Marvel Crisis Protocol is a skirmish battle game from Atomic Mass Games (now owned by Asmodee) with an uncomplicated rule set and a host of instantly familiar characters, it is a great introduction to the world of tabletop battlers.
Having just dropped £90 on Descent and a few extras I didn’t want to spend another £75 on a game I knew very little about. Plus my wife was already frustrated that I was spending so much money on games and I didn’t want a fight/divorce so I left it and went home.
She was annoyed that I came home with a huge bag filled with a game so I realised I had done the right thing.
Two days later while she was at work Marvel Crisis Protocol arrived!
Opening a game box is such a joy. Punch boards, sprues, minis, tokens etc its probably the best part about a new game and Marvel Crisis Protocol does not disappoint.
The starter set contains 10 Hero/Villains on sprues, namely Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man on the good guys’ side and The Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Crossbones, Ultron and Dr Octopus for the bad guys or vice versa if your alignment is Chaotic Evil.
The modelling is excellent; the sculpts are very easy to put together and look fantastic when painted even when painted by a ham-fisted mug like me.
Also in the box are range and movement markers, two cars, a newsstand, a couple of lampposts and traffic lights, two dumpsters and bin/trashcan depending on who you rooted for from 1775 to 1783.
Moving on to the card stock and there are a lot of tokens, a round tracker and plenty of cards.
There is a lot to sort through but on the whole, you get a lot of game for your buck and the asking price seems quite reasonable given the gravitas of the IP.
The rules are fairly simple to follow. Each player takes turns to move their character and perform an action. Each figure has a range set by their character sheet which is either Small, Medium or Long and similarly, there are 4 ranges for attacks numbered 1 to 4 and your character card has all the information about how far your attack will go and the number of dice you may use to perform it.
What I liked
It’s a superhero game, there are some overly powerful characters but you won’t be just filling your hand with the ‘biggest baddest’ team and laying waste to your foes. There is a crafty system built into the game that gives each mission on the crisis cards a score, your team must be made up of heroes whose combined cost is equal or to or less than the mission score. This is typically between 15 and 20 depending on which mission and if you are using one of the expansions, but more on those later.
These points mean you could take 3 powerful heroes if you wanted but your team would lose breadth of skills and strength of numbers whilst taking all weak heroes means you will be easy pickings for a powerful team. On top of that, there are certain attacks that only two specific characters can perform together. These are not as impressive as you might imagine but are pretty cool when you can finally pull one of them off.
It’s quite clever and a great mechanic that I certainly approve of and does make the games pretty well balanced. There are a few exploits such as using fast characters to grab an objective before your opponent realises what your plan was but this is actually quite hard to pull off particularly when many attacks have a decent range to them.
Marvel Crisis Protocol Missons
Each mission has a map associated with it. You set up your game according to the layout of the area and place the mission tokens where they should be and then agree on the starting location of your heroes and away you go. Set up is pretty simple then and choosing the missions is quite an easy process, finding two that are diametrically opposed is a little harder but I will say that to play Marvel Crisis Protocol with a child can be quite straightforward, HOWEVER, the rules can get a little complex if you like.
Basic movement, attack, defence and mission objectives are simple and if you play with house rules, you don’t need a lot more than this to have a fun match up. When you start to add in other elements though, Marvel Crisis Protocol can get a quite complicated and being the first skirmish game I have played, I found that communication is key when starting out.
For example, characters can pick up and throw certain sized objects. Every character in the starter set is size 2. This means the largest objects they can throw are the cars. How far you throw and how much damage is caused is decided by dice but working out if you can throw an object over another or a small building and what damage it would cause to who is another matter.
There is also a lot of verticality in play with some characters being able to fly and others being able to jump high it’s easy to get bogged down in the rule book and forget that games are supposed to be played not just read about.
Complexity is very much decided by your comfort level so Marvel Crisis Protocol was a great “first” skirmisher to buy and it was just luck that it is so forgiving.
There are lots of bonuses and affiliations that can give your characters a boost too. For example, if you buy the Black Panther/Killmonger and Shuri/Okoye expansions you will get benefits from using Wakanda characters, even if using Killmonger as there is no penalty for mixing the good and bad guys in one team.
Thank you to Fandom here is the current complete list of affiliations
An Affiliation is a Group of Superheroes. To be considered a group you need to be composed of OVER 50% of the Superheroes as listed on the Affiliations Card.
Each Affiliation gains a game effect as listed on the team leaders stat card.
Guardians of the Galaxy
At the start of each of your turns, one allied character may spend one “power”. If they do, remove one damage or one special condition from that character. Each allied character may use this leadership once per round.
