I’ve been playing quite a lot of Marvel Champions since finally picking up the core set, and I’ve really been enjoying it! I’ve had maybe half a dozen games now, using all of the core heroes with all of the core Aspects in one form or another, predominantly against Rhino as the villain, although I have also tried my hand with Klaw for some variety. I’ve also been taking a look at the player cards provided in the box, and have done some small-scale deck modification, as far as can be done with the contents of one core set, and it’s been a lot of fun to try new things out.
Victory has not come easy, or often, which I think is an intriguing aspect of the game. It can sometimes be frustrating as I try to do stuff but it just doesn’t work out for me. However, the game isn’t particularly long, and whereas with something like Lord of the Rings, where there is probably as much set-up time, but it becomes a real grind to finish, which can sometimes be frustrating if you become location-locked or something, with Marvel Champions it seems that you realise that it’s almost over – and then it is. There’s no real hanging about, waiting for the inevitable end.
One game that I played, using Black Panther in a Leadership deck, was over in about 3 rounds, as I just had no way to deal with the 3-4 threat being added to the scheme, whereas the next one went on for a long time as I was able to get some momentum and heal up despite a lot of damage coming my way. That was really good, as it allowed me to explore quite a lot of the game, including the first time I got to see my Nemesis shuffled into the deck! Not that this is cause for celebration, of course!
Now, I’m not an expert with the game, so I don’t intend this to be some kind of guide for the uninitiated (as I’m pretty much only an acolyte, myself!) but let’s talk about how the deckbuilding works here. In Marvel Champions, you play a hero who comes with 15 of their “signature” cards, a bit like in Arkham Horror LCG but obviously on a bigger scale. There are four Aspects to the game, like Arkham classes or Lord of the Rings spheres, and you can only choose from one of the four to build your deck. Later expansions seem to have heroes who break away from this more, but on the whole, you’ll only be able to play with Justice, Leadership, Protection or Aggression cards. There are also Basic cards which can go into any deck. The 15 cards must always be included, then you can only include three copies of a card unless it is Unique, in which case you can only include one. Other cards will also have restrictions, such as “max 2 per deck”.
I find it really fascinating, because no hero is tied in to any specific Aspect. Of course, there will be Aspects to which heroes will lean, as shown by their 15 cards, but you could theoretically build a Hulk Leadership deck, for example. The core set suggests Aspects for each of the five heroes included, but I’ve switched it up a bit by using Black Panther for Leadership rather than his suggested Protection (he is a king, after all). Moving between Aspects could be as straightforward as taking out the Black Panther cards and swapping them for the Spider-Man cards, for example, and suddenly I have Spider-Man built for leading, and Black Panther could go off with a Justice deck.
Now, this is very basic of course, and naturally there will be cards in the 15 hero cards that would lead you on to a specific Aspect, either to bolster what is already there, or to shore up any weaknesses. I played a game with Captain Marvel and the suggested pre-built Aggression deck, and between having her own aggressive cards and those from the Aspect, I actually scored my first victory for the game! However, due to her having a lot of good cards that deal damage, it could lead her to Justice for the ability to remove threat while punching the villain, or (as I currently have her built) Protection, to heal up.
It is very interesting when you start to think about how the game would work with more than one hero, though. The different Aspects clearly work together to form a cohesive whole, and I think it’s a good thing that you can’t really build multi-class decks to dilute these effects – the best you can do is go to the opposite of your hero’s 15 cards, and try to multi-class it that way. However, victory isn’t always going to be easy, as I’ve seen with Spider-Man in a Justice deck. He can theoretically deal a lot of damage, and has the thwart shenanigans of Justice, yet each time I just lose whenever I play him!
Going all-in with a game is always pretty exciting, but it does mean that you might be left with content that you just never get round to using. I think I may have mentioned this a while ago, when talking about big deliveries of Kickstarter games being an Event – it’s exciting, for sure, but daunting as well. I know from my experience with Arkham Horror, too. I collected everything when it came out, but didn’t really “properly” start playing until the winter of 2020, so was confronted with about 4 cycles of stuff! I don’t really want to be in the same position this time around, and indeed, it’s something that I’ve been kinda exploring with the Star Wars LCG as I’ve been trying to play that in order, to limit myself a bit.
Marvel Champions has expanded with roughly a big box expansion, four hero packs, and one scenario pack per wave, although the first and the next waves will contain six hero packs. We currently have 22 hero packs out there, spread across four full cycles of this formula. That’s a lot of stuff to play with, of course, but in looking through it, I’m getting more and more itchy palms, wanting more cards!
Now, I really like the fact that you can pick up a hero pack, and there will be a pre-built deck in there, along with one or two other cards that you can use for other aspects, or to tweak the one you have. It means that you don’t need to buy everything released in each wave, but instead you can just pick up a pack if you like, say, Thor, and you can shuffle up and play. Even if you don’t like Thor, you could still pick up that pack for a slew of new Aggression cards that you can use with your hero of choice. There will always be some cases, where you might want a Justice card that means you’re buying a pack like Thor to get it, for instance, but I don’t think that’s something that happens very often. On the whole, I think packaging the game like this is great, because it allows for much more casual gamers to pick it up and play, without spending a whole night evaluating cards to build a deck. Given Marvel’s mass-appeal, this is something the game clearly needed to have, and I think it’s something they tried to do with the Star Wars game by making deck building a decision about “which ten objectives do you want?”, but taken to the next level.
The campaign boxes come with five new scenarios, with new villains to fight, and two hero decks to use that have a thematic link. So for example, I really like the X-Men when it comes to Marvel, and could feasibly hold off buying any of the other things and get myself the new box when it comes out (sometime soon, I believe). I don’t need to worry too much about the other boxes or packs, because they might not be heroes I’m interested in.
That said, I have found myself looking at the first wave products, and I have bitten the bullet and asked my local games shop to get me the Captain America hero pack, and the Green Goblin scenario pack. I do like Captain America, and I am currently planning to get the Rise of Red Skull box at some point soon. I think that should give me a good spread of cards, along with the Ms Marvel hero deck, which I’m mainly planning to pick up for the Protection cards she has. I genuinely am a fan of X-Men, by the way, so I am seriously considering getting the new expansion, but I want to take this slow, and only buy stuff that I then play with. So I don’t want to pick up a whole bunch of new stuff only to find myself in the position where I’m not getting to enjoy the game.
It is interesting to me, though, how I seem to have quickly grasped the game, and so developed something of a need for greater card variety. I’m by no means bored, but I find myself wishing I could do other things when playing, and I think this is strongly shown with the Ms Marvel Protection cards. From looking at what the pack contains, there seems to be a fair number of cards that I like the sound of, and would work quite well in the sort of deck I’m thinking about.
As I said last time, I am definitely a happy sausage with this game, and I’m really surprised how long it has taken me to give in and get myself a copy!