Marvel United Designer Eric Lang Talks Bringing Marvel to Kickstarter, Team Based Gameplay, and More

Marvel fans are about to get a brand new tabletop experience courtesy of CMON and Spin Master Games in Marvel United, an experience that's bn built from the ground up and featuring some of your favorite heroes from the Marvel Universe. Heroes like Captain America, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, and more will do battle with Taskmaster, Red Skull, and Thanos and will do so in a bright and colorful visual style. The game hits Kickstarter today, and we recently had the chance to get the lowdown on the new game from designer Eric Lang, starting with why Marvel decided to make Marvel United its first Kickstarter game.

"When CMON and Spin Master teamed up, our goal was to bring the very first Marvel game to Kickstarter," Lan said. "It was a dream project for both teams. We knew that Kickstarter was the best way to bring the ultimate Marvel tabletop gaming experience to the fans. It opened the door to allow our imaginations to run wild and create an infinitely expansive game."

The team was intent on delivering a fun experience for Marvel fans, but there was one specific aspect of the Marvel Universe that ended up being the most important, and that's truly working as a team.

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(Photo: CMON/Spin Master)

"We were obsessed with capturing the spirit of teamwork with Marvel United; how do the heroes work together and combine their powers and abilities to overcome the villains? The storyline mechanic showcases this in a simple and elegant manner," Lang said. "Players combine the actions and abilities of the hero card they played with the last hero card played before them. It really puts players in the heroic and cooperative frame of mind, boosting each other and contributing to really cool move combos."

The game has been in development for 2 years already and has grown and evolved quite a bit along the way. Two of the biggest changes to the game's premise and design are how it handles expansions and how it differentiates itself from other Marvel experiences.

"Ironically, the biggest change we made during the design process was to commit expansions to add complexity," Lang said. "Knowing that this game would bridge CMON and mainstream audiences and that we would have to serve both, we kept refining the core game to leave room for several new challenging ways to expand the gameplay (like the Infinity Gauntlet expansion … and even more that we will announce during the Kickstarter)."

"Having already co-designed a major Marvel game (Dice Masters), I wanted to make sure that this game was as distinct and different from that as possible," Lang said. "I believe every licensed game needs a reason to exist besides simply making money from the property, and the hook for Marvel United is quite fresh, in my opinion."

As for why the two companies decided to join forces, it came down to one word.

"Chemistry," Lang said. "There was an immediate chemistry between CMON and Spin Master, and from day one, both teams have worked in-sync. Each team’s unique skillsets have complimented each other so well, it’s like we’ve always worked together. CMON brought an uncanny ability to create amazing gaming experiences and campaigns for Kickstarter, while Spin Master brought the retail experience as well as the Marvel knowledge and know-how to reach a wide audience. This allowed us to tap into the expertise of both teams and create something really amazing."

The game will launch with 5 heroes, with two more as Kickstarter exclusives, but don't worry, plenty more are coming.

"As huge fans of the Marvel universe, of course we wanted every character available immediately," Lang said. "Our biggest enemy was the practicalities of production. However, because we designed the game to be so infinitely expandable, it was less of a concern for us to cut characters, and we focused on having as iconic and diverse a mix of heroes and villains in every box."

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(Photo: CMON/Spin Master)

When I proposed a (possible) bribe for characters like Moon Knight, Darkhawk, and Squirrel Girl, Lang was quite open, and he takes a number of different payment methods conveniently. "Bribe me. I take PayPal or Venmo," Lang joked.

"In seriousness, you bet there will be lots of extra characters," Lang said. "I can’t tell you too much about our future release plans, but one of our design mantras is “fan service to the max, sometimes with a few twists maybe you didn’t see coming.”

Marvel United was built from the ground up to offer a unique type of gameplay experience, and Lang gave us some insight into how it all works.

"Players take turns, and they must decide what actions they want to take using cards from their personalized hero decks," Lang said. "Then they combine those actions with those of the last card played by the hero on their left. Actions include things like rescuing civilians, KO’ing thugs, stopping villainous threats in different Locations, or even moving around the board. The villain of each game also plays cards from their personal deck, attacking the heroes or laying the groundwork for their own villainous plot."

"Players can’t even touch the villain until they’ve completed at least two of three basic missions (like rescuing civilians or stopping thugs), so they’ve got to be both tactical and strategic…doing what they can before running out of cards (and losing the game) while saving up to beat up the villain when they’re ready," Lang said.

"Sounds simple, right? Those are just the core rules – every hero has unique abilities on their cards; each villain a unique victory condition, cards and threats; each Location (randomly distributed each game) has its own abilities, etc. Every game feels like a totally unique experience," Lang said.

So, who exactly doe a turn work? Thankfully Lang gave us the rundown using Cap and Widow.

"Let’s say you’re Black Widow and I’m Captain America (I’m always Cap, by the way!). It’s my turn, I’m looking at the board and noticing that we desperately need to rescue civilians in Central Park, the next adjacent location," Lang said. "I look at both my hand and the last card you played into the storyline – you played a card that let you do two heroic actions (each such action can rescue a civilian). I have some really fight-oriented cards in my hand, but I want to save those for thugs, but I need to move to get over to Central Park."

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(Photo: CMON/Spin Master)

"So I play a card with a move and a heroic action," Lang said. "Combining that with your last played card, I now have three heroic actions and one move, which I can do in any order. So, I move next door to Central park, then rescue three Civilians. Thanks, Natasha! Now on your next turn, you get to use my move/heroic action card to combine with yours!"

"This core mechanic captures the spirit of the game," Lang said. "You need to coordinate all the time. Sometimes, you need to be selfish and get done what you need to, but often you’ll have to do what’s best for the team. And all of this before special abilities (of which there are many). For example, Cap has “Leadership” cards which give action tokens to his friends to use later. Nat can Interrogate, which looks ahead at the next card villain deck and you can put that on the bottom of their deck! For such a simple game, we made sure to make every choice matter. You really need to think about when to play your cards, when to hold back, when to just go for it."

Sounds fun right? You'll be able to play the game through scenarios, though you can get a campaign-like experience from the Infinity Gauntlet expansion.

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"Each game stands alone," Lang said. "We designed it to be fast, challenging, high-variety and addictive. Infinity Gauntlet is structured somewhat like a campaign, in the sense that it is up to 4 games linked together (with persistent power-ups and consequences between games), but it is really more of a big epic game session you could play in an evening."

If you think Marvel United sounds like a blast, we have to agree with you, and you can check out even more about the game on the official Kickstarter page right here. More of our Marvel United coverage can be found here, and feel free to hit me up on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things tabletop!

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