Game preservation/history is a very important topic that isn’t talked about enough. This is a running log of interviews from FFG representatives about Marvel Champions LCG.
If you have an interview to add to this page, contact us at hallofheroescontact(at)gmail.com
Key Marvel Champions LCG staff:
Caleb Grace – Lead Designer
Tony Fanchi – Designer
MJ Newman – Guest Designer (Lead Designer, Arkham Horror LCG)
Jeremy Zwirn – Guest Designer (Arkham Horror LCG)
Aaron Haltom – Guest Designer (KeyForge)
Colin Phelps – Card Game Manager
Nate French – Executive Game Designer
Molly Glover – Board & Card Game Producer
Josh Massey – OP Coordinator, FFG Live Host
Peter Schumacher – Marketing Writer, FFG Live Player
Alex Werner – Games Rules Specialist
José Guzmán (Guzmanco) – Former FFG Intern/Current Freelance Artist
Michael Boggs – Former Lead Designer (left FFG on May 6, 2022)
Evan Johnson – Former Marketing Manager (left FFG in February 2021)
Mercedes Opheim – Former Card Game Manager (left position in June 2019)
Andrew Navaro – Former Head of Studio (left FFG on December 27, 2019)
Jim Cartwright – Former Card Game Manager
“Since Marvel Comics are popular with people of all ages and backgrounds, we wanted to design a game that could appeal to all of them. As a result, Marvel Champions is by far our most accessible LCG to date.” – Caleb
“Making him feel like Hulk without being frustrating to play…it was hard to get that balance. It was also a bit of making sure that he wasn’t single-minded in terms of what he could do.” – Boggs
“Generally when I play him solo, I try to make sure I have enough cards from the aspect in there. Obviously leadership and justice are good ways to go about that.” – Boggs
“We explored that very early on in the core set. She-Hulk didn’t have a thwart side but Jennifer Walters did. It ended up feeling….it made the character a bit more complicated than we wanted. With She-Hulk it didn’t fit and with Banner it didn’t really fit. But it’s definitely a possibility for the future.” – Boggs
“We have different artists that do [the head shots in the bottom right of the hero cards]. We actually use someone internally, Chris Beck, he’s one of our internal designers. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of those old comic books….and they look a little bit different. We like that one is sort of this new-age thing and one is a callback to those previous versions of the heroes.” -Boggs
“So we actually for a long time Bruce Banner played with this idea that you couldn’t just flip into your alter-ego form…that there was an additional step and if you failed the step you had to flip back as Hulk. But it became frustrating…sometimes you [just need to go into alter-ego.] So Inner Demons, the obligation, seemed like the best way to go about that. We felt like more than maybe any other hero, this obligation card breaks the boundaries of what we can do with obligation cards.” – Boggs
“The fifth aspect was called ‘determination,’ and it focused on doing whatever necessary to get ahead. An example of this is the upcoming aggression event in Hulk’s pack, Toe to Toe, which costs 1 resource to play, deals 5 damage to an enemy, but forces that enemy to attack you first.” – Boggs
“Both Caleb and I are huge X-Men fans. We want to do it. I hope we can down the line.” – Boggs
“It’s very rare that I stumble upon the ‘perfect’ artwork for a card. Home By Dawn was one of those times.” – Guzmanco
“We designed standard with the idea that people should be able to show up with a pre-built deck. Buy it, show up with your friends and play, and feel like you have a really good shot. We built expert mode for people with custom decks, for people who like to build stronger decks. I encourage those players to skip standard and go right to expert.” – Caleb
“It’s tough. But I thought Wrecking Crew was tough. Now I’m getting feedback that it’s very easy.”
“It’s always interesting when it gets to the public. We playtested all those heroes in the first wave a ton. There was no feedback where there was one hero clearly better than the other. It depends on how you pilot them.”
“I don’t think there’s a goal to define certain power levels or ascribe characters to those power levels. I understand the desire from the fanbase for that…it’s more about trying to capture the feel of the character.” -Caleb
“We wanted to do something quickly [about the lack of difficulty]…but we couldn’t do a new kit as that takes time and money. We wanted to fix it as soon as we could and talked about possible solutions. But ultimately it was Jeremy Zwirn who overheard our conversation (me and Boggs) who said ‘why don’t you just reveal an extra card every turn?'” -Caleb
“We were asked by someone…at the executive or the license level. This was the first time where someone at that level weighed in.” -Caleb
“I just want to say no one wants X-Men in the game more than I do. Now that we have the Insurrection game that was announced, I don’t have anything to announce. Except for yes, we are definitely going to do X-Men in this game. It’s going to be a while.” – Caleb
“I’ve always been interested in designing games. I studied animation in college. But the program was conjoined with game design. So I really loved those classes and I moved abroad for a few years and started doing my own independent stuff. I realized I didn’t have the skills to make video games, but board games instead. I started a couple of groups abroad where we playtested each other’s stuff. I was able to turn that into a job at FFG.” – Caleb
“I was working as a teacher, I got cut. I needed a job. I was applying around, my brother told me I could apply to FFG. I applied and got it.” – Caleb
“Originally the box was going to have four scenarios. I think we might have gotten a little pushback…like maybe they all should have five.” – Caleb
“Boggs took the lead on this [Quicksilver]…but both Boggs and I have the same idea: he should ready. Boggs was the one that was like ‘first time he uses a hero power, he stands up.’ It’s automatic.” – Caleb
“Absolutely I think our strategy is pretty straightforward. We have an Avengers themed story box followed by Avengers themed heroes. We announced Guardians box….it’s safe to assume it’ll be followed by Guardians heroes…and who knows what will come after that.” – Caleb
“I would love to see the game mature to a point where we can do that [have multiple heroes of the same identity]…everyone knows Spider-Man…so many others…have all like gone through a series of evolutions with their costumes and missions. I would love to do that. Just off the top of my head of course we’re putting in classic Spider-Man, but a lot of people are fans of the black suit Spider-Man. Maybe that one comes with Mary Jane Watson.” – Caleb
I wish we actually had Aaron Haltom here with us. He’s on the KeyForge team but he helped extensively with Rocket Raccoon. And Groot!” – Boggs
“Yeah Aaron came on the team when we were a little overloaded. We had a lot of Marvel going on at the time, so he offered to help out. So he did some of the foundational work on Groot.” – Caleb
“[My favorite villain is] Venom. Spider-Man has always been my favorite hero, and Venom was the antithesis of everything he was trying to do.” – Boggs
“Nate [French] thought of the name ‘Breakin and Takin.’ Nate said ‘Rhino is breaking things and taking them.’ And we said ‘yep that needs to go on the card.'” – Boggs
“Nate French was the designer of the core set, but it was decided after that, that Caleb would be the lead designer. He is technically the boss but it’s very much a collaborative effort between us, which I appreciate. He tends to focus more on the story and thematic things like that, and I focus on the backend processes, things like that.” – Boggs
“[MJ] Newman is the reason ‘Elite” even exists in our game. We wanted to make a minion special in some way, and [MJ] suggested Elite. That will come into play in the future. We’ve planted a lot of seeds and because we want to want to introduce things gradually, we’re trying to sprout them very slowly.” – Boggs
“I’ve been working on the game for two years now…” -Boggs in August of 2020
“As far as I know, [Nate] kind of invented [the co-op card genre.] We’ve found that the most stable, long-running LCGs are co-op LCGs” – Caleb
