We’ve got an entire section of our site on keywords and rule clarifications for Marvel Champions, because as much as we adore the game… the rules are honestly not clear or particularly well-written in a lot of places. It’s possible this is my own bias coming from games like Magic: The Gathering, where rules have clear templating and you could fill tomes with the comprehensive rules, but generally there are a lot of questions about how rules and interactions work. To their credit, Fantasy Flight Games attempt to help with some of these, but often their rulings just add more questions. Team-Up is one of the victims of this, so in this article we’re going to take a look at just how Team-Up works, and nail down some of its weird oddities with the help of official FFG rules and a healthy dose of card reading logic.
What is a Team-Up card?
Team-Up is technically a keyword, which is shorthand for a piece of rules text. In this case, the current full rules text is:
The team-up keyword names two characters. In order for a player to include a card with the team-up keyword in their deck, that player’s chosen identity must match one of the named characters. Additionally, a card with the team-up keyword cannot be played unless both of the named characters (hero/identity or ally) are in play.
So let’s break that down further clarify a few things:
- Your identity (either your hero or alter-ego) must match one of the named characters to put it in your deck
- You cannot play the card unless both cards are in play.
- Being in play means you can literally see the name of that character on a card on the table
This last bit is an important caveat, and where some confusion exists. You’ll see in the official rules above, we’ve got the line “hero/identity”. This is because the rule has been printed differently in two different locations. In the rules reference, the wording states purely “Hero”. In the information for the Sinister Motives expansion, it states “Identity”. This is where FFG have essentially written themselves into a hole I want to briefly explain.
Team-Up (Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales). Max 1 per deck.
Alter-Ego Action: Heal 3 damage each from Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales.
This is where FFG needed to clarify Team-Up, and where uncertainty was introduced. Prior to this, the rule read “unless both of the named characters (hero or ally) are in play”.
This is a problem – your Identity card is a double-sided card that has a Hero side and an Alter-Ego side. Neither Gwen Stacy, nor Miles Morales are technically speaking heroes. So they updated the rules text to include the word “Identity”, as they have no standardised way of referring to a single side of the Identity card that isn’t specifically Alter-Ego or Hero.
All of this begs a very important question which is asked fairly regularly:
Can you play a Team-Up card if the character listed is in a different form?
In short, it’s not exactly conclusive, but the answer is probably not.
This can be extrapolated from a few specific rules (emphasis mine):
• A card is considered to either be in play or out of play depending on its state within the game.
• If a card is in play, its text is active and it can affect the game.
• If a card is double-sided (having game text on each side of the card), the faceup side of the card is in play.
• If a card is double-sided (having game text on each side of the card), the facedown side is out of play.
• Cards with team-up cannot be played unless both characters listed by the keyword are in play.
So when a card’s face is down, as far as the game is concerned at least, that face does not exist. This is extremely counter-intuitive as Miles Morales doesn’t exactly stop being Miles Morales when he’s being Spider-Man, but if you think about cards the way a computer or a toddler would, you look at your board, any text or cards that you cannot see in play don’t exist and cannot affect the game in any way. If no card specifically has the name “Miles Morales” because he’s currently called “Spider-Man”, then you can’t play the Team-Up.
But what about that change to looking at your identity?
Surely that change means you get to consider both sides of the identity card, right? Well… not necessarily. I believe that essentially the inconsistency that was introduced there was basically a mistake caused by the game’s muddled terminology. They had no way of referring to either the named hero or named alter-ego without effectively referring to both, because a character’s identity is typically a single card. Even if the rule was reworded to “Hero, Alter-Ego, or Ally”, it would still be possible to read it as counting both sides of the card without considering which side is in play. They need to rewrite Team-Up at a fundamental level to fix it with no interpretation necessary, which is surprisingly tough, and I actually recommend trying it for yourself to properly understand the issue.
It’s entirely possible they’ll find better wording for this in some time in the future after this article, but at the time of writing, it seems that based on the rules above that it’s intended that you don’t care at all about who the character is when they’re not face up. Consider that with Sinister Motives they needed to specify the Alter-Ego names to ensure that you’re the right Spider-Man for the Team-Up, rather than just letting Gwen Stacy snog all 50 of the Spider-Men allies and heroes that seem to be in the game now. She’d effectively be able to play Young Love extremely consistently. So they had to make her care about “Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales” – if they didn’t make the change to the wording, the Team-Up just wouldn’t work for those specific characters.
