Updated: Nov 24, 2020
It all starts here. Iron Man is the genesis of the MCU, a flawed human being that discovers his true calling in a cave and ultimately sacrifices himself to save humanity. He is a genius, but he is also chaotic. He is incredibly powerful but only human. He is a dichotomy, hero and villain, genius and fool but how is this complex brew of personality types represented on the tabletop? Let’s take a look.
For the purposes of this review I am playing Iron Man using the prebuilt deck suggested in the back of the core rules.
Iron Man/Tony Stark
The Tony Stark/Iron Man combo poses an interesting problem. Tony, like Bruce Wayne, is nothing without his toys, he’s a guy in a suit with no actual powers. How do they represent that in game? By hamstring you when you’re in hero mode. Tony himself has a lowish 9 hit points and a recovery value of 3, meaning when he gets knocked down he won't instantly spring back up. He has a goodly hand size of 6 and a power to look at 3 cards from the top of his deck choosing one to keep and discarding the others.
In Iron Man form he has 2 thwart but a lowly attack and defence of 1. Worse still his hand size drops to 1. His power while in hero form though is that his hand size increases by 1 for every tech card he has in play, meaning he can, in theory, have a hand of 8, the largest hand size of any hero form in the game. However, while he is without his suit he is almost useless in hero form, which fits the theme perfectly.
So most of Tony’s cards are tech upgraders, two boots, two fists, a helmet, armour and his arc reactor. Three of the upgrades provide a health boost taking him up to 17 health once fully kitted out, although his lack of defensive boosts means you’ll still likely be taking a lot of damage over the course of the game. The boots also can grant Iron Man the aerial trait, which improves many of his other cards, at the cost of a mental resource.
His gauntlets provide additional attack for clearing smaller foes, clearing the stunned condition without wasting a big attack or combining together to attack the boss. Meanwhile the arc reactor allows him to ready while in hero form once per round. Finally the helmet clears a single threat per round, however if you have the aerial trait you can clear a threat from each scheme in play which can be super useful against villains like the Green Goblin or The Wrecking Crew.
Iron Man’s events focus primarily on dealing damage, with Repulsor Blast doing 1 damage, then discarding the top 5 cards of your deck doing 2 damage for each energy resource discarded this way. This makes for a rather swingy card, it costs 1 and does between 1 and 13 damage, always worth a gamble though in my opinion. The second one, Supersonic Punch does 4 damage but it’s doubled if you have the aerial trait, not bad for 2 resources.
Finally we have his support cards. Pepper, while costly, becomes a free resource every turn, copying the resource icon on the top card of your discard pile, great for generating that mental resource needed to get you airborne. Stark Tower can be exhausted while in Alter Ego form to pull a tech upgrade back from your discard pile, which could then be played or used for resources. Finally Warmachine enters the game as an ally, providing solid attack and health stats with the kicker of being able to do direct damage to every enemy in play, neatly avoiding retaliation or guard keyword effects.
Tony’s deck is largely about dealing damage and specifically about taking down minions. Tigra and Hulk are both solid allies. Hulk is incredibly cheap, at just 2, but each time he attacks you discard a card from your deck and do a random effect based on the discarded card. However, when I get him in hand I will always play him. Tigra is great for picking off minions as she heals whenever she defeats one, meaning she can stick around longer than almost any other ally in the game so far.
Combat Training which gives Iron Man a permanent +1 attack is almost mandatory, especially if you want to get the most out of his ability to ready with the Arc Reactor. Tac Team is a great upgrade, although possibly too costly to get in play at times, but it provides ways to deal direct damage to enemies you don’t want to attack, like Osbourne or M.O.D.O.K.
Finally we have the events, Chase Them Down is Iron Man’s only thwart style event and has a prerequisite of needing to defeat a minion. Fortunately Relentless Assault deals 5 damage to a minion and if you pay for it using strength resources it gains Overkill.
Beyond the resource cards, Energy, Strength and Genius I largely ignored the neutral cards during my plays, preferring to get his Tech cards into play whenever possible instead.
Iron Man’s nemesis set consists of Whiplash who has the retaliate keyword, a side scheme Imminent Overload which provides an annoying acceleration icon and 3 treachery cards. The treachery cards, unsurprisingly, target players upgrades causing damage or discarding upgrades. Whiplash himself is a mean attacker and schemer, but can easily be dispatched with Supersonic Punch or Upper Cut without suffering retaliation.
As per my other reviews I’m writing this after beating all the available scenarios using Iron Man. I beat each one after either one or two runs and I didn’t need to change up the deck at all. However I always felt like I was one turn away from losing. Unlike with Captain America where it feels like you are running roughshod all over the big bad, with Iron Man I always felt like I was playing keep away. With Iron Man you dart around, knocking a little bit off the scheme, killing a minion or dinging the villain and then retreating to Stark Tower to add a bit more armour to your suit, hoping the villain wont complete his dastardly scheme while you’re gone.
Tony is going to burn through his deck at an unprecedented rate. His futurist ability means you’re drawing 9 cards a turn while in alter ego form, while cards like Repulsor Blast and Hulk will be discarding cards from your deck willy-nilly. When offered the chance to mulligan you should take it, keeping tech cards and discarding the rest. Iron Man is useless without tech upgrades and in solo you can’t hold off and let the villain scheme while you go shopping, you’re gonna have to build that suit on the fly.
However once the suit starts to come together the balance of the game will flip in your favour, not only will your hand size increase but you’ll be dealing damage and shedding threat all in the same turn. With Arc Reactor and Combat Training you can choose between dealing 4 damage a round or removing 4 threat or you can do half and half, whatever the situation requires. You can also use Arc Reactor to have an attack, ready, flip to alter ego form and recover.
All this makes Iron Man a very versatile and deadly hero, but he’s not one that comes fully formed, you need to work at it to have him reach his full potential, which makes playing Iron Man feel like a journey and gives each game a nice arc.
Iron Man with the Aggression Aspect can be a powerhouse of damage but with just enough threat control to make a meaningful contribution to the mission. His playstyle is chaotic, always walking a tightrope between success and failure, but that leads to an exciting, if somewhat nerve wracking experience.