X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past is an expansion that requires Marvel United or X-Men: Marvel United to play. See below: one of the games in the bottom row is required to play Days of Future Past (you probably want the X-Men version). It probably also makes sense to have characters from the X-Men: Marvel United expansion (top left) for more thematic characters.
This was an expansion to the gob-smackingly large set of Marvel United expansion games that appeared at my door step about 3 weeks ago. See our previous blog entry on this here. Two weeks ago we reviewed The Fantastic Four Expansion and really liked that. Let’s take a look at this one.
In some ways, this is a very light expansion. It only comes with one new hero, Logan, and one new Master Plan villain, Nimrod.
In other ways, it’s also a very heavy expansion: it comes with the giant sentinels and rules for them.
The game feels pretty minimal:
The rulebook for this a 4 page leaflet describing all the new rules.
There’s also a very scenario specific matte:
The insert is pretty great and holds the amazing minis.
There’s some extra challenge cards and a few extra tokens.
Overall, this looks nice and consistent with the original Marvel United.
Interestingly, this feels both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time: only 1 new hero and 1 new villain, but the sentinels are so large and daunting!
The Minis and Maxis
When are miniatures mini and when are they maxi? The miniatures in this game are pretty phenomenal. Those Sentinels are pretty daunting on the table, especially in front of Logan!
The Hero Logan s just a “future” version of Wolverine who’s not “old”, but “battle-hardened”. (He takes one less damage when he takes damage).
Nimrod is the “more sophisticated” Sentinel/Bad Guy that you have to take out to win.
The Sentinels themselves are just amazing minis? maxis?
If you look closely, you’ll see that each one is numbered: they are distinct and can have distinct abilities in challenge mode.
One of the things we discovered is that Sentinels were made to pick up the heroes!! Take a look at the rule for Sentinel III (see above) and the picture below! That’s so cool!
These Sentinel minis/maxis are just great.
Days of Future Past
During the early 1980s, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin were producing some amazing content for the X-Men. A few issues earlier, we had seen arguably the best X-Men story ever: The Dark Phoenix Saga. A few issues later, they introduced us to Days of Future Past in issue #141. See above. Although a lot of people associate this title with the 2014 film of the same name, issue #141 was where this was introduced.
In this two part story, Claremont/Byrne/Austin brought us to the past, as Kitty Pryde inhabits her future self’s body (Kate Pryde) to see the devastation the Sentinels have wrought in the future. The Sentinels are a huge part of this story as they (spoiler) destroy the future X-Men. See above for the two issues.
Interestingly, Nimrod (the more sophisticated Sentinel) doesn’t make his appearance until 1985 in issue #191 at the very end.
So, even though The Days of Future Past doesn’t strictly include Nimrod, it still makes thematic sense. Logan is the future battle-hardened self, the Sentinels are the imposing Bad Guys that you must defeat before Nimrod comes out, but Nimrod is the final Sentinel you must defeat to win.
For solo play, I decided to play as a two player game playing two Heroes. (as I’ve discussed many times: the solo mode for Marvel United is not as simple as it could be, so it’s better to just play two Heroes). From a story sense, it seemed to make sense to play Logan (from this expansion set) and Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde (from the Marvel X-Men expansion).
If you look at the set-up from the player mat, you’ll see you can play 2 Heroes and the game scales down to that: this just means we’ll have one less Sentinel (we won’t have all 3 out).
Here’s Logan and Kitty’s cards:
All set-up, my solo game looked like this:
Although not 100% thematic to Days of Future Past, Kitty also has Lockheed with her (as there was no “Kate Pryde” hero to play). Lockheed allows extra actions away from Kitty, as an independently controlled figure that can’t be harmed (I think).
The solo game plays, in many ways, like the main game: you have to defeat all the Sentinels before Nimrod can come out.
Up until Nimrod comes out, there are no Master Plans coming out, just the Heroes with the Sentinels having their own special rules. Once Nimrod comes out, then the standard Master Plan starts.
In the finale, Logan and Kitty took down Nimrod on the same place they took out the Sentinels! You can still see the Sentinels corpses on the location!
You’ll notice the story board looks a little weird until Nimrod actually comes out.
Overall, the solo game was very satisfying and seemed well-balanced (which will talk about in a second).
Strategy vs Tactics
The base game of Marvel United tends to be more tactical, as you have to make decisions based on random events as they come up during play. Some villains offer more strategy as you have to think in advance, but Days of Future Past adds some very interesting strategic decisions.
