Marvel Champions, Fantasy Flight Games' first game set in the Marvel Universe, is a brand new variation of its popular Living Card Game system. Earlier this week, Fantasy Flight Games released Marvel Champions, a brand new tabletop game featuring Marvel superheroes squaring off against various supervillain threats. Marvel Champions is unique in that it's a living card game, which acts as a hybrid of sorts between collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering or the Pokemon Trading Card Game and more traditional tabletop card games like Dominion or Mystic Vale.
Like a collectible card game, Marvel Champions requires players to make their own deck, but players won't have to buy booster packs in the hopes of getting the cards they need for their deck. Instead, players will start off with the Core Set (available now) and then add to it with various expansion packs released on a monthly basis. Each expansion pack contains all of the cards in that expansion - so there's no "rare" cards or collectibility. All players who buy the same expansions will be on equal footing, so there's not a two-tiered money barrier in order to be competitive in the game.
Fantasy Flight Games has released several Living Card Games over the years, each with different focuses and gameplay styles. Android: Netrunner was a competitive game in which two players battled against each other, while Arkham Horror: The Card Game focused on storytelling and branching storylines impacted by your choices made in the game. Some Living Card Games like Legend of the Five Rings have multiple factions, while others like Lord of the Rings were focused around building a deck around a singular hero. The only similarity between these games is that each involves some kind of deckbuilding and releases new content on a regular basis.
So - how does Marvel Champions compare to these other Living Card Games? Like many other Living Card Games, Marvel Champions is a cooperative game in which scenarios increase in difficulty based on the number of players involved. Players will try to work together to defeat villains, and they can block attacks made against other players or enhance the abilities of players as well. Unlike some other Living Card Games, Marvel Champions has a noticeable focus on accessibility and ease of play. While other Living Card Games required multiple Core Sets to allow for multiplayer play, Marvel Champions only requires one, and deckbuilding is MUCH simpler than in games like Arkham Horror or Lord of the Rings. Players simply pick a hero (each of whom has a set of cards) and an Aspect (which gives the player a specialized role within a game) and fills out their deck with a set of Basic cards. There are some minor deckbuilding rules - certain cards can only be used in a deck a limited number of time and there's a minimum and maximum deck size - but the game is built for players to quickly throw together a deck. Any hero can be used with any Aspect, which makes deckbuilding a lot easier than Arkham Horror, a game where each hero had certain deckbuilding rules that limited what cards they could use.
On the flip side, Marvel Champions doesn't really have a campaign mode like the Arkham Horror, Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones Living Card Games. Each scenario largely stands on their own, and a player can't earn experience to level up their deck as the game progresses. The scenarios have different mechanics and strategies, but the stories that frame the scenarios are rather basic in nature. If you're expecting a deep story, Marvel Champions might not be what you're looking for, as there's an emphasis on gameplay and action as opposed to story. That could change in the future, but the first few expansions only add heroes or standalone scenarios to the game.
If you enjoy card games, but dislike the randomness or the money needed to get into games like Magic: The Gathering, Marvel Champions might be the game for you. Players only need the Core Set to play, and future expansions are entirely optional...although you'll likely want to keep adding to your collection as more content is released.
Marvel Champions is available now at local and online game retailers.