It’s the Most Marvel-ous time of the Year… or something.
We’ve got not one but two new factions hitting the table in Marvel Crisis Protocol this Autumn, and some serious fleshing out for one of the new Teams as well; plus, there’s a whole lot of the X gene going around this November, with a stack of new releases for Marvel Crisis Protocol to tempt your geeky wallet (or that of your loved ones) just in time for the season.
Well, after all, Santa is just an Omega level mutant… Right?
MARVEL CHAMPIONS LCG
(Expansion RRP: £44.99, Phoenix/Cyclops Pack RRP: £14.99 ea.)
First up, we’re looking at the new campaign and character packs for Marvel Champions LCG: Mutant Genesis campaign (which comes with Shadowcat/Aggression and Colossus/Protectoon), along with Phoenix/Justice and Colossus/Leadership as standalone.
The start of the campaign features familiar storylines involving the kidnapping of Senator Kinsey by the Brotherhood, in the form of Sabertooth (initially) followed by the creation of the Sentinels and the rise of Master Mold – all the while dealing with the persistent threats of Days of Future Past baddies Nimrod and Bastion AND Mystique just spontaneously turning up when you least expect it.
It’s a challenging opening gambit (ahem) with some good scalable difficulty (though I’d recommend running it with Standard II from The Hood Scenario pack as well), albeit with the Mystique mechanics – interfering with your deck, pretending to be the Villain – proving much more satisfying than Future Past – effectively, one gets shuffled into the villain deck part-way through each scenario… Meh.
Whilst the start of the campaign felt really challenging, the back end – Brotherhood attacking the mansion, and then Magneto with his M-type Sentinels -was a wee bit disappointing, particularly after how TERRIFYING Venom Goblin was at the end of Sinister Motives. Partly, this is because Shadowcat and Colossus are arguably the best designed pair of decks they’ve done – synergistic and completely lethal straight out of the box. They are fantastic, lots of fun, but almost TOO good: the elder spawn no damage in the entire campaign.
I’m looking forward – cautiously – to trying them out with other Villains. And it’s also not quite as customizable a campaign as we’ve come to expect: whilst you gain new one-off “Role” cards and a couple of out of aspect event and/or upgrades, plus extra Mutant allies as you rescue them, it doesn’t feel like you’re really growing as the campaign goes on – as opposed to the Guardians going gear shopping or the fantastic node mechanics from Sinister Motives.
To see if it the decks were a wider issue with the campaign we also tested the new decks for Phoenix and Cyclops , though we deliberately built a more lethal Villain deck for Sabertooth with added Brotherhood. Phoenix uses the phonetic force to generate bonus resources but still takes a long time to get moving – her cards are expensive – and whilst good I was a little underwhelmed (though she’s EXCELLENT in solo, as she can switch from thwart to attack mode).
Cyclops OTOH is phenomenal, a highly tuned leadership deck out of the box with very good anti minion mechanics – a little like Thor with his card draw but more versatile (in fact, Thor would be a great triple threat with him and Jean). He’s more of a team player however, not as designed for solo – whether he’s built for Leadership or not – though with the right card draw can absolutely hold his own.
On balance, Mutant Genesis is still a great buy but surprisingly entry level – if you’re familiar with the game you’ll want to tackle it on Expert, or indeed dial it up to the new Heroic difficulty. It’s not the best campaign, but not the worst, and has great modulars as well as probably the best pair of out-of-the-box heroes to date. Certainly, buying this alongside core or even The Hood Scenario pack gives you a tremendous entry level product (albeit without tokens etc. if you’re just buying Hood).
