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Marvel Champions - First Thoughts

T Updated January 28, 2020
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
1105 0
Marvel Champions - First Thoughts

Game Information

Players
1 - 4
There Will Be Games

This article represents my impressions after the first play of a game. It should not be regarded as a full critical analysis of the game. I may write a full review later.

Spiderman is engaged with the minions that have joined Rhino on his mission against S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Tony Stark takes his time getting the suit together. Mine is on. I am Black Panther. Wakanda Forever!

Champions Assemble

Marvel Champions: The Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games, pits heroes against a nemesis in a cooperative game where simple choices are tied up with tricky resource management.

Every card in your deck evokes a part of your character: part of their costume, a signature attack, locations and allies that are prominent in the lore of the comics. A simple combination of all the cards for your character and all the cards from a particular aspect; leadership, attack, defence etc. form your deck.

The nemesis sets their plot in motion, every turn they get closer to their goal. They have their own deck full of minions to fight, side plots to defeat and all manner of comic inspired disasters.

Heroes thwart the plot, attack the nemesis, and tackle minions. The nemesis reacts, attacking every turn and here is where things get interesting. Heroes must take the hit but if you are in your day wear, adopting your alter ego, then you can avoid it. The plot advances just that little bit more if you aren’t around to stop the Villain.

The alter ego gives you access to different cards in your deck, the ability to heal and allows the designers to play with the dual aspects of many heroes in the Marvel universe. Flipping back and forth between your hidden identity and your heroic persona becomes a constantly evolving decision point that was really enjoyable to play with.

Paying for cards is the real core of the player’s turn and you do this by discarding several cards to pay for one. This gives each turn a tug of war between what you need now, what is vital later and the space between the two that allows you to pay for cards. Lovely design.

The graphic design is not so lovely.

Marvel Heroes GraphicsSome bizarre graphics choices

By way of example the above picture contains triangular threat tokens in yellow on the plot card. The black number highlighted on both plots indicates how much threat to put on the card. Any reason these aren’t the same colour and shape?

Rhino’s health pool is also visible in this picture. Can you see it? Let me zoom in a bit for you.

img 20191214 124207 1 e1577370768888There it is!

In tiny black and white writing as it is in on the hero cards. Minions have their health in a nice bright circle just above the text box and I could see no reason why it shouldn’t be there on the hero and villain cards as well.

I enjoyed my first play of Marvel Champions: The Card Game. It’s more replayable than I imagined and is very approachable in its deckbuilding. I’d have liked them to take a little more time on the graphic design and it is way too expensive for what you get, especially considering it is part of the LCG model.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
3.0
Marvel Champions
T
1 reviews
Iain McAllister  (He/Him)
Associate Writer and Podcaster

Iain McAllister lives in Dalkeith, Scotland with his wife Cath and their two dogs, Maddie and Gypsy. He has been a keen member of the local gaming scene for many years setting up and participating in many of the clubs that are part of Edinburgh's vibrant gaming scene.

You can find more of his work on The Giant Brain which publishes a wide range of articles about the hobby including reviews, previews, convention reports and critique. The Giant Brain is also the home of the Brainwaves podcast, a fortnightly podcast covering industry news that Iain hosts with his friend Jamie Adams.

Articles & Podcasts by Iain McAllister

 

Iain McAllister
Associate Writer and Podcaster

Articles & Podcasts by Iain

 

 

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Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306686 28 Jan 2020 09:33
I feel like this is a true mass market audience game. Seems extremely simple.

I had no idea about how bad the practical aspects of the graphics were! I had been focusing on how bad the art itself was.
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #306695 28 Jan 2020 10:13
I've enjoyed my four or five plays so far, but this is not a style of game that my wife/primary gaming partner likes that much or finds all that intuitive, so I'm a little worried about how much I'll play it. (It does solo fine, with basically no modification from two- or multiplayer, but I don't have a good track record with working up the gumption to play games solo.) It's not a masterclass in art or graphic design, but it's certainly adequate and clear enough. The rules are pretty easily graspable (the coop nature helps here, and unlike Legendary there's no we-all-win-but-I-win-more), and the deck construction is basic. I do mildly contest the critique of the game's value. The core costs more than other FFG LCG cores, but there's also no real reason to buy a second or third, and the experience is pretty solid without expansion, as you get five heroes and three villains and some ways to vary up each. By comparison, Arkham LCG is a downright poor proposition, as you get about half of what you really need (for $20 less than Marvel, at MSRP) and a significantly less replayable experience.
thegiantbrain's Avatar
thegiantbrain replied the topic: #306701 28 Jan 2020 13:44
I did enjoy my play of it but won't be picking it up myself as I don't really want to be into two LCGs, feeling that need to keep up with packs. I think the game will do great for them as it is a lot more approachable than the other FFG LCGs.

I agree that the Arkham LCG is not great value, despite my love for that game. However Marvel just feels like bad value, even if running the maths it might not be. £60 just feels like a lot for this type of product, though of course you can get it cheaper but let's just look at RRP. I know logically it is better value that the Arkham core, but I don't know it just feels off to me.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306702 28 Jan 2020 14:10
It's possible that there's an atmospheric factor here?

First off, let me state that my experience with Marvel Champions was a negative one. I was the fourth wheel on a tricycle, never able to do much myself (as She-Hulk), while Iron Man dominated the proceedings. It was one game and my first and, as with all such experiences, it's certainly possible that it was unique and subsequent plays could be much better. As it stands, it's basically Sentinels of the Multiverse to me, keeping in mind that I generally don't like co-ops in the first place.

