Marvel United: X-Men Designer Breaks Down New Mechanics, Taking On Magneto, and More (Exclusive)

CMON and Spin Master Games are expanding their Marvel United universe with the heavily anticipated Marvel United: X-Men, which is now live on Kickstarter. The game not only brings the X-Men into the fold and allows you to combine X-characters with the roster from the first game, but it also introduces new mechanics, a fifth-player option, and more. had the chance to talk to Senior Games Designer Andrea Chiarvesio all about Marvel United: X-Men, including how Anti-Heroes work, Super Villain cards, improvements to hero decks, and more. The game shares the same core rules with Marvel United, but adds new wrinkles to the gameplay that takes advantage of the often grey world the X-Men find themselves in, and they were always going to be in their own game and not in an expansion for the original.

"We did not discuss that X-Men or any mutants at the time we were working on Marvel United. Of course, being a huge Marvel fan, I had hopes, and the first campaign was successful. And then I actually had the confirmations a couple of weeks after the end of the first campaign that we were going to do X-Men United, so it was just great and it's been great working on that so far," Chiarvesio said.

(Photo: CMON/Spin Master Games)

Marvel United: X-Men will make it possible for a fifth player to join in on the fun, something they tried to bring to the first game but couldn't quite crack the code in the design time frame for the first game. "We wanted to explore the possibility to have a fifth player. It would have actually worked for the first game too, and that's one of the reasons why the Super Villain mode is retro compatible," Chiarvesio said. "We just did not have enough time to develop that at the time we were working on Marvel United. So we just said, 'Okay, we will save these for another time if we have the chance to expand the game system.' And we did.'

"It seemed a perfect opportunity to have one player playing as Magneto, as Sabretooth, as Mystique, trying to reach their goal and the other players trying to stop him. We tried to do it in the simplest way possible. In Marvel United we had Tales of Asgard that already was the foundation for that," Chiarvesio said. "We went for a challenge that is called the Traitor Challenge, which has one of the players working secretly against the group, and then, at the very end of the game, taking the role of the villain."

"But the system we had in the Traitor Challenge was very simple and did not leave a lot of room for the villain player to really surprise the heroes and catch them off guard. So we started thinking, 'Okay, if a player has to play as the villain from the very start and everybody's aware of that, how can we avoid a game where everybody knows exactly the deck of their opponent," because the Super Villain, the Master Plan deck has 12 cards and the Hero decks have 12 cards as well. We know that after a while, maybe you really know each deck card by card, so we wanted to keep an element of surprise, and of the different solutions that we tried this was really the simplest and more elegant," Chiarvesio said.

(Photo: CMON/Spin Master Games)

The team also wanted to give the villains an added element when in the player's control, and so the villains here can be adjusted a bit to your individual playstyle. "With the X-Men, we also try to give each and every villain at least two different strategies when it's in the hand of a human player, and that was not always the case," Chiarvesio said. "Some Marvel United villains are pretty straightforward. They try to do one thing and that thing only, like Red Skull, he wants to increase his BAM track and the city. He doesn't even try to win the game by finishing the deck. With X-Men, we gave more different strategies to the villain so that also a human player controlling the villain will feel more in charge and with interesting options to choose from."

One such villain is Magneto, though like other characters in the X-Men universe, he can be played as either a hero or a villain, fitting his complicated history in the comics.

"Yeah. Magneto is of course a very unique and interesting villain, and, I mean, he did so many villainous things and is as heroic because he is an Anti-Hero in our system and in the comics, so it was really complicated to find an angle for him," Chiarvesio said. "At the end, the angle we went for is Magneto is trying to eradicate humans, to make all the people around the board mutants. So his winning condition is if there are no civilians on the board, he wins, which is very unique."

"He tries to do that in several ways through his Henchmen and his plan by overflowing locations, which will convert civilians into targets, so in this case like humans into mutants in his location and the other set ones. It was quite tough to balance, so we introduced this rule that at the start of each villain turn, one civilian is added to the opposite side, to the opposite location from where Magneto is," Chiarvesio said. "This makes Magneto probably the most complicated villain of both core sets, but also one of the most interesting to face because you always have a difficult decision to make, should I save the civilian so that we don't risk the overflow? But if we save too many civilians, then he might win because of his winning condition."

(Photo: CMON/Spin Master Games)

"And this also led to an alternate mission, which is the Cerebro Mission, because in this situation, we could not leave the usual mission to save nine civilians because saving nine civilians will have also meant that you are losing the game because there are not enough civilians in play. And I got the idea to simulate Professor X going in Cerebro and trying to find mutants before Magneto does to convert them to his cause," Chiarvesio said. "So he has a lot of interesting tweaks in the gameplay."

Sabretooth on the other hand is focused on damage and hunting one specific target, but you'll still need a well throughout out strategy to take him down as a team.

"Sabretooth, he's so different. He is like one of the most skilled hunters in the Marvel universe, so what he really wants to do is to come after each hero and take them down one by one," Chiarvesio said. "And you can be sure that there is always pressure on the heroes during a villain turn because he's almost always going in the location where one or more heroes are and doing damage, and he has one target at a time."

"Playing against Sabretooth is an interesting puzzle because you want to protect the player that is currently the hunted player, but on the other end, you don't want to take too much damage for him because otherwise when the time comes that you are the hunted player, you are going down too easily. I think every villain that forces the heroes and players around the table to really cooperate and work together and maybe sacrifice each other for the sake of the team is a better cooperative game than just, 'oh, let's optimize the action that we have.'"

(Photo: CMON/Spin Master Games)

The team thankfully has not had a problem getting the characters they really wanted for the game, and as we've seen with the Kickstarter, the game features a myriad of both big name and more niche characters. That said, there were two the team loved that could possibly not make the cut.

"And yeah, I can tell you ... I cannot tell you, but let's say, right now there are two characters that I really wanted in the game and that we designed and the design was... and that, unfortunately, maybe they won't be part of the campaign, but that's all I can say."

It remains to be seen who these characters are and if they made it into the game, but the good news is changes are high they did, as the game has already blown past its goal and brought in a myriad of playable heroes and villains for as Stretch Goals.


You can check out the Kickstarter campaign right here, and make sure to keep checking back for even more new characters and expansions for the game as the campaign continues.

What do you think of Marvel United X-Men? Let us know in the comments and as always you can talk all things tabletop and Marvel with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!