Marvel Champions: The Card Game Review
Stats at a glance
The Marvel universe is a really is a perfect platform for a collectible game, and Fantasy Flight Games has really nailed the concept down with Marvel Champions.
Build out your hero deck and engage in solo or cooperative battles against the memorable Marvel villains. Once you’ve had your fill with the core box, there are dozens of character expansion decks to try out and extend your playtime!
Brief Overview of Marvel Champions: The Card Game
Marvel Champions is an LCG (Living Card Game), a concept coined by Fantasy Flight Games. It’s quite similar to the standard trading card game concept, but the key difference is that LCG packs are not randomized – you always know what you’ll get. This has more to do with the expansions, so let’s get back on the subject of the core game.
The game can be played by 1 to 4 players, and works best as a solo or duo experience due to how the mechanics are handled. The setup involves deck creation while the gameplay revolves around building power through cards, health management, and of course combat with the villain.
To fully enjoy this game, you should obviously be a fan of the Marvel universe. It can be fun if you’re a casual fan and get to play a friend’s game, but there are certainly better card games you can purchase for yourself.
Marvel Champions offers a ton of replayability, even in the core set. The game has been well received and while it does have some minor issues, it has great gameplay and focuses on combat scenarios, rather than campaign and story.
Versions & Expansions
Marvel Champions: The Card Game has a ton of amazing expansions. We’re just going to cover a few of our favorites here, but if you have a favorite hero or villain, chances are there’s an expansion.
Rise of Red Skull
Hydra is one of the most iconic villain organizations and this pack includes 5 villains to test your strengths against Crossbones, Absorbing Man, Zola, Taskmaster, and of course Red Skull. On the hero side, the box has Hawkeye and Spider-Woman with ready-to-play decks.
This box is centered around Spider-Man and includes decks for Miles Morales and Ghost Spider along with Sandman, Venom, and Sinister Six as the villains. Even though it features fewer characters than other boxes, Sinister Motive is still great for those who really love the Spider-verse.
The Galaxy’s Most Wanted
The Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most popular Marvel subverses and this box will give you a chance to play with fan-favorite Rocket Racoon and Groot. On the other side, you’ll face Drang of the Brotherhood of Badoon, the Collector, Nebula, and Ronan the Accuser.
The Mad Titan’s Shadow
There’s no way we can talk about Marvel and not mention Thanos. The Mad Titan and three members of the Black Order — Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, and Corvus Glave will be your enemies, while Adam Warlock and Spectrum will join your side.
Storm Hero Pack
Being a casual fan of Marvel, most of my exposure to it came from the movies. Out of the currently available hero packs, my favorite has to be the one for Storm because of the X-Men movies.
The Green Goblin Scenario Pack
Even though there are more notable villains in the other scenario packs, I just love Green Goblin because of Willem Dafoe, which is why I’ve chosen it as the featured scenario pack!
Unboxing Marvel Champions: The Card Game
The box includes the following components:
- 199 Player Cards
- 137 Encounter Cards
- 7 Reference Cards
- 30 Status Cards
- 62 Damage Tokens
- 16 All-Purpose Counters
- 33 Threat Tokens
- 5 Acceleration Tokens
- 1 First Player Token
- 4 Player Hit Point Dials
- 1 Villain Hit Point Dial
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Rules Reference
I know you’re most interested to hear what the cards are like, but let’s work our way from the top and review all of the components, starting with the rulebooks.
FFG has clearly put the effort into rules breakdown and guides to make the learning experiences as easy as possible. The rulebook features plenty of examples and is quite easy to follow.
Next up we’ve got the punchout cardboard that makes out the hit point dials and various value tokens. The build quality is solid and the artwork is done in the classic comic book design.
The cards are definitely the highlight of the box – it’s not easy to describe it in words, but the card art is excellent. The layout makes the text easy to read and every card has its own artwork, apart from the extra copies.
How to Play Marvel Champions: The Card Game
The rulebook provided with the game does an excellent job of explaining everything you need to know about playing Marvel Champions, so I’ll just provide a general overview of the gameplay mechanics.
The first step towards playing a game of Marvel Champions is of course to select your hero! The game comes with 5 heroes to choose from, with more available through expansions. You’ll also select a Nemesis for the encounter, prepare the decks and adjust the hit point dials.
The next step is for players to draw cards based on their hero’s limit and resolve any mulligans. If a character has a setup ability, resolve it, otherwise, you’re ready to start the game.
The game is played over a series of rounds divided into player and villain phases. There is not a set number of rounds, as the game continues until either the villain or all of the heroes have lost their hit points. Threat level reaching the maximum is another losing condition and occurs when players are too passive.
