Welcome, Jim to our Marvel Champions 20 Questions Hotseat. Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer our questions.
Thanks for having me – we’re still pretty new as a podcast, so it was a nice surprise to know that someone was interested in my thoughts!
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?
Hmm.. I’d struggle to say for certain, but the earliest things I can remember for certain are watching Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons in the 90’s. After that, there was a fairly long gap until the X-Men and then MCU films came along, but off the back of those, I got back into reading the comics. I own the TPBs of a lot of the big events of recent times: Civil War, House of M, Avengers vs X-Men, etc, but these days I mostly read on Marvel Unlimited, as it allows me to binge a whole series without requiring masses of shelf-space.
I’d also played a lot of other Marvel-themed games: I played Dice Masters competitively for a while (I was actually the Uk #1 for several months, but I think that mostly just tells you how few people were reporting tournaments on the WizKids system…) I own A LOT of Legendary, and have Thanos Rising as well. By the time this is posted I will probably have decided not to back Marvel United just to have loads of cool minis for Champions!
2. Moving into Marvel Champions, where and when did you learn about the game?
I’ve been playing the Lord of the Rings LCG and the Arkham Horror LCG since they came out, so as soon as FFG announced it last summer, I was on-board. I think I read the announcement article first, then went back and tracked down some summaries from the in-flight report, videos with the developers, etc.
3. Before playing the game, what was your first impression?
I read all the official articles and watched most of the videos out of Gen Con. It was easy to spot a lot of the shared DNA with the earlier LCGs, but looked faster, and I really liked the emphasis they were putting on cool moments, rather than the grind that can be a big factor in games like LotR at times.
4. When did you play the game your first time and how did it affect your first impression?
I managed to find a shop that was running a launch event – our local game store closed down last September, but this was one town over, so not too far. It was a bit hectic, being a Friday night, but I got to play a couple of games: Spider-Man and Captain Marvel starter decks against Rhino, with some guys who’d driven over an hour to be there. I think that playing for the first time with strangers made me appreciate how intuitive the basic game was, as whilst we all had a rough idea of what was going on, no-one had sat down and read a leaked RRG ahead of time.
5. Clearly you love the game enough to do content for it, what was the final push that made you want to do content?
I’ve done quite a bit of blogging for Lord of the Rings and for Arkham, and my first thought was to just add more articles on Champions. But it struck me that although there’s so much these games have in common (designers as well as mechanics), there wasn’t really anyone looking at the co-op LCGs as a group – a few other friends who played Arkham and LotR were picking up Marvel too, and we’d already been chatting, so doing a podcast together seemed like the next step forward. As the dad of a toddler, and trying to do a full-time job, it’s good to have other people prodding you to keep going when it gets busy, rather than let a month pass without publishing anything.
6. Speaking of content, what kind of content do you do for the game and where can people find it?
So, I’m a host of The Card Game Cooperative – as already suggested, we’re focused on the 3 Co-op LCGs (although our interests definitely spread to other games with similar themes and mechanics). We don’t go into the same kind of forensic detail as the single-game casts on a card-by-card basis, but we try to look at broader themes and concepts. We also play the games for fun, where I get the sense that a lot of content creators tend to be super-hardcore, min-maxing, so I like to think that we’re a bit more relatable for those people who enjoy the game for the theme without necessarily having the time to get really, really good at it. We hit a bit of a road-bump in March when we couldn’t get together any more (we’d always recorded face-to-face), but we’re now set up for remote-recording, and have a new episode coming soon.
We’re at https://tcgcoop.design.blog/ on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/The-Card-Game-Cooperative-101651614717953/ and on most of the standard Podcast apps.
I also run my own blog Fistful of Meeples (https://fistfulofmeeples.wordpress.com/), where I talk about all my gaming thoughts and exploits, and will be posting more Marvel stuff in the very near future.
Lastly, I’m MightyJim (or something very similar) on various discord servers for the game. I don’t get to check things as often as I’d like, but if you @ me, I’ll generally respond within 24 hours.
