WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: Fantasy Flight Games
There really is no better feeling in the morning than swooping down, thwarting a bad guys evil schemes, beating them up and their minions and throwing them in jail... errr is what I would say if I was a superhero, which I’m not, I don’t know where you heard that, it’s just a silly rumour.
How to put villians in The Raft: A superheroes guide.
In Marvel champions players are working together to stop the main villain completing their nefarious schemes. If the villain gains enough threat tokens on the main schemes or if they knock out all the players then they win the game. If the players manage to defeat the villain a set number of times then they win. The number of times you need to do this depends on the difficulty you want it at.
On a player's turn they can do as many things as they wish as long as they can afford it or are able to. Once per turn they can flip their hero’s identity card from its alter ego side to its hero side or vice versa. They can also choose to activate their hero. On their alter ego side they can exhaust the hero to heal damage done to them. On the hero side they can either attack the villain or a minion that’s engaged with them or they can thwart. Thwart removes threat tokens from schemes that are in play. Players can play cards from their hand. These can either be event cards which are played and then discarded, or they can be, upgrade, ally, or support cards, all of which are played in front of you and will stay in play either permanently or until any card effect discards them.
Allies can either be played for their card abilities if they have any or for their thwart or attack abilities and usually take some sort of consequential damage if they do so use them wisely, because chances are they won’t be around for long. Once all players have been then all cards are unexhausted and everyone will draw back up to their hand size.
Now it’s the villains turn. First they add threat tokens to the scheme. Then they will go to each player in turn order and do one of two things depending on their identity at the time. If in alter ego mode the villain ignores the character and schemes using their scheme value. This basically puts more threat to the main scheme. First though a card is drawn from the villains deck and any symbols on the bottom right are added to this amount. This is called boosting.
If a player is in hero mode then a similar thing happens but this time the villain will attack instead of scheming. Before the boost card is played the hero can declare that they are defending and will then exhaust their hero card to add their defence value. Which is handy as you’ll take less damage but it means that, unless you have particular cards in play, your hero will begin your next turn exhausted. Of course the other option is to bravely pull an ally in front of you to soak up all the damage as you bravely cower behind them!
Once the villain has been round all the players, then any minions engaged with the hero's will either scheme or attack but without the boost. Once they're all done then a card is drawn from the villains encounter deck for each player. These will either be nasty effects, new minions or even new side schemes. Then everything will start again with the players taking their turns.
I've been back and forth on whether or not I wanted Marvel Champions since it came out. On the one hand, it’s Marvel and it presented with a ton of possibilities to play as your favourite characters and create your own hero decks and even the villains were customizable given you more replayability! What’s not to love? My problem however is that it was compared a lot to Marvel Legendary. A game which I’ve played a quite few times and just can’t get into for a number of reasons. There were other factors, like some reviews that stated that you may want to invest in extra packs straight away to get the best experience out of it and that the story was lacking.
So here I am reviewing Marvel Champions and I’ve gotta I’m almost annoyed at myself that I didn’t make the leap sooner……although I’ll always encourage doing your research before investing in most games. Marvel Legendary has taught me that.
Much like being a superhero this game is all about making difficult decisions, errr So I’m told, I mean I'm certainly not a superhero. Just because you’ve never seen us in the same room together, doesn’t mean we’re the same person!
From the moment you draw your starting hand of cards you’re faced with some interesting and sometimes difficult choices. Working out your priorities for the round is usually the best place to start.
Something I didn’t mention in the rules is HOW you play cards from your hand. Each card has a number in the top left corner, this is how much it costs to play that card. In the bottom left of every card is one or two resources that it generates. To play cards you need to spend the resources by discarding cards. This is such a great system, which, when looking at it from the outside you can appreciate it for what it is. When your in the game playing though you can’t help but curse it for making you choose between punching a villain in the face now or playing down a decent long term bonus. It’s a system which will see you constantly looking at you hand of cards and saying “that’s a really good card, ooh so is that one, argh I can’t afford them both”. Sometimes which one you want to play for that turn is a bit of a no brainer. If you need to thwart that turn then you’re going to play that one. But getting rid of that other great card could be a crucial decision later on down the line, especially if you don’t get that back until later on in the game, if at all.
I love combos in games, I’ve probably even mentioned it in other reviews. Marvel Champions gives you all the combos you can fit under your cape and they’re great, especially since you have to build up to them. Your starting layout is just your hero which means that your first one or two turns are fairly limited. But, as you play down allies and upgrades your turns become like a dance as you play cards here, exhaust other cards and ready others only to use them again. Seriously, add in some music next time you play a big combo and see what I mean. It’s all the more satisfying when you know that you’ve put all that effort into building it up and then it triggers like a Marvel themed Rube Goldberg machine in card form and it’s awesome.