“I want to give props to Jeremy Zwirn. We were playtesting Strange and he didn’t have [Vapors of Valtorr.] One of his comments was that he didn’t feel magical enough. At the end of the day it was just ‘doing damage or removing threat…’ so he suggested the idea of transforming this status into that status. I said that’s super dope, let’s do that.” -Caleb
“Cap’s design really came back to Aragorn and my love of the Lord of the Rings LCG core set. He spends a resource and he gets back up. That really applies to Cap, with the ‘I can do this all day’ quote.” – Caleb
“For me it’s all about Hawkeye’s quiver. That’s how he all comes together. [MJ] [Newman] helped with that. He said ‘I want to take an arrow and put it in the quiver and save it for later.” – Caleb
“So I was kind of elected to go carry and torch and [make the pitch to Marvel]. So when they said we’re going to Marvel, I was thinking New York City, the publishing house, I was going to get to meet Joe Quesada…no we’re going to [Los Angeles], at Disney Headquarters with the licensing team. Don’t get me wrong it was great but it wasn’t Marvel HQ.” -Caleb
“Nate was the one who felt very strongly that we need a hero that breaks the deckbuilding rules very early…two aspects. There was some talk about Hulk, like the Bruce Banner and Hulk dichotomy…but ultimately we scaled back from that because Hulk is going to resonate with a lot of our younger audience who wants to smash things. So when we were talking about who was going into the story box it had this Avenger theme and this Hydra theme, so we wanted Hawkeye in for sure. But Jessica Drew, sure it makes sense, she has this weird connection to Hydra…she was a double-agent, hey, double-agent, two aspects.” – Caleb
“We have the Incite keyword, which maybe hasn’t been spoiled yet. Honestly for the longest time we called it doom, because it works like doom in Lord of the Rings.” – Caleb
“I’m excited for people to see that [Red Skull box] comic. I pitched that, too. We were pretty well into the development process where it occurred to me, when I was writing the story. And I said ‘why am I writing a story for a comic book game, there should be a comic here. We shelled out a little more to get an artist, to write out comic scripts for the artist to illustrate. The comics are actually in the rules document, it’s not a separate thing. They’re not going to blow anyone’s minds, they’re kind of campy and a callback…the story is an excuse for most people to fight.” – Caleb
“Venom got most interesting when it wasn’t Eddie Brock, but it was Flash Thompson. How do you feel about Flash Thompson, Agent Venom?” – Caleb
“They have us working from home until October: maybe a little after that. FFG and Asmodee have been planning renovations on our building…maybe a couple of years from now…but now is the time to do it.” – Boggs
“Sometimes I’ll get ahead of myself and design a card that’s too complex for the game. A resource kicker is an example. Myself and Nate French kind of pushed that idea for example: like, this card as a cost, pay this specific resource with it. And I think Caleb has done a good job recognizing when that stuff is a little out of hand, and maybe too frustrating. I think it’s a fun design personally.” – Boggs
“The most common piece of feedback is that we needed more villains to play. We looked at other LCGs and thought player cards always make things more fun to play. But it’s also trying new encounter sets and thinking I want to try this with another deck. I think these six heroes were important but I would have liked to add another scenario or something.” – Boggs
So we thought it would be fun to release these print and play things. So it might have been Chris Gerber, head of studio…it might have been someone else…they sent out an email kind of telling us ‘we want to do this fun thing, please come up with a pitch.’ So Caleb and I thought it should be a modular set….Caleb was kind of busy at the time, so I whipped something together for that that plays off our Guardians of the Galaxy announcement, because he’s in the box and such a powerful character. So we gathered our art assets and gathered some feedback from our playtesters…it was probably the fastest product I’ve ever worked on. I don’t think the whole thing took more than…two weeks maybe? Modular sets are pretty easy to design. We looked at the meta, and lots of decks run lots of allies…leadership tends to be very powerful. Generally speaking people use allies with one hit point remaining to block an attack.” – Boggs
“Ms. Marvel’s deck, I’ve played that over 100 times, and I’m kind of biased because it fits a style I like to play…but comments from people are like ‘I don’t understand how this deck works’…I can see how it can be difficult to pilot. That’s maybe a mistake I’ve made in the past.” – Boggs
“Our feedback really on the core set…you’re supposed to be this larger-than-life hero. That’s kind of what we see in standard mode. If you pull it off it should feel good, but at the same time if you’re losing over and over in standard mode, then we didn’t do our job correctly. Expert mode is intended to be a step up from that. Some people don’t want to play games unless they’re winning. Andrew Navarro was talking to…I want to say Caleb and Nate…about how his son or daughter, how they played the very first level of Rhino, and that’s it. They wanted to win. We want to make sure people can have that experience, but if that’s not quite exciting to you, then you can play expert mode. And then there’s heroic mode.” – Boggs
“Generally speaking, we want players to be in hero form around…80% of the game. That’s our goal. Alter-ego is fun, it’s a great element for the players to have. You’re very intentionally not interacting with the villain. You can maybe play a support or upgrade or something like that. We want to make sure players are encouraged, as much as they reasonably can be, to interact with what the encounter deck is trying to do.” – Boggs
“In Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, you get the signature ally of the other. Which is neat because it unlocks their alter-ego power, as well.” -Caleb
“As a huge Captain America fan I wanted him in the base game right away. I don’t remember who it was exactly who said it should be its own pack…but I agreed to it right away. Because that was going to be the first question when people saw the lineup: ‘where’s Cap?'” – Caleb
“If we can line things up to piggyback off something like a Black Widow movie, then absolutely we will. Why wouldn’t you? If you know there’s a bid budget movie coming out…then for sure from an FFG standpoint, then let’s make sure we do that. Others are serendipitous. We included She-Hulk for reasons entirely of our own, and we find out later that she’s going to get her own show.” – Caleb
“Think like a marketing person. Hulk is going to sell on his own. So let’s save Hulk for a pack…let’s get another member of the team on there that can fulfill that role of the tank. That’s where we came up with She-Hulk [for the tank of the core set]. As for her design and power level or whatever, I read the comments…as designers we’re not going to make heroes that are as popular as the next.” – Caleb
“I think that four heroes and one villain and one campaign…that will be very common [for a cycle], but it’s not a rule: we can break it sometime.” – Boggs
“[Team-up] will be…I think at first, it will only be for special cases. But as the game grows and as time goes on…it will be become more common.” – Boggs
“The most demanded hero is Moon Knight. Probably the most demanded villain is Thanos.” – Boggs
“Caleb and I both agree that if some heroes are better in solo or better in multiplayer. Hulk is a big angry monster. So thematically if you’re playing him solo it makes sense that he’s not great at threat…I don’t think people like to lose but it kind of tells a story…but I think more Justice cards, or even more Aggression or Protection cards will give Hulk more power to play in solo.” – Boggs
“Usually I think [including more modular sets] it makes the game easier…since the game is less consistent. But, I think there are exceptions. If you play Rhino and put MODOK and Legions of Hydra in there…that’s two very hard sets. But if you play Mutagen formula and add two different encounter sets I can see them making it inconsistent. It depends but I think it usually makes things easier.” – Boggs
If a card does not say you should shuffle the deck, should you do it anyway?
