Written by Josh Bailey
Getting the Game
I received my copy through the mail on Friday, November 1st, thanks to Team Covenant. Props to them for delivering on release day. Thankfully, my tracking information updated Thursday night to tell me I was getting the game the next day. Previously, it was predicting a Saturday evening delivery which was going to make going to Saturday afternoon launch events a challenge. As it turned out, nobody around me got their launch kits in time so this wouldn’t have mattered at all.
First Builds and Plays
My planned first four decks were going to be: Justice Iron Man, Protection Spider-Man, Leadership Black Panther, and Aggression She-Hulk. I also wanted to build both Justice and Leadership Captain Marvel but decided to wait on those after playing Spider-Man and Iron Man first. I played all of them 1-handed solo against Standard Rhino and a few against Standard Klaw. I think I won all of them except my first play with Jim because I messed up some rules.
I decided to play 1-handed just for the convenience of it, and I think I’m likely to continue playing solo this way for most of my games. In LOTR LCG, I used to strictly play 2-handed just so I could play around with some interactions and not be forced to build jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none decks that you usually have to when you’re 1-handed. Recently however I started to favor the 1-handed style just so I could get more games in. The tablespace, mental load, and amount of setup and tear-down time really starts increasing when playing two-handed and the intimidation factor of all that was stopping me from getting the game out. I expect I will continue the 1-handed trend with MC, however, I do believe that (at least for now) the board state complexity does not spiral out of control as quickly in multiplayer as it did with LOTR, so perhaps I will try some 2-handed games in the future.
The first thing I noticed with my decks was that, while Leadership Black Panther and Protection Spider-Man are very good in theory, I felt like I was best-served as a solo player by switching their aspects. I only won against Rhino with Spider-Man because my 3 Swinging Web Kicks were in the top half of my deck and that’s 24/29 damage you need to win. Otherwise, that deck has attack issues and struggles to thwart. I switched him to Leadership because I knew that Protection Black Panther would be more than capable of thwarting and attacking thanks to Wakanda Forever and Black Panther’s base stats. I will likely switch to Aggression Captain Marvel and Justice She-Hulk for similar reasons in the near future. I also want to play Leadership Captain Marvel but I’ve got more web-slinging to do first.
Spider-Man is probably my favorite hero right now because his card draw and resource acceleration from his identity card and web-shooters feels good in my competitive LCG/CCG player’s heart. Leadership is also currently my favorite aspect because I like the well-balanced, toolbox-y type approach. Finally, I generally like control decks that are defense-first and that printed defense stat of 3 on Spider-Man makes me feel safe. Leadership Spider-Man is the deck I most want to play with right now and I am super excited for Captain America and the release of more Leadership cards to start deckbuilding with.
Iron Man is surprisingly not a deck I am very interested in right now. If you were around for the Core Set of Android: Netrunner, he’s the Big Rig Kate of this game in my opinion: spends the early game building up and the endgame is mostly just a formality. Of course, Expert and future scenarios will find ways to challenge him and I’m not saying it’s OP, but the playstyle is boring to me. I imagine I will not bring him out again until I increase the difficulty level through Expert and Modular Sets or when new scenarios come out and I want to play them blind. He may also be crucial in the future to any deck builds that rely on unique, 1x cards thanks to his Alter-Ego’s Futurist ability.
I am also a little less enamored of Black Panther than I thought I would be. I imagined him as the wombo-combo deck and that’s something I usually like but those turns where you have all or nearly all of your Black Panther upgrades out but fail to draw a Wakanda Forever don’t feel great. I suppose that’s the downfall of all combo decks. It’s still fun, just not as satisfying as I was expecting.
One of my miscellaneous deck building observations was that I was not using Avengers Mansion and Helicarrier as much as I thought I would be. For the sake of having four decks built simultaneously for a multiplayer night, I had 1x copy of each in all my decks (although I dropped an Avengers Mansion from Aggression She-Hulk). I don’t think I ever felt like I had the time or resources to play Avengers Mansion and I only played Helicarrier a few times. This may just be something I have to force myself to do in future games and find that perhaps I’ve been making the wrong decisions. I know that card draw and resource generation are intrinsically good (see my comments on Spider-Man), but for some reason, it always seemed like there was another, better play.
