cover image for a review article about the marvel champions card game core set

Card Game Review: Marvel Champions (Core Set)

Card Game Review: Marvel Champions (Core Set)

Players: 1-4 (technically, you could play it with more players)

Ages: 14+

Official Playtime: 45-90 minutes*. 
*Although, for us (2-4 player games), it was longer. Once, a playthrough took even 4 hours.

Released: 2019 (with new expansions added over time).

BGG Linkhere.

Reviewed by Edward.

Read other Game Reviews here.

Disclosure and foreword

1. I own a copy of "Marvel Champions," which I bought myself. At the time of publishing this review, I don't have any affiliations with the game's creators or publishers. The opinions in this review are my own. Find the Review Policy here.

2. I try to be as objective as possible, but at the end, the review contains my opinions that you might disagree with. If you do, let us know in the comments below.

3. My Experience With Marvel Champions: I have played the game in multiple sittings—as two, three, and four players. Therefore, the review does not account for single-player games. That being said, mechanics-wise, solo play is very similar to multiplayer. 

4. This review focuses on the core set of Marvel Champions. In the current state, the review does not include any of the expansions, boosters, or scenario packs.

5. The review does not teach how to play the game. This review does not fully detail all mechanics or teach how to play the game. It rather looks at the most important aspects, elements, and mechanics providing an overall idea of the game's value so you can evaluate whether the game is good for you.


close up of the marvel champions card game's box

Let's find out how good and fun the Marvel Champions Core Set is!

Marvel Champions from Fantasy Flight Games is yet another modern gem among the best card games. Currently in the top 50 in the BGG rank, you can be sure that "Marvel Champions" has something to offer—and it does—it has a lot to offer!

In this hero-packed solo/co-op card game, you choose your hero, fight a villain, attack, defend, use skills and upgrades, call on allies, thwart schemes, help fellow players, and so much more. How do you do that? By playing cards, of course!

Your goal as player/-s is to defeat the villain by reducing its health points to zero, stopping its villainous schemes, and keeping your health bar above zero!

Sounds complicated? If yes, then it is ok - the game is pretty complicated. And that can be a good or bad thing, depending on your dedication and proficiency in playing board games in general. 

"Marvel Champions," Explained to a 10-Year-Old

Marvel Champions is a nuanced game, so it may not be well suited for 10-year old's, but that being said:

In Marvel Champions, team up with your favorite hero to defeat the vicious villain from completing its awfully evil scheme!

Just be sure to know that to play the game, you'll need to do a lot of calculating, reading, and waiting for other players to complete their turns. 

Skill Level - How Difficult Was it to Learn Marvel Champions?

Difficulty Rating: 4.5/5

  • The game is technical from start to finish. And new nuances are introduced when playing with new heroes and villains. 
  • I watched several tutorials and read the rulebook, but that was not enough to fully understand all the nuances.
  • You need to start playing to fully understand all the rules, and it is very possible to even play several games for getting it right.
  • The average board game player could learn the game from scratch after playing it at least 3 times. 
  • The good news is that many unofficial tutorial videos are available on the Internet, making the learning process easier.
  • Overall, the game has many nuances - from the base mechanics to the cards themselves. So, I give it a complexity rating of 4.5/5 (higher means it is more complex).
an overview of card and villain set up in two player game of marvel champions

Social Interactivity of Marvel Champions

Social Rating: 4.5/5

Obviously, this section does not apply to solo games. But when playing with friends, Marvel Champions has a lot of interactivity. It is meant to be played by communicating with each other. 

So, yes, you could play without talking or interacting with each other, but that would be less fun, and even more importantly - it would reduce your chances of winning.

When another player joins your game, they also team up with their favorite hero, and then you both are living in the same marvelous universe (pun intended) to defeat its villain.

You can lay out plans together to synchronize your moves to take down the villain or its villains, defend, heal each other, or remove threats from the evil scheme. All this makes it a great card game to play with friends.


card examples of marvel champions, cards held in hand

Best Number of Players

Marvel Champions is best played with 1 or 3 Players.

As mentioned, I have yet to play the game in the single-player mode, but given its mechanics, the solo mode should play great, provided that you are into solo-player board games.

Marvel Champions is a complex game requiring a lot of reading and calculating, which comes at the cost of a long time while the player plans their turn, so when playing with 4 players, the downtime for each player could be even 5+ minutes, sometimes even 10. 

I think this is why the creators kept the player limit of four players, although technically, nothing would prevent you from playing it with more players (provided you have enough hero decks).

So, when it comes to multiplayer sessions, 3-player games were optimal because they had the perfect balance between keeping up with other players, co-op opportunities, and downtime between turns. 

collage of some of the cards from marvel champions core set, iron man and black panther highlighted

What Did I Enjoy the Most About Marvel Champions?

Clever mechanics, like:

  • Card play depending on resources found on other cards. 
  • Clever resource, damage, and threat distribution implementation based on player count.
  • Many defined actions, like exhaust, attack, defend, thwart, surge, and more.
  • Damage/ scheme modifiers when attacking or scheming.