“So…in the past, I made a mistake. I said before that no, you do not shuffle. But Caleb and I have talked very recently. And we decided that anytime you search, you always shuffle. We will update the rules reference eventually…to make it that you always shuffle.” – Boggs
“So we will add a rule. The identity cards only work for the hero. Whereas the ally only help themselves.” – Boggs
“We identified a weakness in the release model. Here’s your deluxe box and here’s the packs…but to get its full value you have to have that deluxe box. So if it’s out of print, people are discouraged from getting the packs. If there are six packs in a cycle, the first pack will always sell a lot more…it’s a consumer habit, people start out really excited for that first pack but they don’t really pick up that second or third pack or whatever…so it might create a chokepoint if stores are tied together.” – Caleb
“I don’t really know all of the sales numbers. The closest I got to ‘how is the game doing?’ is hearing that Marvel is happy, and Steve [Horvath – Head of Asmodee US] is happy.” – Caleb
“The campaign kind of came near the end…naturally the campaign is the last thing we do, because we had all of the scenarios done at that point. Then it was like, alright, we need to shift gears and focus in on this campaign. And come up with something evocative and interesting and fun. But I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot of time to explore and iterate. So I say I kind of cheated, as Lord of the Rings players will recognize some things here…they’re very akin to some Lord of the Rings content.” – Caleb
“Coming to the game with Lord of the Rings, that’s a lesson we already learned, scaling from one to four player. The game is going to be different, it just is. Once you focus on that you just try to make it feel good at all counts. You just want to make sure playing it one player is a lot of fun and playing it four player is a lot of fun. There’s no real science there [with exact card counts] it’s more like ‘does it feel right?’ Around 35 cards feels right. Depending on the villain’s design and what they’re about it might be appropriate to go smaller or bigger. I would need a really compelling reason to go less than 30 cards…or much higher than 40.” – Caleb
“It looks like a modular set to me. Stuff that’s campaign-specific is labeled somewhere with ‘campaign.’ So if you look at the obligations they say expert campaign set. Maybe because it’s how they’re presented, in the rules, as being mandatory for the campaign…but I see no reason why you can’t just add these to any scenario. If you’re playing the actual Hydra campaign, it probably doesn’t work. It’s not a full modular set at that point. I don’t know, play whatever you want, I guess.” – Caleb
“I understand there was a mixup whether it was Hydra Patrol or Assault [as the recommended modular set for Crossbones]. I don’t know how they ended up different on the card and rules…that drives me crazy. Those two sets were probably one set at one point, and we cut that set into two…and maybe made the change on the rules and didn’t make the change on the card.” – Caleb
“This is not an RPG LCG like Arkham is. This is an action adventure…quick adventure fighting the villain. We feel those constraints…265 cards goes quickly.” – Caleb
“That’s a lesson we learned in the box and we learned for Guardians of the Galaxy. The difference between one player and two player or even starting with three threat on a side scheme. It’s such a huge difference. Boggs said we need another lever to tweak so these numbers can be exactly what we want them to be. I don’t know if we spoiled that or not.” – Caleb
“Kang wasn’t part of our original pitch to Marvel. Neither was Red Skull. You know it was the original core set, and the first six hero packs and the first few villain packs as well. So all of that Wave 1 content was decided at the beginning. The Hydra theme wasn’t solidified until Wave 1 wrapped up and was off to production.” – Caleb
“Me and Boggs…we were talking about difficulty ratings…and we realized, we hadn’t actually assigned difficulty ratings after the core. Apparently there’s room for us to improve on consistency with difficulty ratings. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason there…and I think people probably didn’t notice that we didn’t assign difficulty ratings. It was probably a note….like Nate French or something who came in and said ‘can you please assign difficulty ratings to these.’ So that’s something we’ll have to keep an eye out for going forward.” – Caleb
“[The villainous keyword]…I gotta give props to [Boggs]. That’s something he came up with.” – Caleb
“I sure won’t say no to [a villain that’s already released coming back as a modular set]…I guess we kind of have the Taskmaster nemesis set, which is not exactly a modular set…but we also did the print and play Ronan, and we’re definitely going to see him in Guardians of the Galaxy…so it’s definitely something we can explore…when it’s the right time to do it.” – Caleb
“I was surprised to see the positive reception to the Ronan print and play set. Once again Boggs knocked it out of the park with that. He put that together really quickly. But also…yeah people have been receptive to that kind of medium, it does open up a lot of possibilities…and I hope as a team we find some way to revisit that.” – Caleb
“I think if we could go back, we wouldn’t have released so many heroes in a row before getting to campaign content there…but the good news is that the game isn’t going to have to wait that long for a new scenario again.” – Caleb
“This is something we tested…but decided was too hard. I wanted to see Madame Hydra return…like ‘where has she been all this time? Oh she’s hanging out with Red Skull.’ Well it turns out that when [the Red Skull scenario] makes you reveal side schemes every turn…that Madame Hydra gets in the way of removing threat. So if you want a challenge, I would sub out Hydra Assault and replace it with the Legions of Hydra set [in Red Skull].”
