Interview

The Marvel Champions 20 Questions Hotseat, Issue #3: Bob Benton

Welcome, Bob to our Marvel Champions 20 Questions Hotseat. Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer our questions.

Welp… We are in the middle of a pandemic. The entire world right now. So, I feel like I should say something about that if I say anything. I think the most useful thing to say in that regard is that ultimately we can only count on each other to help us get through it. In our communities, we can all try to do a little and help where we can to lessen the impact or make things better for those who’ve been impacted more. I wish I could do more in my community, but I was blessed with asthma and one whiff of COVID and my ticket will surely be punched. These are grim, dilapidated times but the first step to changing things is taking that first step to help those around you, and never give up fighting for a better world. Jesus, that’s the most positive I’ve ever been.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

1. Let’s kick this off with your history with Marvel. What was your history with Marvel, if any, before you discovered Marvel Champions?
It all began with X-Men: The Animated Series. Because I’m that old, that was my introduction to the X-Men and Marvel. So, my conception of those characters and Marvel kind of begins there. I’ve also loved to draw and create stuff since I was a kid, so I bought that “How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way” book and started drawing really crude versions of heroes and villains. At some point my father got my brother and I into collecting comics. This was around the time the industry started pushing alternate covers, with tin foil all over them as collector’s items. I figured out real soon that you can’t just buy the books that tell you they are collector’s items and soon started following the art that I was drawn to. So my history is largely with the artists of the period, like Jim Lee, Chris Bachallo, the Romita’s. Though I’m not currently a major Marvel reader and was never really big on reading them, I did enjoy some books, like Generation X, the Marvel MAX line which Straczynski’s Supreme Power series, Alias, as well as Nighthawk, Doctor Spectrum. A large part of my taste in comics came from articles within issues of Wizard magazine, which was kind of like an Entertainment Weekly for the comics world. Then later the Comics Journal. It was in Wizard where I read about a unique series called Squadron Supreme, which Supreme Power was based on.

2. Moving into Marvel Champions, where and when did you learn about the game?
I first discovered the game from discord. The Mythos Busters discord, which is the main discord of fans of Arkham Horror LCG, started a channel that dropped info on the new game and I was really intrigued. This must have been when it was first announced and demonstrated, because it got a fair amount of hype really early.

3. Before playing the game, what was your first impression?
Well, since playing the Arkham Horror LCG, I had some idea of what FFG could do with a card game. I was already a fan of the superhero genre so I was really, really excited about it. I couldn’t really get a feel from watching others play, I had to get my hands on it somehow before I could really start to form an opinion beyond, “Yes I do need superheroes in my LCG games, thank you and take my money.”

4. When did you play the game your first time and how did it affect your first impression?
I was actually able to play solo games on TTS before the official version came out, the Crimson mod. I think it exceeded my first impression. The fact that the game makes you feel powerful is a great change from other games that just destroy you–looking at you Arkham Horror LCG. I guess you could say it made me feel, super. I was hooked from day 1 of playing it on that TTS mod. My first impression was just really excitement and curiosity on how it would be to actually play as one of these heroes. Getting to experience that Alter-Ego mechanism which also affects how the villain reacts to you was really interesting those first few games. It was really something you had to consider when playing. I also played alot of She-Hulk aggression, so once I did get the hang of it, I pretty much destroyed Rhino a whole bunch. 


5. Clearly you love the game enough to do content for it, what was the final push that made you want to do content?
If I remember correctly I think I remember scanning YouTube for content, and I wasn’t seeing any. So I said, I can just wait and hope or put something out there myself. But I have a bad memory, so maybe there was content and I just wanted to show off my custom hero. Either way, I wanted there to be more content available for players. 


6. Speaking of content, what kind of content do you do for the game and where can people find it?
I have done some videos. On YouTube Bob Benton is my name there, so just search for “Bob Benton Marvel Champions” and you should run into it. I started with a playthrough of my custom hero Tom Strange. Unfortunately I couldn’t continue doing playthrough style videos because I didn’t have great equipment. I always tried to focus on the rules of the game in my content, the rules as we knew them in the beginning. I did videos on how to use each hero’s signature/hero cards, as well as a video on my thoughts on “Interrupt” triggers and their conditions in the game. Typically I try to do content that others aren’t doing. I also did a couple videos on Ms. Marvel cause I was so excited for her pack, but Boggs shot down my whole concept in an interview–thanks Boggs. I haven’t recently added to my videos due to time constraints, but since there’s been a ton of rules changes I think I may redo all my “How to Use Hero Cards” series, which is basically a video FAQ for each hero.

