A Review of
by Scott Gerhardt
(Author's Note: Since writing this article, I have been contacted by Jeff Donais from Upper Deck. He answered all of the questions I had in this article, and I will be quoting or paraphrasing those answers after the questions, incase you too had the same questions I did. Thank you Jeff for your answers to these questions!)
Hello loyal Pojo fans. If you know this site, then you probably know who I am. I'll keep the introductions and the ego in check and move on to the beef of this article.
I recently got the opportunity to review the starter for Marvel just a little bit early. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical when I heard Upper Deck was making an "adult" game. I mean, come on - we've already had one failed Marvel TCG and Upper Deck seems to only know how to appeal to the 15-and-under crowd. Right?
Wizards, if you wanted competition in the serious market, you got it right here, right now. Now I'm not going to sit here and act like this is the next best thing since sliced bread - it's not. What we have here, though, is a serious, tournament..nay...PRO TOUR worthy game that is different from most any other game, but the serious gamer will have hours of fun with. Let's begin.
First of all, Marvel has done something I have never seen from other TCG - it left room for expansion. Not just within the game, but the ability to play multiple games with each other. The back of the card is a simple "Vs" logo. It does not brand the card as Marvel at all. This means any other game that uses the Vs system will be able to co-exist with Marvel flawlessly. I like that. You'll get people who want to play Marvel, and maybe another person down the line who wants to play something else. As long as the games are balanced, go for it. Maybe you want to mix in 2 games. Why not - if the mechanics work, it should be fine. This could make for some REAL interesting game play for the casual player for years to come.
The game comes packaged in 2 fifty card decks, a basic rulebook, and a "poster" sized sheet with a quick start of the rules. Have your posters open, boys, because the first few games are kinda rough. If you know TCGs, you'll adapt - eventually. There are a lot of things you need to get used to in this game. I have played Raw Deal, Neopets, Pokemon, YuGiOh, Magic, L5R, Duel Masters, and I'm sure I'm missing some - this isn't completely like any of them. If you know them, you'll pick up the concepts, but don't expect this to be a game you're gonna be off and running with in 5 minutes. If you want to seriously learn the game. Devote 45-60 minutes trying to learn the basics, and that's if you're CCG conscious coming into it. Anyone else should be looking at 90-120 minutes before you're even mildly comfortable with the rules. I sit here now not even 100% comfortable with them.
The rulebook, IMHO, leaves a bit to be desired. I read over it and it seemed very choppy to me. It seemed almost as if a lot of the rules were kinda thrown is as footnotes. A kind, "Oh, by the way, if your card has this, then it will do this differently." I know it's a basic rulebook, but a number of questions were left in my mind. Since I'm writing an article, I'll even post what I immediately didn't know here. Maybe I missed it, and maybe someone can point it out that I missed it, but these were some questions I could not get answered definitively.
#1 - It appears that no Breakthrough Endurance Loss is assigned when you team attack a single defender with enough to stun it. (from the example in the rulebook) My question is why? Is it because no single card has enough attack to break through it alone, and you need a single one-on-one confrontation to cause B.E.L.?
Answer: Team Attacks don't cause BEL because it would be way too powerful. Being able to take an entire team and gang up on one character weaker that can not be reinforced would not make for a very fun game
#2 - I team attack with a 2/2, a 3/3, and a 4/4 against a 9/9. (Yes, I know this is Magic terminology, but it's fairly universally known). As the controlled of the 9/9, can I choose to split my attack amongst multiple creatures or am I only allowed to hit one of them?
Answer: The character being attacked may only attack one of the characters back. So, in this case, you could hit any one of the three attackers, but only one of them.
#3 - When exactly can I play Plot twists? Lets say I have initiative. I go to attack and I have a face down "Flying Kick". Is there a timing that will allow me to activate this card prior to declaring my first attacker and attack someone in my opponent's back line? When exactly CAN I use Plot Twists and Activated abilities. If I have initiative, it's my opponent's turn, and they declare they have no further attackers, can I use my Professor X at that time to make them discard a card from their hand. If I do, can they then go back and declare an attack.
Answer: You can play plot twists anytime. There are "timing windows" everywhere.
#4 - Triggered abilities seem a little confusing as well. Take this scenario that happened. My opponent has a Magneto, Eric Lehnsherr in play. (The one that exhausts a 4CC or less character at the beginning of your attack step). My opponent has initiative and declares to exhaust my creature. Can I then respond with an activated ability of that creature, or then use it to pay an additional cost on a Plot Twist? I *think* the answer would be yes, but that's the Magic Scott talking here - I don't actually KNOW the answer to this one.
Answer: Yes, you can. These rules do work very similar to Magic.
#5 - Do creatures have "Summoning Sickness", or can they attack and use abilities immediately. Again, this is the old Scott talking here. You'd think if they don't mention it, they CAN use these abilities immediately. Being an old gamer, though, I naturally assume otherwise. Clarification would be very good here.
Answer: "Nobody has summoning sickness. That concept is too boring. :) (Scott's Note: I agree.)
#6 - For threshold costs, is that the total number of resources you have in play, or the total number of ready resources you have in play?
Answer: The total number of resources in play, regardless of ready or unready.
