by Louis Sylvester
One of the most popular games of 2019 was the cooperative card game, Marvel Champions: The Card Game (1-4 players, age 14+), published by Fantasy Flight Games. When first released, the game was so popular that it sold out everywhere. Exciting expansions came out every month, but they disappeared off game store shelves within minutes. Because the game was so difficult to find, it seemed irresponsible to review Marvel Champions until the game was available to everyone. Finally, Fantasy Flight Games has reprinted the base set and the early expansions, so now is the time for a look at Marvel Champions.
One to four players each take on the role of a Marvel hero, playing both as the superhero and their alter-ego. The heroes square off against a super villain who is trying to enact an evil scheme. Players must manage their unique deck of cards and work together to defeat the villain, while ever increasing dangers threaten to overwhelm the team.
Over a series of rounds, players each take a turn to attack the villain or thwart their wicked plans. Players have a hand of cards that can be used for effect or as payment for actions. Cards can be played as attacks, support, or upgrades, but to do so, players must pay the cost of the card. To pay the cost, cards must be discarded from their hand. This creates an interesting strategic challenge — players will want to play all the cards in their hand for their awesome effects but must make the difficult choice of discarding some fantastic cards as payment for playing other great cards.
Another interesting choice players face on their turn is when to switch from their hero persona to their alter-ego and vice-versa. While in hero form, players can attack the villain, but the player is vulnerable to counterattacks. In their alter-ego form, the hero can recover from their injuries, but cannot fight against the enemy. Finding the perfect balance between hero and alter-ego is the secret to winning the game.
The base game includes five heroes including Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, She-Hulk, and Black Panther. Each hero plays differently. Spider-Man can use his spider-sense to avoid trouble, Iron Man can upgrade his armor to create a powerful combination attack, and when She-Hulk takes damage, she gets angry, thus increasing her attack damage.
Once each hero has taken a turn, players follow the steps of the villain phase in which counterattacks are thrown at heroes and various schemes are set into play while alter-egos recuperate. Just as the game offers variety with the heroes, there are various villains in the game and each schemes and attacks in a unique way. For example, Rhino slams headfirst into heroes while Ultron fills the skies with an army of deadly drones.
Once players have mastered the challenges in the base game, there are a number of expansions available. You can pick from heroes such as Captain America and Thor and new challenging threats such as the Green Goblin or the Wrecking Crew.
Marvel Champions: The Card Game is an exciting, strategic adventure that captures the feel of the Marvel Comics universe. Although the basic rules are easy enough to learn, each hero’s playstyle requires time and effort to master. This is not a game for casual play. The base game is not cheap and the expansions each add to the price point. But for players who want to feel the thrill of living and adventuring inside a comic book, Marvel Champions is the perfect game.
Sylvester is an associate professor in the creative writing program at Lewis-Clark State College. He is the co-author of “Legends of the Lost Causes” series, a rip-roaring adventure set in the fantasy West. Questions about tabletop games may be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.