Marvel Champions AMA Recap (5/14/2020)

FFG representatives: Michael Boggs, Designer | Evan Johnson, FFG Marketing

Link to the original AMA source
Start time: 2PM ET – 5/14/2020
FFG Live Twitch Link

What are the release plans for upcoming hero packs?

Evan: Our current plan and this is subject to change….but, the current plan is that in the United States Black Widow will release on June 5, that Friday. Doctor Strange in July. Then Hulk in August.

So basically we’re returning to one hero pack per month. With Hulk in August, we will be returning to global releases. Our current directive and strategy is to have no other country release the Hulk hero pack until August. And we’ll all get this at the same time.

“The seven Marvel releases in June” rumor includes Crisis Protocol from Atomic Games. They are not Marvel Champions products, just the Black Widow pack.

For Hawkeye’s quiver, are you supposed to shuffle the top five cards into your deck?

Boggs: No, we decided to introduce a new language with this into the game, this language will become more common. You look at the top five cards, pick the one you need then put the rest back in the same order.

Of all the cards you designed for Champions, what’s your favorite?

Boggs: It’s in the upcoming Hulk pack, it’s Toe-to-Toe. I like the playstyle and the story it brings about. I like cheesing it too as it’s not a cost but an effect. You can stun them or have tough on your character, or still defend.

Is there a card that you wish you would have designed or released differently?

Boggs: I think in retrospect the card “Great Responsibility.”

I see a lot of people overlook that card. It’s a powerful card especially in multiplayer. In retrospect we should have done a simpler effect in its place, then saved that effect for later once the playerbase understood its functionality.

Will there be reprints for errata-ed cards?

Boggs: Yes if we’ve errata-ed something we issue a reprint change with our production team, it should be fixed in reprints later.

Do allies foreshadow how future heroes will work?

Boggs: That’s an interesting question. Not necessarily.

I think it’s cool when they’re somewhat parallel. The She-Hulk ally was just spoiled. That’s something I enjoyed in testing. But that’s not a rule. We want to show the hero the best way we can. Sometimes there will be similarities, but not every time.

How do you decide how to represent each hero? Which personality, or ally versus hero?

Boggs: Generally speaking we try to represent heroes the way we feel has the broadest appeal. So we pull from multiple versions of the hero, we pull from multiple comics. It’s hard to have that greater scope but we try the best we can.

In competitive card games we often see keywords pull the game forward. How do keywords inform your design for our present mechanics and card types?

Boggs: We definitely want to introduce new keywords into the game as time goes on. But we are in a fortunate situation where we can push the boundaries of the mechanics in those current kits.

We’ll see that going forward, there are kits for each hero that help them stand out. We don’t have to rely as heavily on keywords as other games. We won’t be pushing as hard on it as some other games do.

What Marvel comics are you reading right now?

Boggs: Immortal Hulk for sure when I was doing design work on him. Every now and then I’ll try to keep updated on Ms. Marvel, as she was a character I discovered when designing her kit. There’s a whole host of comics I can’t talk about right now.

Who is your favorite villain of the new campaign box?

Boggs: I’m partial to Absorbing Man. He was one I really had to discover. Any material he touches he can turn into that, wood or whatever it is.

But when I’m playing the box, Red Skull is the villain to have at the end of the box, Caleb Grace did a great job with him. Mechanically I love Red Skull, thematically I love Absorbing Man.

If you had to open the Red Skull campaign box who would you choose as a hero?

Boggs: I would choose Spider-Woman. She’s more intricate than Hawkeye. That’s intended and I like that playstyle.

Getting boosted up on all her stats based on the number of aspect cards she’s played, that’s like a new puzzle to solve. You can do some really cool combos you can’t pull off with other characters.

Is there a mechanic from another LCG you can think of that you’d want to add?

Boggs: From Netrunner, not really. From Arkham maybe, Matt is always there to help us and has inspired a lot of our designs. Not really any I can think off of the top of my head.