We had a similar thing with Zola…originally we were going to use the Doomsday Chair set…you know, MODOK and Zola [go together]…so originally that was the plan. But we got the feedback that ‘oh my gosh, biomechanical upgrades on these minions?’ my testers were sick of seeing biomechanical upgrades. – Caleb
“So it’s definitely a partnership between the art directors and the developers. The developers come to us with their art needs, for the narrative and for all of the scenarios. Marvel…Marvel Champions is a special case, in that our pickup pool is something the developers find on their own. We review that work to make sure that’s consistent with the game’s style.” – Garcia
“It’s never as simple as [Marvel telling us to stick with a certain look] that. For us, we adhere to one costume…we create a visual guide of that costume, then artists adhere to that visual guide.” – Garcia
“The cards that have artists credit are commissioned art pieces. Artists that worked directly with us. Cards that have a basic credit to Marvel are assets directly from Marvel.” – Garcia
“If there’s only so many heroes out, you don’t want to start releasing too many scenarios, where everyone is playing the same heroes out. It was important to get a wealth of heroes out, before we started to move out to content in terms of…encounters.” – Glover
“We worked on…the core set, Green Goblin, Wrecking Crew, Captain America, Wrecking Crew, and Thor…all of that was being worked on at the same time. “- Glover
“The very first thing that happens in the project, is the designer writes what we call a vision document. Which is basically a high level view of everything they want to do…the mechanics can even be in there, the heroes they want…the nemeses. So they write that, and it gets approved by all of the executive people at FFG. Then I send that to Marvel. And they usually send back a big thumbs up. Then after the concept and vision get approved, we start working on the art.
We read all the art briefs, then that goes to the artist. Then we see if there’s any red flags, then the art when it’s final, gets sent to Marvel, for approval. Sometimes they’ll ask questions like ‘why is this that way?'” So those comics that are in the rulebooks, for those we send them storyboards and sketches…because technically we are making Marvel comics, which is just so cool. So after that we make the game…do playtesting, that sort of stuff. Then I send final files to them….nothing will change from this point on unless they ask us to change.” – Glover
“When we decided we were going to do the folded card…because I’m a producer, part of my job is to do R&D on components. So my job was to figure out what coating….what’s the maximum coating to use on that card so it could hold up to the bending. So I sat at my desk for about two hours one day opening and closing a sample of the card…I probably opened and closed it about 1000 times.” – Glover
“I am not involved in [what countries get stock of each pack]. One of the things that’s hard…we didn’t get copies of Marvel Champions for like nine more months until we finished it. So if we aren’t copying it over from another file…we try really hard for it to not happen. So anytime we notice it, it gets a reprint change, so it will be fixed. Our international partners can catch that sometimes…when doing their translating work.” – Glover
“So [rules], that’s all Caleb and Boggs. So when people send in rules questions, they’re addressed to Caleb and Boggs, they have a whole thing they’re compiling constantly, like the questions they get asked the most. Then they go into these documents that can keep living online. When something gets printed, it’s forever…so as a result the game is always alive, people are still playing it, finding things, corner cases we didn’t find in playtesting. Keeping alive an FAQ and an online rules reference is an undertaking. Caleb and Boggs are working on two sets…at the same time…and they’re keeping up with deadlines.” – Glover
“We create everything that isn’t the character illustrations in the box in the center of the card. But sometimes we have to do some of that too. So we have an art department, and they commission artwork, and they commission artwork sometimes for the frames we already made.” – Beck
“Take that to the former head of FFG studio. I’m going to wave my own flag, toot my own horn…I fought really hard to get those little heads on those cards. I have to find some way to draw heads for this game. That was such a labor…then uh, when it was suggested that we do it for villains too it was like ‘too much work.’ But I’m already doing it!” – Beck
“I made all the little heads up until the recent ones…Ant-Man and Wasp. I did some on…I can’t talk about them yet [Guardians?]. Yes. But they got someone else to do them after that.” – Beck
“I’m going to say, I freaking pitched [comic art hero cards], and Organized Play stole it from me, and no it’s not fair (laughs)! They are organized, perfunctorily, under the marketing department. And Organized Play has always been sort of their own animal. They don’t even have to submit themselves to the same review process [as the FFG graphics department.]
Once they internally agreed upon it, they just send it to licensing, and boom, they got approval. They just had to make something different from what the core set was. They had fewer restrictions on what they had to achieve at the printer, or the factory setting.” – Beck
“Organized Play has always been able to move freely in creative space that is just barred from us. A lot of their things are manufactured by different means and are not held by the same standards as we are. So I’m jealous of a lot of that stuff. They would dip into our source files and take what they see fit.” – Olson
“I got to play Groot, and he [Boggs] played Rocket, and we played through the whole Guardians of the Galaxy campaign. Actually I think we played through it twice, we had a chance to make some edits. Then MJ had a chance to join us, and we played it three player.” – Caleb
“We have a playtest coordinator…Zach, he recruits and gets everyone with their NDAs and setup on the forums. At first, we had to recruit our own playtesters. I’m not actually not even involved with that anymore. I can forward their email to Zach. There’s actually a waitlist” – Caleb
“Often times employees at the studio would get together and play games [at lunch]. And Nate French and I would play Game of Thrones.” – Caleb
“We’re trying to keep the card design as simple as we can. We don’t want to sacrifice any [themes and emotions]. We’ve had a lot of discussions about player bandwidth. We don’t want Marvel Champions to become a game where you freeze up. And make it feel light and fun, and not a beard-stroking, takes 10 minutes to play my turn. We don’t want to turn it into those games. We have a very vocal part of our fanbase that wants more challenge, and they’re important to us too.” – Caleb
“We’re leaning more into the modular sets. With Kang, there, we tried to give our diehard fans something to chew on…like the Anachronauts. It’s not difficult to design harder cards. You just pump up the numbers…and create new effects. Could you imagine if every scenario was that level of intensity? It would kill the game.” – Caleb
“[Hulk]…asking me if I should think about fixing it….I disagree. Everyone has their own expectation. Hulk is exactly what we wanted him to be. Maybe Hulk wasn’t designed just for your playstyle. With Hulk in particular, he was the character that appealed to young people and wanted to punch bad guys in the face. He has some really insane stats on his card. He starts with 18 hitpoints, which is twice as many as Hawkeye. People just don’t get excited about hitpoints, but that’s a huge part of his design. And with three defense, he can stay on the field for a long time, without having to flip back. Hulk’s penalty really isn’t that much of a penalty except when you get a bad draw. Most of the complaints that I see is that he could have been more complex and dynamic. But the Hulk we wanted to make was the one the kid would get excited to play.” – Caleb
