plan, with cards that trigger different effects, and threats that pose challenges across the locations. Heroes must choose carefully the cards to play from their unique decks, that not only offer differe…
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-CMNMUN001 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

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

You Might Like

  • Fast, narrative gameplay
  • Extremely thematic
  • Scalable, replayable and customisable

Might Not Like

  • Will be a bit too simple for some
  • Aesthetic won't be for everyone
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Description

In Marvel United you take the role of iconic Marvel Heroes cooperating to stop the master plan of a powerful Villain controlled by the game. Each Villain unveils their unique master plan, with cards that trigger different effects, and threats that pose challenges across the locations. Heroes must choose carefully the cards to play from their unique decks, that not only offer different actions and superpowers to use, but also combine with the actions of other Heroes to do the impossible. Build your storyline, unite your powers, save the day!

Marvel United is CMON’s entry into often-crowded field of Marvel tie-in games. Though the recommended age is 14+ on the box, it aims as broad an appeal as possible, from bright-eyed little one to crusty miserable old gamer. Does it succeed? Well, actually, yes – mostly.

Let’s start with what for me at least is the most divisive element: the aesthetic. I am not a fan of the chibi, BESM, kawaii style generally, especially in my miniatures. However, I can forgive it in a board game piece, and maybe even the card art; it’s not to my taste, but my kids (age 6-15) love it, and it will certainly appeal to some non-gamers also.

The game comes at least in part from the brain of Eric M. Lang, who was responsible for one of my favourite card games back in the day (A Game of Thrones) as well as some really interesting mechanical design in the likes of Cthulhu: Death May Die, Rising Sun and XCOM, so I suppose I was already predisposed to like it (or at least give it a chance).

Aside from being a bit of Marvel fan, I also really enjoy co-op games – it’s a very important part of our gaming experience as a family, but there is enough depth here to play with more experienced gamers. It’s at the beer and pretzels end, but if you’re wanting a game that you can play with your mates (gamers or otherwise) whilst still having a blether, it definitely ticks that box. There are two core sets available, one Avengers themed and one X-Men, which are basically identical except the X-Men version includes characters that can be played as Heroes or Villains (Magneto and Mystique), so is marginally more suited to more experienced gamers – however, we’re going to focus on the Avengers-themed one for this review. And I should point out that the core game is incredibly well-priced for an entry product.

Avengers Assemble

Comparisons often get drawn with FFG’s Marvel champions LCG – co-op, Marvel, taking down AI villains and countering their Threats – but that’s actually unhelpful, and it’s better simply to think in terms of other IP /co-op boardgames such as Pandemic Clone Wars. Whilst it’s not as brutal as that, there’s a surprising amount of tactical variation, with each villain feeling radically different – even more so, in fact, than Clone Wars, where as noted the limited size and repetitiveness of the villain deck can prove frustrating (interestingly, both games also share cards in hand as health mechanic). As an aside, it can be played as a versus game also, where one player takes on the Super-Villain role and opposes the other players, expanding the play variation considerably, though these rules are only in the X-Men starter or available online as a download – I would’ve like to see them included in the print version of the Avengers starter.

Partly, the tactical variation also stems from the board itself. You place 6 random iconic location boards (filled with a mix of civilians and thugs as indicated on the location) around a central hub, which contains the Villain dashboard: who you are against, and what their Master Plan is. If they complete their stated objective, or run through their deck, you lose! As each card plays from the deck, this gradually builds the Storyline that you’re “reading”.

Then, Heroes take turns playing their cards (Move, Attack, Heroic or Wild) into the Storyline, in order to solve missions such as rescuing civilians or battling foes (you can only attack the Villain after defeating 2 missions – i.e., you figure out what they’re up to). Although you play individually, you are always discussing and working collectively. After every 3 Hero cards are placed, the Master Plan advances; once you’ve solved one mission, it becomes after every 2 Hero cards (as the Villain comes Under Pressure). It’s fairly straightforward, and rather a lot of fun! However, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy, necessarily, and has a simple scalable difficulty mechanic of removing increasing numbers of Wild cards from your deck.

All Ages Fun

As ever, I lean towards the dad-gamer perspective, and this is probably the most family-friendly Marvel game I’ve come across in a while – although I reiterate it’s just as satisfying for us pretend grown-ups. My youngest will happily join in even without being necessarily able to read every word, and make genuinely good suggestions about what order to do missions in. The older ones may bicker over the best way to take down Taskmaster, but ultimately come together to do so – in fact they are just like the Avengers in that respect. The characters play intuitively also: Cap is about boosting the rest of the team, Wasp zips around the place, Hulk… well, smashes.

However, because you use not only the card you play but the actions from your preceding teammate’s, you really have to be talking and thinking together: Hulk has very little movement, for instance, so you are relying on the what has been played previously or you’ll get stuck flailing about in the one location. The challenges on the locations themselves also play out effectively (Red Skull’s Hail Hydra! turns civilians into Thugs, for example); going back again to the slightly unhelpful comparison with Champions, sometimes that can feel like an asymmetric game of individual players that happen to share the one goal, whereas in United you HAVE to work together to deal with issues at the different locations.

A better card-based analogy is, in some ways, a game like Cryptozoic’s DC Deck-Building Rebirth with a similar locational placement mechanic, but because this at the core of United as opposed to feeling tacked-on, it’s much more successful than that. Also, the replayability is improved further by an impressive array of characters in the core box – Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Ant-Man, Wasp and Captain Marvel – each of which, as mentioned, plays and interacts differently.

It’s worth mentioning the fantastic production values. The plastic overlay holds the layers in place well, whilst the insert for storage comes with ample space for the tokens, cards, slots for the many figures – very impressive. The figures themselves, whatever your thoughts on the style, are evocative and dynamic: I do love the Ant-Man balanced on an over-sized dime and Wasp on a d6 especially. The cardstock is high gsm and sturdy in hand, with vibrant use of colour and shape to make tokens especially clear and accessible (big win there – too often tokens are samey). Overall, Marvel United gets a big thumbs-up from us, if anything exceeding expectations.

On Your Left

As an addendum, I should say that briefly that the game is also blessed with a plethora (read: bewildering quantity) of expansions, which allow you to tailor the gameplay in many different ways, a legacy of the game’s Kickstarter origins. Tales of Asgard allows one player to turn Traitor, for example and Spider-verse has you struggling with keeping your identity secret (my kids are hassling me for this set). However, real standouts are the X-Men Blue / Gold sets (yes, more X-Men) and Deadpool.

The X-Men Blue/Gold sets introduce Team play, so there is both an element of co-operation and competition, which is particularly great for 4-player and/or family games a mix of player ages (and X-Men: Blue has all the girls, so my daughter loves it, plus Gambit for me). Also, you don’t need an X-Men Core set to use Blue or Gold – the standard Avengers-themed core works fine for either. Deadpool, on the other hand, is like a mixed taco platter (what?!) of choices for the experienced gamer, as it comes with Hero, Villain and Challenge versions of the Merc with a mouth (and Bob to go with him wherever). This allows you to mix up the base game without a huge additional investment; it’s great that, given how much content there is available, there’s a fairly straightforward “Buy this next!” option. Pass the chimichangas!

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • Fast, narrative gameplay
  • Extremely thematic
  • Scalable, replayable and customisable

Might not like

  • Will be a bit too simple for some
  • Aesthetic won't be for everyone