As the title suggests, this is our 50th article covering Marvel Champions! Nearly seven months ago I decided to get back into writing about some of the games I play, this time for Marvel Champions, by beginning with a Doctor Strange Leadership deck (really pushing the boat out, I know!). This was very quickly followed by a Thor Justice deck and at that point I decided that I enjoyed writing again. In this article I am going to take the time to reflect on Marvel Champions and our articles so far.
Marvel Champions So Far
Since the core set, we now have seven hero packs, three scenario packs, and a campaign expansion released, which is plenty to be getting on with.
Understandably, there have been product delays this year. With only four villains worth playing against (more on this later), there was something of a drought until The Rise of Red Skull was released.
This campaign expansion added two new heroes but more importantly, five new villains! I’m pleased to report that none of the villains are awful. Some of them are quite easy to beat, but then ones like Red Skull and Zola are good challenges.
The campaign element of The Rise of Red Skull was enjoyable and pretty much what I was expecting in terms of depth. Some people were hoping for an Arkham Horror level of storytelling, but it was never advertised as such. There is definitely room for improvement, but the previews we have seen of The Galaxy’s Most Wanted are encouraging and I’m looking forward to getting my copy next year.
Mentioned above I stated that there were only four villains worth playing before The Rise of Red Skull. As you might have noticed if you have been reading our Showdown series, we don’t put Risky Business or The Wrecking Crew into our villain rotation.
We have found both scenarios to be too easy, even on higher difficulties, due to some flaws in their design. The Wrecking Crew scenario pack is the only Marvel Champions gameplay product that I would advise people to skip entirely. Risky Business is part of the Green Goblin scenario pack, which also contains the Mutagen Formula scenario and four good encounter modules, so is a good purchase regardless.
Back in March, FFG published an article on their site introducing Rookie and Heroic mode. I haven’t heard of many players using Rookie difficulty, but Heroic has been popular. Created as a way of giving players more of a challenge, it absolutely ramps up the difficulty!
After having played a decent amount of Heroic, I’m not personally convinced that it’s the best answer to the difficulty issues that some have been having (if you’re using Doctor Strange/Captain America/Captain Marvel with Leadership and complaining about the game being too easy, might I suggest not using the most powerful hero & aspect combination in the game). Tougher encounter modules and using less powerful combinations seem to be the way to go.
Speaking of tougher encounter modules, FFG have made available a print-and-play module, Kree Fanatic (you can find the file in the Player Resources section at the bottom of the page with this link). As you can see, Ronan is a beefy chap that is sure to slow you down! Providing this encounter module as a print-and-play was a great move by FFG and has been widely well-received. A couple of things that haven’t been as popular have been the folding card ‘issue’ and some rules ‘clarifications’.
As someone that occasionally plays the Transformers TCG (R.I.P.), the concept of a folding card was not new to me (FFG have stated that card game was what inspired this decision). Myself and my playgroup have all enjoyed that gimmick. I mean, look how cool this guy is!
He’s made up from six Constructicons to form Devastator! There were other combiners in the game, as well as triple-changers (similar to how Ant-Man works) and we found them to be a lot of fun. Having a positive attitude towards the concept of folding cards, I was honestly quite surprised at the amount of backlash that was directed towards FFG.
The main complaints have been about sleeving (use side-loading sleeves), storage solutions (store them the same way as you do your other heroes), durability (the Transformers ones were practically indestructible), and not sitting flat on the table (okay, that’s legitimate). There was a lot of talk about solutions to this ‘problem’, ranging from reasonable to horrific. Some people were sleeving Ant-Man folded (so his Alter Ego and Tiny forms were visible) and then printing out Ant-Man’s Giant form, reasonable. Other people were cutting their cards in half, some got laminated, etc. The stuff of nightmares. I joke, of course. People are free to do what they like with their own cards, I just found the whole reaction a bit strange.
Moving on to the rules clarifications, it has largely to do with Preemptive Strike.
FFG have clarified that you can only play a defence card if you are the target of an attack. This was changed primarily because of Preemptive Strike and how it would change the target of the attack to the player that used it, and that’s not how they wanted defence cards to work. Fair enough, but it has had a knock-on effect of making Warning nearly completely useless. It wasn’t going to set the world on fire by any means, but it could have been situationally useful in a multiplayer deck.
The definition of “You” has also been a source of confusion. Eventually the designer’s intended interpretation of the term will make it into the Rules Reference Guide. For now though, it looks like it was intended to refer to everything except allies and supports.
There are three characters that I’d like to talk about before moving on to the next section. Those characters are Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Ms. Marvel.
Doctor Strange was the focus of our first ever Marvel Champions article. He’s also the first character to have something that breaks away from the normal hero card + 15 other cards, and that something is his Invocation Deck.
