Home » Marvel Champions – Setup Guide

Marvel Champions – Setup Guide

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Quick and easy step-by-step setup guide for Marvel Champions.

As Marvel Champions grows, Hero Identities and Villains’ setup abilities could become a little bit confusing. In this guide we will explain the setup step-by-step, and highlight when setup and abilities trigger during along the way.

The game setup follows these steps which we have broken down into three sections – Select Your Heroes, Select a Villain, and the Player setup.

I. Select Your Heroes.

You probably have already picked your hero and made your deck, but if you haven’t, you can use one of the official premade ones, or read Matt’s 8 easy steps guide on how to make your first Marvel Champion deck.

With the growing number of heroes and allies, you can end up having allies and heroes that share the same name. How to play those is covered in the ‘unique’ keyword section in the rules. Most of the times you won’t have problems, but if you have picked up yourself Ant Man and Wasp, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, or Nebula and Gamora, you won’t be able to use your signature allies during the game if another player is playing those characters, so it’s something to look out for. You cannot remove them from the deck as they are part of the identity deck, but team-up cards like Swarm Tactics will still work, so long as the required heroes are in hero form!

Update (May 2023): The rules for permanent cards have been updated! This page previously mentioned permanent cards in the deck potentially being discarded. This is no longer the case – Permanent cards are no longer part of your deck, do not count towards the number of cards in your deck, and are set aside at the start of setup, typically to be put into play by Hero Setup abilities.

1. Grab your Deck and Alter-Ego

Each player places their selected hero alter-ego face up. If the hero has any “Setup” rules, ignore them for now, we will revisit them later when those abilities trigger. Make sure you shuffle your deck at this point, because it might be affected by the villain setup!

Marvel Champions Setup - 1. Alter Ego

2. Set aside your Obligation

Each hero comes with their own obligations (Scarlet Witch comes with 2). Set them aside as they will be added later to the encounter deck. We’re going to be putting them in the villain deck shortly, but for now we’re just tracking those cards down and separating them from the box!

Marvel Champions Setup - 1. Obligation

3. Set aside your Nemesis

Each hero comes with their own nemesis. For each hero being played, set aside their nemesis, side scheme, and the additional counters that come with it, as they may come into play later from an effect of a card, e.g. Shadow of the Past.

Marvel Champions Setup - 3. Nemesis

4. Set your Hit Points

Each player sets their hit points using the player hit point dial (or however you decide to keep track, such as dice or custom tokens) to match the starting hit points of their character, found on the bottom of their identity card.

Marvel Champions Setup - 4. Hit Points

5. Select First Player

As a group decide the order you will go in starting with the first player. Sit accordingly and give the first player the first player token. It’s important to do this before the villain setup, as you may be asked to draw encounters, or discard for minions, and that will start with the first player.

Marvel Champions Setup - 5. First Player Marker
Marvel Champions Setup - Select Your Hero
Marvel Champions LCG Spider-Man's Alter-Ego, Obligation, Nemesis cards, life counter, and first player token

II. Select a Villain

Select a villain. Each villain comes with 3 phases marked with roman numerals in the top right corner. You play with only 2 of them – either I and II for Standard difficulty, or II and III for Expert difficulty. Put the two cards on top of each other, with the lowest number up. (These don’t go in the encounter deck.)

Each villain comes with their own deck (cards in the villain deck are numbered and have the villain name on the bottom of the card). Find the main scheme (it should be the next numbered card after the three versions of the villain). Turn it to face A1 and read it. (Sometimes there are multiple stages of the main scheme. Main scheme(s) never go in the encounter deck).

1. Create the Encounter Deck

When you select the Villain, the Main Scheme side A1 will have a recommended modules, usually it is the villain’s specific deck and 2 modular encounters from the box, but check your Main Scheme to be sure – each villain can be different! Put aside the villain phases, the main scheme, and shuffle the encounter deck.

2. Add your Obligations to the Encounter Deck

Add the obligation(s) for each hero that will take part in the game to the encounter deck and shuffle.

3. Put Setup cards into play

Search each deck and the set aside area for any cards with the setup keyword and put them into play.

Marvel Champions Setup - Hero Setup

4. Resolve Scheme Setup.

  • Resolve any “Setup” instructions on side 1A of the main scheme. Once all the setup is done, flip the card to side 1B.
  • Resolve any “When Revealed” instructions on the main scheme (1B).
  • Place threat on the main scheme.
  • Resolve any “Setup” instructions on the Villain card
  • Resolve any “When Revealed” abilities on the Villain card.
  • Resolve any “When Revealed” abilities on encounter cards that entered play during setup starting with the first player.

If you reveal any cards during this step that have “When Revealed” abilities, resolve those cards as you reveal them, before moving on to the next step, starting with the first player.

5. Campaign Setup (campaign mode only)

If playing in campaign mode, resolve the Setup campaign instructions listed for the scenario in the associated rulebook.

Marvel Champions - Build The Encounter Deck
Build the encounter deck following the Contents on the Main Scheme (and adding the obligations).

6. Set Villain’s Hit Points

Set the villain’s hit point dial to the value indicated by the villain card based on how many players are in the game.

Marvel Champions Setup - Set villain hit points
Marvel Champions - The Villain Area
Make sure you dedicate space for the ecnounter deck and its discard, and have the threat tokens nearby. You may need a little space near the villain, as most villains have attachments.

III. Player Setups

1. Draw cards.

Each player draws cards equal to their hand size. The hand size is identified in the bottom left corner of your identity card. Have in mind each side (alter-ego and hero) will usually have different hand sizes. At the beginning, you will have to draw based on your alter-ego, so make sure you’re reading the right side.

Marvel Champions Setup - Draw cards based on hand size

2. Resolve Mulligans.

Each player may discard any number of cards from hand, and then draw back up to their starting hand size. The discarded cards stay in that player’s hero discard and will not get shuffled back in the deck until the hero deck runs out.

3. Resolve Hero Setup

Resolve any “Setup” instructions listed on each players identity cards in play. If hero’s ability affects another player, their identity, discard, or deck, resolve the setup based on player order, stating with the first player.

Important note: No other abilities on player cards can trigger during setup, except for those with the “Setup” timing trigger written on them. This means even if another card would be triggered by an action that you take while resolving your hero setup (such as discarding certain cards from your deck), those abilities will not trigger.

Marvel Champions Setup - Hero Setup

You are now ready to begin the game!

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  1. Perfect, thank you! That was my assumption, but couldnt find specifically where it was called out in the rules. That is very helpful

  2. Question on step 3, player setup – If you have a hero,such as Venom (Flash Thompson) that requires you to discard cards from the top of your deck until you reveal a weapon upgrade, if the cards you discard have a “when this card is discard…” effect, do those trigger?

    • Hi David,

      A good question, and one I had to consult the rules reference guide to answer for sure. Fortunately the ruling here is a simple one:
      “Player card abilities cannot resolve during game setup, unless prefaced by a “Setup” timing trigger.”

      As setup isn’t yet complete during player setup, those cards won’t trigger. You’ll find this info under “Ability” (as for whatever reason they felt this wasn’t important enough to mention in the setup section)

      Hope that helps! We’ll get this added to the guide when we next update it, as it’s important information.


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