LEADER: Thor, Prince of Asgard
Hela, Queen of Hel
Loki, God of Mischief
Each turn you may reduce the “power” cost of the first superpower used by each allied character by 1, to a minimum of 1.
LEADER: Captain America
Thor, Prince of Asgard
Healthy: When an enemy character is KO’d, this character’s controlling player scores 1 VP.
Injured: During the Modify Dice step of an attack, an allied character may suffer up to 3 “wounds”. For each “wound” suffered, it may reroll one of its attack dice.
Each time an allied character damages an enemy character with an attack after the attack is resolved the attacking character gains 1 “power”.
LEADER: Red Skull
Loki, God of Mischief
Once per turn at any time during an allied character’s activation it may spend 2 “power” to use this Leadership Ability. Move one Asset or Civilian token being held by the active character to another allied character withing “range 3”. A character cannot hold more tokens than allowed by the Crisis due to this Leadership Ability.
Additionally, each allied Healthy character contesting objective token counts as two healthy characters when determining two is securing the objective token.
One per turn, when an allied character declares an attack, before choosing a target it may spend 1 “power”. If it does, you may choose whatever this attack type is, “physical”, “energy”, “mental”. If this attack deals “damage”, the target character gains “Hex” special condition.
LEADER: Doctor Strange
Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
Guardians of the Galaxy
Once per round, at the start of your turn you may choose an allied character and discard a Team Tactic card to use this leadership ability. The chosen character gains 3 Winging It tokens. After rolling attack dice, defence dice, or dodge dice, it may discard one Winning It token to reroll up to 2 of its dice. Only one Winning It token may be discarded per roll. Remove all Winging It tokens from that character during the next Cleanup Phase.
Drax the Destroyer
Ronan the Accuser
Once per turn, while an allied character is attacking, it can spend 1 “power” when modifying opposing defence dice. If it does, it may reroll 1 opposing defence die.
LEADER: Green Goblin
After an allied character rolls to attack, defence, or dodge roll, it may spend one “power”. If it does, that character may reroll one of the dice in that roll.
LEADER: Black Panther
Allied character may re-roll one defence die. Additionally, they may modify and reroll “skull” results while they are holding or contesting an objective token.
LEADER: Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
Speaking of affiliations you will see that there are a lot of characters not in the starter set, I think, therefore, its time to address the Marvel Crissi Protocol expansions, as you can see, there are lots our and with lots planned. They are not cheap. They add a character or two, a couple of missions and some new tokens.
So far, I have Hulk, Modok, Thor and Valkyrie, Loki and Hela, Black Panther and Killmonger, Shuri and Okoye as well as Venom. Averaging £25- 45 per expansion I am spent up and I think Asmodee were pretty wise in acquiring Atomic Mass Games as they have a mini hit on their hands and a reason to keep purchasing from them for a long time to come. The complete list of expansions will be at the bottom of this review and I promise not to try and buy them all. Well, not when my wife is at home for the delivery at least.
So the game is simple or complex, pretty to look at and full of fun, is there anything not to like? Well yes, the characters whilst well modelled lack a certain weight that their form needs, this may be my first trip in this skirmishers world but I have added magnets to the bottom of each base. Not because I want to take advantage of some fabulous storage medium but because I feel each character needs a little more heft. It transforms the movement from plopping some flimsy character down to dropping a heavy Iron Man figure from a height to crash into the ground, not literally, obvs, but metaphorically adding a presence that is missing from the character model.
Not painting these figures would be a crying shame but the time invested in painting them has so far eclipsed our playtime with them. Managing two battles in a sitting is tough going with my son so I am also not sure how long it will be until they feel like they have valued themselves.
That said this is a wonderful game with fantastic mechanics that lend themselves well to your needs. Want to play with a child, adjust the rules, want to play in a competition no problem the game has complex mechanics and will have you thinking about strategy from the start to the end of the game.
With so few characters in a match, there is a tendency to try and pick off the enemy team rather than go for victory points completing the tasks but this could be the way my son and I play the game more than the failures of its ruleset.
We have had a great time playing and will continue to do so for a few years yet I am sure. We have spent time on Thingiverse picking out physicalised tokens to print and painting them too so it has meant that we have spent a good deal of time together talking about the game and superheroes in general so if you are looking for a hobby for you and a Marvel Crisis Protocol is a choice.
My son picks his team based on his favourite character of the moment and so we haven’t jumped too far into the strategy of the game and with the pandemic ever-worsening, it may be a while until I get the chance to play with a full and complete ruleset.
