Marvel Champions is an LCG, which stands for Legal Cash Grab and means you will have the pleasure of always being able to spend money on it.
To be fair LCG stands for Living Card Game and only feels like a legal cash grab however when you consider I paid £46 for my Core Set that means each card cost just over 13p is that so bad?
Let’s start with the licence. Marvel, it could have been an original IP and not having to pay a licence to Disney could have made the game cheaper.
Would you buy Marvel Champions if it was called Super Power People Battle?
Ok so I am not in marketing but you get my point. The characters are instantly recognisable, the villains are evil and we all know their stories and rivalries, there is a familiarity that is comforting and not having to learn who everyone is can help with understanding each character-specific skill set.
Cost to play
So, when you consider this is Marvel, 13p per card is not a great price for the core set. However, as things progress it has been stated that FFG will be releasing new content every month. With the vast Marvel Universe to draw from, there is a seemingly endless supply of new characters to add to the roster.
The RRP of the Hero packs is currently £16.99 and with 60 cards per pack make each card is approximately 28p, the Scenario Packs have an RRP of £22.99 which is almost 29p per card.
This is on par with some of the more expensive LCGs’. Comparatively Magic the Gathering, based on the RRP of the booster pack works out to be 41p per card.
The good news is twofold, firstly, you don’t need to buy the Hero or Scenario packs as there is plenty in the Marvel Champions core box to keep you entertained for some time and secondly, you don’t need to pay the RRP prices for packs. I just spent 10 minutes looking around the most popular games sites on the entire interwebs. You will need to pay between £10 and £14 for a hero pack and closer to £14 to £17 for a scenario pack.
This is a far more reasonable price and would put the hero packs at 16p per card. There will not always be deals, particularly for the latest packs but if you are patient you will be able to amass a collection for a reasonable price.
What is Marvel Champions about?
The core set contains 5 heroes, namely Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, The Black Panther, Iron Man and She-Hulk as well as a whole host of recognisable, helpful heroes and characters from the Marvel Universe.
The goal of each game is to thwart the Villians evil schemes and side schemes. The villains, in this case, are Rhino, Klaw and Ultron. Once again there is a list of evil characters to assist them as well as each hero having a specific Nemesis.
Marvel Champions is a fast-moving game and the win/lose conditions depend primarily on whether or not the villain completes their scheme.
Each hero has a double-sided identity card, on one side is the hero, Spider-Man for example and on the reverse would be Peter Parker, or Iron Man and Tony Stark and so on.
Each hero and alter ego will have different abilities and uses to aid you in play. If we take Peter Parker/Spider-Man as our example, Peter Parker has a hand size of 6, has a recovery ability or could generate one Mental resource.
Spider-Man on the flip side has a hand size of 5, has a Spider-Sense ability (as a villain attacks he gets to draw a card) and has three symbols on the left of his portrait. These are Blue, Red and Green, Thwart, Attack and Defence respectively.
The hero deck is made up of 40-50 cards and each card will be from either the red/aggression, yellow/justice, blue/leadership, green/protection and finally the silver/standard aspect cards. As the names suggest the Aggression aspect cards are useful for dealing damage to the villain whilst green often allows the hero to heal or prevent damage etc.
Heroes will also have an obligation card and a nemesis deck that is added to the villain’s encounter deck. These are not dealt with until drawn, these are always a choice of bad or very bad. Using Spider-Man as an example, his obligation is called Eviction Notice draw this and you have a choice to exhaust your character or discard a card at random and the card then gains surge, which means you draw another card from the encounter deck.
Villains are not controlled by a player but instead have a set procedure based on your specific form. If you are in alter ego form, the villain does not know who you are so will Scheme, adding tokens to their Master Plan. Each plan will have several required scheme tokens to complete and should you not defeat both villain cards (more on that in a second) or deal with the scheme promptly they will win. If you are in Hero form then the villain will attack each hero in order. If there are any nemesis or minions played in front of a hero they will attack that hero too.
Villains have three versions of themselves and you will fight two of them depending on the difficulty. You will start by fighting Rhino 1 and the scheme The Break-In. Rhino 1 has 14 hitpoints per hero, an attack of 2 and a scheme value of 1. Once you take his hitpoints down to 0 he switches to Rhino 2. When revealed you play the Breakin ‘ & Takin’ side scheme and set his hit points to 15 per hero.
For more of a challenge, you could play with Rhino 2 and 3. Rhino 3 enters play with a tough status card, meaning the first attack against them does no damage and when you reveal him each hero is stunned which means if you try to attack you pay the costs or exhaust the hero but instead of hitting the Villain or minion you instead remove the stunned card.
The player and villain phases are straight forward but I would suggest having the rules reference with you for the first few matches to understand the terminology on the cards. As an example, a card with Surge simply means you draw another card.
The player phase will see you attempting to play cards to improve your character, play ally cards and support cards to help defeat the villain. You do this by discarding cards to obtain their resources to the value of the card you want to play.
Once per round, you can choose to switch the form to utilise different skills and abilities of various cards but at times, perhaps just to avoid a scheme or damage.
The Villain phase has you draw a card to boost the villains next attack or scheme. If it’s an attack you can choose to defend it, then reveal the boost, this is done for each hero and once done you then draw an encounter card again for each hero. Then you resolve any minion turn and move back to the player phase.
Marvel Champions is a Deck Building Game
Once you have a grasp of Marvel Champions and have played a few times with the suggested decks it’s time to start making your own decks.
I am horrible at deck building. I can ruin any deck with my inability to understand the way cards work together and my first loss was when I tried to create my own deck. Remarkable considering there is not that much variety in the core box.
This is a good and bad thing. Marvel Champions has no “Special” cards that are so rare and powerful that you will never find them unless you are willing to pay a fortune for them but then again, there are no special cards to build decks around.
With a small hand size and useful cards choosing which of them to burn for resources and which card to play means that the right decision doesn’t exist and each scenario will be unique. There are a lot of factors at play when considering your next move meaning that all decisions matter and the strategy you employ will depend upon the game state and not on what you want to do. The level the scheme is at, your hit points, the Villain hit points, how many minions are out, are there side schemes in play, have any objectives come into play, how many side schemes are active etc?
Analysis Paralysis is a real factor when playing with other, considered players, those that like to plan will often find themselves not moving forward and whilst up to four players can take part in a game I have found the perfect number to be, well, one!
I would rather play Marvel Champions solo than in any other combination. I think the flow of the game and planning work so much better with one player.
Marvel Champions is easy to get into, simple to learn and is great to play alone. Some people prefer to play with 2 players but I disagree and would rather go solo. The components are of good quality and the artwork is fantastic.
I think the box storage is terrible and will be adding a review for an insert shortly that addresses that issue but as for negatives, it’s a living card game so is never going to be “cheap” but for what comes in the core box you would be hard-pressed to fault it.
I am a big fan of Marvel Champions but as of yet have not purchased any additional decks which might say more about my true feelings than my head would let me believe. I play the game fairly frequently as it’s quick to set up (with an insert) and simple to play solo so I can just play when I fancy a game without relying on others.
This would be on my list of recommended games and it’s one I will come back to again and again but the ongoing cost of adding content puts me off saying it’s a must-have. Perhaps I should say Marvel Champions is a must-have game for those who can afford it.
Below you will find some print and play resources released by FFG.