This game gets set up and going quick. I’m not sure if we ever start getting Villain Scenarios with more complicated setups and encounter deck preparations, but I really like where it’s currently at relative to LOTR and Arkham. I will say I wish that it was a little easier to distinguish encounter sets from each other than relying on the text on the bottom of the card, but that’s a small thing (literally).
As much as I love LOTR, I am almost never willing to play 4-player unless it’s a convention or Organized play setting. Managing the board state just gets too confusing to be fun for me. I really appreciate how in this game, even with four players, the number of cards in play and triggers to remember never seemed to be that much worse than they are solo. Not dealing boost cards to minions was a fantastic change from LOTR. It’s fewer rules and reading per turn, and, in the same way the designers want to focus players on single heroes rather than teams, it focuses the action on the Villain while the minions are footnotes (though they are sometimes very large and annoying footnotes). It also reduces the tension of the defend-or-not decisions each turn so each player’s combat actions are much snappier. Variables make the game exciting but too many make the game a slog. I think Marvel Champions is riding the line well at the moment.
I also find myself wondering what are the cards in this Core Set that are going to really define decks and encounter deck design the most. For LOTR, that were cards that had to be designed around due to powerful effects for years after release and were or are still ever-present in most decks that can play them. For Marvel Champions, I am thinking those cards are Iron Man, energy icons, and allies in general. Iron Man I’ve already talked about, but I would expect scenarios to hate on upgrades or at least not allow you multiple turns to get setup. Minions beginning the game engaged or side schemes in play with acceleration or hazard icons will make like difficult for Tony, I think. Stacking your deck with the energy icons needed to fuel your most powerful effects may get too easy after just a few expansions, so I’d expect a lot more dangerous effects that require you to spend one of each resource or effects that punish you for having multiples of the same icon in hand or deck. Finally, you can get so much value out of the last hit point of a cheap ally by having them defend that I expect Overkill and “cannot be defended by allies” to become somewhat common on enemies.
Missed Rules and Rules Quandaries
The things I found myself constantly doing wrong were failing to put consequential damage on allies, forgetting to shuffle my obligation card into the encounter deck at the start, and always forgetting to draw up at the end of my player phase. In my defense, these rules are all unique to Marvel Champions compared to the other FFG LCGs. The key I’ve found to remembering the obligation card is to make sure to put it out on the table near the villain during setup. When I just take the whole stack of nemesis cards and obligation and set them aside when I pull the deck out of its box, I usually forget.
I had a really strange situation come up regarding additional encounter cards after drawing through your deck. You are supposed to draw the encounter card right away and leave it in front of you or set aside until it’s time to resolve encounter cards during the villain phase. Well, after doing so and before the card is resolved, you can trigger a scheme or new villain card that instructs you to search the encounter deck and discard pile for a specific card which is a 1x of in the encounter deck. What if that’s the encounter card that’s been set aside? The charitable answer is to say “well it’s not in either the deck or discard pile so you don’t have to reveal it.” What I think is more likely the intent is to verify that the card you need is set aside, reveal it, and redraw your encounter card. That’s easy enough in solo but for multiplayer you will have to have everyone look at their cards (if any) and then redraw everyone’s additional card. Now if you’ve also reshuffled the encounter deck since your draw, that does give you a game state that can’t be rewound so you could argue replacing your card is unfair. I wouldn’t be worried about it, but it’s a valid way to argue that you just skip searching for the card in question.
My next goals for playing the game are to try out Ultron and Expert modes with at least Leadership Spider-Man, then start exploring more builds with Captain Marvel and She-Hulk. By the time I get through all that hopefully Green Goblin will be out.
With one week (or two if you’re platinum) of the game under your belt, what decks or encounter builds are you still hoping to explore before we start getting the expansions?
Thank you for reading.