Marvel: Crisis Protocol Review


Like popcorn – enjoyable, if a bit bland

Crash! Zoom! Thock! Pow! As comic book adaptations continue to hold sway over popular culture, Atomic Mass Games have sought to enter the world of miniature gaming with the force of the Marvel IP behind them. The result is Crisis Protocol, a skirmish game that sees players assemble a team of 3-5 characters and duke it out in suitably epic fashion whilst pursuing various objectives like retrieving cosmic cube fragments or rescuing civilians. 

 

The real meat of combat is the energy system. Each character accumulates energy tokens, which are spent to activate one of their special abilities or team tactics cards. A character only receives a single energy token per turn, which is rarely enough to afford a power on its own, so more have to be earnt either through special effects or through taking damage. At first glance it’s a little counter-intuitive to imagine damage conferring anything but penalties on a character, but it arguably makes sense thematically, in that inexplicable way in which superheroes always seem at their most powerful after having several shades of shit kicked out of them. More to the point, it’s the core mechanism by which combat remains varied and avoids becoming an I-hit-you-you-hit-me-back affair, and is one of the two gameplay features which stops the losing model from suffering cumulative disadvantages as a fight wears on. The other is the dazed mechanic, in essence a device for giving characters two lives. After taking a certain number of hits a model becomes dazed and can no longer activate that turn. However, their character card gets flipped and the following turn they’re right back in the action, sometimes slightly weaker, but other times with buffs depending on the character in question. It’s an innovative feature that allows characters to get back up swinging and – more crucially – prevents heroes getting one-punched out of the game. 

 

Aside from this, the only other notable feature is the role terrain plays in the proceedings. Whilst there is a limited cover and line of sight system (often ignored anyway by the characters’ various powers), terrain’s real purpose is as a weapon in combat, either as something to be thrown or have figures thrown against. It’s a fun and characterful feature, conjuring up images of the archetypal comic book battle in which heroes and villains throw debris and one another around the environment like rag dolls. Though it’s slightly odd that of all environmental effects, fall damage isn’t one, it’s nonetheless undeniable fun bouncing a character off a wall or lamppost like a costumed pinball.

 

Much of the rest of the game is pretty standard fare. Turns use alternating activation, with each character being able to perform up to two actions each round. Some attacks confer statuses (things like bleed, stun and so forth) and movement and attacks are measured with custom range sticks of the kind you’d find in Star Wars Legion. None of it’s revolutionary, so take that as you will. If you’re looking for an entirely new approach to skirmish games you’re going to be disappointed, but if you take a ‘don’t fix what ain’t broke’ attitude the basic mechanics will get you along just fine.

 

Besides the gameplay are the box’s contents themselves. The game’s hard plastic 40mm miniatures are larger in scale than standard figures such as those from Games Workshop, being obviously aimed at a more casual audience who may not be used to painting figures. Detail is crisp and the visuals are all appropriately on-brand, although assembly can be a bit finicky. One strange quirk of the box is that the rules are split between a physical rulebook and an online version; only in the latter will you be able to find the pre-game setup instructions, for example. Besides this, however, the box offers much more of a complete experience than many other miniatures games starter boxes. It’s worth noting that a game of Crisis Protocol out of the box has the same qualitative feel as one where you’d purchased more miniatures. Compare this to the fact that for many miniatures games, especially wargames, starter sets often only give you a shallow taster of the game’s mechanics.

 

Overall Crisis Protocol is best described as a solidly built game. The dazed and energy token mechanics are its most innovative features, whilst the rest of the gameplay is competently put together if not exactly groundbreaking. Undoubtedly fans of the IP are going to be the ones who’ll get the most out of the game, though if you’ve got an evening to spare and even a passing interest in pretending to be a superhero you’ll like as not have a good time.

 

JAMES WINSPEAR

 

PLAY IT? YES

A competent if fairly standard skirmish game, Crisis Protocol offers an entertaining way to see your favourite comic book characters duke it out on the tabletop for 90 minutes. It may not push the boat out much, but hey, how can taking out Red Skull by beaning him in the face with a trashcan not offer entertainment value?

 

Buy your copy here. 

 

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED…Ragnarok: Heavy Metal Combat in the Viking Age

 

Forget the obvious link of Thor and Loki; this skirmish miniatures game sees mighty warriors infused with Godsparks (superpowers by any other name) duke it out amidst a fully destructible environment, and is worth a look if you want to play a superhero game where you get to design your own characters.

 

 

Designer: Will Shick

Artist: Carlos Cabrer

Time: 1-4 hours

Players: 1-5 players

Age: 14+

Price: £125

 

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

- Black Widow

- Captain America

- Captain Marvel

- Iron Man

- Spider-Man

- Baron Zemo

- Crossbones

- Doctor Octopus

- Red Skull

- Ultron

- Nine terrain pieces

- 170 tokens

- 20 team tactics cards

- Three map cards

- Two affiliation cards

- Ten characterstat cards

- Six crisis cards

- Three movement tools

- Four range tools

- 10 dice

- 16 Serious wound cards

- 20 Event cards

- 5 Help cards

- 8 Intruder weakness cards

- 8 Coordinates cards

- 120 Item cards

- 6 Character Draft cards

- 10 Intruder

 


This review originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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