So is it thematic? Do you feel like a superhero taking down a villain? Kind of. If you make the effort to proclaim loudly all of the card names in dramatic fashion then yes, you may well feel that way. It’s even quite fun when you're with your friends, but I’m guessing you won’t be doing as much of that when you're playing solo. At the end of the day though you are playing cards and twisting them horizontally so it really depends on how much you put into as to how much you get out theme wise. However each deck does a great job of bringing out each hero's characteristics and you do feel like you're actually playing as that hero.
When you're playing as Iron Man and Spider-Man you can feel the difference in the decks. You feel like you're playing as Spider-Man rather than as a deck of cards with some generic powers with pictures of Spider-Man on them.
Black Panther for example has a set of upgrades which can’t be triggered on their own. Once you play the Wakanda forever card they all trigger in a sequence that you determine at the time with attacks and thwarts flying everywhere culminating with the last card you play in the sequence gaining a more powerful version of that card. It gives a real feeling of those big graceful combos with a big finishing move that you could see from Black Panther.
Iron Man as a character is fairly weak without his armour, only giving you a hand size of one in hero form. But for every piece of armour you equip your hand size increases, as does your ability to deal more damage. I’ve managed to do ten damage in a turn if you play your cards right.
She Hulk is all about damage and her ground stomp card will let you damage all the enemies and just switching from her alter ego to She Hulk will do damage to an enemy. It’s because of thematic touches like these that make you excited to see what they do with other heroes and villains.
Marvel Champions comes with everything you need for a full four player game. Which apparently isn’t always the case with some of the previous LCGs. Best of all it comes with two pre constructed decks and one fully constructed villain deck. The rule book does a great job of walking you through your first game using these so you can just jump right into your first game. After you’re familiar with how everything works the rule book also provides you with card lists to create a deck for each hero character in this box.
Already in this box there’s a ton of replayability, with the many combinations of hero and villain decks you can create and you could honestly just sit with this box for a long time and not even need to buy any of the extra packs or boxes. At the moment I’m looking at getting extra packs but realise that this it’s purely a case of me wanting the characters rather than needing the extra content.
Deck building not deck building
Building and experimenting with your own custom decks in LCG’s is pretty much an essential part of the game if you want to start defeating those harder villains with a bit more ease or at all. But don’t let it fill you with dread because the mechanics of building decks in Marvel Champions is actually super easy, barely an inconvenience. You simply pick a character and take the fifteen cards associated with them, then make up a 40-50 deck using any of the cards from one of the four aspect decks (leadership, aggression, protection and justice) and possibly some basic cards. There are limits to how many of each type of card you can have but again, this is really easy to follow. I love how simple this system is. It gives you free reign to add pretty much whatever cards you want in your deck, but doesnt bog you down with too many rules on how to do it. It’s actually quite fun and easy to try your hand at doing it yourself.
As you get into it you will find that card choices are kind or limited in the aspect decks in this base box but it is a good starting place to get a feel for how it all works. Don’t get me wrong though because you will still have plenty to experiment with here. Eventually if you do decide to venture out of this core set you’ll start to have access to a ton of different cards that will open out your choices and creativity with how you put a deck together.
Teamwork doesn’t always make the dreamwork.
Building up your own team of board game avengers may sound exciting but sometimes you're best off sticking to that dynamic duo. Marvel Champions is marketed as a 1-4 player game. Personally, three and four players are a bit too long for me so I tend to stick with one or two or two handed solo.
The solo mode works well and is great for quickly experimenting with new decks. Not all decks work in true solo mode though, I got roundly trounced when I played as Iron Man using the suggested deck in the rulebook. Be aware though that some of that could have come with bad choices from my part but you quickly find how much you need to balance thwarting, healing and doing damage in this game, something that a single deck doesn’t always give you. However if you play solo with two heroes (whilst scaling the game for two players) then it’s a great way to see how two decks play off against each other and balance each other out.
The game scales incredibly well though. You simply increase the villain's health and thwart level per player. So playing this solo takes no more or less effort to set up than a multiplayer game.
Whilst we’re on the subject, setup is another thing that makes it so appealing for me to get to the table. The only thing that will really add a lot of time to setup is if you need to create decks before you start. If you’ve got a couple of decks already set up then it’s all the more easy to get in a cheeky game before dinner or before flying off to stop a villain opening another portal to the multiverse.
I’ve given Marvel Champions an 8.5 out of ten but I want to make it clear that this is for this base box alone. I’m having a lot of fun with this game and as I pick up new characters and scenarios I can see the score for the game overall going up. This box alone offers a lot of fun and I’m already excited for everything else that’s going to open up for me with it in the future.