Marvel Champions

Over the past year or so I’ve been playing a lot of Marvel Champions, so let’s talk about it.

Marvel Champions is a Marvel branded, co-operative expandable card game by FantasyFlightGames. In the game you play heroes from the Marvel universe and either alone or with up to three other players can take on a scenario that unfolds with certain rules and scaling mechanics based on the number of players. You choose a hero that comes with their specific cards and combine it with one of four “Aspects” that add specific focus in your game mechanics. The game also has various villain scenarios which can be modified by adding or removing certain cards to change them around and adjust difficulty or flavor.

An Expandable Card Game is like a trading card game, except you always know what you are buying and cards don’t have a rarity and there isn’t any resale or trading on the aftermarket. Cards come in pre-defined products with known contents and when you buy you get all the copies of each card that a legal deck can play. FantasyFlightGames brands them as “Living Card Game” and if you are familiar with Android: Netrunner or Arkham Horror you know the deal.

Marvel Champions products come in basically four variants:

  • The first is the base game which comes with five different heroes and three different villains as well as five scenario packs. It comes with the “Standard” scenario cards that are used in all scenarios, though a recent release also provides a different, slightly more difficult Standard scenario pack. And yes, this time FFG printed all the cards you could ever need/want into the base box.
  • Hero packs are frequent releases and contain one new Hero as well as an assortment of cards for the various aspects. The pack is focused on one aspect and will add multiple new cards for that aspect, but will also always include at least one new card for every other aspect, as well as neutral cards that any aspect can use.
  • Scenario packs contain no hero cards but instead introduce new villains and modification packs to test your heroes against.
  • Campaign expansions come in big boxes and add two new heroes as well as five new scenarios, which can be strung together into a campaign with additional rules where the events of one scenario influence the next one.

What I like about the game:

The game has a lot of variety and is fun in both solo and co-operative play. I really like how the decks capture the characters both on the hero and villain side in their mechanics. I also like how the resource management works in the game with no “mana screw” or “mana flood” issues that some other games are haunted by. FFG has finally fixed one of its weaknesses and the base game comes with a decently sized and formatted box, though I’ve had to switch to a bigger box since due to the additional products released. I really like the product design described above, particularly the scenario packs which have some wild mechanics. The Wrecking Crew pack has you battle four villains at once, while the Kang the Conqueror pack has you split the party and battle separately in different timelines against the villain. The design of the aspect cards is also good as is usual with ECG, as cards don’t get power-creeped out (though not entirely avoidable) but fall more into niches and can be more or less useful depending on the strategy.

What I don’t like about the game:

Hopping between scenarios is unfortunately a bit cumbersome due to the necessity of separating the cards out into their respective scenarios. As games by FFG want to do, the game also uses a lot of tokens which can be slightly annoying. Some scenarios are a bit unbalanced or unfair against specific strategies. With a full four-stack the game can be a bit lagging when you are waiting for your turn to play, so I think the game works best with two players. There is the risk of FFG eventually losing the license and the game going out of print, but that’s the nature of the beast I guess. Also, though the releases are more manageable than a regular trading card game, FFG is still making basically a release every month which is a bit tough to keep up with.

At the moment I’m playing the Rise of the Red Skull campaign with a friend on a weekly basis, while I am currently trying to play the Galaxy’s Most Wanted campaign in solo mode (my friend already completed that campaign with someone else).

Anybody else here playing?