“Boggs made this point…if I can defend every turn, and ready every turn, then Protection is just as good at thwarting as Justice is. And I said what do you mean. And he said well the villain is never putting threat on the scheme to begin with. Holy smokes, you’re absolutely right. The threat isn’t going up. So Hulk doesn’t need to thwart the way other heroes do. He can just stay in hero form twice as long as every other hero. He can just camp out. That’s such a different way of thinking about the game, like ‘I need to remove threat.'” – Caleb
“I created a document at the beginning of the game, with all the heroes we want to do in the first four years. We’re not bound to it. We submit it to our executives for approval. How do we choose? We thought that through already. You can tell [the MCU] has a plan.” – Caleb
“For heroes I still love Captain America. For the encounters it’s probably Kang, because the reception was so positive. A close second to me was Red Skull” – Caleb
“I was really happy with the feedback we got with the Rise of Red Skull. It was really positive and a huge relief. Maybe I was surprised that a significant number of people thought it was easy.” – Caleb
“Having Ant-Man and Wasp force us into that direction [three sided cards]…out of the four heroes, Quicksilver has interesting things he can do, but he isn’t that complex. And Scarlet Witch is so chaotic. Really the intention was to make her feel like Scarlet Witch.” – Boggs
“When I play Wasp sometimes I don’t change form that often. Sometimes I’ll change form and stay in that form for the rest of the game.” – Boggs
“Kang was supposed to be fully playable solo as well. There’s a unique element when you play solo. I’ve been happy with the reception to the pack.” – Caleb
“I think that really since Green Goblin we wanted to make each modular set have a reason to be included. Like the aspect reinforce the heroes the modular sets reinforce the villains. Going forward…we want there to be an extra puzzle to solve in the game.” – Boggs
“I don’t think I saw their full value…for people to be as excited as they are…to trade sets. Boggs picked up on this…put modular sets wherever we can. I anticipated the wrong thing…players customizing their own decks.” – Caleb
“Could we add modular sets to Wrecking Crew? Maybe in theory, but it would be so clunky. It’s strong enough on its own. So people enjoyed the scenario, but missed being able to customize it. We probably won’t do any more scenarios like that in the future.” – Caleb
“So I think for Guardians specifically when I design modular sets I design scenarios as a whole, but think about what can I take out to keep the identity…those minion-heavy modular sets, at the same time they work really well with those scenarios. I think most have…six to nine roughly?” – Boggs
“As we go forward we’ll see team-ups that play with different things…Rocket and Groot was kind of the start of it. We want that card to feel like them [teaming up].” – Boggs
“Boggs and I have talked about this…designing the aspect cards is…not to say it’s a negative experience, but hero cards they’re the most exciting but they’re also the most self-contained. We don’t have to think about how they impact the card pool. Aspect cards go into the card pool and they’re there forever. We have to be a lot more deliberate. We’re always looking for new ways to innovative without doing the same things over and over. I can’t talk about future product…but Boggs is…debuting some real wicked stuff.” – Caleb
“It became necessary for each of us to drive a certain part of the game. So we didn’t have as much time as we want for collaboration. I create an aspect card and it’s like…the testers say hey, this is like a card Boggs designed.” – Caleb
“I think the real answer to that question [X-Men being in the game, and Warlock and Serval Industries] it goes into contract and legal stuff…it goes into restrictions in the backend. [Again] No one wants X-Men in Marvel Champions more than I do.” – Caleb
I know that some of the testers test stuff by themselves. But our testers are amazing, and some people play it two-handed, or three-handed, or four-handed. And testing…was a little more focused, because people were home. When I’m by myself…sometimes I knock out a two-hander or a solo game.” – Boggs
“It is egregious. The idea that somehow…we don’t develop the game for solo, or test the game for solo…I just want to say that is completely inaccurate. The game is always developed for player counts of one through four. And the solo experience is never intended to be inferior or this other thing. It’s always been intended to be the core of the game. That might not fix all of the issues that people have with it. For some reason I see a lot of people talking about it with confidence, that we know the developers don’t design for solo or test for solo. I’ll test solo. I’ll grab Captain America, he’s my favorite, and I’ll see how Cap handles it.” – Caleb
“Hulk went through a couple different iterations. Ms. Marvel had a few. Most of the other heroes like…Scarlet Witch, Wasp, the Guardians. Hulk went through the most iteration.” – Boggs
“Anytime I hear people talk about Hulk, I know what their playstyle is…based on their opinion of Hulk. People that want complexity, a few more decision points, they tend to be more sour. People that just want to smash things…they seem to really enjoy playing Hulk. With a game as large as Marvel…we’re going to try our best to cater to all players. Which means…one group is going to be disappointed and another group loves it. I think we found the audience we’re looking for. The hand size of four is a drawback…and it’s kind of up for debate whether 18 hitpoints and 3 ATK and 3 DEF is enough. It depends on your playstyle. It’s something to keep an eye on.” – Caleb
“Going forward people are going to see heroes with four hand size. Some values and some aspects of the game that I thought were. Some mechanics that I thought were a certain power level…were not as powerful as I thought they were, and maybe more powerful. Hulk contributed to that, and other heroes contributed to that. I think we have a greater understanding…of four hand size heroes, how they’re limited. Like oh I don’t have a lot of cards but I can do all these other things.” – Boggs
“99% of the time we’re free to pitch our vision. Once we get the greenlight, there’s not a lot of mandates…certainly not what trait to put on someone. Who knows maybe we’ll be able to circle back and do Hank Pym and Janet.” – Caleb
“Generally speaking we tend to think of as aggression and justice….as attacking and moving threat. We’ll pair them up when they need an easier [hero] focus. Over time they’ll get to the point where they’re equal…it’s tough to say which one is at which power level right now, but after Guardians they’ll be roughly the same level.” – Boggs
“Over time I have looked for more and more ways to make players decide a little more intentionally if they’re going to use the ally with their last hitpoint or chump block with it. Sometimes it comes across in scenario design. Like I could chump block but there might be a boost or something.” – Boggs
“I sort of see [Red Skull] as a foundation. Then [go more complex]. That’s in my mind what the Guardians box does…doing different things. We wanted to make sure the players use their ship. Like what if you could upgrade your ship over time. Or yourself over time.” – Boggs
“Those are original scripts [the comics]. We establish the story at the vision stage then write the scripts later. We give that to the art department and they make it, not unlike Marvel does. I was down on a comment talking about the quality of the comic. You know that’s free content.” – Caleb