That said the rules are not too complicated. First, you place the scenarios tokens on the map, these scenarios are chosen from a bank of cards relating to the specific characters in your team. You then set the deploy your characters into a zone shown and determine the order of turns.
The game is played over 6 rounds and with each player taking it in turns to activate a character. Once each team member has been activated once the round is over. You total the points scored from the round, move the round counter and start again.
We rarely make it to the sixth round as we have usually blasted our players enough to force them to flip their character sheet over showing a second wind. This is what happens when a character has taken too much damage but rallies. It’s a slightly more powerful version of themselves if a little more banged up and means to bring down a character fully you really need to double up on your attacks. Singling out a player character isn’t easy as you are also defending and stopping this happening to your team too.
When the round is over if any player hits 12 points the game ends and victory dancing ensues. Our second match of the night is often a straight-up fight between two teams and is also great fun. I would say my son prefers this game to the standard type as it allows him to throw more objects at my characters and we use all the characters we have, taking it in turns to pick until we have exhausted our pool.
In this mode, we choose to ignore the line of sight rule which basically says that if something is between you and your target that is the same height or taller you cannot see them.
Combat itself is handled by some very nice and custom made D8s that is probably best explained by Atomic Mass themselves.
Critical The critical is more than just a simple success. It’s more heroic oomph or a lucky blow that rattles your opponent. Criticals usually count as successes and can add dice to your attack and defence rolls.
• Wild: Wilds are unpredictable openings, but also represent powers a character might not always be in control of, like Baron Zemo’s ability to land a bleeding wound. Wilds usually count as successes but can also cause other special effects.
• Hit. When attacking, hits are successes without additional special effects. Think of each hit as a punch that lands or ranged attack that finds the mark. There are two hit icons on the die.
• Block When defending, blocks are successes without additional special effects, like a deflection with Captain America’s vibranium shield or Black Widow twisting away from an attack.
• Blank. Blanks have no icon on the die and offer no effects. There are two blank sides on the die.
• Failure. Failures represent a character’s inability to perform an action in time, either failing to dodge, missing a punch, or similar effect. Failures cannot be rerolled or modified.
The icons on the dice allow for a much more engaging experience than some simple numbers. Each roll tells a story; a Wild could show how your character exploits an opportunity, while a blank might mean your character lands an attack, but not hard enough to faze their opponent. This helps turn each game of Marvel Crisis Protocol is a thrilling narrative you and your opponent create as you play. Until next time!
Marvel Crisis Protocol is an incredibly fun and well balanced game that lends itself to new players and should still provide a lot of fun for veterans of the genre. There is a lot to like but I feel the pricing of the expansions could be reduced somewhat as pound for pound they do not offer any where near as much value as the starter set. I do recommend the game even with the current price of the expansions as the starter set has everything you need to have a great time, especially if you want to play with your kids as the rules are so flexible.
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Here is the complete list of current expansions, once again thanks to Fandom
CA 01 – Midtown Mayhem Game Mat
CA02 – Roundabout Knockout Game Mat
CA03 – Spaceport Showdown Game Mat
CK04 – Initiation League Organized Play Kit
CK05 – Vibranium Heist Organized Play Kit
CP01 – Core Set
CP02 – Dice Pack
CP03 – Measurement Tools
CP04 – Hulk Character Pack
CP05 – MODOK Character Pack
CP06 – NYC Terrain
CP07 – Black Panther and Kilmonger Character Pack
CP08 -Shuri and Okoye
CP09 – Venom Character Pack
CP10 – Spider-Man & Ghost-Spider
CP11 – Thor and Valkyrie Character Pack
CP12 – Loki and Hela Character Pack
CP13 – Vision and Winter Soldier Character Pack
CP14 – NYC Commercial Truck
CP15 – Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight Character Pack
CP16 – Gamora and Nebula Character Pack
CP17 – Rocket and Groot Character Pack
CP18 – Star-Lord Character Pack
CP19 – Black Dwarf & Ebony Maw Character Pack
CP20 – Drax & Ronan the Accuser Character Pack
CP21 – Green Goblin Character Pack
CP22 – Cosmic Terrain Pack
CP23 – Dr. Strange & Wong Character Pack
CP24 – Hawkeye & Black Widow Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Character Pack
CP25 – Thanos Character Pack
CP26 – Ant-Man and Wasp
CP27 – Ghost Rider
CP29 – Kingpin
CP30 – Bullseye & Daredevil
CP31 – NYC Construction Site Terrain Pack
CP32 – Punisher & Taskmaster
CP40 – Wolverine and Sabertooth
CP41 – Cyclops & Storm
CP42 – Magneto & Toad
CP43 – Mystique & Beast