I feel like a kid at Christmas today, even if it will be an unbearable year of waiting before I can open my present. That’s because board game publisher CMON is back on Kickstarter with a third wave of their delightful Marvel United game – and this time, it’s multiversal! Their new campaign is for Marvel United: Multiverse!
Marvel United is a cooperative game where you play as one or more heroes fighting an iconic Marvel Villain who takes automated turns based on a sinister Master Plan deck. The fight extends to six familiar Marvel locations drawn from a pool of dozens, and each one contains a threat and a number of innocent bystanders and annoying henchmen.
On your turn, your hero plays a card to “the timeline” that contains one or more action symbols that let you fight, move, or save the day. But, you’re not alone – you also get to re-use the symbols from the card of the hero whose turn was before yours. Together, you write the story of your fight to save the world – or maybe just New York City – from your foe’s villainous plot.
I passed on the original Marvel United campaign because I wasn’t attracted to the Chibi-style hero art. Plus, it was heavily focused on the MCU and was completely devoid of mutants. We don’t support anti-mutant discrimination in this household! However, when a campaign entirely comprised of X-Men loomed in 2021 I picked up the core game at retail to see what it was all about and immediately became hooked. It’s a fun solo game, since you don’t need an opponent. The hero mechanic is incredibly simple, but it can lead to intriguing puzzles as you try to plan the perfect combos of actions across multiple turns while staying out of the way of a rampaging villain.
If I had one complaint about the game, it’s that the heroes all felt a bit same-y. Each of them had a deck of twelve cards with different balances of symbols, but for most heroes only three of them were “special moves” that did something unique. After my first two plays, I fired up a spreadsheet and a started to define “Special ability” and “Combo Move” for each hero so they felt more persistently powerful.
For example, here is what I drafted for Black Widow:
Black Widow, Special Ability: Balancing the Ledger
Once per turn, Black Widow may remove one Crisis token from her Location or a Hero at her Location, including herself. She receives a Heroic token.
Black Widow, Combo Move: Master Assassin
If Black Widow uses at least one of each action symbol on her turn, she receives and additional Move action and deals 1 Damage to each Henchmen or Super-Villain in one Location she occupies during this turn.
Making these tweaks turned the game from a bland puzzle into a truly super experience! One of the best parts of cooperative games is that it’s easy to hack them with your own house rules, since you can’t throw off the balance between players. The worst thing that happens is that you make the game a little easier for the entire table to win – which doesn’t matter if you’re having fun.
Imagine my surprise and delight when the Marvel United: X-Men campaign debuted one of those mechanics! Several mutants had a “Starting Hand” card, which when played to the timeline gave them a persistent power not unlike my “Special Ability.” That inspired me to go ALL IN on the campaign, buying every set and expansion plus the full original wave of boxes and figures. While I waited for the game to deliver, I busied myself with writing special abilities for the 138 existing heroes and anti-heroes of the initial game, plus converting some of the 68 villains to heroes.
We now have multiple shelves of Marvel United in our living room, but let me tell you something – all the shelf space is worth it because we play all the time! It’s an easy game to set up and there are a staggering 206 different heroes and villains to choose from across both of the first waves!
After the second campaign it seemed like we had reached the end of Marvel United. Despite missing a few major mutants in Wave 2, when it ended with a surprise box of the Fantastic Four it truly felt as if all of Marvel’s major tentpole properties had been covered. There was nothing left to center a third campaign around. While I waited for the campaign to deliver, I busied myself writing my own cards and powers for mumbles another 300+ mutants that that CMON didn’t cover.
(You thought we were gonna get out of this one without a visit from my inner OCD Godzilla, huh? Have you seen my comic guides? OCD Godzilla is inevitable when it comes to superhero stuff.)
After two years of the MCU Multiverse spawning a number of variant heroes who then bled backward into the comics, CMON had a brand new hook to hang a third campaign upon! Oh, plus: GALACTUS! Plus, this campaign implements a version of my “Combo Moves” house rule in the form of hero equipment, which can be optionally equipped and selectively deployed.
Suffice to say, I will definitely be all-in on this third campaign, especially because some of the earliest stretch goals have been the Starjammers – which means a few of those absent mutants from Wave 2 can’t be far behind.
I’ll be chiming in several more times as the campaign develops to analyze the new content, list the heroes and villains yet to be produced, and perhaps share a few more of my homebrew cards! In fact, if there’s any interest out there, when the campaign ends I’d be happy to share my homebrew versions of the hundreds of mutants who doubtlessly won’t be released in Wave 3.