Recently my son and I have been getting into Marvel Champions The Card Game, we don’t often get extended periods of time to play, but we can get through a game of this superhero deck building frolic in about 20-30 minutes on a good day. So we eagerly busted out the two newest heroes, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and tried to take down The Wrecking Crew, a C-tier supervillain group that seem preoccupied with construction tools. Sadly we were unable to thwart their scheme in time, so we retreated to the safety of our other favourite deck building game, Clank!. I’ve only recently begun to pay attention to deck builders as, prior to that, my interests swung heavily towards games consisting of pretty components, minis and dungeon tiles. The idea of playing with nothing more than a bunch of cards didn't really gel with me. Board gaming, for me, had always been as much about the tactile experience as it had been about actual gameplay, hefty wooden tokens, carefully crafted minis and unique, well produced components all laid out on a gorgeously illustrated game board. This sparks joy.
Then, just prior to the apocalypse early in 2020, a friend introduced me to Marvel Champions. While I’m not so familiar with the comics, I am a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as I imagine many newcomers to Marvel are, therefore the theme of the game was enough to get my attention and draw me in. By the end of my first game I was sold! I immediately bought a core set of my own, which promptly sat on the shelf for several months as other games came and went throughout the year. By this time, the pandemic was in full swing. My wife, together with our son and daughter, had flown to Japan shortly before Christmas to visit her family and had remained stuck there for most of the year, unable to secure flights home. They eventually managed to return after nine long months away, and my son and I reconnected through board gaming. It was only then that I remembered Marvel Champions sitting on the shelf and I introduced him to the game. He was immediately enamoured.
Present me: "Squeeee!"
The co-operative nature of the game created a sense of connection and helped bring us together after all those months apart, working together as father and son, like a well adjusted Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Spider-Man was his favourite character to play at first but he soon moved on to other heroes as the expansion packs quickly followed, and now we’re neck deep in super heroes, villains, a host of cards and tokens and glorious, colourful comic book art. I haven’t fallen this heavily into a game since the 1st edition of the X-Wing Miniatures Game!
Apart from the theme, the gameplay itself is what makes Marvel Champions so appealing. It’s easy, it's fun and there’s very little downtime between turns, especially in two player games. The game utilises the Fantasy Flight LCG system, which helps to provide a more or less consistent experience across most of their LCG lines. Another draw for me is that the game can be played solo, and, unlike many other single player games, Champions keeps the core experience completely intact. There are no rules changes, no adjustments to make, just pick your hero, or multiple heroes if you prefer a team up, select your favourite villain and go to town! The mechanics of deck builders and the way they affect gameplay is compelling. Depending on the style of deck builder, you may go into the game with a fully constructed deck, as is the case in Marvel Champions, or you might start with a weak base deck to which you add cards purchased by means of in-game mechanisms as the game progresses, such as Clank! Whatever the method, the excitement of seeing a card you’ve been waiting for finally appear in your hand is rewarding to say the least and if it happens at a serendipitous point in the game, then it can result in the kind of gaming moment that reinforces why we play games. Deck builders are full of these stand out moments, but equally, they can go the opposite way if you happen to have a bad run of weak hands. Such is life. But the exhilarating highs make the lows worth it, and those low moments can make for worthy anecdotes themselves.
Those of you more experienced with deck builders may read this and think my assessment is quaint at best, you’re probably not wrong. But it’s that sense of discovery that piqued my initial interest, as a result, I discovered a new avenue of gaming I’d never traversed before. I feel confident that, as with many people who discover something they enjoy for the first time, I’ll end up going all in on deck builders for a while; I’m sure it’ll be just a matter of time before I’m dedicating an entire shelf for them in my collection. I’m looking at you Arkham Horror…
Until next time!