A Review of Marvel United: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules and First Impressions

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Wal-Mart version of Marvel United!

In March 2020, the CMON version of the Marvel United Kickstarter ended.  I had originally backed it full in (and even reported on it here), but got very annoyed as CMON kept adding more and more things for me to buy as the campaign went on.  At one point, I was in for $200+ for a game I didn’t know anything about.  I bailed: it was just too much  … even though this was a cooperative Superhero game, my favorite kind of game!

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Fast Forward to Summer 2020: In July, Walmart “accidentally” released the retail version of Marvel United.  It was an “accident” because the Kickstarter backers had not gotten their version yet, and there was quite an uproar.   They (CMON and the Kickstarter) quickly close the loophole, and only a few people got the retail version (see the Kickstarter notes).

I tried to get one! I tried to order online (it was closed already), I went to the store (“We don’t have that”).  In early August, the Walmart site reported the GAMES WAS IN STORES (again, before the Kickstarter backers were getting theirs), so I drove across town to get one.  (“Oh, the website is wrong”).  Finally, my wife said “This is ridiculous” and ordered me a copy on eBay (for $34: $5 over the $29.99 cost at Walmart).  It arrived the first week of August.

Unboxing

Because I got it off eBay, I have no idea if the game had an insert.

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eBay version: everything punched out and bagged! But no insert!

Everything was already punched out and in bags.  Basically, I paid an extra $5 for pre-punched and labelled version.

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The game looks good, especially considering the price!

The Rulebook

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Components Page

The Rulebook was good.  It had a nice components page (see above) and a nice set-up page.

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In general, the rulebook was pretty good overall.  This is a simple game.  I got through the rulebook pretty quickly and it taught me the game.

Heroes and Villains

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The miniatures that comes with the game are quite good.  You have to understand that I am not a miniatures person: if a game comes with miniatures, I tend to not lot like it. Let me be clear, I like the miniatures here—they are really nice .

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Nice Miniatures!

You get seven heroes (Hulk, Captain America, Ant-man, Iron Man, Venom (?), Black Widow, and Captain Marvel (female version)) and three villains (Ultron, Red Skull, and Taskmaster).  Apparently, Venom DOESN’T come with the CMON base game: the Kickstarter backers get someone else.

Heroes

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The Heroes!

Each hero has their own deck of 12 cards.  Each Hero will start the game with 3 cards (drawing 1 more on every turn) and play a card every turn.  The cards represent your hit points: if you are every reduced to 0 cards on your turn, you have to lose a turn to recover and then you heal back up to 3 cards.  This is friendly game: Heroes can’t die.

Villains

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The Villains!

Each villain has it’s own card, with its own victory conditions, and its own “BAM” special attack.  You choose one villain to fight at the start of the game.

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Each game goes the same way: you have to overcome two challenges before you can even damage the main villain

Locations

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Locations

The game has 8 Locations (you choose 6 and put them in a circle when you play).  Each Location has its own special ability you can use IF the ability is not covered by a Villain Threat card.

Set-Up and Solo Play

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Set-Up for a Two Hero Game

The game set-ups pretty quickly.  Each player chooses a hero to play and takes the mini and deck for that hero; Set set-up above.  For a solo game, you are SUPPOSED to play 3 Heroes and there are some “special rules” for Solo play—I didn’t want to deal with that! I played solo by playing two Heroes.  (I’ve done this a lot lately: I prefer playing two positions rather than playing the “official” solo rules: I did that for Solar Storm as well as Star Trek: Frontiers.   Why?  I think it’s because there are “exceptions”  that you have to remember when playing the solo rules; rather than learn the exceptions, I want to just play.  Remember, I had to write down the solo rules for Forgotten Waters on a piece of paper … I didn’t want to deal with that!  I just want to play.)  And you know?  This Two Hero Solo mode worked great.  THE GAME IS SIMPLE ENOUGH IT’S VERY EASY TO PLAY TWO POSITIONS FOR SOLO PLAY.

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City Circle

Interestingly, the city set-up reminds me of the  Rebirth DC-Deckbuilding Game, where you can move around the city in a circle.  Note that when you start the game, each City Location has a “threat” covering the special power of the City Location, and you can only get the special power if you clear the threat on the Location (see below).

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The “threat” at Central Park is Bob, Agent of Hydra

Gameplay

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Storyboard

The gamplay flows pretty quickly: each player takes a card, plays a card (choosing from among his 3 or so cards) and activates the actions on that card PLUS THE PREVIOUS PLAYER’S card!   Every 3 turns, a Bad Guy plays a card causing Bad News (see Red Skull cards above).  This is a nice self-balancing mechanism for any number of players: Bad Guys ALWAYS play after 3 Hero cards, no matter now many heroes!  (Later in the game, the Bad Guy plays after only 2 Hero cards).

This is a real simple mechanic and moves quickly.  It forms a “comic book storyboard”: See above.

Your little symbols allow you to do one of 3 (4) things:

  • Move: move via adjacent Locations
  • Punch: do damage to a Villain, Thugs, or Henchmen (you can’t do damage to the Villain until you’ve taken out enough threats)
  • Heroic Action: either save a civilian or help remove a threat
  • Wild: one of the above three

The cooperation in the game comes from working with your compatriots to figure out what symbols to put out on your turn BECAUSE THE NEXT HERO GETS TO USE YOUR SYMBOLS ON HIS TURN!

There are other mechanics (depending on the Villain), but usually your game involves saving some civilians (which kind of has a Pandemic disease cubes vibe), punching thugs, and removing threads and doing enough so you can punch the big bad and WIN!

Ambivalence

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My eBay version … is there supposed to be an insert?

So, you’ll notice I went out of my way to get this game.  But you’ll also notice I choose not to back the Kickstarter.  I feel very ambivalent about this game!  I love Superheroes!  BUT I don’t like the FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) that Kickstarters foster where I have to get everything.

Here’s the thing, I kind of wanted to dislike this game, so I could justify that I didn’t back it !

“See?  it’s a bad game!  It’s a good thing I didn’t back it!”

But, it was a good gameI had a good time. I’ve played through two of the villains now and I will probably play through Ultron this weekend.  I like this game.  I had fun.

Do I regret not backing the Kickstarter?  Maybe a little bit.  I think more content would be nice, but the base game is good.   Here’s my only real complaint with the game:  I don’t really feel like I am playing a unique super hero. Each hero has some special powers sprinkled through out the deck, but there’s not very many: I don’t get to use my unique special power very often.   On the other side of the coin:  the little miniature, the back of the deck, the occasional special text definitely contribute to making me feel like Ant-Man! But at the end of the day, I feel like I am just playing the symbols.  Which is fine: it is a good game.  It’s a simple game.  I can teach this to just about anyone.

I almost feel like this is a good gateway game for  heavier Superhero games like Sentinels of the Multiverse, The Reckoners, or Sidekick Saga (see my Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Board and Card Games).

Conclusion

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This is a good cooperative game for 1-4 players.  You can teach it quickly, and you  can play a game in about 20 minutes.   I know a lot of people really like Horrified as a good mass market intro cooperative game, but I think this is a significantly better gateway game than that!  This game is fun!  The minis are great!  For $29.99, this is a great deal!    It will probably make my next Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Board and Cards games next time I update that list, but it probably won’t break into the top 3.

 

 

2 thoughts on “A Review of Marvel United: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules and First Impressions

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