Or, how I learned to conquer expert and love custom variants
Is the relatively low difficulty bar of Risky Business getting you down? Or maybe you’ve bested Rhino, Klaw and Ultron on expert one too many times?
You’ve entered the twilight zone (non-capitalized, do you think I want to get sued?) of “Marvel LCG difficulty blues,” but there’s plenty of variants to keep you going beyond the official expert and extreme settings created by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG): you only need to look to custom variants.
Custom variants are often created by passionate fans as a way to extend the life of a game they care about. For Marvel Champions, most of those efforts have been focused on making scenarios harder, so that they were more fine-tuned deckbuilding strategies or make otherwise low-stakes concepts much more intricate.
Here are a few of the best variants from the Marvel Champions LCG community, all of which can be used with the default materials provided by FFG. If you want more homebrew-oriented content like unofficial villains or scenarios, there’s an entire Discord server that caters to that.
The core set challenges
As the only official ancillary piece of content provided for Marvel Champions LCG to date, the core set challenges (achievements) list should be your first stop.
Some of them are fairly clever (assemble Iron Man’s entire suit) and some of them are very tedious (deal 16 damage or more with Black Cat in a single turn in multiplayer), but they are options nonetheless.
Give them a go at least once.
Marvel Champions Monthly also added new challenges in July of 2020!
Play Rookie or Heroic Mode
FFG introduced official variants into the mix in mid-March.
Once you defeat stage I of the villain, you win.
Deal [x] more encounter cards in the encounter phase per player. [X] denotes the current heroic rating, with FFG recommending heroic 1 to start, challenging players to beat expert Klaw with the Doomsday Chair mod.
Hazard Mode (community variant):
Another alternative the community has come up with, particularly for multiplayer play, is Hazard Mode, or “Heroic .5.” In short, you only give out additional encounter cards for the whole table. So for Heroic 1, it’s one extra card for the table (going to player one), for Heroic 2, it’s players one and two and so on.
If Heroic is too punishing, you can try this method instead.
Try making decks with heroes you don’t normally use
Okay, this might be the lamest way to extend the life of the game. But have you tried She-Hulk Leadership? How about Ms. Marvel Justice?
While there are some very obvious choices for some hero pairings, variety is the spice of life, and we’re looking to spice things up here, aren’t we? A very easy way to challenge yourself is to attempt to beat every expert scenario in the game with every combination of hero. Here’s a full list of every card in the game. Get brewing!
This is likely not all that appealing of a prospect for some people and I can feel your interest waning on a deep spiritual level, so let’s move on to what you came here for: actual game-changing variants.
That includes Proteus: a “hero” that only uses cards from the core set in a draft-like fashion (a concept divined by Board Game Geek member fissionessence). Or trying to build a deck with just basic cards and no aspect cards (thanks BananaCrapshoot!).
This is probably the simplest way to modify Marvel Champions, and currently, my preferred method.
You don’t need to memorize certain rulesets: you just plop one card on the table, re-read it if necessary, and follow the instructions. That’s it! Some environments can be used in any scenario and others specifically address certain villains.
These were created by KennedyHawk, a host of the Marvel Champions Monthly podcast, Critical Encounters and The Side Scheme. They are displayed here with permission.
Sometimes a scenario requires a little more of a push to satisfy certain players. That’s where more intricate rules variants come in. Here is the most common rule variant that the Marvel Champions community has used:
- Deal two encounter cards per player instead of one at all times
It’s so simple, right? Of course you can go harder, like making Rhino tough every time you attach a card to him or buff his minions so that they gather attachments for him (Thanks Theorel).
Here’s another one for Risky Business. Note the crisis icon on the Criminal Enterprise environment.
Fan-made campaigns and progression-style deckbuilding
In an LCG, you can play “progression style,” which is only using cards that were out at that current moment in time when playing a scenario.
In other words, you can only use core cards if you fight Rhino, Klaw or Ultron, or only use the core plus Captain America/Ms. Marvel for the Green Goblin scenarios. Sometimes, that can alleviate a lot of the power creep issues on its own and make for more engaging playthroughs. You can consult this list for a full rundown of chronological release dates.
Nio_Darkwind over at Board Game Geek took that concept a step further and created a whole story campaign based on progression. Not only does their campaign have an actual story to link each scenario together, but they also provide Arkham Horror LCG-esque rules to help you slowly build out your deck as you progress.
For example, starter decks cannot use certain cards (like Nick Fury or Daredevil): you earn them by playing through the campaign. Give it a shot if you find yourself wanting a more interconnected way to play Marvel Champions!
Austin Charlie on Board Game Geek also came up with a way to play the Red Skull campaign across the whole experience.
You can find a Kang campaign here.
Marvel Champions Monthly created a campaign.