Article

Marvel Champions 2-Year Retrospective

Written by CaptainAmeriDave

Introduction

As we approach the 2-year anniversary of everyone’s favorite LCG*, we should take a look back at where we’ve been and maybe even a peek to see where we’re headed. When the game was first announced, I’m not sure any of the players knew what was on the horizon. We’ve had a lot of fun surprises and a lot of great content. So, I’ll touch on the big areas of the game so far and see what we can learn from our first two years of the game.

*by everyone, I mean those whose favorite LCG is Marvel Champions 😉


Heroes

Captain America
Always ready.

The biggest and probably the most thematic draw to this game is the heroes. Two years and 24-26 heroes in, we’ve seen a wide range of powers be implemented into exciting new mechanics for each hero that’s come out. I’m continually impressed that no matter how interested I am in the character, the developers find a way to make their play-style feel innovative and unique to the character’s powers. Now you could easily argue that some outshine others in how thematic they are or how well their mechanics translate into their effectiveness. But despite that, we’re about two dozen heroes in and there’s really only been two widely regarded missteps in that time. I’m speaking specifically of Thor and Hulk, but even then, they’re not bad, they’re simply so bottlenecked into certain play-styles that they lack the ease of play and reliability that come from more versatile heroes. Personally, I think the heroes are the strongest aspect of the game, as playing through each villain with each new hero feels like an entirely new puzzle to figure out. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love throwing Cap’s Shield or SMASHING with Hulk. It’s just fun to play as your favorite heroes.

Aspects

She-Hulk
She-Hulk SMASH!

When the Core Set was released, Protection was easily the worst aspect. It lacked the functionality to really be an effective aspect especially in solo. Since then, it’s become the most improved, and the most unique by offering varied play-styles and nuanced gameplay that the other aspects haven’t really been able to emulate. That doesn’t mean the others are bad though, Leadership still remains the strongest aspect, and I see no sign of that slowing down as the only consistent way to counter allies seems to come down to very specific villains and or modular sets to create a challenge. Justice and Aggression are very much mirrors of each other, most often having similarly formatted cards. But Justice remains the stronger of the two because of the priority the game places on the main scheme’s threat. For that reason, Aggression carries with it the inherit risk that you may not be able to win fast enough. While losing to threat could happen with any aspect, Aggression races against the clock much more so. I’d really like to see a 5-6 cost card that does 8-10+ damage. That would make the aspect feel like it’s really flexing its muscle over the others. Lastly, there are the Basic cards. Though they were always meant to supplemental, they’ve reached the point where you can viably build a deck without any aspect cards and still win and have fun doing it.

Villains

Ultron
The Rage of Ultron

What a would hero be without their villains? You’ve got to have a good mix of challenges for the heroes to overcome, and the villains in this game have really managed to bring it to the heroes. From Ultron and Klaw in the core set, to Mutagen Formula, Kang, and the gauntlet that is Galaxy’s Most Wanted. I’ll touch more on campaigns specifically in the next section, but suffice to say there is a wide range of difficulties from easy to all but impossible. As far as innovation goes, the scenario packs are really where you want to go to find the most unique encounters. Green Goblin, Wrecking Crew, Kang, and the upcoming The Hood all provide the biggest changes to what the villains can actually throw at you. While the campaigns are really built to provide a more thematic run through. The villains that come with a campaign have tended to focus on one thing, while relying on the campaign itself to create a more unique experience (although the Mad Titan’s Shadow box may change that trend by the looks of it).

Campaigns

Improved Attack Upgrade
Hmm, upgrades.

I haven’t had the opportunity to pick up Mad Titan’s Shadow yet, not to mention it has been delayed, so I’ll avoid mentioning much on that one, but the other two boxes have provided a fun campaign experience and a nice break from focusing on a singular scenario. I also really appreciate that the two campaigns I’ve played have a very different structure. The biggest downside to the campaigns is their lack of integrated story. Champions easily has the least developed story integration of the cooperative LCG’s. That doesn’t mean the stories aren’t enjoyable, but I don’t think anyone would mind seeing something more like Arkham or even Lord of the Rings. Because the campaigns have a avoided committing to one specific structure, that leaves the door open, but it remains to be seen if this an area the developers will explore.

Modular Sets

Electro
Shocking!!!

The developer’s themselves have admitted that this caught them by surprise, but the modular sets have really been a hit. They’re such an easy way to provide replayability and difficulty adjustment. Much like the villains, you can go from easy to practically impossible by switching out a few cards. You can also add a lot of theme by mixing certain minions with certain villains. The upcoming The Hood scenario pack is adding a ton of new options as well with even more variety and difficulty.

Teams

We’ll lose. Then, we’ll do that together too.

So we’ve made it through three full cycles and started a fourth. In that time, the game has mainly focused on two superhero teams: the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy (GotG). The game has mainly taken to focusing on characters featured in the movies given the popularity of the MCU. While the heroes within each group can vary wildly, I think we can make some general observations about the two teams. Avengers have a higher tendency towards status card effects and most of them have a high damage attack (6+) in their kit. This doesn’t mean the Guardians can’t do a lot of damage, but they tend to achieve that by adding a lot of small damage together or utilizing kickers to boost their damage cards to a higher level. The Guardian’s themselves, tend to have higher thwart and/or more thwarting options. There’s also a focus placed on weapons as most Guardian’s rely on weapons in their kits and there have been several weapons added for Guardian allies.

Looking Ahead

I see all!

Looking Ahead: The fourth cycle is off to a bit of a rocky start as global shipping issues have delayed Mad Titan’s Shadow’s availability. But if the whispers are true, this could be the best box yet. This cycle will be a mix of Avengers and Guardians with some fun new additions like Vision and Valkyrie. We also got a sneak peek at Sinister Motives, the big box that will kick off the fifth cycle and Spider-Verse themed wave. There’s still a ton of great heroes that this game could release. We haven’t touched on the Marvel Knights (street-level heroes), Fantastic Four, or X-Men. Here’s hoping we all get to see our favorites in the game someday.

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