04 July 2022
A web slinging showdown
In the fourth expansion to the living card game Marvel Champions, the Sinister Motives, new heroes are swinging in to save the day: Ghost-Spider (Gwen Stacy) and Spider-Man (Miles Morales), joined by other spideys from across the Multiverse. Following them in tow are also new villains – Sandman, Venom, Mysterio, the Sinister Six and Venom Goblin.
Lessons learnt from designing The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and Android: Netrunner, were all incorporated by Caleb Grace and Michael Boggs into Marvel Champions, creating gameplay that is both incredibly slick and adaptable. The main loop remains simple. All villains have a main scheme that they are trying to complete. Villain decks are filled with minions, abilities and side schemes. Heroes, on the other hand, play cards from their hand to attack the villain, summon allies and thwart the schemes. The main gameplay tension comes from needing to spend some cards as resources to play others, creating interesting strategic choices during the game.
The elegant simplicity of the core gameplay allows for incorporating both villains and heroes that play completely differently from those that already exist in the Marvel Champions’ roster. Miles Morales’ focus is on effective card combo attacks that on top of dealing damage also stun and confuse the villain. The challenge will be to plan the play of your card sequence correctly to ensure its maximum efficiency. Ghost-Spider, on the other hand, focuses on thwarting the villain’s plans, preventing them from scheming and attacking. With her, it can be useful to hold some cards back and use them as interrupts during the villain’s turn for the most value. Both characters are also strongest with other spider warriors in their deck, as some of their abilities allow them to be summoned onto the battlefield for free or benefit from ability combos.
Yet, even if you mastered heroes moves, defeating each villain will still present its own challenges and require a unique approach. Sandman can be bested by a careful balance of chipping away at his health and managing the threat tokens on his scheme. Yet, this strategy will fail disastrously when facing Venom, who grows more ferocious with each hero attack. To beat him, heroes are better off building up to high damage attacks. So, depending on a villain, the way you use your hero abilities will also be significantly different. This means that every game is a learning curve, where the first couple of rounds are used to figure out the villain’s best moves and the strategy to deal with them. This might mean that the beginning games drag a little, as players are not yet efficient with their card management and take some time to chip away at the villain’s substantial health.
Sinister Motives is structured as a campaign, where players face-off each villain at the time. Between each encounter, players can modify their decks (unless they’re playing on expert mode), and both heroes and villains will get extra cards as the campaign progresses.
The very basic story (amounting to a short justification for fighting a certain villain) is accompanied by a thematically satisfying comic strip. It is again a simple, yet clever move, that makes you feel like you’re acting out the fights in the comic book. The thematic throughline is echoed in the gameplay in some card abilities. For example, one of Ghost-Spider’s most powerful allies, George Stacey, may be taken out of play so Gwen could comfort her worried father.
Ultimately Sinister Motives is designed to be played through with Spider-Man and Ghost-Spider. Players could replace them with characters from the base game or other expansions, but some of the synergies will be missed (and those comic strips will make a lot less sense!). Yet the game’s shelf life doesn’t solely rely on the length of the campaign as many cards can be used with other heroes and villains. The gameplay remains fresh and with Sinister Motives comes additional depth to the Marvel Champions’ Multiverse.
PLAY IT? YES
The new expansion to Marvel Champions is an excellent addition to an existing roaster of heroes and villains, continuing to build on successful mechanics established by the base game.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED MARVEL CHAMPIONS: THE CARD GAME
If you are already hooked on the slick and strategic card play of Marvel Champions, then this new expansion should be a no-brainer.
Designer: Michael Boggs & Caleb Grace
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Time: 45 - 90 Minutes
What’s in the box?
- 265 cards
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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