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?
It’s taught me that I’m a lot busier and a lot less organized than I thought!
I’ve also made a point of trying to keep track of all the other content producers out there, and been struck by just how big the Champions community is – I think that the older games tend to have a smaller, albeit very dedicated core of people producing things. I also find it fascinating that there are so many different perspectives on the game: people enjoying different elements of the game, wanting different things from it. Apparently, there are even people who enjoy playing Protection! (presumably, they just don’t like getting rid of their Obligations…)
8. Diving into the game itself, who is your favorite hero to play as, what aspect is your favorite and why?
Ms. Marvel is my favorite so far – I love her as a character and how they’ve implemented her in the game. She’s a brilliant combo of giving you something very straightforward (find good events, play them repeatedly), but also offering a lot of depth in the things that a more skilled/experienced player can set up with careful use of Aamir and Bruno.
Aggression is probably my favorite aspect to play: just getting to repeatedly punch stuff is always fun: it can be a bit limiting in true solo, but that’s where Ms. Marvel comes in, as her 15-card set allows you to Thwart and stabilize really well, and makes it feel super-strong.
9. How about the villain side, who is your favorite villain to play against, which encounter set is your favorite so far and why?
I think they all have a lot to offer – even Rhino played expert with Legions of HYDRA can cause problems. Probably Green Goblin though, Mutagen Formula offers a lot of challenge, and plenty of interesting cards.
10. How do you prefer to play and if it is not alone, what does your playgroup look like?Up until the start of the Covid-19 lock-down, I was mainly playing solo, although time at home alone for gaming has more-or-less vanished. We’ve only managed a single 4-player game so far just because of how long it takes, but hoping to try this again when we get let out. Right now, it’s just my wife and I playing 2-player most of the time. She’s been focusing fairly heavily on Black Panther for a while, but as we now have Black Widow in Europe, I’m going to try to get her to branch out a bit.
11. Do you customize your gaming experience anyway that goes beyond the official rules for the game, if so how and why?
Right now, I think there’s enough ability to customize built in to the game, that I haven’t really felt the need to – between the different difficulty levels and the various modular sets, there’s plenty to keep me going. I was really pleased to see them announce Rookie and Heroic levels, and if the designers continue to expand the possibilities in this way, I can’t see it being that necessary. If I do start customizing, I think something to mix up Wrecking Crew and make it less predictable in low player-counts: this was the one scenario that’s really felt a little flat the few times I’ve played it.
12. As is, how does Marvel Champions stack up to other games you play or have played? So far, it stacks up really well. It’s got a lot of the things I like about the other LCGs, but it does feel a bit more intuitive and streamlined. It also feels like it scales about the best of the 3 co-op LCGs by player-count. I can play true solo and still have a decent chance, whereas there are a lot of Lord of the Rings quests in particular that are excessively punishing in true solo. To compare it with other Marvel games, you really feel like you are playing as the character you control, unlike games like Legendary or Dice Masters where it was always a little fuzzy who “you” were.
13. Is there anything you would change with how the game currently is? If so how, If not why not?
The great thing about Living Card Games is that they are constantly expanding. Right now, I feel like the pace of new things coming in is good – I’m looking forward to the Red Skull box with what’s going to be added there.
The main thing I would add is X-Men. I’d really hoped that the Doctor Strange/Black Widow/Hulk silhouettes were Ice-Man, Kitty Pryde and Cyclops, so Mutants can’t come soon enough for me!
14. What was the craziest game you’ve had so far or your favorite memory from playing the game to date?
Fittingly for some of the answers above, it was a solo Ms. Marvel game against Mutagen Formula – about 10 minutes in I was down to about 3 health left, multiple side-schemes out, and had 4 encounter cards in front of me. I was very tempted to scoop, but decided to press on, and eventually claw it back. It really captured that empowered, heroic feel that the designers have talked about wanting to convey with this game.
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?