All this means there’s multiple issues with being able to play Young Love in a board state where one hero is in their hero form. For one – you can’t see a card named Gwen Stacy if she’s busy being Ghost Spider. Not only that the effect itself states specifically “Heal 3 damage each from Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales” – you can’t heal damage from Ghost Spider, you can only heal damage from Gwen Stacy. Even if Ghost Spider is Gwen Stacy in-universe. As weird as that is, the card’s text effectively can’t affect her. You may think that’s incredibly dumb, as logically she doesn’t stop being that character, or it may be perfectly logical to you – after all, Ghost Spider doesn’t have time to be kissing dudes upside down when she’s fighting crime. This is where your interpretation is vital, and this leads me to the true secret point of this article. I’m sorry for misleading you.
Come up with your own rulings
The rules of Marvel Champions are inconsistent. The official rulings are just as unclear and frankly, often poorly written. This is not a game where you can be a “rules lawyer”, play purely rules-as-written, or rely on official sources for every question you have. It’s also not a competitive game, nor is it a game where there are any stakes other than the way you feel about your own losses and victories. So it doesn’t actually matter, even if it’s annoying.
You need to feel comfortable reading cards and interpreting them with some form of confidence. To help with this, I’ve got three tips that might help you.
1. Rule logically, what makes the most intuitive sense to you?
Rules should be logical. If it makes sense to you without any mental backflip, it’s probably fine. You don’t need to overthink this, cross-reference articles like this one, or consult experts and official sources. Read the card, and come up with a logical solution for yourself. If this means that you think it’s stupid to ignore the Alter-Ego when it comes to playing Team-Up cards because Gwen Stacy is always Gwen Stacy, then by all means ignore that rule and go ahead and play them the way that makes sense to you. It’ll make the card more powerful, but not in a way that fundamentally breaks the game for you or anyone else, so who actually cares?
2. Rule consistently, not just in your favour or against yourself
There are a lot of similar cards in the game – Spectrum’s energy forms are very similar to Vision’s mass forms. Rogue‘s Touched is very similar to Valkyrie‘s Death-Glow. When you make a ruling, remember what you decided and if a card appears to be intended to function similarly, make sure you carry that same ruling with you when you play another of those types of card. This advice directly conflicts with the rulebook’s “grim rule”, which is honestly a bad way of considering how to rule an interaction in a card game, and I am firmly opposed to it. It’s better to sit down and puzzle through how the card is supposed to work based on information available to you, and go from there, else you’ll have identical effects that behave in opposite ways despite sharing the same card text.
3. Consider what the intent of the cards would’ve been originally
While the rules are poorly written, the game is not badly designed. It’s easy to accidentally link these things in your head, and that leads to mistakes and basically having to make your own game within their ruleset. The game is well-designed, they’ve just done a bad job of capturing what they were thinking in words when they put the rules together. Writing rules is insanely hard. This is fine. Take a step back – would the game’s creators intend for the game to work that way? Does the result of your reading seem silly or broken? It’s probably not the right way to read that card. Rules-as-intended are almost always less stupid and broken than rules-as-written, in almost every game. Give the designers the credit they’re due, and apply Occam’s Razor – the simplest and most obvious solution is probably correct. Do you think they intended you to completely break the game, have completely unplayable games due to losing key hero cards permanently during setup, or do you think they intended the character to be able to function and for you to have fun playing them?
Basically, Team-Up is confusing, and the rules are inconveniently unclear in a lot of places about this and many other things. There are plenty of official rules sources that you can cross-reference and look at to come up with the technically correct answer that you can’t play Young Love as Miles Morales if Gwen Stacy is currently busy being Ghost Spider, and that’s totally fine. But if you start reading articles and Googling every time you hit a weird rules interaction, you’re going to cost yourself a ton of time. Use the rules as a starting point, and if the rules reference guide covers the rule, or an official ruling is clear and makes logical sense to you, then by all means go ahead and feel comfortable using them straight. But think about how you interpret rules, break them down step-by-step, and don’t sweat it too much. Just focus on having fun and maintaining the challenge for yourself at the level that is fun for you and your group.