With Disney expanding the Marvel Universe with movies and series, introducing more people to the Comic super heroes and villains, it is only normal for games to take part. Marvel Champions is a cooperative living card game, where you take the role of notable Marvel superhero, and try to stop the villain before he they complete their evil scheme.
What is a Living Card game?
A Living Card Game or LCG is a card game, where you buy the Core Set and you can start playing. Unlike trading card games (TCG), there is no mystery, no boosters, no gambling. Every box has the same cards, and you can even see what they are in advance. LCG grows, not with boosters, but with expansion packs in the form of premade decks. It if very refreshing, stress free, and cost affective.
What is in the box of Marvel Champions?
Your goal in Marvel Champions is to team up with other heroes, or go alone, and stop a villain before they complete their evil scheme. You all take turns and work together, fighting against a villain deck. Marvel Champions’ excellent game design shines in the uniqueness of each character in the game. The box comes with five notable Marvel heroes (Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, She-Hulk and Black Panther), four aspect types (Aggression, Justice, Leadership, and Protection) and some basic cards, to build your own deck. There are three villains, but with the five modules there is a lot of variations and high replayability value. If it ever gets too easy, then you can add a few cards and bump up the difficulty to expert.
When I first picked up the game I was scared that when the cards are all the same, people will quickly come out with the most op-decks and it will be pointless to play any other one, or there will be cards you never use, and one that you can’t go without. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it is not the case.
How hard it is to build a deck in Marvel Champions?
Setup time is very important when it comes to board games. You don’t want to spend more time setting up the game then playing it, therefor it can heavily influence your motivation to play again. With most games it is straight forward, but since this is a deck-building game, the setup time varies, and some of that deck-building time can be considered as part of the game itself.
When it comes to the deck building you can spend as long as you like. With every expansion there are not only more options but can completely change your gameplay style with certain heroes. You can build the deck to synergise with your partner’s deck, or just to beat a particular boss setup. Matt’s wonderful guide on assembling your first Marvel Champions deck will help you get into deck building in no time.
If you are not into deckbuilding, the game comes with prebuild decks that you can play straight out of the box. Or you can go online copy one from the big pool of decks built by the community.
Regardless how you get your deck, you can play it every session without modifying it. Meaning you don’t need a different deck for different villains.
How long does it take to setup Marvel Champions?
Once you have your deck you have to build the encounter deck. When it comes to encounter decks, they are really fast to build once you have decided which one you will take on. Each villain comes with his own villain deck, just like the identity cards, and a side scheme, on which it has recommended setup of one or two modules. You put all the cards together, not forgetting to add your obligations to the deck, and the villain deck is done after a good shuffle. For a step-by-step setup you can read our setup guide for Marvel Champions. We also added pictures to make it easier.
Once you are familiar with the game you can mix and match modules and even increase the difficulty by either adding more modules or only the expert one.
Marvel Champions has really fast and clear setup which allows you to quickly dive into the game, and boosting its replayabilty.\
How long does a game of Marvel Champions take?
According to the box, a standard game of Marvel Champions takes an hour. To be honest I don’t know where that estimate came from, as we are yet to have a game that takes less then 2 hours. The game length depends, of course, on the difficulty of the villain, your deck play style and how many people are taking part. From our experience as a two player game on hard difficulty and high setup decks, it takes from three to four hours. The fandom factor of the decks doesn’t drag it on for long, even when you get very unlucky. The game time is completely dependent on the number of players and their deck understanding, so you will have to try a few games before you know how long it will take for you.
How good are the rules?
When it comes to picking up a game, a lot of people neglect the rule books and how well they are written. Marvel Champions has one of the best written rule books we have seen so far. The main rule book comes filled with pictures, trying to teach you how to start the game and set up, but the true design genius shines in the Reference guide. Thanks to the keywords reference guide, it is easy to find specific rules during gameplay. It is very well organized and nicely written.
The rulebooks are available online for free, and they get constantly updated with each expansion which is really convenient.
How good is Marvel Champions?
Each player takes on an identity of a Marvel superhero, and together they need to foil the villain’s plans. You start the game with premade decks, and you know who your villain is. You have to defeat two villain phases while managing the threat on the main scheme.
A player has a deck of 40 to 50 cards, 15 of which are identity specific cards, and each card has an effect, a cost, and resource. You have to use other cards to pay the cost of the card you wish to play. When building your deck and during game, managing your resources is key.
There are three types of cards – upgrades that stay on the field, allies that come and go, and just action cards like attack and thwart.
Attacking is self explanatory, it is what you do to take down the villain. Thwarting is what you do in order to take down threat counters from the villain schemes. Some of the schemes (side schemes) just make your game harder, while the main one, when it reaches a predefined number, loses you the game, as the villain has accomplished his plan.
The game is pretty well balanced. It uses the number of players to set the villains health, the main scheme threshold, and by how much it advances. The game is balanced for 4 players, but it is as good for solo and two players, as it heavily depends on your deck building.
As every card game, there is a random element. I would lie if I say there were no unlucky games where just instantly end your run, but with enough experience with the villains and their cards, it gets more unlikely. The random gives you enough control to not be frustrating, and yet high replicability.
How is the production quality?
Fantasy Flight has great production quality on their products, and you can see it in the standard size cards and thick well-cut tokens. We took out a lot of games, and built a lot of decks and all pieces are holding well together. The life counters are the one that see most handling and they are also holding very well.
The box comes with divider space insert, which can hold sleeved cards. However there are no dividers, and the size of the required dividers is not standard. We created some custom once, but that only showed that the space was not really planned out property for what is inside the box. To be honest, they should have not tried to make the divider spaces in the first place, as we ignored them and placed standard dividers between the decks, and it works great. The insert quality is very good, as it is still holding strong, even after we filled it up with more cards from the expansion. The box also closes really well, so you can have it both laying down and sideways on your boardgame shelves.
- Quick setup
- Reference book
- High replicability
- Great money value
- Solo play option
- Meaningless divided insert
- One aspect per person