“Originally the Milano was a pseudo ally in its own way. It had hitpoints, it could be attacked. But it took the focus away from the hero and villain battle. We eventually decided to keep it simple. Toward the end of development we rolled it into its Ship Command set, and it can be used against…Rhino, or whatever you want to use it against.” – Boggs
“Collector was originally one scenario. We pitched a box with four villains. We felt the box as a whole…campaign boxes don’t need to follow a specific mold. Originally you need to sneak in, see that the Power Stone wasn’t there, and then sneak back out. And I think it was Jeremy Zwirn, who was like, what if you split the Collector into two?” – Boggs
“I personally think [the Collector 1 response] is a good thing. To me it’s a good sign when people are discussing strategies. It helps build that sense of community.” – Boggs
“I remember early on, I believe it was Nate talking about having overkill in the game. That always stuck with me. When the Guardians box came out it was time to break established patterns.” – Boggs
“He has Drax’s knife and Drax’s other knife.” – Caleb
“During testing the feedback was varied. Some people were frustrated by the collection some weren’t. Some liked Collector 2, some just wanted to punch the villain in the face.” – Boggs
“Each hero has their strengths and weaknesses. From what I can recall they do pretty well against [Galaxy’s Most Wanted]. Some scenarios are better for some heroes than others. But our goal is to always keep a scenario within reach of pretty much every single hero. Some heroes will excel, others will have a hard time. But pretty much every hero has a chance at beating a scenario. Those older heroes can still stand up to it.” -Boggs
“They’ve all got different strengths and weaknesses. I would say [my favorite] comes down to Star Lord, Drax, or maybe Venom.” – Boggs
If I had to switch things up, Groot in Justice works well…maybe Groot in Aggression. Rocket I think he’s not the best in Protection but he does well in Justice for the most part. And in Leadership too I have a lot of fun with Rocket. -Boggs
“There are situations where a specific mechanic doesn’t speak to a hero’s story. Gamora is a good example. When we looked at Gamora originally, we wanted to focus on her martial prowess. We tried a couple different iterations.” – Boggs
“The nemesis selection process, it depends on the hero we focus on. I think it’s great to break up the pace. We also tend to pick [them] that don’t interfere too much with upcoming scenarios. Taskmaster and Black Widow and Red Skull…was almost an exception to the rule. We also don’t want to use these huge big name characters.” – Boggs
“I would say probably my favorite but also the most challenging one is Nebula. To get that to work within the encounter deck was really tricky. We flirted with the idea of a set-aside deck in Red Skull…and it’s always nice to have things be more condensed if you can. She took a little big to operate in the manner that she needed to. I like the surprises she can throw at you. I don’t want to necessarily be able to math things out.” – Boggs
“Sort of the two element dynamic that can be found in four of the five scenarios. A lot of that came from how the Milano worked. I had different ideas, Caleb had different ideas. It almost worked like a character…if it got destroyed you lost. We played it that way and it eventually became one of those things where you could very easily math it out. It wasn’t as engaging. One was if it had a certain amount of damage you could repair it, and bring it back…I think Caleb suggested just make the Milano, make it simple, just give you a resource.” – Boggs
“For this box the idea was to make the villain the threat, and end the game sooner than you intend to. I think Collector 2 highlights that much better than the other scenarios. The others are meant to nudge you in that direction, at least a little. Ronan hits hard, he has a lot of stuff that he throws at you. Staying in the game too long can be your death sentence. It’s always a race to see who is going to defeat the other first. The Guardians box highlights that a little more.” – Boggs
“The raise of difficulty was intentional. There was this idea that the modular sets…that you could swap in another set. I was surprised…to see that a lot of players didn’t want to do that. I’ve seen a lot of comments over the last month or two that it’s not as thematic, and it’s almost cheating in some way…which is valid feedback.” – Boggs
“I think that when GMW was being developed, it was quite a while ago. We had a focus that was more directed at 2-3 player. We still test at 1 and 4…but 2-3 was our intended audience. As we go forward…into the next few waves and cycles, that will change over time. Single player it’s a very challenging box, with more [icons].” Four player can slow the game down a bit. Our focus was on 2-3 player for this box.- Boggs
“Ronan has given a lot of people headaches. I’ve also seen people say ‘I like the challenge, it’s fun for me.’ I talked to Caleb and said I wanted to introduce a change to Ronan that brought his power down in the campaign if they wanted it. It was that side scheme, more than any other campaign side scheme, that was made for the boss to feel like a big bad.” – Boggs
“When you play a campaign you choose if you want to have a normal or expert campaign. Each time you start a scenario you can decide which mode of play you want to play…standard…expert…heroic. If you’re playing in campaign mode, the campaign side scheme depends on the individual mode. I’m playing an expert campaign, but I’m playing standard Drang, I will use the standard challenge side scheme. If I go on to Collector and I say I want more of a challenge, and play him on expert mode, I’ll flip the Collector’s side scheme to the expert side. You keep that type of campaign until the very end.” – Boggs
“That was one of those things that came up…toward the end of testing [not being able to change your deck in the expert campaign]. I think it came from Caleb, actually. Caleb suggested it and it was an interesting idea, and it got good feedback. If you really hate that rule it’s not a big deal, if you change your deck.” – Boggs
“I stayed on top of all of the feedback. I know this was a bit more polarizing than I hoped it was going to be…but overall as the game continues on that people will return to this wave and achieve things they didn’t before.” – Boggs
“[A new challenge], Let’s say…Nebula…expert and heroic 1 Nebula, with the Electro mod.” – Boggs
“I lived in South Korea and started working in independent design. Working in South Korea it was easy to find foreigners from all over the world. And Thursday night we would have board game meetups. We had a smaller group…but also a larger outlying group. That kind of grew very quickly. To the point where we might have 10-20 people each night bringing their own stuff and having their stuff playtested.
Through that excitement and passion I was lucky enough to land a job with Fantasy Flight Games. I saw the job and applied. Originally I worked on Android Netrunner, worked on that for about a year or so, eventually that game came to a close. I helped with a few things…KeyForge, Legend of the Five Rings, Arkham Horror.” – Boggs
“I didn’t actually have much experience with co-op games before. The only co-op game I had played previously was Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy. I think a co-op card game is quite different…to board games. A competitive game you have to be so laser-focused on not only the balance of each card, but how it impacts the whole pool as a whole. A co-op game that becomes much less of a focus, a lot of the times you want to tell a story.
At the end of the day you aren’t worried about the entire card pool. I had Caleb Grace to help me, he’s been working on Lord of the Rings…for the last eight or nine years. I think, especially…Caleb was the lead on the products for early in the game’s life cycle.