Wide variety of cards and their applications

This is a card game, so many cards with many effects are expected, but the variety is really top-notch. 

Art style

The cards are illustrated beautifully! More on that, read below in the "Art and Components" section.

High replayability.

Furthermore, the chosen heroes and villains can significantly change how you play the game and what strategies to implement. Some heroes can charge straight away to the villain's health points. Others have low base stats, but when upgraded, they can cause impressive damage.

And that is even more shaken up when using different villains.

On top of that, the game has more than 50 expansions/boosters, so if your wallet allows it, you could be playing the game for a long time. 

To recap, key highlights of Marvel Champions

  • Wide variety of cards;
  • High replayability;
  • Art style;
  • Beautiful card design;
  • Clever villain phase;
  • Clever card mechanics;
  • Different heroes and villains change how you play;
box and insert of marvel champions core set box, with contents

What Could Be Better?

Overall, it is an excellent game, but nothing is perfect, including Marvel Champions. So, let's find out some cons:

Organization and included accessories

This might sound like a nitpick, but organization for this game is a nightmare. 

I get that we are paying the "Marvel premium," but I really don't understand how a game that retails for 70 USD can not include even a decent amount of zip-lock bags. And yes, the box has a plastic insert that can be used as a separator, BUT the box does not have the separators. You need to make or buy them yourself. 

Choice of included heroes

The core set includes Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Black Panther and She-Hulk. The roster itself is fine, but the core set limits you of building 5 complete sets. This is because each hero needs an aspect (from aspect cards) to build its deck, and the core set include enough cards to suffice only 4 heroes at a time. 

*Read more about heroes and deck building under Special Notes below.)

That being said, I am aware that you can switch  the aspect cards from one to another hero, but for a core set that costs 70 USD, the creators could have included enough cards to separately build 5 heroes. Or even better - adding a 6th hero to the box, and then the mixing and matching would make more sense, as it would provide more deck building freedom out of the box.


Compared to other games, Marvel Champions has a premium price. The core set includes a bit less than 350 regular-sized cards, 30 smaller cards, and a bunch of cut-out tokens. While 350 cards is a decent amount, its retail price of 70 USD pales to the contents of other board games of similar pricing. 

Of course, it is possible to find it cheaper, but the 70 USD price tag is quite a lot. 

Not bad, but should to be considered 

This is a special category that outlines some aspects of the games that are not intrinsically bad but that you should know about before buying the game.

  1. Complex difficulty - It is a complex game with tons of rules and nuanced card mechanics, so if you like casual games, something else might be better suited for you.
  2. Deck building - The core set includes two pre-built decks, but generally, you'll need to build your own decks. After building your first one or two decks, it becomes pretty straightforward, but building the first deck can be challenging. 
  3. Heavy Emphasis on Add-ons - Marvel Champions has many expansions (new coming out frequently), and you can play the core set as a standalone game but won't get the full experience. Yes, you don't have to buy the expansions, but you might be compelled to!


some cards or marvel champions card game laid out on table

Replayability of Marvel Champions

Rating: 4.5/5*

I put an asterisk to the replayability score because even without the many expansions, the core set has great replayability options, but when adding expansions, the possibilities open up to the next level.

But when looking strictly at the core set, you have 5 heroes to try out, and 3 villain scenarios to mix and match. Add on top the expert mode, and you have quite a long time until you exhaust (pun intended) the core set. However, I am not giving it the maximum rating because after playing all the heroes and defeating the villains, it needs to introduce more randomness to keep it fresh.

Overall, the Marvel Champions Core Set includes enough "trinkets," cards, and mechanics to earn a replayability rating of 4.5/5.

*But if you are willing to spend money and add expansions, it earns a replayability rating 5+/5.


components of marvel champions card game

Components and Art of Marvel Champions


The game comes in a standard board game box and includes quite a few cards—about 350 full-sized cards and 30 smaller ones. It also comes with health point dials and a bunch of cut-out tokens, with the vast majority being health, threat, and general tokens. Of course, it includes the rulebook and rules reference. 

Surprisingly, there are almost no organizing elements. It definitely should have included more Ziploc bags to organize all the hero and villain decks.

Art and Design

Speaking about design, the game shines in this department. The art is stunning. All cards are beautifully illustrated with comic-style drawings, which makes the game feel alive. Yes, there are duplicates, but not so many that feel repetitive.

So, if you like the comic art style, you won't be disappointed.

When it comes to functional design, the card elements are designed well, with all major elements (resources, cost, effect text, etc.) being well-written with clear, concise positioning.

components and cards of marvel champions card game's core set

Special Notes

Included Heroes and Villains of Marvel Champions Core Set

The core set includes 5 heroes and three villains - Spider-Man, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther as heroes, and Rhino, Klaw, and Ultron as villains. Which is a fair enough to keep you occupied for some time. 