First of all, the Sentinels actions are based on the last two Hero cards! See above! There is no randomness when activating the Sentinels! They just use the same actions you did (in order on the cards). In other words, when you act, you give the Sentinels their turn as well! There’s no randomness there! They do what you do (well, see the summary card above).
For example, if these were the two cards up so far to the storyboard, then the Sentinel attached to Kitty would move twice: one for Logan’s move symbol, one more for Kitty’s move symbol. Then (because the last card has a special ability), Nimrod’s Villainous plot goes up one!
What tends to happen is that the Sentinels start following you around! When you move two, they can move two and follow you! It’s like a game of chess trying to figure out what you should do so as to minimize what the Sentinels can do! The main difference is that you can execute the symbols in any order, but the Sentinels are constrained to using the symbols in the order they appear.
Somehow, this seems so thematic! The Sentinels are just robots that tend to copy what you do … but as a mutant, you can try to out-think them! This mechanic is so interesting, thematic, and surprisingly difficult! Sometimes, it feels like all a Sentinel does is undo your turn! So, every choice you make is strategic: what you do sets-up not only your comrade but your opponent.
Another strategic element is when to bring out Nimrod: if you bring him out too early, his Villainous Plot chart advances more quickly and that can cause you to lose unexpectedly! But, if you bring Nimrod out too late, the heroes won’t have enough turns to defeat him! So, you have to balance when you kill the last Sentinel vs bring out Nimrod!
And don’t forget the Threats! Sometimes, your long-term decisions will change based on which Threats you can take out!
Overall, Days of Future Past adds more elements of strategy than I have seen in Marvel United so far: the fact that your choices are used by the Sentinels against you is such an interesting, thematic, and strategic element!
The cooperative game worked really well .. but it did seem harder than the solo (as 2 heroes) play. Having said that, the amount of communication in cooperative play was very important: since my heroes symbols dictated what the Sentinels would do, we have had to chat a lot more about our actions. At least for my group, this did not seem to grind anything to a halt: there wasn’t an Analysis Paralysis. What we saw in our games is that we chatted and strategized about what to play.
One of the things that really made the game shine was how we seemed to really used our special powers to make stuff happen. Logan would often end in a Location with a Sentinel just so he could take the damage (since he just ignores the first damage) for another player. Cooperation! Perhaps our best choice was using Dr. Strange (with his time gem)! We were able to keep Nimrod’s Master Plan under control because Dr. Strange could see the next Master Plan card, and this would help us figure out what to do! Again, more strategy!
In the end, we won, but it was close. See the picture above, where you can see the points where we take out a Sentinel. Overall, this was a challenging but fun battle.
Nature of this Expansion
This is not a “add more content” expansion: the Days of Future Past expansion fundamentally changes the way the game is played. We no longer have a control panel or missions: we completely skip that aspect of the game and the Sentinels start the game in play and you can immediately damage them. The randomness of the Master Plan is deferred until later, as you deal with set mechanics of the Sentinels: they do what you do! Gone is the “okay, let’s deal with threats and slowly wait until we can beat up the bad guy“. Nope! You immediately make important choices: do I get rid of Sentinels ASAP? Do I deal with threats so the Sentinels aren’t as bad? And when do I kill the last Sentinel to force Nimrod out?
This expansion changes the nature of Marvel United: it can’t really be applied outside of this set (but see below). When you play with this set, you are playing a different game. Days of Future Past makes Marvel United into a more strategic game, a longer game, a more complex game, and a more challenging game. I probably wouldn’t recommend this expansion until you were pretty comfortable with the base game. To re-emphasize, these changes are limited to only this one scenario: fighting Nimrod and the Sentinels.
You can, if you really want to, add Sentinels to any game of Marvel United.
The rules seem to imply that you take any base game and can add all three Sentinels, using the rules (above or on the cards above) to activate them. There seems to be a lot of questions around this, and it seems like it would make the game too hard? I frequently barely win my Marvel United games, so adding three Sentinels seems a bit much. I don’t know: you can add these to any game according to the rules, but it just seems like a prescription for too much challenge and complexity. So, I haven’t done it yet, and frankly I have no desire to.
X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past is currently my favorite way to play Marvel United. This expansion takes a fairly tactical game and makes it more strategic, challenging, longer, and more complex … all in a good way! The original Marvel United game is arguably too light for a lot of gamers, but I think the addition of Days of Future Past would interest a lot of hard-code gamers. The fact that that Sentinels actions are not random, but based on what the players do is both thematic and interesting! I would argue this mechanism is probably the best addition to the game.
I strongly recommend Days of Future Past.