Home » The Rise of Red Skull – Marvel Champions Expansion Review

The Rise of Red Skull – Marvel Champions Expansion Review

The Rise of Red Skull* is the first expansion for Marvel Champions: The Card Game*, and it absolutely holds up even after a few years of releases. In this review we’re going to take a look at what’s in the box, from the heroes to the villains and modular sets. Let’s get started!

The Heroes

Hawkeye is sadly a victim of an overcomplicated design that doesn’t quite pay off. He’s reliant on having multiple upgrades in play, but hasn’t really got a reliable way of finding them, and even once they’re out, his ceiling just… isn’t particularly high. Hawkeye is very thematic and pretty fun to play, but not very powerful.

Spider-Woman, on the other hand, is the first hero who gets to mix different aspects together. This means you can combine some extremely powerful aspect focuses together, and her power only grows with the size of your collection, with powerful synergies like Aggression’s Boot Camp with Leadership’s allies, or Protection’s defensive capabilities with Justice’s thwart events to try and make a deck that prevents your team from ever losing through normal means. Jessica Drew is extremely versatile, and one of the best additions to any deck brewer’s roster.

The Villains


Crossbones is a very dangerous opener to the box, but honestly he’s not the most interesting. He’s extremely random, and his difficulty pretty much depends on how often you draw Full Auto and what happens when you do. Crossbones deals a fair chunk of damage himself, and resolving Full Auto and in expert in phase 3, you could potentially take up to 15 damage if the stars aligned in the wrong way. Or it could just… not. That makes him erratic, and not especially fun.

Fun Rating: 2/5 | Difficulty Rating: 3/5

Absorbing Man

Absorbing Man is a lot less of a random threat than Crossbones, and is more of a puzzle encounter that isn’t super difficult to solve. Once you’ve got him figured out, Absorbing Man isn’t much trouble, but he’s definitely fun the first time round. The other issue Absorbing man has is that his delay counters only really make sense if you’re playing the campaign, otherwise they just apply extremely minor bonuses to his cards, which honestly doesn’t make that much of a difference.

Fun Rating: 2/5 | Difficulty Rating: 2/5


Taskmaster is a much more dangerous challenge, where more than just scheming, the primary threat is that he’ll use his photographic reflexes to straight-up murder you. You’ll take a ton of damage, but flipping to alter-ego regularly isn’t necessarily the answer, as he’ll clock you for damage again the moment you re-enter hero form. With heavy hits and a constant flow of direct damage, Taskmaster is one of the few villains where the challenge is simply staying alive, without being unfair and random.

Fun Rating: 3/5 | Difficulty Rating: 3/5


I’ll come right out and say it, Zola is one of my favourite villains, and he’s the perfect minion-based challenge. Burying you in a barrage of minions and augments, he’s extremely tough throughout the game, forcing you to deal with some truly scary yet not unfair threats turn after turn. Zola’s core villain deck is massive, meaning he’ll run consistently every time you play against him, but that does mean that you won’t see as much of whatever other modular encounter sets you add to his deck unless they’re minions (which he’ll find, don’t worry…). But still, if you want a crazy minion-oriented challenge, just add some dangerous elite minions into the mix.

Fun Rating: 4/5 | Difficulty Rating: 4/5

Red Skull

Red skull is another extremely strong, fun villain that does his best to beat your face in, while slamming down side schemes every single turn and growing stronger from their presence. He changes the game by moving all side schemes into their own deck, and plays one down every single turn, requiring you to remove a scheme every single turn or fall behind. This is balanced out by having his core schemes give some nice rewards, but if you play Red Skull with a modular set that contains nastier side schemes, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. While I’m pretty sure this isn’t super possible on Expert without a Justice player, it’s nice to have a scenario where the Justice hero gets to be the main character!

Fun Rating: 3/5 | Difficulty Rating: 4/5

Modular Sets

While going into detail on each modular encounter set would make this article even more lengthy, let’s check them out quickly in terms of their use in other scenarios:

  • Experimental Weapons is a 4-card modular set that is just annoying to deal with, providing villains with enhanced capabilities, with the only way to remove them being spending a ton of resources. Not particularly dangerous most of the time, but extra annoying. Difficulty rating 2/5
  • Hydra Assault adds a bunch of actually quite annoying Hydra minions that can make almost any encounter minion-heavy. Difficulty rating 2/5
  • Weapon Master is another pack with a pair of dangerous attachments, with some extra treacheries that add additional villain activations, which is always super dangerous. Difficulty rating 3/5
  • Hydra Patrol is a very easy modular set that really only makes any scenario where they feature easier, with minimal boost icons, no boost effects, and minions that have a whopping 2 hit points. It’s not a bad thing to have a few easy modular sets in the game, and this is one of them. Difficulty rating 1/5

The Rise of Red Skull has less modular encounter sets than later campaigns, instead making use of a lot of the encounter sets from the base game. This is both good for content reuse, but also a bit worse in terms of value out of the box longer-term.

The Rise of Red Skull Campaign

Pretty much the entire box for The Rise of Red Skull is built around its campaign, and unlike other campaigns, there’s not much in the way of funky gimmicks outside of the conditions carrying from villain scenario to villain scenario using the cards present within the scenario. This honestly makes it one of the stronger campaigns even today, as after the Rise of Red Skull, they attempted a lot more experimental silliness. The Rise of Red Skull is more what you’d expect from a vanilla campaign experience, with consequences of your performance carrying over from scenario to scenario.

Our Thoughts

The Rise of Red Skull* doesn’t do anything particularly innovative, but it’s definitely one of the best picks for your first expansion, and expands the base game in some really neat ways. While Hawkeye’s a bit of a whiff, he’s still fun to play, and Spider-Woman has huge amounts of versatility and fun for the brewing-inclined. I’d definitely say it’s still worth buying, but recommend getting it early on in the process, because it won’t really hold up as well once you’ve played everything else. It’s low-difficulty, and feels very much like core set-level content, as that’s the way it was designed, until the second half where the difficulty progresses up to some extremely fun but not unreasonably difficult challenges that’ll provide a ton of replay value, even with a larger collection.

We hope you found this helpful, and if you do decide to pick it up as the first step in expanding your Marvel Champions expansion collection, we’d love it if you could consider grabbing it using one of our affiliate links to Zatu Games*. We get a small kickback when you do (costing you no extra cash!) and their price is almost always one of the lowest you’ll find. That’ll help us to keep the lights on and keep pumping out Marvel Champions content!

* Affiliate link to a product

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Thanks for submitting your comment!