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Don’t Cross the Streams? – A Look at Design in Marvel Champions, Issue #4: Leadership

Written by Mcfly161

Introduction

Welcome back. Today we are bringing Don’t Cross the Streams to a close with a look at stream crossing cards in the Leadership aspect. First, however, it must be noted that Leadership is a bit out an outlier in Marvel Champions. Where Aggression, Justice, and Protection all have pretty singular focus-dealing damage, thwarting, healing/preventing damage respectively -Leadership uses allies, and cards that use your allies to do all of the above. The main thrust of Leadership is that, if you’ve got good friends, you can accomplish anything (this applies to life too, que the warm and fuzzies). Because of this, there simply aren’t that many cards in this aspect that fit the stream crossing formula I’ve been using in these articles. So, in honor of my current favorite Marvel Champion, this article will be a be quick one…

always be punnin’

Refreshers

Now, before we jump in, a quick summary about stream crossing cards: stream crossers are cards in one aspect that do things typically associated with a different aspect, or, they combine in-aspect with out-of-aspect effects. This juxtaposition and or combination of design elements also makes stream crossers narratively strong-they really tell a story. Finally, good stream crossing cards tend to maintain a delicate balance between utility and power level. Playing them at the right time should be satisfying, not game-breaking.

Leadership

You got Moxie, kid!

As previously stated, Leadership uses allies to dabble in the domains of the other three aspects. That’s just what Leadership does. Therefore, I won’t be looking at cards that provide Aggression/Protection/Justice effects if allies are required to play them/the only or the obvious beneficiary. Cards like Teamwork, Ready for Action, and Avengers Assemble for instance, are all out. So where does that leave us? Well, I’m going to start with a pair of cards that provide buffs: Morale Boost and Moxie. These two cards increase a hero’s three base stats by one until the end of the round. Morale Boost will cost you a single resource, whereas Moxie is free, but must be played in response to changing from Alter Ego to Hero form. Like many Leadership cards, these provide you with some extra ooomph for Aggression/Justice/Protection things; however, they target your hero instead of one of your allies. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily call this stream crossing on the surface, but the theme of the cards absolutely fixes this issue. Morale Boost tells the story of your Hero being going above and beyond in order to inspire the team. Moxie is similar, but reads more flashy (I’m thinking some type of costume changing high jump into super hero landing kinda thing), and the game mechanics compliment this. These two cards speak to the leader, not the led. This clever aspect appropriate story telling, combined with out of aspect effects works to satisfy the stream crossing definition above. Of course the clever story telling falls flat when you have no allies in play, but hey, things don’t always have to be perfect. That would be boring. Next let’s look at All For One.

And One For All, unless a Registration Act is on the table…then you’re on your own.

All For One is an attack event that costs two resources and does three damage to an enemy. Additionally, you may opt to exhaust any number of Avenger characters you control to do an addition one damage per character exhausted in this way. Now we are talking! This is very much a stream crossing card, and a good one at that. On the surface this is an Aggression effect yet All For One clearly speaks to Leadership in that your allies get to jump in to bolster the effect. Your hero can jump in too, but that seems weak sauce. Don’t you have something better to do, Steve? Go throw your shield! Speaking of weak sauce, All For One looks very strong on the surface as it provides the already dominant Leadership aspect with its one and only direct damage attack event; however, with cards like Teamwork and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the mix, All For One doesn’t necessarily scream auto include. Like all well designed stream crossing cards, this one won’t win games by itself. It requires some set up and some thought. I also really enjoy that you, the player, get to dictate the story it tells. Rather than the straightforward story of an attack being made that some particularly helpful Avengers support from the sidelines, perhaps we get a scenario in which Vision offers some well calculated strategy, allowing the initial offensive to better succeed; perchance Hawkeye provides arrowcentic cover fire; or maybe, just maybe, Doreen Green and her beloved Squirrels throw their hands to the sky and offering up their energy Spirit Bomb style. Or, if you’re feeling saucy, all three.

That’s a lotta squirrel power!

Finally, we’ll look at United We Stand. This is fun little zero cost stream crosser that lets you heal one damage from a number of friendly characters equal to the villain’s stage number (up to a max of three). How very…Protection. If we look at the Leadership card pool, we can see that this is the only card in it that offers direct healing and doesn’t require you to target any/only allies, though you’ll probably want to prioritize them. Why? Because healing one damage from a friendly character just begs to be used on allies. The value in healing an ally one point far outweighs the benefit of giving a hero a measly one point of health back. In fact, this card can be absolutely crushing if played at the right time: Giant Man getting another giant punch in, Goliath offering up a third thwart action before having to going all in on the offensive, or just getting one final attack or thwart action from any ally that would have been relegated to chump blocker this turn. Of course you won’t always get amazing results from this card, or draw it at the right time; United We Stand is balanced because of how situational it is. It also tells a great story of a group of warriors being reinvigorated by the collective challenge ahead. The bigger the challenge, represented here by the stage number of the villain, the more opportunity for those who oppose that villain to band together and catch a second wind. Admittedly United We Stand goes against my earlier caveat of not including cards that are obviously ally focused, but this list would be a little too short with only three cards to explore. Plus, United We Stand really does hit all the marks for good stream crossing design so I felt its inclusion warranted. Do you agree? Are we United in this?

UNITED…GET IT?!?!

Final Thoughts and Closing Comments

I hope that Don’t Cross the Streams has been a fun little romp for those who have stuck with me through these four issues. Admittedly this exercise has been entirely subjective, and even if you think some of my commentary is silly, over the top, or just flat out wrong, I hope you, the reader, can depart with two takeaways. The first is that Marvel Champions, by and large, is a well designed game. The stream crossing cards we looked at were interesting, nuanced, and required some thought when playing. Other than Beat Cop (I owe the rather situational Into The Fray an apology) none of the cards we looked at were truly too good at too many things. The second takeaway is that with a little imagination, Marvel Champions can provide a great narrative experience, and the stream crossing cards offer particularly fertile soil for this. Though, in this game, even the simplest of one trick designs tells a story: a Ms. Marvel Uppercut, for instance, conjures up very different imagery than a Hulky Smashy Uppercut. At the end of the day, I’m a fan of great story telling and I appreciate that with the smallest of efforts I can find great stories in Marvel Champions. Again, I really hope you’ve enjoyed this series, but now, it is time for you all to stop reading my story and time to go and create your own! Unless you hate amazing stories. Don’t hate amazing stories.

P.S. If you do want to keep reading my stories I’ll be back next time to discuss one of my absolute favorite scenes in Avengers Endgame: Captain of the Support Circle.

Cause it’s important to talk.

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