The box has pre-built hero sets for Spider-Man and Captain Marvel. With a light deck building you can also build decks for Iron-Man, She-Hulk and Black Panther. But given the game's mechanics of using aspect cards, you will need to mix-match cards between decks, as only four complete decks can be formed with the included cards from the core set.

Each included hero provides their unique twist to the game, so the rooster is good, but in my opinion Captain Marvel is the weakest one, and Spider-Man is the most average one (it is not bad, but rather gives a "jack of all trades, but master of none" energy).

But when it comes to strategy, scenarios, and replayability, the villains are the stars of the game. Each villain adds their twist to the game, forcing the players not only to adapt, but build their sets that would be most suitable for beating the particular villain.

The Rhino deck is recommended for new players as it would be the most straightforward. When playing for the second time. we (3 players) were able to beat it without issues (although, we were unintentionally cheating at the time due to some misinterpretation of the rules). Then would come Klaw, which can pack a hefty punch. But Ultron is the most complicated and difficult villain. At the time of writing, I have yet to defeat it on expert mode.

I would say, the core set includes enough content for at least 5 playthroughs, if you play it with 4 players and are very skillful. But realistically, if you want to try out all heroes, and defeat all villains (especially, on expert mode,) probably you are looking at 15-25 playthroughs until it becomes old.

Normal vs. Expert Modes: Marvel Champions

Marvel Champions include rules and cards for normal and expert modes. Basically, on standard difficulty you are using the basic cards for a particular villain encounter deck and fighting the villain in its two forms (i.e., phases/levels). When defeating the first form, it transforms in its second form that has some sort of advantages (HP, effect, additional schemes etc.).

The expert mode introduces a third form for the villain. And also, you may add modifier cards to the villain encounter deck, making the villain even more villainous.

Deck Building of Marvel Champions Core Set

I have mentioned deck building of Marvel Champions quite a lot, but that is because it is a significant part of this game.

First things first - if you are playing the core set as one or two players, theoretically, you can play it skipping the deck building part, because the core set comes with pre built Spider-Man and Captain Marvel hero decks, and pre built Rhino villain deck. But if you wish to expand your gameplay further than these three decks, you will have to do at least some deck building.

On top of that, each villain has their specific attacks and effects, so often you will need to modify your hero decks to defeat the particular villain, especially when playing on expert mode.

For some, this aspect of the game can be a bonus, and for others - a nightmare. So, take this into consideration, when buying the game, because either way you stand, deck building is a huge part of the game!


Value For Money

Rating: 4/5

Given that Marvel Champions is a mainstream game sold worldwide in many e-stores and retail stores, its price varies. So, given the price you can get it for, its value changes accordingly.

I got a decent deal and purchased a new copy for just shy of 60 USD (including shipping), and I have seen it as low as 50 USD, which would make it a great value game. However, the retail price is 70 USD (without shipping), which makes it a tougher sell.

If looking purely from a component perspective, the 70 USD price tag makes it overpriced. The included 350-ish cards without a playing board, organizers, figures, and other bells and whistles pale in comparison to many other games within the same price range.

And I know what you might be thinking - its direct rival, "Arkham Horror: The Card Game," also costs around 50-70 USD, so the price must be right! Well... Arkham Horror, just like Marvel Champions, is also published by Fantasy Flight Games, so it is not a fair comparison.

That all being said, when overlooking the lack of components and considering the beautiful art style, polished mechanics, many unique cards, and the "Marvel stamp," the price premium can be justified, especially if you are a fan of Marvel.

box and some components of the marvel champions core set

Overall Rating and To Who Would I Recommend Marvel Champions?

Final Rating: 4.3/5

I am a fan of artwork, enjoy a mental challenge, don't mind tinkering with deck building, and am fan of the Marvel Universe. So, yes, I would recommend this game for me! But is it for you? Let's find out!

Most likely, it is not for you if:

  • You strictly enjoy laid-back games with straightforward rules;
  • You are not a fan of doing calculations; 
  • You can't play a board game without a board;
  • You Hate Marvel (although that would be surprising if you are reading this review).

Otherwise, it is an excellent choice for players:

  • Who are willing to dive deep into the mechanics and nuances of rules;
  • Who enjoy a mental challenge;
  • Who don't mind deck building. 
  • Being a Marvel fan helps as well!

Overall, I am giving a final rating of 4.3, because it is a fantastic game, but the lack of included organization tools, and a somewhat lacking hero rooster, nudges the final rating below the 5 star rating. But anyway, if this kind of game sounds appealing to you, I think you will enjoy playing it!

In the meantime, feel free to explore what Joyful Games has to offer - from other board game reviews and board game tips to fun board and card games.


Want a more straightforward card game to play with your friends?

The Spheres of Life: Mythical Forest is a competitive fantasy card game for 2-7 Players. Learn to play within 20 minutes, set up in 5 minutes, and play in 20-30 minutes!

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