A lot of people were making comparisons to Red Skull’s campaign and expected it to be Arkham Horror-esque. It’s a bit different but there is that sort of “want” there so maybe we can take some lessons down the line from Matt.

When assigning heroes to their starting aspect in their pre-built decks is it more about mechanics or theme?

Boggs: A lot of times we’ll establish the hero’s 15 cards first before we put them into an aspect. But we knew with Captain America he was going to be Leadership. We knew Hulk was going to be Aggression. For Ms. Marvel we debated for a long time between Justice and Protection.

Black Widow went Justice so Ms. Marvel was the Protection pick. We try to make sure those cards work well with the hero they come with, and that there isn’t anything too wonky.

What’s the highest Heroic level that someone from FFG has achieved?

Boggs: To my knowledge Heroic level 2. I personally haven’t seen above that. I also haven’t seen anyone beat the Klaw challenge I put in the article defeat [Klaw on Heroic level 3 while using The Doomsday Chair as the modular encounter set].

When I first wrote that article I thought about Heroic 2, but I wanted something more that people had to reach for. If it takes a few times it’s worth it, it’s nice to have that achievement.

With all the heroes, aspects and modular sets the game has a lot of replayability. But the game has the same arc to it, beating the villain down at the end with building tempo and tempo hits. Do you have plans for more encounter cards for variance?

Boggs: Oh yeah definitely. Early on in the core set and the early scenarios we didn’t want to overwhelm players with new mechanics. So we really wanted to keep things introductory and straight-forward.

Going forward we can start playing with new challenges and new mechanics that throw curveballs at players with things they haven’t seen before.

Are there plans to reblance the four aspects in the future to have identical card counts?

Boggs: We’re not necessarily striving to have identical card counts but we try to strive for balance in general. Spider-Woman we knew would upset that balance a little bit, but we keep them as close as we can.

A lot of people are going to be drawn to Aggression and Justice because they are really simple in their gameplan. There’s not a whole lot more to them in the core set and even going forward that’s our focus.

Many of the game’s side schemes are simply a combination of a regular side scheme icon or a similar effect and feel the same. Are you adding more flavor to them over time?

Boggs: Yeah for a long time in the core set we had more varied side schemes. We had forced interrupts and triggers there. But as time went on we found that it was easy to miss those things.

You’re sitting there in a two player game and looking at your stuff, sometimes it’s easier to forget things, especially with inexperienced gamers. Using those big symbols was the way to do it. Going forward there is room to spice things up and create new challenges.

If you were to make a fifth aspect what would it revolve around?

Boggs: If we did do it we’d go back to the core set development aspect that was cut. Determination’s color was purple, we had that as a fifth aspect. The idea was to deal yourself encounter cards, put threat on the main scheme or deal yourself damage to knock out the villain. That aspect didn’t stand on its own.

Some of those could be ported into other aspects. Toe-to-Toe was even a Determination card, but we changed it to Aggression and it was just as thematic. I don’t know if we’ll go back to a fifth aspect but it would be a good start and that’s where we’d go.

Will there be additional statuses or conditions added?

Boggs: Yeah we could maybe do that. If we introduced that it would have to be in a box. Though, if we wanted to play with that in the future, it would be unfair to introduce them in the Red Skull box then ask players to do different mechanics if they just bought a hero pack.

It would have to be a very thought out…planned out way. But it’s not off the table.

How much do you value balance? Is the focus on balancing all the heroes or making them more fun and unique?

Boggs: Yeah we try to make sure the cards are balanced and won’t break the game. But because we want players to feel as heroic as possible we do push the power on players a bit. As long at the end of the day those characters feel like they should and have those strong storytelling moments, that’s fine. If we do miss that mark it won’t destroy any meta or anything like that.

Evan: By the way, we aren’t pulling too many rules questions. Boggs would have to read cards and it would slow down the AMA. You can submit questions on our rules form.

Was there another name for Marvel Champions at one point?

Boggs: At the time I really liked the name Marvel Crisis. This is before we knew about Crisis Protocol. I pushed for that and there was a reason for not going that way.