I also made a timing chart, which the community can use and comment on for changes/improvements. It’s there to help players figure out when they’re able to use certain cards and the sequence of the game steps. Though this needs some major updating, as the last time I updated it was just before the Widow reveal, I believe.

I have also done some home-brew heroes and am currently helping with formating of card abilities done by other home-brew creators, where I can, in Odysseus’ Home Brew discord. So far the home-brew community has made dozens of mods, villains, heroes, modules, lots of content. I have made only two published home-brew heroes, and a couple of other mods. Tom Strange, an obscure hero from the golden age of comics whom Alan Moore’s ABC line breathed new life into. I’ve also done Nighthawk from the Supreme Power series, currently working on Catwoman, a rough version of a Punisher module and a mod of replacement core allies from that other universe that shall go unnamed here. 

I’ve also collaborated with members of the Brew Crew to make content. KennedyHawk, JustATuna, Odysseus and I worked on the Namor mod available on TTS. Kennedy and Tuna did major work on that scenario and tons of people tested it, I recommend it if you want a challenge and a different feel for a villain. At the moment we are working on a Kingpin scenario, which we need testers for, during the content drought due to the pandemic.

I also started my own little discord for cataloging rules responses, called “The Card Text.” It’s mostly a private discord, as only a handful of people are there at the moment. But I wanted a hub that tracked response emails so we have a clear record of changes over time, and won’t confuse older rulings with being relevant. Anyone can message me, Apotropaic, on the Marvel Champions discord if they’d like to check it out.


7. Has doing content for the game taught you anything about the game or yourself that you may not have learned? If so what was it, If not why not?
Doing content for the game has taught me a lot about the game. Just analyzing the numbers for card costs relative to threat removal and damage dealt enlightens your perspective in terms of the design of the game elements and mechanics. For example, in general threat removal is slightly higher cost in Leadership than in Justice. Protection seems to trade off having any threat removal, withstanding allies, for protecting your HP pool. Also, that there are a number of inconsistencies in the rules for the game, a lot of which have been cleared up by the last FAQ update, but a few still linger. When doing the videos on how to use each character’s hero cards, I learned the timing for many of the hero cards and became really familiar with the villain phase sequence, which I think can become pretty complicated depending on the scenario. 

As far as what I learned about myself… I think there’s a bit of crossover there. I learned a bit about the game as well as myself from seeing how people interpret the rules. I feel like a lot of people coming to the game from other card games, whether that’s Arkham or Magic the Gathering (MtG), see the game through the lens of those games–which is perfectly natural. I don’t have an extensive history with card games though. I didn’t play MtG and I’ve only played Arkham for a few years, and I still don’t get the rules there completely but learning Champions has helped. But sometimes expecting or wanting the rules from other games to be similar to whatever degree can lead to confusion. It is also the case, however, that if you have no such history with other games you can still have preconceived ideas about how things work in-game. I had thought, at first, that not having been trained to think in terms of MtG rules, or Arkham rules was an advantage when interpreting rules or mechanics, but it really isn’t. I have to consider that I may be wrong no matter how much I may want some card or ability to work some way. I think that’s a healthy thing for everyone though. To be open to other people’s opinions and interpretations, and to not be too dismissive. In the end, the game isn’t about being right or wrong, it’s about having fun with other cool people who also love playing.

8. Diving into the game itself, who is your favorite hero to play as, what aspect is your favorite and why?
That’s such a hard question. All these heroes are dope. I’d have to pick one of the newer heroes though, because I played the ink straight out of all of the rest, figuratively speaking. So, my favorite has to be Ms. Marvel herself, Kamala Khan. She is just so involved and so much of a puzzle that you don’t get tired of her playstyle–or at least I haven’t yet.

Everyone’s favorite aspect with her is Aggression. In my preview video of her, I mentioned Aggression would be a top aspect because of the number of targets she could hit with her hero ability with aggression. And now Chase Them Down is like the center-piece of a Ms. Marvel deck, insane value. However, I like jank-tech. It’s a guilty pleasure to go the route less traveled, and typically less traveled for good reason. So, I do like running Leadership with her. I’m sure you all think I’m crazy now, and I am. I tried to do this thing where she has a bunch of allies with “enters play” responses, most of which were cheap, aside from Falcon. It doesn’t work well at all!! The Good news is, she still has great signature cards, haha. However! I still haven’t been able to try it with that new card Rapid Response, which I think could move my garbo-tech into not-bad-but-not-great territory. What can I say, I’m not a great player, but I love the game.

