Back to the Champions

After quite a hiatus, I’ve got round to playing some more Marvel Champions recently, and it has been a lot of fun! Since I picked up the game this summer, I have pretty much only tried my hand against Rhino. I think I tried Klaw once and it didn’t go well for me, and I think I’ve also played against Ebony Maw from the Thanos expansion, but otherwise all my games have been against the same villain. Well, no more! For I have recently broken into the Galaxy’s Most Wanted expansion box, and have faced off against a couple of the scenarios therein with all-new (to me) heroes, as well!

The Guardians box was the second big box expansion released for the game, and has been almost universally panned by a lot of the online community, it seems, due to the steep difficulty curve that it involves. There is a lot of stuff going on in here, and while I don’t yet have the Red Skull box, it did surprise me how much of a step-up the scenarios are in comparison to what we’ve had so far. A lot of this comes from the fact that they have attempted to simulate space combat by using Ship cards which act as new Environment cards. It adds an extra layer, but it is nevertheless something that I was quite impressed with when I first tried it out.

The first scenario, which pits us against Drang and the Badoon, is quite good as it plays pretty much as you’d expect, albeit with the added threat of the Badoon ship. This charges up through a variety of effects, but at least does so at the start of each villain phase, and then does 2 indirect damage to each player when it has 4 charge counters on it. It’s an interesting way to simulate the idea of space combat as opposed to the more generic fights we’ve had so far, and I really like it. I mean, I don’t like it, per se, but as a rule it’s interesting! Drang can be quite powerful, especially when he gets hold of his spear at stage two, and his schemes enter play with a high number of threat counters on them already, so it can be difficult to balance the fight aspect against the thwart aspect.

Luckily, though, I was playing Star-Lord and Gamora, and while Star-Lord is a little bit janky in his pre-made deck, Gamora is quite a powerhouse and she was actually the one who saved the day by whaling on the villain and reducing him down each time. It was lucky, because both my heroes were close to death!

The second scenario is one of two where we are up against The Collector, and has a very different feel to the games I’ve played so far. At the start of the game, we have to set up The Collection, which takes the top card of each player deck and places it off to the side. Throughout the game, The Collector’s ability forces us to place any card that is removed from play into The Collection rather than into the appropriate discard pile, and if there are ever 5 cards per player in there, we lose. I felt like I was up against it from the off, and honestly couldn’t see how I was going to win this one. You can pay or exhaust a hero to recover cards, but due to me not understanding the rules, I actually lost pretty quickly.

See, any boost cards dealt to the villain, any cards used to pay for a card’s cost, any Treachery cards or any Event cards are never “in play”, so will not end up in The Collection. Did I realise that when I was playing? Of course I didn’t. So I was throwing everything in there, and lost in about 4 turns. Admittedly, Gamora was able to defeat stage one of the villain pretty well, and Star-Lord himself helped to get some of the health down, but he was also trying to recover cards from The Collection, which didn’t go well at all! 

It has been more than two months since I last played the game, though!

Interestingly, when I re-played the scenario knowing how it actually works, I didn’t find it half as oppressive as I had been led to believe by the internet. I don’t know if that was down to skill, or whether the aggro build for Gamora is just so efficient… But I was able to defeat both stages of the villain with only 6 cards in total ending up in The Collection.

While the Guardians aren’t exactly what I would call my all-time favourite group, the box does seem to have a lot of promise, so I’m looking forward to some more games at some point, as I take a look at the rest of the scenarios in here!

One of the things I wanted to talk about here is the campaign system for the game. LCG campaigns is something I’ve talked about recently here, and I suppose this can be read as a bit of an update to that blog. I’ve mentioned it before, but Marvel Champions definitely feels like a lighter game than some of the other card games I’ve got on the roster. It’s not a criticism, but simply an observation – it makes sense, as well, that FFG would want to try to appeal to Marvel fans, rather than simply gamers, so having a system that is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t take forever to play, etc, is a definite upside there.

The campaign system for Marvel Champions, such as it is, is correspondingly light as well. I’ve been playing with the Guardians of the Galaxy box, which I think needs to be mentioned again because I believe the campaign actually changes with each big box expansion. Generally, it seems that the campaign is very much a case of “play these scenarios in order”, and they are loosely related to each other. In the Guardian’s box, the campaign sees players earning “units” for things like cards in the victory display, having no minions in play, if the scheme is at a specific stage, etc. These can then be used to purchase cards from the market, which are added to your deck as you go through the campaign. It’s interesting enough, but it also sounds fairly lightweight and stuff. Shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to play through, I’m thinking, anyway!

In reading some reviews of the campaigns from around the internet, there seems to be a general feeling of they’re fine, but they’re not amazing. I wonder if that’s mainly because it’s gamers who are writing these things, or whether Arkham Horror LCG has the premiere campaign system of any living card game, and so the others fall down in comparison? Certainly, the Marvel Champions campaign system isn’t blowing anything out of the water, but I think the game is light enough that it doesn’t require (couldn’t withstand?) a complex system of levelling up and so on. 

I really don’t mean any of this to be disparaging, though! In a world where games seem to be constantly trying to put some kind of legacy-style campaign system into place, I think we need games where you can sit down, enjoy them, and put them away again. My first thoughts on the Hellboy board game were of surprise when I realised there wasn’t a campaign, before almost immediately about-facing, and asking why we’d actually need such a thing, anyway? I think we’ve been a bit spoiled, and we’re almost led to expect it now. Rather than enjoying a game for what it is. 

I feel like I need to dismount my soapbox now!

A lot of reviews seem to agree, though, that the Marvel Champions campaign system isn’t great, and folks would much prefer to have the additional cards in each box given over to more content such as more villains, or additional player cards. With what I know about the system, I think I would agree. This is mainly due to the release model for Marvel Champions though, where each cycle has five villains in a deluxe box, then one additional scenario pack each time around. Six scenarios per “cycle” seems a little light, although since the game moved to four heroes per cycle instead of six, it is in balance with itself. I suppose there is a perceived imbalance by having one box for villains and then all the subsequent packs for heroes.

I think I’ve rambled quite enough for today’s blog, however! Here’s to playing more Marvel Champions, anyway – especially when you consider how much content I still have to discover!! I think I would really like to make it through the core set stuff by the end of the year, if nothing else!

Marvel Champions

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