Superheroes are everywhere, books, movies and finally in board games. Many companies tried and failed with superheroes in the early years of hobby gaming with a few notable exceptions but these days the hobby market is chock full of supes fighting megalomaniacs. But a lot of those games don’t offer a mass market friendly entryway.
Superpowered beings can do a lot of amazing things and almost by necessity that means that a board game about superheroes needs complexity, needs granularity. You need rules for mind control, flight, super strength and laser vision. Marvel United however, takes all that variety and complexity and boils it down to just three simple actions, move, fight, be a hero.
In Marvel United each player takes control of a hero from the Marvel Universe fighting against one of the big bads, Red Skull, Taskmaster or Ultron. Each hero has a deck of 12 cards each with a different make up. Hulk is slow to move but hits like a truck, while Wasp is highly mobile but typically deals less damage per turn. Each hero also has 3 special cards, a little special extra rule that just they can do. Captain America can support the team by granting them action tokens, while Black Widow can spy on the mastermind and see what their plans are for the upcoming turn. It’s a hint of flavour, a tiny drip of something extra special without being over facing.
Meanwhile the villains offer their own challenges. Red Skull simply wants to raise the fear level, which he can do by flooding locations with thugs or chucking crisis tokens at heroes. And when that doesn’t work he’ll just punch you in the face. Taskmaster however hides behind traps, using a tactic of action denial. While Ultron is all about replication. His aim is to simply fill the city with his drones and drown the heroes in a sea of steel and circuit boards.
Marvel United also manages to promote the concept of teamwork better than many more complex titles. As each player plays a card on their turn they also grant the actions on their card to the player that follows them. In this way you need to consider the needs of your neighbour not just yourself because only through teamwork can you defeat the villain.
And what better Christmas message can there be than that? If you’re looking for a Marvel miniatures game with a complex ruleset that allows you to fully embody the character you are playing, this is not that. But if you love Marvel and want a fast playing, simple cooperative puzzle that you can play with almost anyone regardless of their gaming pedigree then you can’t go far wrong with Marvel United.
And soon half a dozen expansions will be hitting the shelves offering even more Heroes and Villains along with new styles of play to explore.
On the 11th Day of Christmas, Santa gave to me... 11 thugs in central park and a hulk that is always angry!