Marvel Champions is a living card solo or co-operative deck construction game released in 2019, where players will take their superhero and aim to thwart an infamous villain. The core box comes with five initial heroes, Spiderman, Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and She Hulk and three villains to fight with Rhino, Klaw and Ultron which offers a lot of mix and match variety from the outset. The fact that Spiderman and Iron Man are probably two of my all time favourite comic characters means that this set started me off well.
In this game you will construct your support deck of cards before you start, which is different to in-game deckbuilding where you improve your deck during play. Each superhero comes with their own 15 cards they always use, and you will top up to 40 by choosing one of four aspects to play as with aggression, justice, leadership or defence and adding in cards from the chosen deck alongside some basic cards. This means that each hero already has four different ways to play their characters, sometimes increasing existing strengths or alternatively compensating for weaknesses. Suggested starter decks are provided, and even after you have expanded your game collection, this is a much easier deckbuilding concept to keep on top of compared to the infinite choices of Lord of the Rings or Arkham Horror LCGs, and i feel overall this is a good thing in reducing the set up time.
As in any usual deckbuilding format, you will draw a hand of cards each round, which varies depending on your superhero, and you will need to use the resources on one or more cards to pay and play another, so there is always a pay off decision within your hand each turn. Cards you play will generally be a combination of immediate impact events, ongoing support such as allies or locations, or attachment upgrades which boost or limit other cards already in play. The villain will fight back with their own encounter deck, spawning allies or adding side schemes to distract you and will be looking to defeat you either by knocking out your hero or completing their main scheme.
There are a couple of unique ideas in the game where you have alter ego and hero forms which you can flip to and from when you need heal up, prevent attacks or draw more cards instead of being more active in the hero attack mode. Then your hero has a nemesis, such as Vulture for Spiderman, who can appear at any moment to cause untold grief, just when you least need it. These are spectacular ways to generate the comic book feel of your character and are great design additions especially if you can really identify with a particular hero’s back story.
Why i chose not to keep it ….
As a collector of Lord of the Rings LCG, Marvel Champions offers a similar experience but with an easier or lighter style and a cut down deck construction requirement, but one that still offers nice choices. The game feels in keeping with its comic theme, and is great at providing the experience of taking the role of the superhero of choice, complete with themed attacks and abilities. I found after regular plays with a hero there is a need to move onto a new one, which pushes you to collect more content, and enemy bosses are not an overly unique play experience compared to Aeon’s End for instance. Given my significant investment in Lord of the Rings and my enjoyment of the quicker to play and re-play within Aeon’s End, i decided not to go down another collectors route with this game, for now at least but i would highly recommend this as an alternative.
There are many expansions you can add to enhance or change the gameplay as it is a really well supported game (my additions highlighted green = own, blue = part owned, red = not purchased) :
These are the bigger box expansions that focus on a campaign theme with two new heroes, villain scenarios to play. Content value wise these are likely to be your best additions if you want a lot more variety, however the general villain theme or heroes included may sway you elsewhere. Rise of the Red Skull was the first set and includes Hawkeye and Spiderwoman and now coming soon in 2021 will be Galaxy’s Most Wanted which features the Guardians of the Galaxy crew of Rocket Racoon and Groot.
These will be the most eye-catching for most, with a unique starting 40 card pack for each new hero complete with their main card, but also adding in new cards to use within the four aspects of aggression, justice, leadership and defense that you can use with any superhero. The choice you make here may come down to the heroes you know, but mechanically there are some that you may find play more the way you like. The releases so far are Captain America, Ms Marvel, Thor, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, Hulk, Ant Man, Wasp, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. My own shortlist to get next would be Captain America as i like the character and Black Widow as the game mechanics are generally getting very positive reviews.
The villain packs focus on adding new game or story scenarios for your heroes to fight against, and there are no heroes in these sets. The Green Goblin is likely to become an essential purchase for any Spiderman fans, including me, and does fit well with the core box set. The Wrecking Crew comes with a group villain approach but is much less enticing in my own view. The Once and Future Kang features a new timeline approach to the villain which sound interesting.
There are a number of neoprene player playmats you can find for each of the heroes, or one larger multiplayer mat, however these do seem a little bland and i do not see these as anything particularly special.