Don’t Cross the Streams? – A Look at Design in Marvel Champions, Issue #2: Justice

Written by Mcfly161

Welcome to part two of “Don’t Cross the Streams” a four part series, in which I look at cards in Marvel Champions that combine elements from two different aspects. The first instalment focused on Aggression cards that did Justice things. This week I’ll be flipping the script and analyzing damage dealing Justice cards. Does HARD JUSTICE have a place in Marvel Champions? Let’s jump in.

Hard Justice!

Up first we’re going to look at two attack events: Concussive Blow and Stealth Strike. Conclusive Blow confuses an enemy of your choice for three resources; If any of those resources are physical resources, you also deal that enemy three damage. Confusing an enemy (preemptive thwarting, if you will) is a decidedly Justice action. Conversely, slinging three points of pain is pure aggression baby. This is a prime example of a stream crossing card. But is it balanced? Is it thematic? Spoiler: absolutely. The first stroke of genius in this card’s design is the physical resource requirement. This is a Justice card first and foremost, and there is no guarantee that a player will get the additional punchy kicky benefit. The streams don’t cross themselves-you need to draw well or do some planning to maximize this card’s effect. Speaking of the effect, three damage for three resources is weak sauce; however, confusing the villain at the right moment can be the difference between winning and losing. A good in aspect effect combined with a so-so non guaranteed out of aspect effect is thoughtful balancing. Streams successfully crossed. Also, Concussive Blow is both thematically superb as well as mechanically clever: representing violently ringing an enemy’s bell with a confuse status and three damage is just MWAH! Chef’s kiss. Let’s compare this with Stealth Strike from the Black Widow Hero Pack.

Like Concussive Blow, Stealth Strike is a three cost Justice attack event that uses elements from both the Aggression and Justice aspects. However, unlike Concussive Blow, Stealth Strike is essentially an Aggression card first and foremost. You sling four damage at an enemy of your choice; if that enemy is defeated you may also remove two threat from a scheme. Once again, we have definitely crossed the streams. In terms of cost, three resources for four damage is a bit better than the three for three from Concussive Blow, but it is still lacking compared to most actual aggression cards. Adding two thwart to that damage is quite appealing though. Unfortunately, you aren’t always guaranteed to get maximum value. Perhaps you find yourself in a tough spot against Ultron where you absolutely need the two points of threat removal. You might have to waste this card on a measly drone with a single hit point. At its worst, Stealth Strike is quite underwhelming. At its best, it is still worse than Into the Fray, which we looked at last issue. Stealth Strike simply lacks the flexibility of Into The Fray-damage is capped at four, thwart at two-and this is ultimately why I think Stealth Strike is such a well balanced stream crosser. It is either great value, or it isn’t. Stealth Strike is also thematically on point: the good ole punch and thwart combo can be seen as knocking out a henchman and leaving the villain understaffed. I think another chef’s kiss in order. MWAH!

Patterns Emerge

It certainly looks like a pattern is forming. Good stream crossing cards tend to require some set up, or luck of the draw, and they often don’t guarantee the player a benefit, certainly not a maximum benefit. Good stream crossers also offer a great platform for story telling. With this in mind, let’s investigate two more Justice cards before we wrap up: Followed and Beat Cop.

Followed is a one cost upgrade from the Captain America Hero Pack. The card is attached to a side scheme and sits on the table until that side scheme is defeated. Once that condition is met, you fire four damage at an enemy of your choice. Very much an Aggression effect, but a decidedly Justice trigger and flavor. Admittedly, four damage for one is EXCELLENT value, and, while side schemes do pop up in pretty much every game of Marvel Champions (looking at you, Red Skull), this card has the potential to be a dead draw as often as not. If Lady Luck is particularly upset with you, you could go an entire game without being able to play this card at all. And that’s absolutely perfect. No guarantee of benefit? Check. Elements of two aspects? Check. Last but not least, does Followed tell a story that fits the mechanics on the card? Let’s see. This card depicts Daredevil menacingly perched in the shadows. So, obviously he is on the trail of some baddies in the process of villainous shenanigans and is about to stop them in a punchy kicky baton twirly kinda way. Thematic card story? Check. Followed absolutely ticks all the boxes of a great stream crosser. Unfortunately, our last card won’t be looked at so favorably. Uh oh, it’s the PoPo. Enter the Beat Cop from the Hulk Hero Pack.

Beat Cop is a three cost support that exhausts to move a single threat from a scheme to the Beat Cop card. Unlike similar Justice cards-Interrogation Room and Surveillance Team come to mind-there is no trigger for this ability, nor is there a limited number of uses. Beat Cop is always on duty. As we know, in Marvel Champions threat acts as an in game timer. Turn after turn, a minimum of one threat per player is added to the main scheme forcing the players to deal with it or risk letting the villain prevail. A single Beat Cop turns off the Justice player’s timer and a group of Beat Cops have the potential to make threat a complete non issue. Little known fact, a group of Beat Cops is known as an ACAB.


On the Aggression side, you can opt to exhaust and discard Beat Cop in order to deal damage to a minion equal to the amount of threat currently on the card. With no limit to the amount of the threat one can build up, Beat Cop can easily become the hardest hitter in a game (well maybe not if you’re playing She-Hulk or He-Hulk, but you get the idea). Taken as a whole, this card is a combination of two very powerful independent effects. Unfortunately, this means that the streams aren’t crossed. Rather, they are both fast flowing, merely waiting for the player to decide with one is best each turn. Justice or Aggression? YOU DECIDE! This card even falls apart thematically. Yes, you can interpret Beat Cop as a jaded officer who finally takes justice into their own hands; however, this game is rooted in fiction, and thinking of a fictional cop like Carl Winslow or Jake Peralta besting a baddie like Abomination simply does not fit the theme of this game. This isn’t to say that Beat Cop is bad design, it just isn’t as interesting, nor as balanced, as the other cards we’ve looked at today.

What Say You?

But what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have your own narrative interpretations of these or other stream crossing Justice cards I might have missed? If so, please leave a comment, or preferably, some short fan fiction. I’ll be back next time to take us deeper down the rabbit hole with Issue #3: Protection. Until then, stay Just. Unless you hate Justice. Don’t hate Justice.

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