OP for Co-op games has been something that’s been very hit-and-miss over the years, as it just doesn’t match the patterns they had in place for the competitive games: I know that they’ve expanded their team recently, so I’m hoping for good things in the future. I think communication is really important – we’ve definitely had times in the past where our FLGS missed the deadline for ordering kits because it wasn’t very well-publicized – you can have the best kit in the world, but if stores don’t know that it’s available, that won’t help. Personally, I think that what we’ve seen in recent years for Arkham and LotR is good – alt-art cards, play-mats, etc, but make sure that anything which fundamentally changes gameplay is available later, probably via Print on Demand. I want an incentive to go along, but I also don’t want a situation where people can’t play a specific card because they don’t have an FLGS (and the crazy prices people then end up playing on eBay). One of the great things about the LCG model is that everyone pays (roughly) the same for the same cards: the thing that made me give up on Star Wars: Destiny, was how it felt too much like a pay-to-win model, and I wouldn’t want to see that here.
16. If you could bring any hero into the game, who would they be, what would they do and why?
I’m going to assume that if/when we get X-Men, Wolverine is a given, so I’ll say Kitty Pryde. She’s a long time favorite of mine (I still have some old 1980’s Kitty Pryde and Wolverine comics sitting in their bags on the shelves, which are nearly as old as I am), and she’s been a key player in some major arcs – Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men was my first foray back into Comics a few years ago (and let’s just pretend that the last few issues of X-Men Gold never happened).
I think that Phasing is tricky to do mechanically when we already get to discard and draw a full hand every turn, and I don’t want to spoil any of the truly epic planet-saving tricks that she’s pulled with her powers for anyone who hasn’t read those storylines yet. Probably something a bit lower-key would be best: maybe something that lets her discard cards to avoid/cancel damage. I’d definitely want to see a Lockheed card in there somewhere, plus Ogun as the Nemesis, and I guess the Obligation should probably be “Ex-boyfriend called Peter”
17. If you could bring any villain into the game, who would they be, what would they do and why?
I think the best villains are the ones who walk the line between Villain and Anti-Hero. I’m really looking forward to seeing characters who could fit into either side, and Magneto seems an obvious starting point. His methods are extreme – often villainous, but at root this is a holocaust survivor who feels like – not for the first time – his people are threatened with extinction unless he takes the fight to those who oppose them. In terms of mechanics, as there’s no way to identify which cards/heroes rely on metal, this would be a bit tricky to implement, so I’d rather see them focus on an interaction with mutants: maybe he gets an extra boost card every time a Mutant minion takes damage?
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?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. As much as I’d love to be a hero, I think that realistically I’m just a bystander – that’s a card-type that we’ve seen in Arkham a bit that could be interesting to import to Champions. “What just came out of the encounter deck?” “it’s some geek who’s too busy trying to ask the heroes questions to get out of the way!” a card that the heroes have to protect from the Villains, or suffer a bad effect if they get defeated. It would probably need surge, so it would not be too much of a softball for the players.
19. Time to head towards the conclusion but we need to touch on the MCU. What is your favorite MCU film and why?
There are a lot of great films there and some – like Winter Soldier or Civil War, have some pretty deep, meaningful themes for things that sometimes get dismissed as popcorn films. For sheer fun factor though, it has to be either Thor Ragnarok or Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I’ve not seen Guardians 2 in a while, so let’s say Ragnarok.
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?
Random fact: I spent so long at University, that I technically have more letters after my name than in it!
Thanks again Jim for answering our questions. We wish you the best in your content and would like to thank you for giving back to the community.
Thanks for having me – it probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone by this point, but I love theme in my board/card games – I love when the mechanics fit it well, and I love to talk about it at length, so if anyone just wants to geek out about X-Men, the wider Marvel Universe, Arkham, or the works of Tolkien, drop me a line.
If people would like to find you or your content, where can they find it?
(Or just message us on Facebook!)
Thank you readers for reading this article and stay tuned for our next entry into this series, coming Friday. Till then, we wish you nothing but the best and stay safe out there.