MARVEL CRISIS PROTOCOL
(Prime Mark IV RRP: £49.99, Mark IV RRP: £64.99)
MUTANT… DETECTED… sorry, got a bit excited there. These are amazing kits, first and foremost. There’s loads of optional limbs, which means you can not only easily build your own custom poses but have plenty for scatter (there’s even a damaged torso) – you can really expand on the existing Crashed Sentinel kit. And towering over the battlefield at over 12cm a piece (Size 5!), the Sentinels are every bit as terrifying as you’d expect. They’re not quick, but can use their cables to reel in victims; they can lay down status tokens to impede characters; they’re largely immune to mystical attacks; and they can just plain flatten most things with raw power (they natively generate 2 per turn as it is). Oh, and they come as a pair (thanks, Master Mold!)
The Sentinel Prime is even more imposing, and hands out Power for dazing opponents (equal to their threat) as its Leadership ability. It’s a good, if not great, ability – it’s limited to 1 per allied character – but definitely handy. Its attacks are a notch higher than the regular Mk4s, and can also overload itself, taking damage, to dish out extra on the attack. However, most useful is its Pattern Recognition ability, allowing it and allies with R4 to reroll up to 3 dice per power spent. Adapt. Negate Obstruction.
If I have a criticism, it’s that you’re a bit limited with your choices by them as a faction – although you do have access to Cassandra Nova, at least, who can also resurrect downed Sentinels (eat that, Age of Ultron). They will struggle with objectives – that’s where your 2 pointers are going to come in (though I don’t think Toad would be keen, frankly). Sentinel Prime does, however, come with a card that allows you to assimilate other characters:
Clearly, resistance is futile. Hopefully, down the line, we’ll get a bit more variety, not just in terms of other Sentinel Marks but Bastion/Nimrod (still hankering for Future Past, as you can tell) or maybe even a Master Mold – hey, a guy can dream! Even so, for now they’re an exciting new force to muster and face off against on the field.
The Blob & Pyro
And what about the Mutants? Well, it’s time to flesh out the Brotherhood… lots of flesh, in fact… in the form of The Blob.
There is NOTHING subtle about The Blob. Size 3 with 6 Health, he cannot be thrown or pushed by any means, whilst himself pushing, shoving and throwing on all of his attacks. He’s a cheap beatstick, a great choice for fleshing out (again, sorry) your roster for those times you can’t afford Juggernaut.
Pyro is more than a simple flaming beatstick: in fact, he’s surprisingly subtle and versatile. With a R4 S5 attack, a B3 S4 AND a whopping R2 S7 he’s able to adapt to circumstance – but if anything, it’s his firewall, granting Slow and Root (now there’s an underused condition) to an enemy within 3, that really impresses. However. he can also Stoke the Flames, converting 3 power into additional attack dice – so 6 power means a 9 dice inferno. Spicy. As I have often noted, 3pts is always where the hot competition is… but Pyro is rightly hottest of the lot.
Nick Fury Sr & The Howling Commandos
S.H.I.E.L.D. is now getting some gloriously retro (and, let’s be honest, much-needed) support, starting with Fury, Dum-Dum Duggan and Gabriel Jones as souped-up trio.
Straight out of the gate, I have to say I just adore the aesthetic of these guys – it’s spot on, and using the Horde-style base for a “regular” model (together they’re a 3pt character) works brilliantly. They’re fast, too: M movement as standard, and a S when they fire their Prototype Weapons – they really feel like a rapidly advancing unit of Elite Infantry, complete with Stealth and the reactive ability to fire back if an ally is Dazed or KO’d. Great sculpts, great rules, great fun.
Captain America and the Original Human Torch
OG Cap feels a bit more gritty than the Core Set Avengers leader.
He’s got solid attacks, and a real sense of humour has gone into the design with abilities such as Language! (granting slow and stun) and On Your Left (extra M movement if not holding an objective). I am a little disappointed in the physical model – I mean, it’s a good sculpt, but I’d have liked a truly retro triangular shield and, for all he declares I Don’t Like Guns, give the (super-) soldier a pistol. I do worry that cost 4 feels a smidge high, even with his attack rerolls (costing 3 power) and potentially 6 defense dice (2 power for 2 extra). Still, it’s good to see SHIELD really getting fleshed out as a faction.