9. How about the villain side, who is your favorite villain to play against, which encounter set is your favorite so far and why?
My favorite villain has to be Klaw. His difficulty feels just right, it’s not so hard that no one will play him and he’s not easy.  I love the variation on his attack value with the two boost cards and those annoying guard minions with tough. His recommended modular is great too. The Masters of Evil are terrible to see enter play but provide an adequate challenge. 

I haven’t actually used all of the encounter sets, I think I only was able to use the harder core set modulars. I’ve gone through the core set with Doomsday Chair and Legions and I’ve had a few games with A Mess of Things. I’ve also done Power Drain in a few games. I think I have to say that Masters of Evil is my favorite. I think it’s because I like its simplicity and effectiveness. I also like seeing all these characters pop in and challenge you. The design of it is great because it gives the players minions to deal with which each present their own little challenge, and recurs them via the side scheme and its treachery. Although it isn’t as challenging, I appreciate that it isn’t focused on one minion and making that one minion just annoying to deal with.

10. How do you prefer to play and if it is not alone, what does your playgroup look like?
I prefer to play with others. Some of the most fun games I’ve had were 3-4 players. I don’t have a regular playgroup. My partner and I play when we both have free time. Otherwise, I just look for people in discord who don’t mind that I take really, really, really slow turns. I’ve played with KennedyHawk a few times, and that dude is such a good player, I don’t know how he stands me.

11. Do you customize your gaming experience anyway that goes beyond the official rules for the game, if so how and why?
Yes, I have used a couple of KennedyHawk’s environment cards, which up the difficulty of each villain they’re meant for. The cards he’s made are just great, such a simple design, and so effective. It adds a lot more tension to the game, makes it feel more challenging and all you have to do is put out that one card, no reading booklets of mini rules or anything. It was a nice change to the standard/expert core experience. Otherwise, I have never changed the rules to the game really.

12. As is, how does Marvel Champions stack up to other games you play or have played?
The only other games I’ve played, card games, are the Arkham Horror LCG and Keyforge. As well as other strategy games. I think Marvel Champions is just so easy to set up and take down, and with the prebuilt decks, it can be even easier. So, in terms of set up time, it blows everything else away. It’s also very streamlined in terms of gameplay and card text. You read the cards and they don’t have small paragraphs, generally. The cards do 1 or 2 cool things, and you can combine that with a bunch of other cards that can do 1 or 2 other cool things, and you don’t typically have to stop and wade through the rule book. Although, I have gone back and forth numerous times through the rules, so maybe that’s not the typical take? Not sure. I don’t think I’ve had as many questions or baffling moments as I’ve had with Arkham though. The way the game makes you feel like a superhuman doing these amazing turns is quite nice too. 

13. Is there anything you would change with how the game currently is? If so how, If not why not?
Yes. I would probably rewrite sections of the Rules Reference Guide, so that it is more in line with how the game functions. Don’t get me wrong, the RRG helps very much, but there are still a couple of things that should be clarified. I have a long list, but a few are: 1. I would clarify that some interrupts can trigger as the triggering condition is happening, and not only “immediately before” the triggering condition occurs.
2. I would clarify the way indirect damage actually works, rather than what is currently in the RRG.
3. I would actually list each way an “attack” can be labeled an attack, and clearly state that if none of a card has none of the given examples, it is not an attack.
4. I would define what “Identity” refers to when a player card or another ability uses it. 

There are probably other changes I’d make as well, but that’s the short list, I guess.

14. What was the craziest game you’ve had so far or your favorite memory from playing the game to date?
The absolute craziest game I’ve ever had was when I played expert Mutagen, for the first time, if I remember correctly. Literally, round one–it was a two-player game–we got into the villain phase and I started with 15 hit points, but by the time the player phase came around I think I had like 1 or 2 health left. I don’t know what happened! I was stunned, not like the status effect, but just actually stunned. Goblin came out swinging with all his tricks and minions and what-not and poor She-Hulk was reduced to a shadow of her former self. That’s when I knew that Mutagen was a dope scenario. 

15. If FFG came to you and said they wanted to put you in charge of creating OP for this game, how would you do it and what would that look like?
Not sure. I think at one point I wanted to do a leaderboard thing that would track big turns from each aspect, Justice, Protection, etc. For example, how much HP did the protection player protect for themselves and others, or how much threat could the Justice player thwart all at once. But that’s very rudimentary. I think people like working with limitations, so they can make decisions about how to play, or how to deck build with limitations. Maybe some rules that follow along with a narrative of a scenario and limit those aspects based on the theme and narrative. Like ally kidnapping should be a thing, cause Leadership is very strong at the moment, haha. Honestly, I hope they never ask me cause I don’t feel like I’d have that many interesting ideas. The permutations for OP, I think, may become more interesting with the more heroes and villains we get. Right now Avengers have their little archetype, and I really want to see what others get fleshed out. 

