Written by Joey ZaZa
I’ve been a fan of Marvel and anything Marvel-related since I was a teenager in the ’90s, to some of you, that’s a long time ago (in a galaxy far far away) *Star Wars pun*.
Back in the ole’ days, I used to play this role-playing game called “Marvel FASERIP” by TSR. The acronym stands for Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, Psyche. Yeah..no idea what they were thinking with that name.
I was about 12 years old and one day when my dad came home from work he walked into my room and gave me this paper bag and said “look inside, I think you’ll like this” so I reach into the bag and I pull out this square box that said, Marvel FASERIP basic rule set I said, “Woah!, what’s this?” Now, by that time, the game was about 6 or 7 years old but I’ve never heard of it. I quickly opened the box, I look inside and I see a rule book, a campaign book and the pièce de résistance! A map and little cardboard cut-outs of all my favorite Heroes and Villains to move around the map. I quickly got up off my bed, burst into my sister’s room, and tell her “you have to play this with me now! My sister was 16 at the time so she gave me the proverbial middle finger and I moved on..
The very next day I got my friends together after reading the rule book the night before to have our first play session and we had a blast. One of the biggest problems we had was we just wanted to keep playing this game all the time, but like most Rpg’s it took hours to play. I was 12 years old, with school, curfew, I can only play it on the weekends, it was a bummer. Fast forward a generation and a half later *boy am I getting old* I hear that Fantasy Flight Games is making a Marvel co-operative card game and I was excited, just as excited as I was when I was 12 when my dad brought me home the Marvel RPG. The difference is instead of bursting into my sister’s room, I burst into my son’s room, him also being a huge Marvel fan to tell him the good news.
The first thing I thought of was boy, I wish I had a game like this when I was younger. A card game with cool comic book art that I could play with at moments notice. My son and I sat down and read the very first article about Champions and we were so excited to have it in our hands to play. Marvel Champions gave me the same feeling Marvel FASERIP gave me, theme! The difference was, no pen and paper, no dice, or having to get a group together to play for hours on end. It’s a game you can play in a little over an hour depending on who the villain is, and if you lose, you have plenty of time to start again.
Marvel Champions gives me everything I wanted in a Marvel game, from amazing artwork to add flavor to the game, to the sense that I was the hero and felt as powerful as they are in the comic books. Some may be too powerful *coughs* Dr. Strange *cough*. It makes me feel like I’m playing within a comic book setting. I remember when I first read that not only are we playing as heroes but also as their alter egos I was in geek heaven. You can play as Spider-Man and broke Peter Parker, sign me up!
To some people especially in the Marvel Champions community, I take theme too seriously and I’m sure I annoy few folks. Sorry, I never mean to do that. To me, that’s what this game is all about, theme, to build your own stories. I am not equating Marvel FASERIP and Marvel Champions as similar games, but they both give me that same excitement to be my favorite hero, the big difference with Champions, I can actually bring it to my table most of the time.
One of the best parts of Marvel Champions to me is building your hero. In Marvel Champions, heroes come with a “signature deck” of 15 cards, essentially those 15 cards make up the very essence of what that particular hero is and what he or she represents. It is done beautifully. Whether it’s Captain America tossing his Shield around bouncing from minion to minion, Ms. Marvel growing into a giant and punching people lights out defending her hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. It all comes together in this ebb and flow goodness that makes it so much fun and so thematic. Let me be clear, this is not a review, it’s really about how the game makes me feel. I’ve read comic books all my life and that experience also adds to the pleasure of this game.
To give you an example of theme, let’s take the spunky Ms. Marvel as an example. In her 15 card “signature deck” not only do you have your proverbial attack and defense cards you get in any typical card game, but you also have her friends and family members opening up the essence of who she is in the comic books. Those 15 cards tell her story how, yes, she’s a hero and she can punch, defend, even outsmart the villains, but it also tells her life story. Ms. Marvel is also a teenager with friends and family who cares for her and will help her any chance they can. In those 15 cards, you get an elegant weaving of an intricate story laid out for you at your very own fingertips.
You can tell that the designers of this game put so much passion into developing this game. Designing a game like this must not be easy, especially with sticklers like me around asking “where is Betty?!” *a story for another day* But one of the main reasons I actually do love this game is it reminded me when my dad bought me my first Marvel game and how I fell in love with it, and today, I fell in love with Marvel Champions and I can enjoy it with my son.