These five extra cards that sit apart from his deck make Doctor Strange the powerhouse that he is. While you do have to exhaust him to cast an Invocation, all of them are very good for their cost. Crimson Bands of Cyttorak is very good for its cost, but it’s also not an attack, so can get around guard and retaliate.
Doctor Strange also has easy access to a ready effect in the form of Cloak of Levitation and has a great ally to help cycle through his Invocation deck, Wong. All of this adds up to a character that quite frankly trivialises any scenario on Expert difficulty or lower; Heroic mode is another story however.
From a comics/MCU standpoint, Doctor Strange is one of the most powerful characters around, so in a way that fits. But as I’ve noticed recently from discussions in the Marvel Champions community, this power discrepancy has caused a decent amount of people to simply stop using Doctor Strange, as they find him a bit boring. It has definitely been my experience anyway.
Next up, a character that some people love and some people hate, it’s Hulk!
I’m not going to go into detail regarding my thoughts on Hulk, as I’ve covered him a few times already. The short version is that I think he is easily the worst character released so far and it’s going to take something spectacularly bad to shift him from that position.
I hate to bring feelings into this, but Hulk in Marvel Champions doesn’t feel how I’d imagine Hulk to play. His Enraged ability is a big punishment for very little payoff (two copies of Hulk Smash and three Attack value don’t make up for it). Fair enough, the designers can’t get it right every time, it’s just a shame that Hulk had to be the casualty.
On the positive side of things, Ms. Marvel is a triumph of game design! She is always fun to use and can be very powerful if her deck is built accordingly (i.e. jam good attack/thwart/defence events into her deck).
In my opinion, she is probably the best character outside of the ‘big three’; Doctor Strange, Captain America, and Captain Marvel. I say this a lot, but if you haven’t tried using her yet, I’d recommend building an Aggression or Justice deck and giving her a try.
Due to all of the above, it may seem that I’m mostly negative about Marvel Champions so far but that’s definitely not the case (I wouldn’t be writing our 50th article on Marvel Champions if I didn’t like it!). I think that the game is in a good place right now, with plenty of content to keep you entertained. If you’ve been reading our Showdown series, you’ll know that James and I are still working our way through character and aspect combos, as well as villain and encounter combos. Even though we’ve played 140 games so far in that series, we’ve got a long way to go before we’re ‘done’.
One of the best things about Marvel Champions in my opinion is just how well it plays solo. I’ve tried Arkham Horror solo before and thought that your options for success were quite narrow. Things might have changed since then, but I always thought certain characters had no chance at all. In Marvel Champions, outside of a few character and aspect combinations, I think nearly everyone has a good chance of success, which I would credit to good game design. All in all, it has been a mostly positive first year for Marvel Champions.
Our Articles So Far
Aside from the occasional random article, most of our articles are part of a series. Our first three articles were Deck Development ones; relatively short articles where I used a specific hero and aspect combination and tested a deck versus several different scenarios. These were a good way for me to get back into the flow of writing but I wanted to do something a bit more structured.
Shortly afterwards I began our Character Focus series. Each time I would pick a hero and then do a brief analysis of their cards and summarise them overall. In the second part of that article I would then run them through a gauntlet of villains using each aspect. It was a lot of fun to do and it was a format that worked at the time (we were well into lockdown so I wasn’t at work, hence why playing 20-30 games per week was feasible). However, the sheer number of games required to get the second parts done meant that once I was back to work it wasn’t going to happen. Rather than abandon the idea of running heroes through gauntlets, I decided to change the format to a more achievable one, thus the Showdown series was created.
Enlisting the aid of my friend James, a fellow Marvel Champions fanatic, we began playing regular Showdowns versus a variety of villains using a variety of heroes and aspects. 10 games per week each was a lot less time-consuming (we both work a lot) and the variety introduced mixed in with a bit of friendly competition has ended up with something that I’m quite happy with.
Similar to the Character Focus series, I also began a Villain Focus one where I would analyse the villains. I’ll admit that I am quite far behind on that one, but it gives me something to aim for once I get my work/life balance sorted again.
On the whole, I think we produce a decent variety of articles, but if any of you have some suggestions for content that you’d like to see, we’re willing to hear them!
As mentioned above, I am definitely looking forward to the next campaign expansion, The Galaxy’s Most Wanted.
I’m particularly interested in the campaign elements of The Galaxy’s Most Wanted as I did enjoy playing through The Rise of Red Skull campaign. I think this kind of gameplay content is a good way to introduce new players to the game.
There is also the Wasp, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch hero packs to be released before then, so plenty more content in the near future.
As for our articles, I’m personally enjoying the Showdown series as it gives me a reason to use character and aspect combinations that I might not use otherwise. As more heroes and villains are released we will add them into the rotation.
We’ll continue the Character Focus and Villain Focus series, as well as the occasional Deck Development article when a particular build inspires us. Anyway, that’s enough of me rambling. I hope that you have enjoyed our first 50 articles.