Early we wanted to keep the challenge and complexity a lot lower…we agreed to increase the complexity…over time. Now we’re getting to the point where…there’s a community to jump into for questions.” – Boggs
“During the development of Galaxy’s Most Wanted the resounding feedback we got was the game was too easy, make it more of a challenge. Obviously that’s not going to be shared with every single person. Galaxy’s Most Wanted was designed with having the mods be more swappable…that’s something a lot of people are too resistant to. That hasn’t quite panned out the way I expected it to.” – Boggs
“It is a group effort (which heroes to pick). But it’s also a discussion with management. For Agent Venom…we talked about a couple characters that could go in that slot. Galactic characters. We had a few pitches, ultimately Agent Venom was picked…but Andrew Navaro.” – Boggs
“The Mad Titan wave sort of ties together the first wave, which is very Avengers focused, and the Guardians wave. We have Nebula with Warmachine. Adam Warlock with Vision. It takes those previous product waves and combines them.” – Boggs
“Maybe Adam Warlock. I didn’t know him…I had to read a couple of comics when Caleb was working on the box. My mom didn’t want to buy me comics growing up. I always followed Marvel through…all of the TV shows, and the video games. I can read hundreds of comics now…Marvel Unlimited…is the quickest way for me, I have a membership with the studio” – Boggs
“That’s very much the balance we’re trying to strike. Anyone who has grown up with the comics and has been a lifelong fan, we hope to pull enough obscure characters to keep their attention…but if you haven’t, if you only saw the movies or played the video games like myself…we try to keep it as broad as we’re able.” – Boggs
“Ms. Marvel…there was one time where I was working an eight hour day…seven hours of that was reading Ms. Marvel comics.” – Boggs
“There are times…we’d love to have more female characters than male characters, and people of color…but there’s times where they won’t fit with the theme.” – Boggs
“Looking for Trouble…it went through a couple of iterations…we eventually decided on the version it is now because it’s useful in the aggression pool to remove threat. But also because it was an effect that was sort of iconic to Thor, but by introducing it to the aspect pool, we could let other characters, specifically Rocket, do other things…and have a card that worked with a mechanic they were familiar with. We try to keep the cardpool as streamlined as possible. We felt like Thor didn’t lose his identity.” – Boggs
“Creating effects that sort of overlap in their functionality makes the character that already does that so much better at it…also it keeps the card pool simpler overall.” – Boggs
“I played Arkham quite a bit at this point, a couple summers back I had an LCG phase…Lord of the Rings less so, I played maybe eight or nine games in total. I don’t quite have time…and Arkham was sort of the new hotness before Marvel. Every now and then Jeremy Zwirn…he’ll pull out Lord of the Rings and I played with him a few times. Whenever I play Arkham I sort of take whichever character…I like the Guardian class, the Rouge class is fun too. I’m here to support whoever.” – Boggs
“For a long time my favorite game was Android: Netrunner. One of the games I’m always excited to return to is 7 Wonders: Duel.” – Boggs
“That’s one of the things I really liked about the Marvel Champions design, was the modularity of the deck. Earlier on we were monkeying around with that more than we ended up monkeying with it in the end. But you could always go, you could make whatever crazy villain deck you want in that game. And I really liked that. When there wasn’t a whole lot of content in the beginning, Team Covenant was like, let’s try mashing these things together. Earthborne Rangers is like that too, it’s very modular.” – Navaro
“The world is in a crazy place, shipping and deliveries are delayed all over. What I can tell you is that the goal is to still get Mad Titan out by the end of this year.” – Josh
“Mighty Avengers is a really exciting support card in the leadership aspect. What makes it exciting is that it’s the first team support card, it’s a subgenre we’ve been looking to explore in the game. Looking forward to doing more.” – Caleb
“Starhawk was a fun one. He was originally designed by Aaron Haltom…it’s one of those I wouldn’t really thought of. It’s a card I put in a lot of my protection decks.” – Boggs
“This [Living Tribunal] is going to replace your encounter card reveal on your turn…we were just trying to think of a thematically appropriate way to represent…the Living Tribunal…we represented that in the way that it shows up whenever it feels like showing up. And it might get discarded as…a dead boost. It has a player card back on purpose, this is a casual game, you can see the player card coming that’s OK, if you want you can sleeve it you can…we did not have the room…for [making it an encounter card]. Since this is my player card this will go to my discard pile. if it comes up as a boost, it’ll go to the discard pile.” – Caleb
“We wanted Justice to add another effect to their repertoire of effects [Making an Entrance]. The iterations that we went through I think they were a little more straightforward…remove threat from a scheme, and if you do it’s a bonus. Now if you can remove threat and heal.” – Boggs
“This was a character I didn’t know about until I read the Mighty Avengers comics. He’s basically a really powerful guy who’s been around a long time, and everyone’s really surprised like why didn’t we know you were here? He’s an absolute genius and really powerful, and he and Spectrum kind of form a relationship in the comic. Spectrum’s powers overloaded and she’s unable to regain control and Blue Marvel works his magic. That’s why I wanted him to have his ability to change forms.” – Caleb
“The way it’s intended is she has three energy forms, they all start in play facedown. When you change into hero you choose one to flip one. When you change forms you take the one you have and turn it facedown, and turn the next one faceup, so you’re constantly moving between the three.” – Caleb
“I think Boggs actually helped me come up with this one [Shawarma]. I had the five scenarios kinda designed and outlined, but I wasn’t really sure what to do with the campaign. Each scenario would kind of had an encounter side scheme that would be put into play that would ratchet up the tension in campaign mode. But on the flipside it could be a chance to gain a reward or a power-up. You’re in New York City, Avengers Tower is under attack.” – Caleb
“This Cosmo went through a couple different iterations. We wanted to represent his…psychic abilities. One suggestion was naming a card type. I’ve always had a lot of fun with this card, it was one that came about through playtesting. You can target decks…that are not the encounter deck…you can target Red Skull’s side scheme deck…you’d be successful every time. Some scenarios might give Cosmo quite a bit of consistency. If you don’t like that effect you can just choose your player deck or the encounter deck.” – Boggs
“That was something that Nate French actually requested…could we have a moment that felt like the snap. It made some waves in the playtester group, just about everyone loved it.” – Caleb
“My favorite modular set in The Hood? State of emergency? City emergency? It’s a modular set that has many side schemes, and they have when revealed effects, and I believe there’s two or three copies of a treachery, to resolve all of the side scheme when revealed effects in play.” – Boggs
“So that was something that came up in conversation in the studio in playtesting, ultimately we based our version off the comic book itself and as much as we love the movies…we did talk about dance battle quite a bit.” – Boggs
“The answer is…well there’s this whole story behind it. The original plan was pretty straightforward, Thanos was the final villain. When we presented that to the executives…the feeling was that it was a bit predictable. Can you do something unexpected, something that fans won’t see coming? We had a good conversation about that…everyone wants to see Thanos for sure. I think of the box this way. Instead of being a steady climb to the top…I actually think of this like a roller coaster ride.” – Caleb
“No…not necessarily [were these boxes designed with standard 2 in mind]. That started…toward the end of MTS development? So we were already finished with GMW and were well on our way with MTS. We knew in The Hood scenario with all these modular sets we wanted to offer new difficulty, but we weren’t necessarily designing these two in conjunction. Going forward the standard set is accessible. We will continue testing with just the normal one going forward…predominately going forward.” – Boggs
“We ended up going with Agent Venom because we had the GMW box and the Guardians team. Flash Thompson joined the Guardians at some point. We wanted another character who focused on weapons, and you have the five staple Guardians everyone is aware of, but we wanted to pick a sixth character to encourage people to look into the comics. I personally didn’t know Venom joined the Guardians.” – Boggs
“I feel like the more we delve into the lore of this game the more we come across these iconic heroes and villains and the pressure kind of mounts as our community grows. Like where’s my favorite hero? There’s absolutely pressure. It’s great to have a co-worker like Boggs and other people in my department to talk to about it.
