Marvel: Champions is a Petri dish of some of my favourite things: Superheroes, co-operative games, strategy and deck-building.
Naturally, I'm already hooked (and I've preordered the upcoming packs!)
Marvel: Champions is the latest Living Card Game (LCG) from Fantasy Flight Games. If you're unfamiliar with the LCG model, they key difference is that there are no booster packs or “rare” cards, and each month (or thereabouts), FFG will release a a new pack with full playsets of brand new cards.
LCG's eliminate the secondary market the permeates a lot of other card games, making games like Marvel: Champions, ideal for people who want to spend less time looking for the cards they need for their deck, and more time playing!
As the name might suggest, Marvel: Champions sees you take on the role of one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and work together with your fellow players (or solo!), to thwart the plot of the villain you've chosen to play against.
Like FFG's other co-op games Arkham Horror: The Card Game and Lord of The Rings, the Villain Deck in Marvel: Champions makes for an exciting and repayable game mode where you'll have to establish your strategies early and adapt to each of the different threats the villain throws at you.
What Marvel: Champions does differently to FFG's other games is in the its unique and extremely flavourful mechanics.
I've explained, each deck will be built around one of the Marvel heroes you'll know well from the comics or the movies (the core box has Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Ironman, She-Hulk and Black Panther). Each of these heroes has a unique set of cards you must include in your deck, but they also come with a set of cards representing their personal nemesis.
Certain effects can trigger those nemesis cards to be shuffled into the villain deck- essentially adding a side-plot to the ongoing narrative, and presenting the players with additional schemes and threats (and villains!) to overcome.
This mechanic really adds to the replayability of each of the scenarios- aside from more obvious things like changing your deck or the hero you're playing-, there is a super exciting and stressful feeling about planning out your turn with your friends, discovering you can defeat the villain, only to have your arch-nemesis show up unexpected and ruin your plans!
On top of that, each of the heroes are printed on a double-sided card- one for each their hero form (Spider-Man) and their alter-ego (Peter Parker).
Choosing when to don your cape, or to go back to your everyday life is an integral part of the game. The actions you take (as well as the actions the villain takes), are dependant on the form you're in. You can only switch once per turn, and because it changes the scope of your actions, it means you have to think far ahead, make careful judgements, and decide what is best with the help of your fellow players.
For example, you can only heal damage while in your alter-ego form. Once, I came very close to defeating Ultron, only for a card to unexpectedly take my Captain Marvel down to 2 health. I had to carefully weigh up if I wanted to march into combat while hanging by a thread in the hopes that I could defeat him, or return to the life of Carol Danvers to give myself some much needed R&R.
These mechanics, to me, are hallmarks of a great game. At the same time, they reinforce what the game is about (heroes dealing with drama on macro and micro levels), and make the game technically and strategically interesting.
The Marvel: Champions core game comes with three unique villain decks, allowing you and your pals to face off against Rhino, Klaw and Ultron. Each villain brings with them a unique host of abilities, as well a combinations of special rules that leave you on your toes.
The game is at its best when you're playing for dramatic and strategic effect. Once, when facing off against Rhino while he ransacked a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, I played as Captain Marvel, and using an upgrade card in play to store energy, I slowly built up what would have been an epic photon blast to thwart Rhino in a single hit!
However, the card drawn from the villain deck that round meant that Rhino's ransacking was especially bad, and it caused me to discard one of my upgrades- the photon energy bomb I'd been building up to for three turns!
Devastated, a picture painted in our minds of Captain Marvel gathering an epic swell of energy that required almost all her meditation and control, only to see Rhino slip through Black Panther's grip and barrel her over, breaking her concentration and ruining our planned end to the fight!
Like Lord of the Rings before it, Marvel: Champions is not always an easy or predictable game. This is one of the more important aspects of a solo or cooperative game, as I've discussed in the past- if the game is too easy, then the challenge isn't there, which causes the game to lack any true satisfaction.
Like all LCG's, Marvel: Champions has a myriad of expansions in the works. Unlike the others, however, it has a few different unique releases. Firstly, there are hero packs, which come with a new unique hero, their own set of cards as well as their nemesis cards- like the upcoming Captain America or Ms. Marvel pack. And then there are scenario packs, which include a new villain, as well as their villain deck and any other unique cards associated with the new scenario- like the Green Goblin pack due for release in December.
While all of the expansion packs will require you to have the base set, there is a really great feeling with LCG's when you know you own everything and haven't had to break the bank to do it.
Marvel: Champions is going to be a staple at the Good Games table for years to come- contact your local Good Games store today to ask about upcoming Organised Play, and to pick up your copy of Marvel: Champions!
Playmats, preorders and the core game are all available right now online!