The warrior King of Wakanda enters the game, dressed in latex laced with vibranium and claws that could tear a hole through time and space. However how does Black Panther stack up against the other heroes in Fantasy Flight Games' Marvel Champions.
This review uses the prebuilt Black Panther deck from the core rules.
Gamewise Black Panther hero and alter ego have possibly the simplest ability set, his alter ego, T’Challa has only a setup power, allowing you to search your deck for a Panther upgrade, which you’re going to want to do as you’re powerless without them, although I wish he gave you some in game effect too. On the flip side Black Panther himself has an always on Retaliate 1 ability where you deal a damage any time you are attacked, very useful especially in his protection build.
Black Panther’s signature deck is composed of a few broad groups of cards. Firstly we have the upgrades. These four cards form Panther’s Suit and without them you are fairly weak, like Iron Man, but unlike Iron Man the upgrades themselves are useless without Wakanda Forever.
You have six copies of Wakanda Forever in your deck which all cost 1 and trigger every Black Panther upgrade in play, without exhausting them in any way. The only difference between the copies of Wakanda Forever are the resources generated by discarding them, not something you’ll want to do often.
Lets take a look at what the upgrades do. Panther Claws is your big attack, it deals 2 damage to any enemy, Energy Daggers hits all enemies engaged with one player as well as the villain, Vibranium Suit allows you to heal a damage then deal a damage but if you can’t heal it does nothing and Tactical Genius removes a threat from a scheme.
Whichever upgrade you trigger last doubles its effect. This part makes triggering these upgrades interesting to me, especially when you have enemies with guard or tough in play as you need to work out the best order to fire them in. In terms of preference though I will always get Panther Claws using T’Challa’s setup ability if I don’t already have it, followed by Vibranium Suit. Tactical Genius almost never feels worth it as a single threat removal usually makes next to no difference.
Beyond this we have 3 Vibranium cards, these are resource only cards that provide a double wild resource making Panther very good at clearing enemy attachments like Klaw's sonic converter or Goblin’s Glider. They are also useful for quickly piecing together your suit.
Finally we have Panther’s support network, Golden City is a card that pays for itself, costing two but giving you two card draw, definitely worth playing if you have it turn 1. Shuri is great for digging out an upgrade from your deck, which she does on entry but is fairly useless after that. Finally Ancestral Knowledge, which costs 1 allows you to put three cards from your discard pile back into your deck. This can be a way of pulling back some Panther Upgrades, but most likely you’re going to want to use it to get more Wakanda Forevers into your deck as this is the only way you’re going to trigger those Panther Upgrades and deal damage.
Having played all four aspects now, Protection is the weakest for me in solo play. I can see it being great in multiplayer but in solo it’s just meh in comparison to the other aspects. Aggression and Justice obviously make you better at Attacking and Thwarting, Leadership gives you action advantage, Protection just means it takes longer for you to lose.
The two cards I like and will always play when when I get them are Armoured Vest and Indomitable. Armoured Vest pushes Panther up to 3 defense meaning you can take advantage of his Retaliate 1 without too much fear of getting hit. While Indomitable allows you to defend and then ready, but it is a single use card. After that, I like Luke but he’s pretty expensive to get into play, Counter Punch is okay but Panther’s attack isn’t super high and Med Team is a good card to keep allies in play but as this deck doesn’t really have any I don't tend to put it into play.
I have nothing to say on the neutral cards here except that this might be the first deck I would consider running without Genius, Strength and Energy as too often I was overloaded with resources and had nothing to play.
Panther's nemesis is a pain, Kilmonger cannot be hurt by Panther’s upgrades, meaning you have to take him down hand to hand or using your allies. Problem there is, even if you have Luke Cage or Nick Fury in play it’s still going to take all of your attack for the round which leaves Kilmonger on 1 health, so you’ll take a 2 damage attack before retaliate 1 finishes him off.
Black Panther is, so far, the trickiest hero I’ve played. He comes set up with Protection which makes sense when combined with his retaliate power, but it doesn’t make him a great solo hero. The problem is that he lacks much in the way of readying capabilities, short of using indomitable. His 2, 2, 2 stats make him a great allrounder but only when paired up with other heroes, solo he can’t do both so while he’s thwarting he’s getting kicked in the nuts because he can’t attack.
That’s where Wakanda Forever comes into play. You have six copies of this in your deck, meaning you can trigger all of your upgrades, largely to deal damage but you can also heal and thwart. Against the base game villains I found that once I had this worked out I was fine and generally won after one or two games. Using Wakanda Forever to deal damage via the upgrades and using Panther himself for Thwart or Defence. However against Green Goblin I was drastically outmatched.
Green Goblin operates a swarm deck of minions which not only keep chipping away at your health but they also increase the amount of threat placed every round. Add to that the large number of side schemes which exacerbate the minion situation as well as accelerating Goblin’s scheming and card play.
In a round where you don’t draw Wakanda Forever Panther is capable of dealing 2 damage, which likely won't kill a minion, never mind his two friends that showed up during the previous round. You can’t even really rely on allies to help out, Shuri has an attack of 1, as does Widow and Luke costs a lot to play, but even then only contributes 2.
Panther’s deck has the most resources of any hero so far with three copies of Vibranium and one of each Genius, Strength and Energy but more often than not I’m wasting them on single cost cards because I have nothing else to play, or have only drawn resource cards essentially meaning I have to pass that round. The Golden City, which gives you card draw in Alter Ego form makes this a little easier but in a solo game you can be in Alter Ego form at most once before the scheme gets out of hand and you need to flip back into hero form.
For me then Black Panther is an interesting hero but probably the one I am least likely to return to solo. I tried out other builds, with Aggression I lost faster but was at least able to meet out some damage. With Justice I was able to control the schemes until I wasn’t. And with Leadership I finally pulled off an almost easy win through the judicious use of allies, with Panther watching from the dugout.
The puzzle of Black Panther is an interesting one. He’s a capable fighter that can deal a potential 26 damage in a single round given the perfect alignment of the planets but he’s also one that might sit impotently on the sidelines because he simply didn’t draw the right cards this round. While I can see why others might enjoy Panther’s combo-rific playstyle, for me it was too hit and miss against later scenarios and came off more as a frustrating experience than an enjoyable one.