First Impressions – The Rise of Red Skull

The Rise of Red Skull was officially released a couple of days ago and we were lucky enough to not only get a copy straight away but also to have the weekend off.  Needless to say, we’ve played a lot of games!  This article is going to be our first impressions after having completed the campaign twice.

We each used Hawkeye and Spider-Woman once through the campaign, going with different builds each time.  We didn’t use the expert campaign mode options on the first playthrough (but we did use the expert encounter cards and villains stage 2&3), but we did on the second playthrough.


The Heroes

[Tim] After having used both characters, I’m not sure which one I prefer.  I like them both!

[Gareth] Yeah they’re both good I would probably lean to Spider-Woman just because of the large amount of deckbuilding options you can play with.

[Tim] Yeah her deckbuilding is very interesting.  The first thing you think of is that it’s crazy that she can pair any two aspects, as there are some nice combos you can create that might not have otherwise been possible.  But I think these are neatly held in check by the fact that you have to have an equal number of cards for both aspects that you include.  What do you reckon?

[Gareth] Yes having to keep an equal number keeps her honest.  Without that restriction I think she would be Doctor Strange levels of broken.  It certainly makes choosing your basic cards harder as you have to balance them so there’s an even amount of slots left for your aspects. 

As odd as it sounds, having to have an even amount means you won’t get all of the cards you want from one aspect and will sometimes add ‘filler’ cards from your second aspect which you would not have taken otherwise.

Now not to ignore poor Hawkeye, I did enjoy him, his arrows are certainly interesting and I do like all of his cards. The only thing which makes me worry for him are his Hit Points and Recover.  Does sort of push him towards a Leadership chump build, your thoughts Tim?

[Tim] Hawkeye’s arrows are great; he seems to have an arrow for every occasion.  I definitely agree that he’s quite fragile though and a Leadership ally spam build is probably going to be a very good way to build him (it’s one of the best deck builds in the game at the moment full stop).

In our first playthrough I was using Hawkeye with Aggression and the amount of damage he was chucking out was a bit silly.  I had Hulk and Spider-Girl to chump block with when needed, so along with Mockingbird’s ability it might be possible to run Aggression with Hawkeye in solo.  

Hawkeye’s Quiver is his best card though, would you agree?

[Gareth] Nah it’s definitely Maria Hill *cough* haha.  Yeah out of his cards it’s certainly the card to want to see early on. It’s going to let you get his arrows and hold onto them for when they’re needed. I know I normally put a Cable Arrow on it and held onto it just for a ‘oh shit’ moment where we desperately needed it. 

Naturally his two resource generators are nice, basically always allowing you to shoot an arrow off!

[Tim] Yeah with two Expert Marksman in play you are playing an arrow for free every round!  Back to Spider-Woman, is Pheromones her best card?

[Gareth] Best aspect card certainly, although possibly tied with Contaminant Immunity just for the “I never want to go to alter-ego” mind set. But I’m a sucker for Finesse personally, anything to let you play more cards and pump her even more! I remember one of us removing five threat in a turn with her alone! 

I feel Protection might be an auto-include for one of her aspects.  I know when we both played her she almost never got forced back to alter-ego (I was Protection/Leadership and Tim was Protection/Aggression), thoughts?

[Tim] Contaminant Immunity was a very good card for her!  I really liked using Momentum Shift as well, so I’d tentatively agree that Protection is a good choice for one of her aspects.  I really need to try her in solo play to see if she can meet the threat removal demands, but I’m confident that she can.  

Compared to previous heroes, where do you think these two rank in terms of effectiveness?

[Gareth] Hmm, I would say they’re both in the top half of heroes.  I think I would be inclined to rank Hawkeye maybe towards the bottom of that half (assuming solo play) just because of his 1 Thwart and I know that makes life difficult. 

Spider Woman might be pushing top three just for the flexibility she brings to deckbuilding, you can pretty much make sure you can easily handle anything the villain can do.  What do you think?

[Tim] Hawkeye’s thwart value is low, but he has relatively easy access to threat removal in the form of Cable Arrow and can also confuse the villain with Sonic Arrow, so I don’t think he is going to struggle too much.  With the power of his arrows, I think he might even be able to brute force his way through some scenarios quite quickly.

I’d rank both Hawkeye and Spider-Woman on the tier just below Doctor Strange and Captain America, on the same tier as Captain Marvel and Ms.Marvel.  This is just my initial reaction based on how much fun they were to use, so I might be over-rating them.

[Gareth] Well I guess there’s only one way to find out, time to play more games! Now enough about those goody two shoes, let’s move onto the Villains!


The Villains

[Tim] Five new villains!  I’m not saying that we would take any extra content that FFG could throw at us, but we definitely needed this!  Luckily, they are all quite fun so far.  Gareth and I did have quite a high win-rate against them but that could be due to a variety of reasons.

[Gareth] I would like to think our success rate is down to our high level of competence! Though we did use the two heroes out of the box so it could be argued they might be better suited for these villains. 

For someone who has played a large amount of games these will certainly add a breath of fresh air.  I also think those mono resource decks are going to have a hard time against these miscreants, attachments galore!

[Tim] There were attachments everywhere!  Thankfully, most of them are relatively easy to get rid of, especially between two players, but if you don’t remove them promptly there are a lot of encounter cards that punish you for not doing so (not to mention that stat increases and other effects they give the villains).  But you are correct about decks that heavily favour a particular resource type; they are going to have a bad time against some of these scenarios.

I know for the campaign mode, the Experimental Weapons module continues through all of the scenarios, but this was only three cards in our playthroughs, so it wasn’t too bad.  Which was your favourite villain?

