Marvel Champions: The Card Game is a living card game published by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) and initially released in 2019. As a living card game, there has been new content continually released since the original game was published.
What is a Living Card Game (LCG)?
The living card game element is a key part of Marvel Champions, and many other card games published by Fantasy Flight games. This might explain why the living card game term itself has been trademarked by the company.
Living card games are games that have an initial release, referred to as a core set. All core sets contain the same cards. Expansions (exactly how these look depend on the game) also contain identical cards. This removes the rarity (and some may call it luck) component required for collecting cards. For Marvel Champions, expansions come in the form of Hero Packs, Scenario Packs, and Campaign Expansions).
For the authoritative definition, here is how Fantasy Flight games define it:
A Living Card Game (LCG) offers an innovative fixed distribution method that breaks away from the traditional Collectible Card Game model. While LCGs still offer the same dynamic, expanding, and constantly evolving game play that makes CCGs so much fun, they do away with the deterrent of the blind-buy purchase model that has burned out so many players. The end result is an innovative mix that gives you the best of both worlds!
Now that have we covered living card games generally, let’s talk about Marvel Champions: The Card Game.
Marvel Champions is a cooperative game where you construct your own deck for each game (or just use the same deck if you build one you really like). For each game, you assume the role of a Marvel superhero which is represented by your identity card and the signature cards unique to your hero.
And you choose one aspect to incorporate into your deck. The four aspects are:
- Leadership (blue)
- Protection (green)
- Justice (yellow)
- Aggression (red)
The remainder of the your deck is composed of neutral cards that can appear in any deck.
How do you pay the in-game costs for cards?
Marvel Champions uses a system where each card has a playing cost and resource generation value. So, your hand includes both cards to play and the resources needed to play them, which you generate by discarding the card.
How do you win and lose?
You win the game by reducing the villain’s hit points to zero.
You lose the game one of two ways: when you lose all heroes lose their hit points, or when the villain achieves the target threat level. This is why I appreciate Marvel Champions: the enemy attacks you on two different fronts. If they incapacitate you, you lose; but if they achieve their plan, you also lose.
The core set includes the following items:
|199 player cards|
|137 encounter cards|
|62 damage tokens|
|16 all-purpose tokens|
|33 threat tokens|
|5 acceleration tokens|
|1 first player token|
|4 player hit point dials|
|1 villain hit point dial|
The cards are broken down into:
- 5 Hero decks (Iron Man, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel)
- 3 Villain Scenarios (Rhino, Klaw, Ultron)
- 5 Modular Encounter sets (Bomb Scare, Masters of Evil, Under Attack, Legions of Hydra, The Doomsday Chair)
- 2 Regular Encounter sets (standard and advanced)
I have only played the game solo so far, so my review will be from that perspective. However, my takeaway from playing and watching Team Covenant videos is that cooperative play will only increase the enjoyment if you like the gameplay fundamentals.
I have a long history of playing card games. Started with Spades as a young kid and continued through hand-and-foot (variation of canasta), Texas Hold’em, Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, and Marvel Legendary.
So, I have some experience with card games. But Marvel Legendary is the only comparable game. And even then Legendary is a deckbuilding game where you build the deck while playing the game. In Marvel Champions you play an already constructed deck. Both use the Marvel IP and both can be played solo or cooperative (semi-cooperative for Legendary if you play by the exact rules).
I have about 12-15 gameplays under my belt so far. Only with Rhino at the moment, but with different encounters (love the modular encounter approach) and heroes. Rhino provides a nice, scaffolded approach for helping players learn the game. Nothing too complicated. And quickly teaches you how to balance attacking the villain and thwarting the scheme.
And Fantasy Flight Games does a great job of making it easy to jump into the initial game, despite the core set coming with so many cards. To do this, FFG packages the starting decks (Rhino, Spider-Man, and Captain Marvel) separately.
I have been able to successfully defeat Rhino with each hero in the core set, though clearly have not yet done so using each hero with each aspect. But that’s what it is so great about even just owning the Marvel Champions core set: 5 heroes with 4 different aspects means there are 20 different configurations, and each requires different combinations of standard cards to build a well-balanced deck capable of taking down the enemy.
This does not even start to take into consideration the numerous configurations for villains + encounters. Or, that each villain has an expert mode that increases the difficulty noticeably.
This all adds up to a game with immense replayability. Customized decks + scalable enemies. And multiplayer, to boot. That’s a lot of punch for a game that typically runs under $60-70 when readily available.