Today’s game day is really a celebration of the fact that I have now completed my goal of playing ten games of Marvel Champions this year. Unsurprisingly, given the recent spate of playing in January, it wasn’t too long before I hit my goal! The game is just so nice and straightforward to play, it really is very easy to get it to the table!
In the main, I’ve been playing with both the Red Skull and the X-Men campaign expansions – although I haven’t been playing them as a campaign. I’ve made it to game four (Zola) in the Red Skull box, and the Sentinels in the X-Men (playing Sabretooth twice). It’s been a lot of fun, and I think I’ve gotten into a bit of a flow with it now, where I have some go-to heroes that I enjoy playing and so simply shuffle up and play!
The Red Skull box has been just great. I’ve been playing this with Hawkeye and Black Widow, with their pre-con decks, and it’s been an absolute blast. Of the four, I think Crossbones was definitely one of my favourites to go up against – indeed, he’s one of my all-time favourite enemies to play against, based on how that game went! Absorbing Man was a bit lacklustre, though I think it could be different based on different modular encounter sets and so on, and I think it would be interesting to go up against him again.
Taskmaster was probably one of the more disappointing scenarios, I think because I didn’t trigger enough of what makes the scenario stand out (rescuing allies). I think that would definitely bear playing again, to see if it will work out differently for me. Finally, I went up against Zola yesterday and, while I had read some horror stories about him online, I didn’t think he was quite so bad as I had perhaps been led to believe. There are so many more minions than I have seen of late, of course, and it was interesting that he has Retaliate 1, meaning that most allies were dying off after just a couple of rounds of attacking him. However, it was still a good game to play against him, I didn’t really feel like it was a nightmare running away with me at any time.
In terms of the X-Men box, I thought that Sabretooth was a bit messy at times, but the Sentinels scenario was just incredible! I have already mentioned this in my January retrospective, but I cannot stress just how enjoyable it was to play this one – it wasn’t easy, of course, and it was at times quite awful, but it just felt like how I would expect an X-Men scenario to play. There were some especially cinematic moments around Sentinel minions popping up, and Cyclops getting marked for death and so on.
I had a huge influx of Marvel Champions content in December, of course, but I have still picked up a few extra bits since! Last week, I bought The Hood scenario pack, mainly because I’d gone into my local games shop looking for the Phoenix hero pack and she wasn’t in stock! However, The Hood is one of those interesting expansions to a game whereby the designers do something a little different to the norm, and it was wriggling around at the back of my mind about picking him up sooner rather than later. The “gimmick” with the pack is that he has nine new modular encounter sets, plus alternative sets for Standard and Expert which crank up the difficulty of each. While these new modular sets are all themed roughly around the Street Level heroes within the Marvel universe, with a very loose Criminal theme tying them together, they’re still independent enough that they could be slotted into any other scenario in the game.
The Hood himself uses up to seven of them, although he only starts play with one shuffled into his deck, and each villain stage shuffles one more in. I think the main scheme shuffles more in as it advances, too, though I was able to stay on stage 1B for the whole game, so I didn’t trigger that. He actually makes for quite an interesting game, though, because his “thing” is the Foul Play mechanic, where you discard the top of the encounter deck and, if that card isn’t part of The Hood’s own scenario, you deal it to yourself as an encounter card. There are numerous ways to trigger this during the game, and so I think I easily saw the whole deck almost twice. I used Crossfire’s Crew as the modular set shuffled in at the start, then when I defeated the first villain stage I shuffled in Streets of Mayhem, which is a nice set of environments that simply add effects like Retaliate 1, +1 attack, Steady, etc. They’re global effects, but they do also have Surge, so there can sometimes be a lot going on with him!
I definitely enjoyed trying him out, anyway – for theme, I used my Spider-Man deck alongside Doctor Strange, and while the former is one that I’ve thrown together myself, the latter is mostly the pre-con. I say this because I think it’s interesting to contrast how both of yesterday’s games went. Zola wasn’t easy, but he was enjoyable in part due to the fact Hawkeye and Black Widow work so well together, and The Hood wasn’t a cakewalk but was also pretty fun to go up against, again because I know the Spider-Man deck, and Doctor Strange can have some very powerful effects.
Knowing the deck is a much bigger deal than I thought it would be, though. Having only played Doctor Strange once, I found myself a little confused at times at what I was planning to do with cards – indeed, at one point I played nothing and ended up having to discard cards, because I had drawn my hand when in alter-ego form, then flipped to the hero side. In contrast, a deck like Black Widow is interesting because you know that you want to get as many Preparations out as possible, and you know that there are some key cards that you should aim to get out early to help with the economy, etc.
It’s a really great game, and I particularly enjoy the fact that it’s the sort of game that you can just pick up and play, without a great deal of fuss to it. I really enjoy it, anyway, and I don’t think I will be stopping now that I’ve reached those 10 plays for 2023. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if I end the year having played this one a hundred times…
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