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

X-Men: Marvel United is a cooperative super hero game where each player takes the role of an X-Man! Players work together to take down a bad guy! This was a Kickstarter back in May 2021. This essentially the same game as Marvel United (which we reviewed in two parts: Part I here and Part II here), but with characters from the X-Men Marvel universe (instead of the Avengers). To be clear, X-Men: Marvel United is a standalone game which can be played all by itself, but it also expands the original Marvel United.

My copy arrived October 1st, 2021 (see above). This isn’t widely available just yet: as part of the Kickstarter, I could spend an extra $10 to get the base game delivered early. I normally don’t like to do the Phase I/Phase II shipping in Kickstarter, but I was very excited to get this!

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By the way, is this X-Men: Marvel United or Marvel United: X-Men? Reading left-to-right on both the front of the box and the back of the box, it looks like X-Men: Marvel United, but the little text above the UPC symbol implies that maybe this is Marvel United: X-Men “formally” inside the system? We’ll be calling in X-Men: Marvel United because, you know, left to right.

Unboxing

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What’s in the box?

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There’s a little pamphlet with a code, which my phone immediately went to! It went to a web site with some extra content: see here (basically a downloadable achievement book, rulebook, and super villain book). The rulebook is immediately under that (the same size as the box).

The rulebook has the same art as the cover. As an aside, I didn’t originally like the “chibi” style art of the game, but it has really grown on me.

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There are two sheets of cardboards tokens: the ones of the left are mostly actions you can “save” between turns (Punch, Wild, Heroism, Move), while the markers in the right sheet are for thugs/civilians (top), Crisis tokens (middle) and Damage tokens for bad guys (bottom). The card is pretty thick and punched out very easily.

The game has a very nice insert! There’s a little plastic cover that holds down the minis so they stay in place: see above.

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The minis look really nice and are color-coded for your convenience! The blue ones are the heroes, the orange ones are villains (which were RED in the original Marvel United?) are villains, and the purple minis (Magneto and Mystique) can be either a hero or a villain, depending on the scenario! This is very thematic for Magneto and Mystique because sometimes the X-Men would team up with those Villains to “help” the mutant cause!

This is one of the reasons to get this game! The minis are very nice!! You get Juggernaut and Sabre Tooth (villains), Magneto and Mystique (villains or heroes), and then the X-Men proper: Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Professor X, Beast, and Jean Grey (Marvel Girl, but the game calls her Jean Grey).

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These little minis are SOOO thematic and cool looking! See above for some close ups!

The rest of the game is either little cardboard sheets (with stats) or cards. The cardboard sheets feel a little thin and cheap, but they look good. For example: the Villain Cards:

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Each Villain has a Villain Card which describes their gameplay effects.

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The game contains 8 city Locations in the same thin cardboard (see above) : you get to choose 6 per game that you put in a circle. These are different locations than the original game. The Villain Dashboard is also in this thin cardboard.

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To be fair, the Kickstarter allowed you the opportunity to upgrade some of these thinner components, but some of these base cardboard cards feel a little cheap. I guess this is the price we pay for getting X-Men: Marvel United in the mass market stores! (At least, I think this will be available at Walmart like the original Marvel United …)

The rest of the game is in the cards: they are NOT linen-finished, but they are otherwise nice and readable and have nice art.

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There are 8 Hero decks: one for each hero!

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Each Villain also has their own deck (see above).

There are also some cards for a 1 vs many mode (the Super Hero and Super Villain cards), some “Challenge” cards (which make the game harder), and some goals for heroes to move forward (the first three are the same, the Cerebro one is new).

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Overall, the same looks really nice. The lack of linen-finish on the cards and the cheap cardboard boards are a minor criticism of a game that looks and feels very thematic! At the end of the day, those little minis are probably what sell the game!

Rulebook

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This is a fine rulebook. The Intro page has a nice intro with a good table of contents. See below.

The component page is great! See above! (Everything is easy to correlate and collate).

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The set-up works fine as well (a little texty, but it has some goods pictures).

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I feel like the set-up should have spanned two pages and ONLY been set-up, but in the interest of saving space (and maybe a few more pages), the set-up is condensed a little bit! Again, probably the product of a mass-market game. Note! The winning and losing condition is right up front!!!

This is a fine rulebook. I didn’t really have any major problems.

Set-Up

The game looks good set-up: See above for a 2-Player (which was actually a 1 player) set-up.

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Wolverine is one of the characters being played: shockingly, he has a lot of attack! The player starts with 3 cards to choose from.

As the game progresses, players will be putting out their cards in a tableu representing the history of actions: here’s a starting tableau after a few turns (notice the villain starts):

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And here’s a tableau after a full game!

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The game needs a lot of space available for the little history/tableau, so just be aware and preallocate the space!

Solo Play

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The game follows Saunders’ Law and comes with a solo mode, so that’s great! Here’s the thing: The X-Men: Marvel United solo mode has the same problem as the original Marvel United solo mode: Too much intellectual overhead! The Marvel United solo mode is the canonical example of a game that tries too hard to have a solo mode: see previous discussion here In “How To Play a Cooperative Game Solo?” The essence of the problem is that there are too many exceptions to the main rules (which are fairly straight-forward): see the half page of rules for just the solo mode above! It’s very daunting!

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Here’s the thing: the solo mode of “let’s just play two X-Men and alternate between them like a 2-Player game” works great! It’s much simpler, it’s easier to get into, and it’s just as challenging! (The game above ends with a loss to Magneto). There aren’t a half page of exceptions to look up: you just play the game as it’s intended with normal rules.

The game above was SO FUN even though I loss! Play two-handed and ignore the solo rules.

Cooperation

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One of the best elements of the game is how it encourages cooperation between the X-Men: when a character plays a card to the tableau, he plays the symbols on his card, PLUS the symbols used by his compatriot on the previous turn!

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After Wolverine plays, Professor X plays a card in which gets to MOVE and be HEROIC, but also gets the two ATTACKS of Wolverine on his turn! On Wolverine’s next turn, he’ll get the MOVE and HEROIC …

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In order to win, players absolutely have to work together and discuss which cards to play so they can leverage each other’s symbols!

Extra Stuff

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The game also comes with a special one vs. many mode (which can expand the game from 1-4 players to 5): One player plays one of the villains, with the rest being X-Men heroes trying to take down the Villain! The Villains and Heroes get special cards for this mode: see pictures above and below.

Conclusion

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X-Men: Marvel United continues the trend of Marvel United: it’s a fun cooperative superhero game that should have made our Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Games! The only question is: do you like the Avengers or the X-Men better? If you like the Avengers, you should get the original Marvel United. If you like the X-Men, you should be picking up X-Men: Marvel United. They are both stand-alone games and work just fine is isolation.

Should you get both? Only if you want more content! Arguably, the original Marvel United is a little limited since it only has 3 Villains, so adding X-Men to this adds a lot of content! You get 4 new Villains and 8 new Heroes, which gives you a lot more combinations to try! How would Captain America and Wolverine fare against Mystique? How would Ant-Man and the Beast fare against Ultron? (Wait, wasn’t Beast an Avenger AND an X-Man?) All the team-ups you always wanted to try, you can!

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I like Superheroes, and I really like X-Men: Marvel United. Granted, it’s a simpler game, but I still enjoy it. My only question now: will X-Men:Marvel United make my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021 (see 2020 games here) or my Top 10 Expansions to Cooperative Games for 2021 (see 2020 expansions here)?

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