With great power comes great responsibility and with a great hero must come a great hero design… but does it? Let’s take a look at the Spiderman hero from Marvel Champions and see if the designers managed to capture what it would be like to play as everyone's favourite neighbourhood Spiderman.
Note this review is based on the Spiderman deck listed in the back of the core rules.
Parker himself starts off on 10 health with a hand limit of 6 and a recovery of 3, all pretty standard human stats so far. His Alter Ego power grants him a Mental resource each round, although I am at a loss as to why as none of his own cards require one and the justice card that does so can only be played in Hero form. Regardless a free resource is not to be sniffed at and it’s thematic that it be a mental resource as Peter is definitely a more sciency hero.
Spiderman himself boasts one of the best defences in the game at 3 and can draw a card every time the Villain (not minions) initiates an attack against him. It’s worth noting that this happens before you need to declare defenders and you don’t need to defend even to gain this bonus draw. The rest of Spidey’s stats are okay, 2 attack and a hand size of 5 are standard with his 1 thwart being his main weakness but it is largely counteracted by his Justice build.
Spidey mainly has events and upgrades in his unique cards. His suit upgrades are Webshooters, a limited time resource generator and Spider Tracers that attach to a minion and generate threat removal when the minion is defeated.
His events form the core of the Spidey strategy. Swinging Web Kick does a massive 8 damage for 3 resources. Backflip cancels all damage and is free to play and doesn’t even require you to exhaust or even be defending. Enhanced Spider Sense cancels a When Revealed effect while his most expensive event Webbed Up prevents two subsequent attacks from an enemy.
To round out his set he has Aunt May, an alternate heal for you in Alter Ego form allowing you to get back into the fight quicker. And Black Cat, a cheap ally who doesn’t take consequential damage when attacking.
My two favourite cards in the justice set are the allies. Jessica Jones is a capable fighter but also gets boosted thwart for every side scheme in play, making her an impressive 5 thwart in the Wrecking Crew scenario. While Daredevil is happy hitting or thwarting but when he does the latter he also gets to chip in a damage on an enemy making him great for finishing enemies or clearing Tough.
Not much to say about the neutrals that I havent already said before, although again the allies saw more tabletime than in other decks perhaps due to Spidey’s increased number of resources, making it easier to get Fury or Mockingbird into play.
Spidey’s nemesis set definitely caused me to lose a game although you should see it less often if you keep a copy of Enhanced Spider Sense around to cancel Shadows of the Past.
Vulture enters the game here as Spidey’s nemesis. His side scheme strips you of a card and it adds an acceleration icons to the main scheme meaning you want to clear it asap. While Vulture himself has 4 health and mean 3 attack (which happens to neatly match Spidey’s defence) and quick strike meaning he’ll attack upon engaging.
As with all my other Marvel Champions reviews I played through and beat all the currently available scenarios with Spiderman to get a feel for the character. Naturally this was one character I was looking forward to playing, after all, for me and many others Spiderman was our entry into the Marvel Universe and he was likely designed as the entry for new players into Marvel Champions too.
Spiderman is an easy hero to play out of the gate. Unlike other core set heroes he doesn’t rely on needing to build his suit or anything like that, he just comes out swinging. He’s built as an all-rounder, even in his justice build. Swinging Web Kick will bring low most enemies, Spider Tracers will help control threat, Webshooters will keep you supplied with resources, Aunt May will keep you healthy and Backflip and Spider Senses will largely protect you from the machinations of the villain.
Spiderman is clearly the archetype of what a hero is in Marvel Champions. He feels like the first hero designed for that initial pitch meeting where the designers wanted to show off what the system is without any of the weirdness or the bells and whistles that came later. But because of that he’s just not that interesting play and that is a crying shame.
Playing Spiderman doesn’t really feel like you’re playing Spiderman. When you play Iron Man you have to balance your time between inventing your suits and saving the world, playing Black Widow you operate from the shadows and lay traps, even Captain America feels like he’s leading the charge albeit in an overpowered fashion.
Spiderman is at his most thematic when using Enhanced Spider Sense to avoid trouble. Webbed Up is fairly thematic but at a cost of 4 it largely doesn’t see play. I’d have much rather seen a 2 cost card that just dealt stun. The webshooters generating resources doesn’t feel thematically connected at all and Swinging Web Kick is still one of the most powerful attacks in the game, from a street level hero?
And then there’s the other side of Peter, the sarcastic witty quips. Why is his defence card called Backflip instead of “Missed me” or “Are you blind?” or some other witticism?
Spiderman held up well against most scenarios, beating all but Green Goblin on the first run through. Goblin's swarm tactics overwhelmed Spidey, putting him in the position of taking too much damage but being unable to flip and heal without threating out. A rebuild into an aggression deck however proved effective at removing the threat of the Goblin. Spiderman was also the first hero, I think, to completely eliminate a member of the Wrecking Crew before their first turn… Swinging Web Kick really is overpowered!
Perhaps having played some of the newer heroes with a broader range of playstyles has made me less forgiving of Spiderman’s simplicity but his bland playstyle makes me less likely to return to him in the future. If you’re looking for a good starting hero who can handle most scenarios then Spidey’s your guy, but if you’re looking to see what depths this game has to offer then you’re not going to find it in his red and blue spandex.