Nate French actually pitched “Marvel Champions” and Andrew Navarro, who was head of the studio at the time, he completely agreed. And I think it’s fitting, I think you feel like a champion while playing the game.

Is there an ability you’ve changed on a hero, or have you ever bumped up heroes at one point, ability-wise?

Boggs: I don’t know about that, but we definitely saved ideas for later. Spider-Woman’s dual aspect mechanic was something we tried out in Hulk, because of his split personality. But it made Hulk way too thoughtful.

There should be more smashing, there’s not a lot of brain power behind that. But Spider-Woman’s double-agent spy thing allowed for that split down the middle. We ended up saving for that her, and we do that all the time and think of mechanics that are really cool and save it for another hero then come up with something different.

I want an equal number of scenarios to hero packs. What are the ratios of hero and villain packs going to be in the future?

Boggs: We talked about this early on, how we were going to release packs. We’ve explored these systems with other LCGs. There are pros and cons to both. Right now it feels like there aren’t enough scenarios to play against, but with the release of Rise of Red Skull there’s five more, which will double them and there’s more modular sets.

Going forward that number will get even bigger. In the future getting more heroes will be more exciting because you can customize those sets to your liking.

A lot of the game seems to be focused around deckbuilding for solo play. What are your plans for group play?

Boggs: So when we want to support single-player but this is a co-op game. And most of the aspects shine in that co-op aspect. We tried to create varieties for settings like single-player and vice-versa, but as far as team-ups are concerned, Black Widow and Hulk really compliment each other: smashing and controlling.

In the core set I like Iron Man and Spider-Man: Iron Man swings at the villain and Spider-Man locks down the board.

Will we see characters that work similarly? Like Scarlet Spider to Spider-Man?

Boggs: I think we’ll do it similarly to She-Hulk and Hulk. Those two are functionally the same with gamma and rage. But both She-Hulk and Hulk do things differently.
Nate French believes that there are 100s of different ways to do each character, with each iteration feeling different but still like that character. There’s a lot of ways to do that.

Is there a PVP plan? Maybe tying it to Civil War?

Boggs: We’ve talked about it. It’s been mentioned. It’s something we can maybe see it one day. I’ve heard quite a few of the same sentiments. Maybe something we’ll see down the line.

Some aspects lack enough versatility and thwart potential, especially on Heroic. We have to pick Leadership and Justice to win. Are you going to add more flexible cards to Aggression and Protection?

Boggs: Yeah we’ll see more versatility for each aspect. Each aspect should be able to succeed in their own right.

How many comics do you think you’ve read when designing characters?

Boggs: Easily over 100. Maybe 200. For the core set I wanted to delve as much as possible for the hero and villain backstories. Especially crossovers, and Ms. Marvel. For each character I want to read an entire series for sure.

Did you have a superhero you pretended to be and why?

Boggs: I have a younger brother. He’s three and a half years younger and my cousin is two years younger. I picked Spider-Man. But when I was on the playground I got stuck with Colossus as the biggest kid in my class. Colossus was cool but I secretly wanted to be Wolverine or Iceman. But I couldn’t be those, I was too tall. I still play Spider-Man today in my house though.

If you could have a beer or drink with anyone in the Marvel universe who would it be?

Boggs: Probably Peter Parker. That’s a default answer but he seems like a cool guy who has seen a lot.

Do you follow any of the custom fanmade decks? Have there been any you’ve wanted to produce?

Boggs: Honestly we don’t look at the fan made content too much. Caleb and I agree that we don’t want to cloud our vision. We don’t want to look at content and have someone say we ripped them off. Not that we would do that but we want to go in fresh.

Are X-Men a possibility based on the licenses you currently have?

Boggs: Potentially. We’re still exploring things. Both Caleb and I are huge X-Men fans. We want to do it. I hope we can down the line.