16. If you could bring any hero into the game, who would they be, what would they do and why?
Any hero? Hmm… You know I would’ve said Spider-Woman if she hadn’t already been revealed. But since she has, I have to say Nick Fury. I am dying for a spy archetype to be more fleshed out. I know the new Sam Jackson-Fury is probably a bit more straightforward techno-spy, but I hope they give a nod to that old Steranko 70’s spy-vibe with his set. What would he do? He’d have like really ridiculous yet efficient gadgets, and wild artwork for each card. Life Model Decoy ally would be dope, especially if it could draw cards for you. I definitely don’t want too much preparation interaction though. Maybe have him get stronger in some way with each side scheme that’s out. I feel like a dude like Nick Fury would take all those side schemes and be able to work around them, or get something from their being in play. I know that’s kind of stepping on Jessica Jones’ territory, but maybe Nick can intentionally put them into play somehow.

17. If you could bring any villain into the game, who would they be, what would they do and why?
Dracula. Mostly because I want to hunt vampires. I know that there’s a Dracula in the Marvel universe somewhere, and I don’t know what his depiction is like but I’d want him to be terrifying. I think he would be the first villain you couldn’t damage at all, not by a direct attack anyway. I think Dracula is a very powerful character that would just destroy the heroes if he wanted, but sees them as bugs or something rather than an obstacle. So, I think I’d like to see the heroes just survive the first stage rather than be on the offensive. And have those heroes benefit from defending and taking little to no damage, benefit from the scenario itself. Like, say you defended Dracula’s attack, or one from his minion and took no damage, you’d get to automatically ready or draw a card, or maybe remove a threat from a scheme. I also kinda like the idea that if you do get hit by his attack, or maybe a specific treachery which drinks your HP, that you get a reduced hand size until you can recover or something.   

18. If you had to turn yourself into a card for the game, what kind of card (it can be a hero, upgrade, event, hero, villain, minion, etc) would you be, what would you do and why?
Wow. This is actually a hard question. I have no idea! Oh–oh Okay I got it. I would be a card titled “We Built This City on Hydra Skulls”, cause there’s nothing more fun than destroying those whose only purpose is their own self-interest, like Hydra. It would probably draw a card every time you defeat a Hydra enemy. Build your Avengers Mansion or Steve’s Apartment with it.

19. Time to head towards the conclusion but we need to touch on the MCU. What is your favorite MCU film and why?
I think the MCU film I had the best time watching was the Civil War adaptation. It was amazing to see all those heroes run at each other dramatically and clash. Seeing Spidey there too was just like, so cool. No one thought it would happen, but it did and it worked and it was just what we all wanted. Also, when Giant-Man became giant, that was also really fun. I think Guardians of the Galaxy was also a pleasant surprise, and it was nice to see those obscure characters really pop and become a cultural touchstone.

20. Before we get out of here, what is something you would like to share with our readers that most of them may not know about yourself?
If I try real hard I can do the voice of Lumpy Space Princess really well. … OMG don’t print that though, I don’t know if I want them to know that.

Thanks again Bob for answering our questions. We wish you the best in your content and would like to thank you for giving back to the community. 

I’d like to thank all the cool people in the #Rulings channel in the Marvel Champions Discord. I know I will forget some names, so my first thanks is to all those forgotten by my sad excuse for a memory. And thank you JediGeekGirl, for making the discord. Thanks to Scott Hill (who I didn’t forget this time), Theorel, Alphasquid, Magnalon, KennedyHawk. It’s such a great channel, I think it’s a super place to go with any kind of question about the game. I think everyone there is very open to helping and listening and I don’t think anyone there is elitist, aside from the obligatory Facebook bashing. But everyone knows how I feel about Facebook.

If people would like to find you or your content, where can they find it?
My Custom Steam / TTS content for Marvel Champions:
Namor villain mod (Collaborative work with Home Brew Crew) – https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1920625303
Nighthawk hero – https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1883096918 Tom Strange hero – https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1883081034 Punisher Modular set – https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1895576093
My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy4sjEgkOOBUoaCfuTSk8KQ Marvel Champions LCG Community Timing Sheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ExlEf5bcbBE_j5ASv_ddSZkAWqaORHkJuG0UFQNdUJc/edit#gid=0 


Thank you readers for reading this article and stay tuned for our next entry into this series, coming next Monday. Till then, we wish you nothing but the best and stay safe out there.

-JediGeekGirl

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