I always have something on the calendar. So, when someone cancels one of those plans, I offer the obligatory, “Oh, that’s too bad. We’ll have to reschedule really soon.”
Then I immediately let out a Woot WOOOOT and jump into my jammie britches, because hallelujah, I suddenly have myself an evening where I don’t have to go out.
With that in mind, here’s a game for you to play when it’s just you in for the evening in your jammie britches, particularly because COVID-19 means we’re now always in our jammie britches.
Continue reading for my thoughts on the solo experience of Marvel Champions!
Marvel Champions: A Living Card Game
Marvel Champions from Fantasy Flight Games is a cooperative Living Card Game (LCG) set in the Marvel Comics universe. Players choose a Marvel hero to battle a villain the game controls. As a Living Card Game, Marvel Champions is supported with regular releases of new new heroes as well as new villain scenarios.
On one hand, Marvel Champions employs basic concepts, which makes it wonderfully accessible for folks who might be intimidated by hobby card games.
- Players choose a hero. Each hero is played via a deck of cards. The cards outlines powers, abilities, and upgrades, which are masterfully drawn from comic book material. An Iron Man deck feels like Iron Man from the comics. Spider-Man feels like Spider-Man, etc.
- Players draw up a hand of cards and put them in play by “paying” the cost printed on the cards. If a player chooses Captain America, they’d naturally want to upgrade him and, in this way, you get the man a shield.
- The game dictates the villain, who schemes, attacks, and deploys minions. 2-4 players would do a Marvel Team-Up, but this review is of the solo play, which pits the player’s hero against the villain directly.
Marvel Champions also has new and interesting concepts that elevate it and make it into something unique and special:
- Each hero has a typical aspect but they can be mix and matched with one of four different aspects: Leadership, Aggression, Justice, and Protection. Captain America’s go-to is Leadership, of course, but you can also swap in the Aggression deck with his core cards when he’s just looking to avenge. It works incredibly well.
- Each hero also comes with Obligation cards that slide into the villain deck. When a particular Obligation is drawn from the deck, the hero has to address that first. Oh, look, Spider-Man’s rent is due!
- Each hero also comes with a Side Scheme that highlights their primary nemesis. The villain deck might trigger these cards, which means that the particular hero’s arch-nemesis enters the fray! Uh oh, Titania is coming for She-Hulk and Whiplash is after Iron Man.
- The most interesting thing of the game is that play switches back and forth between their alter ego and superhero identity. Peter Parker’s civilian identity is a secret from Rhino, so it allows him to lay low and heal up, but turn that card over to Spider-Man and it’s time for BOOM POW WHACK!
A hero’s civilian identity allows them to recover health. Players won’t want to linger here too long or the villains scheme’s will run wild. Players can flip to the hero side and thwart plans or kick butt. Managing alter-ego vs superhero identity is one of the most rewarding aspects of the game.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M on Marvel Champions
The primary component of Marvel Champions are the cards, all of which are excellent. I’m not sure how much of the artwork is original and which is pulled from the comics, but all is beautiful comic book artwork that captures the characters perfectly. The cards are an excellent thickness as well.
Two rulebooks are included: 1) a guide to get you started, 2) plus a full glossary guide. Both rule books are nicely done and walk you through the included first-play starter decks. Health is tracked with dials, a nice touch. Otherwise, the box includes all the cardboard trackers you need for a 4-player game.
Even though this is a LCG with additional heroes added each month, Marvel Champions includes everything 4 players need and no additional purchases are necessary. Solo play obviously has more than enough tokens for play.
For what is a relatively straightforward cooperative card game, Marvel Champions has a surprising numbers of plates to spin, which makes every game feel unique and tension rich. I could play Iron Man against Klaw 100 times and have a heck of a good time because each game might feel wildly different, yet each also come down to a final turn.
Players are simultaneously doing the following:
- Balancing character health by flipping back and forth between their costumed and civilian activity.
- Removing the threat of a villain’s overall scheme versus punching him in the face to remove hit points.
- Managing hand size, allies in play, and resources.
- Feeling like the situation is well in hand to being entirely overwhelmed by an arch-nemesis’ side scheme.
And that’s just the beginning. But while all that feels like it could be overwhelming, Marvel Champions is so well designed that it all goes down smooth and is a delight to play. The first thing you want to do after losing a game of Marvel Champions is to immediately play another game of Marvel Champions.
Some players will appreciate the puzzle of it all, which is trying to maximum card values to achieve the greatest possible combos. But most players will simply enjoy that this is a turn and burn game. Hands are played quickly, then drawn up again immediately. It plays fast. So fast, in fact, that a solo player can get in 2-3 games per hour once they have the hang of it.
Marvel Champions may be the most thematically well-done board game I’ve ever played. Even the solo game gives you that superhero team-up feel because you are able to play your supporting characters.
The card flavor text is rich and evocative. Even casual comic fans will be able to visualize scenes in their head as the cards play. Don’t judge me, but I actually say comic book lines out loud when cards are played.
Every mechanism of the game – such as swapping back and forth between alter ego and costumed identity – is a fun and rewarding experience that drips with theme.
The game is mainly cards, so it doesn’t have an engaging table presentation, but I went all in and got the neoprene playmat and that draws everything together.
This is a Living Card Game (LCG), so it will receive new heroes or villains approximately once a month. There is even a big box Hydra expansion coming Fall 2020 that will add a more detailed campaign mode.
Nerds don’t even need that, even though we’ll be darned thankful for it. The core game will keep your interest for dozens of games. The pre-built decks are solid and a heck of a lot of fun.
Layered upon that are the straightforward rules for creating your own decks. Marvel Champions excels because it can be as intense or laid-back as you want it to be. Some players will analyze each card in order to optimize each hero’s deck. I prefer to just slam and bam, doing only quick swap in the decks in order to get into the game faster. Marvel Champions works perfectly for both types of players.
I also can’t say enough about the four different aspects – Leadership, Aggression, Justice, and Protection. Those alone can give each hero an entirely different play feel and make the two different battles against the same villain feel fresh.
Marvel Champions is also slick in how it scales. Each villain has a hit point value that multiplies according to the number of players. This makes it a breeze to set up a solo game.
Marvel Champions is incredibly fun to play. It excellently captures Marvel superheroes with cards. You feel like a kid playing.
Nothing ever feels tedious. And the various levers you have to manipulate in the game keeps you glued to each turn. Many times I’ve thought I had the game locked up only for the villain to fulfill his scheme and win the game. That wasn’t disappointing in the least, it just made me wan to play again.
Marvel Champions: A Fantasy Flight to Fun
Marvel Champions has rocketed to the top of the charts of my favorite solo board games.
I’m definitely awarding Marvel Champions with the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness. After several villains and more than a half dozen heroes, I’m still excited for more. Plus, with the variability in the way custom decks can be created, the game is kept fresh, which is greatly appreciated.
But the thematic depth of the game is such that I’d play the same ‘ole Web-Slinger against the Rhino a million times. The feelings that the game elicit are wonderful. And it’s delightfully fun.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a game of Marvel Champions to play. Spider-Man is battling the Green Goblin tonight.
[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth received a copy of Marvel Champions from Asmodee in exchange for an honest review.]