OG Human Torch, meanwhile, brings some much needed flying firepower, with an array of Beam attacks to Incinerate your foes.
As well as being a cracking sculpt, dynamic and easy to build, he’s a pretty straightforward character – he’s a 3pt gun – with a couple of neat tricks. Making targets drop assets gives him wider tactical utility, and I am an absolute sucker for token generators, as they allow me to syngerise my favourite mystic, Baron Mordo (hey, everyone’s got to have a favourite). Torch is generates power the more Incinerate tokens there are nearby, so they’re a natural fit (or then again, there’s always Pyro). He might not see much use outside of SHIELD, but he’s going to be a safe bet for the slot.
Red Skull and Hydra Troops
Now whilst Core Set Red Skull is a great model, and our go-to Cabal leader, isn’t about time we all said Hail Hydra!? I’ve always been a bit frustrated with the breadth of Cabal as a faction – paralysis of choice is definitely a thing – and they can lack a strong tactical flavour. Happily, the new version of Red Skull introduces Hydra as a full faction, and then some. With a native 6 damage attack for free (or for 2 power, with blanks counting as successes), and a R4 9 damage attack (albeit for 5 power), he is absolutely devastating – and that’s even before we consider his armour’s inherent free shielding ability. Not only that, but Red Skull is (rightly) about conquest: he’s all about the Objectives, granting allies +1 power for each objective held OR contested.
I love this ability, with its emphasis on tactical gameplay – oh, and if that’s not enough, he can always rely on having a squad of disposable grunts to hand. Hydra troopers are designed to be thrown at the enemy, rerolling their attacks and dying in the process – but it’s fine, because after all, two shall grow in its place. Equally, they are designed to Secure objectives, holding them for free. Hydra is about reshaping the world, carving up the map in its image – and frankly, I couldn’t be happier.
Baron Strucker & Arnim Zola
Whilst Hydra can draw heavily on a wide variety of extant models, there’s been a couple of notable villainous absences until now.
Full disclosure, I’m not a huge Strucker fan from the comics, and even less so in the MCU (what a waste). He’s the alternate leader for the faction, and a 3pts he’s certainly a cheap choice. Tactically, he has the advantage of granting allies limited rerolls and the ability to transfer conditions to opponents, which is quite neat if a little situational. He’s hard to put down, too, with is natural healing factor – plus he can spread poison tokens to everything within 3 (which DOES make my little Mordo-loving heart sing). I’m a bit underwhelmed by him, though, tbh, but perhaps simply because Red Skull is so good.
Zola, meanwhile, is one of my favourite characters, on page, screen or table.
With a 4 Str R4 attack that can be whatever type you like AND rerolls on Wilds, he’s a beast straight out of the box (and, he is certainly out his box). Hydra Engineering allows him and allies to reroll for power (much like Sentinels, which really amuses my little robotic frame). The fact that he’s so cocky he gains power when he crits is likewise brilliant – game design perfectly matched to character. If I have a criticism, it comes in the assembly: his face plate is clear plastic but as part of the entire upper torso and right arm, meaning you have to part-paint before assembly. Bit of a faff, not the end of the world, but irksome.
Right, anyway, you’re all just here for the giveaway really, aren’t you?
This month – again, thanks to Brendan, James and the lovely Asmodee UK crew – we have the character packs for both Phoenix and Cyclops for Marvel Champions. Both absolutely stellar decks straight out of the box, but with loads of options – great for the novice and expert alike!
To enter, just let us know in the comments what you are most excited for – either from these or this month’s reviews as a whole!
Don’t forget to check back in a couple of weeks for our mid-month review, where we’ll be looking at the latest Pandemic reskin, Star Wars: The Clone Wars – and of course, you can nab an extra chance to win! And then of course next month, it’s the annual Great Geeky giveaway with toys and games galore to be won for the season! Just too darn good to y’all, so we are.
And finally, the winner of our Unbox Now Giveaway is… Carol Yeoman!
Congratulations! Remember to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org within 30 days to claim your prize!