[Gareth] I think to be honest it was Red Skull.  Him having a deck purely of side schemes and you being punished if you let them build up with Red Skull slapping your face off! That and some of the encounter cards are very thematic for the campaign!

But each of the new villains have an interesting twist which makes it very hard to choose!  What would your top pick be?

[Tim] I did enjoy the Red Skull fight.  Thankfully, we were able to deal with the side schemes quite quickly as they were coming out, but I can see some characters having an absolute nightmare in this scenario in solo.  I liked Taskmaster’s ability where you took damage whenever you flipped from alter-ego to hero, but I think Zola is probably my favourite scenario.

Zola has retaliate on every stage and retaliate is great against allies and tough statuses, which so far have been very effective ways to defeat villains.  Added to that, he has some potent and/or annoying minions that you’ll want to deal with as quickly as you can in order to stop them from getting one or more of the many attachments that his encounter set has.  The main scheme and test counters mean that you will be getting minions sooner or later as well.

My least favourite is probably Absorbing Man.  He’s just a bit bland, even with the environment cards.  Who is your least favourite?

[Gareth] I would probably have to agree with you on that one, he’s only there to get in your way and not do anything fancy.  He might get better in a four player where his environment keeps changing and keeps you more on your toes. But he might be more of a Rhino 2.0 

[Tim] In the context of the campaign you get rewarded for beating him quickly, so I think he’s been designed as a speed bump rather than a roadblock.  

I guess we should also talk about the encounter modules that are in the box as you are free to use those in other scenarios.  Most of them contain the usual assortment of Hydra goons, but those Flame-Soldiers have the potential to be rage-inducing.  You’ve definitely got to make sure that you can defend against their attack, although there’s nothing you can do if they get revealed as a boost card other than hope you were already defending!

[Gareth] Yeah I know we got lucky with them a time or two that we were defending when they came out as a boost, they will certainly ruin your day, they might be a secret buff to Protection builds haha. 

Yes unsurprisingly a lot of Hydra goons kicking about I like the Incite mechanic on the less beefy ones, making it a lot less safe to leave the scheme just one away from rolling over.  The Experimental Weapons module was interesting and I liked the fact that each weapon did something different.

[Tim] So I think we agree that none of the villains were Wrecking Crew or Risky Business levels of bad?  Obviously, we need to play these scenarios a bit more to be sure, but I’m confident that even Absorbing Man will shake out to be at least as good as Rhino.  Unless you can think of anything else to mention about the villains, shall we move on to the campaign itself?

[Gareth] On the whole I think this is certainly a good batch of new villains to battle, other than that I don’t think there’s anything else to add.


The Campaign

[Tim] I guess I should start with the campaign depth.  I wasn’t expecting an Arkham Horror level of detail and story options, so I wasn’t disappointed when that wasn’t what we got.  What we did get was an enjoyable experience though!  

The campaign log might not have been as full as an Arkham one, but I did appreciate things like how quickly you beat Absorbing Man had an effect in a later scenario.

[Gareth] I really like their idea of tying each of the scenarios together with a bit of comic strip (very thematic) and some of the scenario outcomes adding to later games. 

Think they very much have the right idea of not having the campaign as in-depth as Arkham. They’re both different animals and trying to squeeze an Arkham campaign into Marvel’s system would have very much backfired.  I think you could very easily do the campaign all in one afternoon!

[Tim] Yep, they’re different games with some similarities.  I really liked the comic panels as well and hope that is something that they continue to do in future campaign expansions.  

The campaign comes with cards that are specifically for when playing the campaign mode, such as setup upgrades and some powerful allies.  What did you think to how they were implemented?

[Gareth] I think they were done well.  The allies you might not even get them as they are tied to side schemes which might just get discarded for boosts.  We got very lucky in the first play through getting all four and then in the second were sad to get only two. However thinking about it I think getting one per player is likely to be ‘average’.

The upgrades are a one-off or a general enhancement. I think were a good idea, the one-off I think is tempting to try and save to the last fight but there is good reason to burn it earlier as doing so might also make your life easier for later on.

The stating buff allows to to either specialise of cover of a weakness *cough* Hawkeye’s Hit Points *cough*.  What do you think?

[Tim] The one use per campaign upgrade was definitely tempting to save for the last encounter, as I think that you’re always worried about wasting it.  I might have preferred if they were toned down in terms of power but were once per game instead.  Perhaps that is something we’ll see in The Galaxy’s Most Wanted?

[Gareth] Ooh yes that would be interesting to see.  Yeah a once per game might have been nice, letting you get more use out of them. But might not have had the warm feeling of doing fifteen damage with the Laser Cannon and without wasting a drop might I add!

You might be right regarding The Galaxy’s Most Wanted.   I say just because I hope they will keep mixing things up a bit!  Definitely like expert mode where your Hit Points carries over.  Conveys the feel of going from one fight to another without being able to catch your breath, what do you think?

[Tim] Yeah that was a nice thing to have to worry about, it adds another consideration to how you play and I hope that they continue with that in future campaigns.  

With regards to Laser Cannon, it did come in handy against The Sleeper and that Exo-Soldier, so no complaints from me!  

Overall, I’d say that I was quite pleased with the campaign elements introduced in The Rise of Red Skull.  There was just enough to tie everything together, but not too much that Marvel Champions lost its streamlined play.  What did you think about the campaign overall?

[Gareth] I very much enjoyed it, like you say just enough to tie everything together but without slowing things down with too much setup or book keeping, I will certainly be looking forward to the next one!  

[Tim] Me too! 


Decklists

We found the decks that we used on our second playthrough to be more effective, so we thought that we’d share them here.


Summary

That’s it for now, we hope you enjoyed our first impressions of The Rise of Red Skull.  We’re looking forward to using the new heroes and villains in more games soon!

Cheers,

Tim & Gareth

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