Marvel Champions the Card Game is a cooperative card game from Fantasy Flight Games. One to four players take on the roles of some of Marvel Comics’ most popular heroes as they join forces to save the day. But, the villains aren’t the only problem to contend with. Real life issues can also trouble our heroes, forcing them to step away from the fight in order to manage their personal lives.
I had the pleasure of spending this past Sunday at Crossroad Games playing Marvel Champions The Card Game. Having now logged over ten hours playing this game, I can say with confidence it is one of the best games I’ve ever played. It provides depth and variety within the many tactical decisions the players are required to make. While there is a lot going on in this game, it is surprisingly manageable. Within just a handful of turns, my gaming group found ourselves moving through the many choices presented to us with ease. It is this smoothness that allows Marvel Champions The Card Game to offer so much challenge without bogging down the experience in slow turns and complicated rules.
The first choice players are presented with is which character they want to play. With the initial release, players have their choice of Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk and Iron Man. Each character comes with a set of fifteen cards that are unique to that character. Once this choice is made the player then selects which aspect they want their character to represent.
Aspects further focus a hero’s playstyle to one of four groups: aggression, protection, justice, and leadership. Do you want to focus on dealing big damage to the villain and his minions? Then aggression is your deck. If countering the villain’s schemes is more your concern than you want to build a justice deck. Once these decisions have been made and decks are assembled, all that remains is which villain to face off with.
Marvel Champions The Card Game comes with three scenarios to play. Each scenario sports it’s own unique villain and challenges. The first scenario most newcomers should check out features Rhino as the main villain. This scenario tasks the heroes with stopping Rhino from escaping with some stolen vibranium. This mission is the most straightforward. It only has a few minions and other secondary elements in it. This allows the players to focus on the main villain while they are still learning the ropes. While it may be the simplest, that doesn’t mean its a cakewalk by any stretch. Rhino will definitely put any group of heroes through the wringer.
I really liked this approach to an introductory mission. Oftentimes first missions are so simple you barely get a feel for the game when playing them. This mission though, gives you a taste of how Marvel Champions The Card Game really plays.
Once the heroes are done with Rhino they can move on to even greater challenges. Klaw and Ultron both feature in their own challenging adventures, and even once these enemies have been bested, there is still more to experience. The game provides additional cards for villain decks that can be swapped out to change how each story plays. Think Rhino is too straight forward a challenge? Then send in Hydra to support him. Madame Hydra and her troops will do everything they can to prevent the heroes from reaching Rhino.
Every hero has two personas to them. Their heroic one and their alter ego. Players must manage these two aspects of their characters carefully if they hope to win the game. Each presents unique opportunities and challenges. While being in heroic form allows the player to attack the enemy directly, it also opens them up to attacks from the villains as well. In contrast, the hero’s cannot enter direct confrontation while in alter ego form. This can give the hero a chance to recover health and draw extra cards. However, when not actively trying to stop the villain, their schemes will accelerate.
There are also many cards that can only be used if the right persona is currently in play. Tony Stark can’t use his armor. He must be Iron Man for that. Similarly, She-Hulk’s fists sometimes aren’t the best approach to a problem. Instead Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk’s alter ego) must step up and use her significant legal knowledge to slow down the enemies’ progress. Managing this balancing act is one of the key concepts of playing Marvel Champions The Card Game.
The other big balancing act Marvel Champions The Card Game challenges players with is deciding which cards to play. As with most card games of this type, every card in a player’s deck has a resource cost that must be paid in order to play it. Here, the cost comes in the form of discarding other cards. Being constantly faced with the decisions of which card is best played and what to discard is always challenging. With lots of things going on, the state of the board can change in often unexpected ways. This makes player coordination key. It also instills a tension in every game. Without knowing what will come out of the villain deck next there is never a way to be one hundred percent sure you’ve made the right choice.
With all the fun, thought-provoking strategy packed into Marvel Champions The Card Game there is only one area where this game struggles a bit and that is how it scales with player count. The game is decidedly better when at least three players are participating. While the game isn’t bad with fewer, it becomes much more restrictive when it comes to your setup choices.
With there always being a villain that needs beating and a scheme that needs thwarting, the justice and aggression aspects become requirements if the players want to have a strong chance to succeed. This leaves roughly two-thirds of the player cards in the starter box unusable in two-player games. If playing two-player is mixed in with larger games, this problem is no big deal. However, if you are looking for a great game for you and that one friend you play games with, I don’t know if I could recommend this game as it is.
Lastly, if you are the kind of player who likes knowing there is more on the horizon for your favorite games, Fantasy Flight Games has you covered. They have already announced they will be releasing both dedicated scenario and hero packs. Each scenario pack will introduce a new villain with a unique scheme to the game. Meanwhile, hero decks will add to the ever-growing pool of heroes, as well as add a few cards to each aspect to further enhance customization. Like all the games in Fantasy Flight Games Living Card Game line there are also no blind boosters to buy. When you buy a pack, it comes with a full playset of every card offered through it. With Green Goblin and Captain America announced as the first two expansion packs, things are looking good for Marvel Champions The Card Game.
If you love thought-provoking coop strategy games you really cannot go wrong with Marvel Champions The Card Game. There is a ton of replayability in this box. With so much variety and ample deck building options available, the game promises countless unique plays. As long as you have enough friends to share this experience with, I cannot overstate how great this game is. The balance of challenge, fun, and randomness hits just right. With all these classic Marvel characters to chose from, its an all-around win.
Marvel Champions The Card Game is available now from Fantasy Flight Games wherever board games are sold.
Marvel Champions The Card Game
If you love thought-provoking coop strategy games you really cannot go wrong with Marvel Champions The Card Game. There is a ton of replayability in this box. With so much variety and ample deck building options available, the game promises countless unique plays.