For X-Men I want to design Iceman. For Fantastic Four I’m a little less familiar with them, I’ve never really read their comics much. I saw the movie in 2005, I think that’s when it came out, but I’m not super familiar. But I would pick Sue Storm, I like her force bubbles. I don’t know how we’d represent invisibility mechanically but I’m sure we’d find a way.

How soon before we see repeating heroes with a different alter-ego?

Boggs: It would probably be a long time, if ever.

There’s a lot of new heroes we want to do but it is a possibility, if we felt it was appropriate.

How much new content is in the pipleline or designed?

Boggs: More than three waves or four waves worth. Over 20 packs are waiting.

Evan: So that’s….two years worth of releases.

How do you choose what heroes to work on for each cycle?

Boggs: We created a line plan. We have a skeleton in place kind of like how the MCU structured their movies. We have that in place for a long term plan.

For heroes that have become villains or vice-versa in the comics, will we see both sides of them in the game?

Boggs: Yeah there’s nothing stopping us from doing that.

I want to see Ghost Rider. What’s up with him?

Boggs: I don’t know a lot about him but he’s one we could see for sure.

What other lesser known characters are you thinking about?

Boggs: The big names draw people in. But lesser characters are equally important because they show that the Marvel universe is much greater than the big characters. But a lot of people are also fanatical about smaller characters like Moon Knight.

I don’t know a lot about him and haven’t read a lot of his stuff but the miniature side of the office even talks about him. We want to release as many of those characters as possible even if they haven’t made it to the big screen yet.

If someone came up to you and asked to have you sign a card for them, what would it be?

Boggs: One of Ms. Marvel’s cards or the hero card. I’m proud of her. She has a special place in my heart because she pulled me into the comics.

Is there a question you’d like to be asked?

Boggs: “How’s my day?”

Will Marvel Champions be the only Marvel game published by FFG?

Evan: I can answer that. No. And that’s all we’re going to be saying about that today.

Similar to Arkham’s “Return to” series, is there a chance to revisit old scenarios with new twists?

Boggs: Yeah we’ve talked about that. It’s something that could maybe happen down the line. We’d prefer to do new scenarios. There’s so many characters and so many situations that it would be exciting to make new content.

Are you happy with how the standard and expert sets work?

Boggs: We did that intentionally. Early on in the core set we wanted to make each villain act differently in their base activation cards.

Over time we realized that having a standard and expert set allowed us to not create the same effects over and over. Maybe down the line we’ll see an expansion or tweak on that.

If you could design any villain what would it be?

Boggs: Venom. I love Spider-Man. Venom was so big in the ’90s and he’s just a fun villain. He’d be fun to design.

Are we going to see more gameplay streams?

Evan: As soon as we can get back in the office we’ll be doing more of that. You can see something showcasing Strange, Widow and Hulk playing together. We’re looking forward to it.

Would you say Namor is a hero or villain?

Boggs: I’ll admit I’m not really knowledgeable about him, but a bit of both? Going back to the earlier villain or hero question, he could be both.

Is it hard to recall the public meta and your private design meta at the same time?

Boggs: Yes! In my head I’ll think “why don’t they like this combo?” but it hasn’t been released yet. It is a bit of a juggling act.

When will Thanos come?

Evan: It’s safe to say he will come at some point.

Boggs: Yeah it would be a missed opportunity to not do him eventually.

How has remote work impacted the design process?

Boggs: It’s made some things easier, some harder. When it’s me by myself it’s easier to get into the zone and focus. But at the same time there’s a lot of things I need to communicate with Caleb on or the art team. It’s been an adjustment but it hasn’t slowed things down and in some ways it’s sped things up and made it more streamlined.

Are there going to be street-level heroes or villains soon?

Boggs: Yeah potentially, I love Daredevil and Kingpin. Those are very fun heroes and I know Caleb likes them as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them eventually.

It sounds like the Rise of Red Skull box includes the Reality Stone. More to come?

Boggs: Maybe.

Evan: Thank you for joining us. Again, the plan is to have global releases in August again, but plans can change, things are crazy.

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