Some of your favorite Marvel heroes are once again saving the world, but this time they’re doing it on the tabletop thanks to Spin Master Games and CMON’s Marvel United. Captain America, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, and more are in your control as you attempt to take down villains like Red Skull and Ultron, and while you’ve seen those battles happen in the comics and even in other games, Marvel United puts its own fresh co-op spin on superhero clashes that will hook both longtime board game aficionados and those new to the genre.
Marvel United is a cooperative board game that has players taking control of Marvel heroes to take down the villain, though you can’t just dive in and start landing hits on the villain right off the bat. The core game includes Captain America, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man, and The Wasp, and you’ll use these heroes to defeat thugs, perform heroic actions, and save civilians, working your way towards being able to start dealing damage directly to the villain of the scenario.
The core game features Red Skull, Taskmaster, and Ultron to go against, and each villain comes with several threat cards, which include smaller but still dangerous enemies like Crossbones and Madame Hydra that you’ll need to deal with. When the game first starts, you will randomly pick six different locations to fill out the board, and then the villain will move across them according to cards you draw from his Master Plan deck, which will also dictate if other damage is done in this location, if new thugs spawn, etc.
One of the ways the game shakes up gameplay is in its turn structure, which is called the "Storyline." The villain kicks off the game, activating and moving based on the Master Plan card you draw. That card is then placed as the first part of the storyline, and then you start the hero turn. A hero then draws a card from their hand to play, and, once finished, that card is then placed in the storyline after the villain’s card. You’ll then have two more players take their turns before another Master Plan card is drawn, and things repeat this way until certain factors speed up the villain later in the game.
The Storyline also affects the heroes, as, aside from the unlucky first player (sorry Bub), the next heroes don’t just benefit from their addition to the Storyline but also from the hero card placed before theirs. This allows opportunities for teamwork, as if you know someone needs to move or attack, you can lay a card that helps them achieve that on your turn, and if you all coordinate together you can keep the momentum moving forward, always building upon each others' cards like the well-oiled machine you are. It also helps that the actions themselves are easy to learn and turns overall are fast-paced, and since what your teammates do on their turns might directly affect your options on your turn, you’re consistently engaged but not overwhelmed.
The heroes are all represented on the board by gorgeous miniatures that lean into the cartoony art style with lovely results, and they’ll look even better painted. As for how they play, the characters each have special abilities that make them feel authentic to the heroes you know and love.
For instance, Ant-Man and The Wasp can both Shrink and avoid damage until the beginning of their next turn, while Black Widow has a handy ability to interrogate, which lets you look at the top card of the Master Plan deck. If it’s not something you like, you can place it at the bottom, giving you a rare chance to directly affect what the villain does next turn.
Captain America and Iron Man have abilities that allow them to give actions to other heroes, while Captain Marvel can launch an attack that affects not just her space but one next to hers. Meanwhile, Hulk has a "Hulk Smash" card that has him dealing damage to everyone in the space, though it does come at a cost.
The game does a great job of simulating what it takes to be a hero, as you’re constantly considering several factors on every turn, including what your current options are regarding your hand. Do you move over to a new location and try to clear off the threat and rescue civilians? Do you instead give some resources to your teammates and limit your own actions during your turn, setting them up for future turns? Or do you decide to just blitz a bunch of thugs so you can clear a mission and get one step closer to taking the fight to the main villain? All of these are valid and also necessary to get the win, and because there are multiple paths to take that contribute to the overall goal, you are rarely relegated to the sidelines, ensuring you feel like the Avenger you aspire to be.
By the way, the game is easy enough to pick up, but it’s not a cakewalk, and if it does become old hat you can spice things up with Challenge cards that will up the difficulty with modifiers. There’s also a solo mode in the game, so if you aren’t able to get a few people around the table, you can still throw down in some superhero action.
The only negative would be the slim pickings in villains, though that is specifically regarding the core set, because if you backed the Kickstarter, you have a litany of additional heroes and villains to choose from. The good news is that those three villains play quite differently, but it is a bummer that at least one more villain didn’t make it into the core box. It would have also been wonderful to have a few more character-specific ability cards in each character’s deck, but that’s also nitpicking, as I didn’t feel slighted in the least.
Marvel United delivers addictive superhero gameplay that’s easy enough to pick up and play but doesn’t shy away from a challenge and will appeal to both experienced board game players and newcomers alike. It packs some of the most recognizable Marvel heroes into a game that actually requires players to work as a team, and just about any Marvel fan is going to find something to love after giving it a shot.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published By: CMON and Spin Master Games0comments
Game Design By: Andrea Chiarvesio and Eric M. Lang
Art By: Mathieu Harlaut, Edouard Guiton, Saeed Jalabi, Giovanna Guimaraes, and Giorgia Lanza