I'm gonna be honest - if an experienced TCGer like me has these kinda questions, I am worried what non-TCG experts are gonna think of these things. In all these scenarios, we decided to go with what made the most sense, but we're not sure we were right. If I could make a suggestions to the people who write the rules, make them clearer and flow better. Also, try not to leave as many questions. I might have more later, but those were the more pressing ones.
So I'm required to point out the negative points of this game as well as the positive. Truth known, I think I've hit most of the negatives, which is an amazing thing. If a poorly written rulebook is the worst problem you have, you can fix that and get players to read on-line FAQs and message boards to get their answers (something I might do later myself). On to the positives:
This is an AMAZINGLY challenging game. The dimensions to it are sickeningly diverse. I still am not sure if it's better TO or NOT TO have initiative. There is quite an advantage to being able to bring out Characters and set your army last. Unfortunately, attacking last can be an awful disadvantage sometimes. Sometimes, you're simply too decimated to even attack at all. I think this makes the game extremely balanced.
Being tapped out doesn't mean you're helpless. Having no cards in your hand, doesn't mean you're helpless. God I love this. Get a few face-down resources and who knows what kinda plot twist is gonna come out next and swing the attack in your favor. I love a game when you're always on your toes.
NO MANA SCREW! We've seen this in Duel Masters to allow unused cards to become resources, and I LOVE that it's in Marvel. One of the most frustrating thing is losing due to not having enough resources or finding the right colors. Anything being a resource and not having to worry about colors makes life so grand. :)
The games are FAST! Once you're educated, you can play a game in 5-10 minutes. The games almost never go into double digit turns. If you have a fast 10 minutes, play a game of Marvel. I'm sure 2 tournament decks can go longer, but I haven't gotten that far yet.
I want to draft this game. I want to draft this game so bad I can taste it. Pick up 3-4 packs, draft, make 30-40 card decks. It's draftable straight out of the box and I think you could see some very interesting strategies. As a matter of fact, I'm picking up a few boxes tonight. Maybe my next article will be over Marvel limited....hmmmm....I love drafting. :)
NO SUPER RARES!!!! As a player and a dealer, these things frustrate the living hell out of me. I guess Super Rares are for kiddie games. Having the stupid mixed rarities I always thought was dumb. It makes games too expensive for the regular, non-rich, non-dealer gamer.
Now a few things I neither think are good, nor bad.
Foils. You get one per pack. I kinda like that as a player, but not so much as a dealer. Well, maybe I do. It certainly devalues them. You'll get 1 per pack as opposed to the 1 every 4 packs (approximately) you get with Magic. I know in Magic, a foil is generally worth about triple a regular version. I would guess it will be about double in this game. It is nice to know you'll open a box and get 24 foils, though. Not all the foils are rare - they are common and uncommon as well. I like that a lot.
Rarity symbols. If anything, I don't like this too much. I had to open a pack, figure out what was rare, common, and uncommon, and put them all together before I could figure out how to tell a rarity on a card. When I did find out, I was sad. The card number is too small (By the way, the card number on the bottom center of the card is either white, silver, or gold to determine rarity). I can distinguish the gold from the white and silver, but the white and silver can look an awful lot alike - especially on such small writing. This one could have been done better.
Packaging. Kudos! You get 14 cards per pack - much better than the 8-10 you get in kiddie games. Getting 14 leaves out a common from a more traditional 15 card booster, which is fine - open enough packs and you get enough of those anyway. I don't know what to think about 24 pack boxes. It makes it more cost effective for people to buy in bulk and open a lot, but makes it harder for retailers to peddle individual packs when the box price is about 2/3 the box price of 36 pack games. It's got it's pros and cons.
Rarity distribution. My big comment here - what? What? WHAT?!?!?!! 71 commons, 72 ucommons, 77 rares. I don't get it, I don't understand it, I think it's bad from a player's perspective to have more rares that C or U, but it's terrific from a dealer's perspective. I guess it's not THAT bad either way. At least it wasn't 50 / 70 / 90 or something horridly off like that. Probably not a big deal on the whole.
Okay, I've written a ton about the game, and not covered TOO much about the starter itself. Allow me to at this time.
The theme of this is X-Men vs. the Brotherhood. One deck has all X-Men, the other all Brotherhood cards. It makes for very easy "tribal" play since you always have what you need. That's a good teaching tool, and something important to remember when building real decks since a lot of cards are dependant on other types of cards being around to work right.
If you and your friend are picking up this game, take the following steps.
1 - Check your egos at the door.
2 - Figure out who is the better overall TCG player.
3 - Give the better player the X-Men deck. Give the weaker player the Brotherhood deck. Trust me - you'll have way more competitive games this way.
The Brotherhood deck is better. It's foil is stronger, it's creatures are generally better, and in 3 games, with both me and my wife piloting it, it was never in jeopardy of losing.
The starters do a good job of showing off the card types and giving enough decent, but not great ones to make it playable. You know what's going on after playing with the decks for a while. You know how the cards work and function. Overall, very good job to Upper Deck for properly constructing the starter.
Overall impressions. Very good. There are flaws, but the positives WAY outweigh them. The game is fun, it's seriously challenging, and will take a long time for even the most experienced TCG player to master. Kudos to UD - they have finally broken into the REAL TCG world in a big way.
I'll be back with something else soon, I'm sure. Once I get my hands on more cards, I'll have some more beefy content. Until then, keep playing!
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