The strongest avenger, the jolly green giant, Bruce Banner’s alter ego the Incredible Hulk comes to Marvel Champions decked out in the Agression Aspect. In the comics Bruce Banner is torn between his own calm and carefully measured genius side and the rampaging, uncontrollable beast that is the Hulk. How does this translate to the game? Let’s get down to the table and take a look.
Hulk finally joins the game as a fully fledged hero, bringing with him his 3 attack that his ally version had, along with that 0 thwart, although it’s worth notice this could in theory be increased by cards like Heroic Intuition, unlike the dash on Hulk’s ally form. Hulk also boasts the highest hit points currently in the game of 18, with a reasonable defence of 2. Like his cousin She-Hulk, Hulk is hampered by his puny hand size of 4 and further by his rage which forces him to discard his hand at the end of every round.
As puny Banner, Hulk has a recover of 4 which is pretty good and with Banner’s lab this can actually be increased. He also has one of the worst Alter Ego hand sizes of any hero to date at just 5. His Alter Ego power allows him to draw and then discard a card allowing you to at least cycle your deck for cards you want to play.
Hulk has some pretty costly cards among his signature set. Fortunately this is offset slightly by the Limitless Strength resource card which generates 3 resources but is ironically limited to hero form only.
Unlike She-Hulk, Hulk has a bit more of an upgrade tree. He has two main problems, his hand size and the fact that he is a damage sponge. Immovable Object addresses the second of these problems, boosting his hp by 4 and giving him retaliation to boot, while his hand size is dealt with by Martial Prowess, Avengers Mansion and Helicarrier which we’ll talk about later.
His main strength though is his attack and with Boundless Rage you can increase it to 4, so long as you don’t switch back to Banner.
Banner’s Laboratory increases your recovery value by 2 and in alter ego form can be exhausted for a mental resource, although the deck has nothing that specifically requires one.
Finally we have a whole slew of events. Thunderclap is an upgraded version of Melee, costing the same but hitting 3 opponents for 3 damage a piece. Cruising Blow deals damage equal to your attack but costs precisely 1 physical resource. Unstoppable Force allows you to ready Hulk and if you paid the cost using only physical resources you can draw a card. Sub-Orbital Leap clears 3 threat (or 5 if you paid for the card with only physical resources). But the mac daddy of the group is Hulk Smash, which adds +10 to your attack when you make a basic attack.
I think I’m right in saying that Hulk is the first hero without a signature ally among his signature cards.
First up, Combat Training is notably missing from Hulk’s load out but would seem to be an obvious inclusion for anyone wishing to tweak the standard Hulk build. The new aggression cards in Hulk’s deck offer some interesting options. You’ll Pay For That allows Hulk to turn damage taken into threat removal while Toe to Toe invites an enemy to attack but you deal 5 damage back in return. Dropkick adds a nice 4 hit event with a Stun and card draw kicker if you can pay for it only using physical resources. To that end, Martial Prowess is an upgrade you want to get into play early as it generates a physical resource for attack events and Hulk’s got lots of them and no resources to speak off.
Finally we have three new allies, Brawn, Sentry and She-Hulk. Brawn is the cheapest of the three but only has 1 attack and 1 thwart, however after he attacks he can remove a threat from a scheme. Sentry boasts a high attack of 3 but generates an encounter card upon entry. She-Hulk meanwhile has a weak attack of 1 but with the caveat that for each damage she takes she gets stronger. In theory if you only attack with her she could meet out a total of 10 damage across 4 rounds before being defeated.
Hulk’s neutral cards are all usual suspects however without the allies. Instead Fury and Mockingbird are replaced with three copies of To The Rescue, a 2 cost card that removes 2 threat. Not the best bang for your buck but in a Hulk deck that features almost no threat removal this one can be useful. For example, against the Wrecking Crew this card can give you some much needed time to finish the scenario.
Abomination enters the game as Hulk’s nemesis. He’s fairly unpleasant at 6 health and 3 attack, but he also discards a card from your deck potentially adding additional damage when he attacks. He also boasts 3 boost icons meaning even after you defeat him you may be facing some unpleasantly powerful attacks from the main villain. The Total Destruction side scheme is a simple 2 threat and an additional encounter card draw but can only be dealt with once Abomination is no more.
The immortal line “Hulk, strongest one there is” absolutely comes through as the design mantra in this expansion. As I spoke about with She Hulk last week, strong characters in this game just make the game shorter and I feel ultimately a little less fun. With Hulk Smash, Hulk can kill almost all the solo stage 1 villains currently available for the game, and those that don’t die won’t hold out much longer.
Hulk however struggles more with swarm decks, his aggression build is intended to generate massive damage, not swat at flies. This means that Villains like Ultron, Green Goblin and the Wrecking Crew all provide more of a challenge to the Hulk in his current build. That is not to say you can’t deck build and tweak to face these challenges in a more measured way, but out of the box Hulk is going to need to choose between overkilling a minion and just wailing on the boss.
This is also combined with Hulk's other obvious weakness which is his lack of Thwart. Other than Sub-Orbital Leap which can clear 5 threat from a scheme Hulk is rather lacking in threat removal, and more often than not I’d rather spend 3 resources on an attack card than dealing with a scheme, especially once they start to pile up. This means that playing Hulk turns into a race, defeat the villain quickly before you drown beneath his schemes.
Hulk’s final weakness is his handsize. Limitless Strength, which gives you 3 resources in Hero form certainly helps offset this a bit, but a hand size of 4 is incredibly limiting, especially combined with needing to discard your hand every round. Hulk’s cards are all rather expensive and playing even a 2 cost card means you can’t play anything else that round. To this end you might want to play some of the upgrades that generate resources or card draw to get more utility out of your deck. I often found myself flipping to Banner at the end of a round if I had cards I wanted to play but couldn’t afford just so I didn’t need to discard them.
My main disappointment with Hulk’s deck comes from the alter ego side. I had hoped to see the duality of Hulk fully explored here with Bruce Banner providing threat control and scientific know-how, while the Hulk provided uncontrolled rage. However that just isn’t the case. The deck as it currently stands is pure Hulk, in fact there is only a single card that functions in alter ego mode and for me this feels like a missed design opportunity.
For example, the designers could have explored Bruce’s unwillingness to be the Hulk, meaning you couldn’t necessarily flip between forms at will but instead had to become enraged. Perhaps to explore Bruce’s genius he could have been the first hero to have a Thwart value on his alter ego side, or he could have at least had some alter ego thwart events like Black Widow. Instead his genius is represented as a card draw/discard and a bonus resource.
HULK SMASH! This deck is all about maximum damage at all times. If you want to play as the team's balled fist then Hulk is for you. If you want a more measured and balanced approach to the game then check out Captain America or Ms Marvel.