That said, the other deterrent is the same as yours: I don't do collectible games anymore because of the constant outflow of cash for, quite often, minimal return. I simply don't play often enough to justify "keeping up with the meta", but the urge is there. In the case of Marvel, I think there's an even greater urge because of the model that the setting has employed since the 1930s. If you want to keep up with the story, you have to buy something every month. HPL's short stories, OTOH, are something you can complete and then realize that another "story" may not be published for a fair amount of time. Comics (successful ones, anyway) are not like that. There will be a new chapter every month.

This game was clearly structured like this because, not only does the audience expectation differ, in that even fans of HPL often don't know or remember all of the details of his various stories, anyone interested in Marvel can casually list off a few dozen (if not hundred) characters. That creates expectation, which FFG seeks to meet with new product. Do you know if they're going to base a new HPL set around The Doom that Came to Sarnath? Of course you don't, if you're even aware of that story. But do you know that FFG is going to produce Fantastic Four sets and X-Men sets and more Hulk sets (they're already releasing the Wrecking Crew) and all of their associated villains? Of course they are.

So, I can sympathize with the feeling of a lack of value. I suspect it might feel that way because of a built-in expectation for more.
thegiantbrain's Avatar
thegiantbrain replied the topic: #306703 28 Jan 2020 14:47
Yeah perhaps. I do think the release model is super smart for Marvel. Want to play Captain America, just buy that pack and rock up. You don't necessarily need anything else depending on your level of buy in. I'd play it some more for sure, but I think your sentinels comparison is interesting. I did wonder if scenarios went on too long if you would just end up pressing the same buttons again and again, which is one of the things I dislike about Sentinels (the little I've played of it).
DarthJoJo's Avatar
DarthJoJo replied the topic: #306704 28 Jan 2020 14:56
I think Fantasy Flight has actually done something rather unique with Champions. This is their first LCG where you really don’t need to buy every product. That was never possible with their competitive card games as they mixed neutral and faction-specific cards in every pack. You don’t need to buy everything for Arkham, but when you buy one pack, you’re probably buying the associated campaign at the same time. In both Arkham and Lord of the Rings player cards are mixed with scenario cards in every pack.

Champions though has modular releases. A hero pack only has hero cards. A villain pack only has villain cards. Both have some extra stuff to add more value and variety to what you already own, but you can pick and choose your purchases and not feel so much like you’re missing something in a way you could never could before with an LCG.

Which is all a long way of saying that it’s not just the simpler deck building and rules that could appeal to new players but a friendlier release model too.

But yeah, I’ve heard nothing but good for the game (outside So Very Wrong), but I would rarely pick it over Arkham for solo.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306705 28 Jan 2020 14:57
In my one game, we had Black Panther with the aspect that summons allies, Spider-Man with Protection, Iron Man with Leadership, and She-Hulk with Aggression. I think She-Hulk is supposed to be a feast or famine character, in that you dish out heavy damage on one turn, but then need to replenish resources before doing it again. However, based on the draw, I had one (1) turn of significant damage and then multiple turns of: "Well, I can't really do anything, so I'll tap my Helicarrier to help Black Panther and... I'm done." I was, at best, a peripheral support for everyone else at the table. Similarly, Spider-Man made some moves to nullify damage coming from The Rhino, but spent at least as many moves keeping himself alive. Black Panther got a decent number of allies in play, but the real winner was Iron Man, who put out a Race for the Galaxy-sized tableau and not only reduced Rhino's scheme to zero with one series of moves, but also killed him off with another series; all in the same turn. We were, at best, observers to Iron Man's performance.

That's what the vast majority of Sentinels games have been for me, which is why I won't play it anymore, despite my lifelong love for comics and games like Villains and Vigilantes. You'd think, in that respect, that Marvel would be of interest to me. But too often I see co-op games just like this, where the real thrill of participation is held by one or two players, while the rest are the ones who get sent to Kingsport to keep too many rifts from opening.
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #306706 28 Jan 2020 15:16
I've either played it solo (one hero) or two-player, which seems where consensus seems to put this best. Feels like it's going to be hit-or-miss at higher player counts as to whether and how much one could do, but it also seems like solo is probably hit-or-miss too as to whether a given hero/aspect/neutral card combo is a good match to a particular challenge.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306775 31 Jan 2020 22:14
[Replacing after hardware failure.]



Interestingly, SUSD highlights a couple other areas where I had problems with the game, in that it's more number-crunching than gameplay. But it's kind of funny that they point out that what makes Arkham superior in their opinion is the heavy reliance upon campaign play, whereas Marvel (ironically, given the source material) lacks that aspect, entirely. I realize that will be a selling point to a lot of people, especially those who don't like campaign play in their dungeon crawlers (which makes the outright fanboyism for Gloomhaven around here kind of odd...)
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306777 01 Feb 2020 00:23
I thought this was very good work by SUSD. I like them pretty well on average but find them pretty up and down in terms of my tastes. Compare to like charlest or even Barnes who tend to be closer to my tastes usually.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306778 01 Feb 2020 00:45
I haven't watched a ton of their reviews and, like you, I've been kind of up and down in my reaction to them. I think they're funny and I think they do make good points pretty regularly, but I've also found them to occasionally be a little hipsteriffic in their assessment of some things. I thought this was one was particularly good, too, in large part because it really reflected my initial impression of the Marvel game.
thegiantbrain's Avatar
thegiantbrain replied the topic: #306799 02 Feb 2020 14:19
Yeah I really enjoyed their analysis. I have found them a little up and down as well, especially after Paul left, but this was an excellent review. Undaunted was good as well.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306801 02 Feb 2020 14:27
Yes, I think they are really missing Paul's voice too.