Since its release in 2019, Marvel Champions has grown to be come one of my favourite games.
In Marvel Champions you take on the role of a superhero battling a villain. The setup is quite simple: the villain has various schemes that they are trying to achieve, and you need to stop them. If the villain achieves their scheme (robbing a bank, releasing a poison gas, etc) or reduces all the heroes to zero hit points, they win. The heroes win by reducing the villain to zero hp.
The heroes are really varied, and the base game comes with five of them: Iron Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, She-Hulk and Captain Marvel. The game does a great job of making each feel how they should through their mechanics, for example: Iron Man is weak to start and must spend the game building up his suit, but once he does, he’s awesome.
The joy of the game comes from exploring how the different characters play. When you build their deck you pick one of 4 aspects for them: aggression, protection, justice and leadership. Each character has certain cards which they always have (Iron Man always has his suit cards, for example), but how each character plays can be mixed up by what aspect you pick for them. In one game you might go all out attack with an aggression build and in the other pick leadership and focus on making your allies stronger.
It’s the variety of the heroes, and their varied playstyles, that really makes the game shine. Of course, there’s a bunch of heroes that you can get beyond what comes in the base game, with expansions for Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and more. There’s three villains in the base game, all of which can be played against many times, and plenty more added with expansions. How the villains play can be mixed up through modular sets of cards and there’s different difficulty modes, adding lots of replay value. I think I played the core set around 40 or so times before moving on to any off the expansion material.
It works great in both solo and in co-op, and I absolutely love it. I’ve played it over 100 times and still feel there’s plenty more to see. I think that it’s super thematic and satisfying.
I’ve seen some reviews on YouTube fault the game for not having a story that is as strong as some of the other Fantasy Flight LCGs, namely Arkham Horror The Card Game. I have to say, I don’t think that is a particularly valid criticism because the game isn’t TRYING to have a strong story: that is not where it is focused. The game is trying to create a game that is quick to pick up and battle against a villain in what is a really fun show down with awesome superheroes and powerful abilities: it’s not trying to tell a story about the fallibility of mans’ quest for knowledge and lust for power in the face of the unknown horrors of infinity. Criticising Marvel Champions for not being as story focused as Arkham Horror is like criticising a chocolate bar for not being as savoury and filling as a roast chicken: it’s not trying to be.
I think that Marvel Champions does a fantastic job of making you feel like a super hero. It’s not the scenario that is the interesting part (though they certainly can be infesting), but it’s your hero: seeing them grow in strength over the game and use their powers, that is the best part of the game.
I think that it’s a game that keeps getting better with every release, and I’m very excited to see where the game goes next.
[This review was originally posted on Instagram in January 2021]
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