Players take their actions first by playing cards from their hands, attacking enemies, and reducing the threat levels. Villians, on the other hand, can act as many times as there are heroes and can attack them, scheme, and summon minions among other actions.
During their phase, players are free to take any number of actions in any order, as long as they can fulfill the requirements. The only exception is the change form action, which switches the hero between their alter-ego and hero form.
The gameplay revolves around playing cards and utilizing their effect. At the end of each phase, the player’s hand is restocked to full, encouraging players to take as many actions as their strategy allows.
The villain acts after players have taken their turns and perform a series of actions to counteract the heroes by generating threat, acting against players, and dealing encounter cards to them.
The players’ heroes can be attacked only if they’re in their revealed form. Otherwise, the villain will scheme, which will make them more powerful, so players will have to balance taking the optimal amount of damage.
Your First Game of Marvel Champions: The Card Game
This is where I would usually give you some tips and tricks I’ve figured out along the way to make your initial experience easier. But with Marvel Champions, the game does that for me!
The rulebook will walk you through the beginner scenario designed for one or two players where Spider-Man and Captain Marvel face off against Rhino. As long as you follow it step-by-step, by the time you complete the scenario, you’ll know how the game is played.
The next step would be to try out other heroes — there are 5 in the box after all! Marvel Champions is a deck builder so you’ll have plenty of ways to customize it. However, for starters, you can use the predefined decks for each of the heroes until you get a feel for them.
Speaking of deck customization, unless you have some experience, it’s best to take a starter deck and slowly alter the cards so your deck doesn’t fall out of balance. The deck-building rules are very simple, you only need to stay within the 40 to 50-card limit and include certain mandatory cards.
Pros & Cons
- Compact Game Sessions
- Distinct Card Game Experience
- Tons of Value & Replayability
Marvel Champions has a lot of great things going for it, especially its ability to appeal both to deck builder fans and those who just love the Marvel universe.
The game does not have a campaign but allows its scenarios to be relatively short — around 1 hour for two players. It feels like a perfect amount of time to experience what the game has to offer, and leaves you with plenty of time to go for another session.
Fantasy Flight Games makes a lot of card games, so it would have been easy to take one of their existing templates and just slap the Marvel coat over it. However, that’s not what they’ve done with Marvel Champions. The focus on scenarios, the alter-ego cards, and the way it plays, in general, makes it worth trying out.
TCG games tend to get very expensive, very fast. Some require a large investment before you can even get a proper feel for the game. Marvel Champions is one of few that offers a ton of value straight from the core set. With 5 heroes and 3 villains, you can play at least a couple dozen scenarios before thinking about the expansions.
- Lack of Story & Campaign
- Not Suitable for 3 or 4 Players
Most card games, especially cooperative ones have some form of a campaign or story to go along with the gameplay, but Marvel Champions relies solely on the scenarios, which are essentially long-format battles.
While this system works, I’m sure a lot of Marvel fans would’ve loved to see a developing story in this rich universe, rather than just a brawl.
Marvel Champions is advertised as a 1-4 player game, but you really shouldn’t play it with more than 2. As you increase the number of players the tempo of the game significantly decreases and it’s just not as fun. Keep this in mind as you plan who you’re going to play the game with.
Marvel Champions Review (TL;DR)
Marvel Champions: The Card Game has been a positive surprise on almost all levels. The box offers plenty of value and replayability, so it’ll be a while before you need to delve into expansions.
It’s great as a solo or two-player game and if you’re a fan of Marvel and card games, I’m sure you’re going to love this game. At this point there are plenty of expansion packs for both heroes and villains, so you’ll even be able to play your favorite hero!
I’ve mentioned it before, but Marvel Champions has been a positive surprise for me. As someone indifferent to both Marvel and TCGs, I didn’t expect much from the game but was ready to step out of my comfort zone.
I have played the game solo for the most part and found it to be a fast, enjoyable, and sometimes tense experience. The game may feel casual at first glance, but once you get into it there is a lot of number crunching and strategic decisions involved in every move.
The best part about Marvel Champions is that even after the dozen or so games I’ve played, I don’t feel like I’m even close to exhausting the core set. There’s just so much value in the box that I could play it as-is indefinitely, and at some point add a couple of my favorite heroes to the mix.
When I think about it, the high replayability really is the biggest strength of Marvel Champions. It allows everyone to get the core box at a reasonable price and have plenty of time and options to try it and see if they like it, while some of the other TCGs require you to go “all-in” from the start.
We hope you enjoyed our Marvel: Champions review! If you’re a fan of Marvel or comic books in general, this is a great option to try. Have you played this superhero card game before? Is it on your wishlist? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.