Through our teamwork…we just help each other focus on the upsides and opportunities we have to do something fun and exciting with these hotly anticipated characters, and we’re good sounding boards for each other, like hey this is really cool, this is absolutely what I want to see. We get one shot at a Thanos scenario, we want to make sure it lives up to the hype, so it’s great to have a sounding board like Boggs. Thanos is very powerful but our focus was on fun, not necessarily difficulty” – Caleb
“We have so many heroes to do, Caleb kinda commented on that before. There are hundreds of thousands of heroes…we want to focus on new heroes. To stay thematically sound…I don’t think it’s impossible that we might ever do a different version of a hero.” – Boggs
“[Will Mad Titan’s Shadow close out the Infinity Stone arc?] Yes.” – Caleb
“That must have been almost two years ago [playtesting Galaxy’s Most Wanted” – Caleb
“The technical reading of the rules, you can’t [play Nebula versus Nebula]. If you really want to do that, you can do that.” – Boggs
“They sat down with the head of studio, and came up with…the [vague] stories they wanted to come up with. So we started thinking of them in these, these trilogies. So Rise of Red Skull and then the Guardians and then Mad Titan’s Shadow, and that’s the trilogy. And then Sinister Motives, and that takes us into the Spider-Verse…it’s almost felt prescient to me it’s like we were working on Sinister Motives when the Spider-Verse movie comes out, it’s like…we’re working on this. I don’t know if there’s conversations with Marvel where some of that information is given…not to me, so maybe they did have a little bit of foreknowledge. It’s been mostly Caleb and Boggs, some Nate, now some Tony, figuring out the best story.” – Glover
“There’s a lot of people involved, but….people have pretty clearly defined roles. Sometimes we hit some bumps and snags, but overall we’re a pretty well-oiled machine. Especially a few years in…Rise of Red Skull was our first story box…so since then we’ve had a lot more practice. So we’re always learning as we try and go and improve. It was a big adjustment [the pandemic]. At first I didn’t have software at my house. I was asking Boggs to enter things in the database for me, I didn’t have internet access, I had to setup a VPN and all that stuff. As far as the other card game lines, I used to know what was going on, but now I don’t. Yes, I am [still working remote].” – Caleb
“Traditionally me and Boggs [come up with ideas]. And we’ve added another person to the design team. And our producer Molly is a huge comic fan…we started inviting her…and that’s typically going to be it, sometimes. Sometimes a manager or someone at the executive level might want to join. So for the most part we know…if we know the next thing want to do is this…it’s just going to be the designers and the producer, we’re going to brainstorm who is going to be the villains in the box, what’s going to be the overarching story, who are going to be the heroes in this wave. Sinister Motives…that was almost all Boggs. We have this kind of leapfrog pattern…and uh, and I was really busy working on something else at that time. I got kind of caught up in what I was doing. Inevitably [the leap frog concept will change after adding a new designer]…it’s going to [change]. I’m excited to see what this new team member will do once they get their chance to lead. There might be a hero pack in the Sinister Motives wave that MJ helped design. MJ was a driving force for why we had this particular hero. I am very excited for everyone to open the next campaign box after Sinister Motives. I wish I could be in the room with you once you get the news…Sinister Motives is amazing.” – Caleb
“Quite possibly [we can expect another big story arc]…I can’t say too much…that [Mad Titan’s Shadow] was something I was pitching…once the game started to take shape, there was almost a meta conversation, like how do we approach this game? Where we finish a wave and say ‘what should we do next?’ I’m a big fan of the comics but also the movies, and they’re very much conceived by phases. You mean Loki and Hela? Yeah I felt like that was more of a group decision, so maybe she [Molly] was being generous [crediting the Loki and Hela secret to me]. She’s definitely not twisting the story. I think that was something everyone was keen…we’ll discuss something in one meeting but maybe someone really important, like the art director, couldn’t make it to that meeting…it felt like everyone was on board with trying to keep it a secret. I have to credit Andrew Navaro…not specifically for Loki and Hela, but for coming up with the secret.” – Caleb
“I had a lot of fun working on [Hela]. My Lord of the Rings roots were poking through. I miss going on quests…it was sort of the heroes driving the stories as they were progressing through the quest, whereas with Marvel Champions it was sort of the reverse with the villains driving the story by completing their schemes. So it was fun turning that on its head a little bit. I’m pretty confident you’re going to see more of those. I can’t say they’ll look exactly like Hela. There is keyword boat at a certain point, where people get intimidated to pick up a game…it’s a little different on the scenario side, it can be contained. For us it starts on the thematic angle.” – Caleb
“I think power creep is a bad thing in the way it’s used…in a negative connotation. No one ever talks about power creep in a positive sense. In any game…I play Marvel Strike Force, the mobile game and I’m in a team with that…every time there’s a new hero people say have you seen the power creep on this one? It’s never a positive thing. It’s such a subjective issue.
It’s a truly subjective issue, like when people say this card is OP. Those are my favorite comments, they clearly don’t playtest this, this is just OP. We spend a lot of time playtesting…we definitely keep an eye on power level, but like I said it is subjective, and one thing to keep in mind…is that no matter how robust your playtest group, there’s just no way that a small number of people in a six month period of time is going to break into a card pool that thousands of people will in a year or more. There’s always going to be stuff that slips through.
Some realities of power creep…the larger a card pool gets, the better every card gets…everything is getting more powerful with every new player card we put out there. Marvel is…every product is an extra point.” – Caleb
“It really depends on hero to hero [what goes into the pack]. We have some general practices…we’d get comfortable with the idea of reprints. It didn’t make sense to reinvent genius, energy, and strength for every pack, that would be tedious. At the same time we try to be very respectful…people are buying these packs for the new content…we really want to just make a great experience out of the pack, and sometimes that necessitates a reprint…but for the most part we’re trying to focus on new cards.
Even in the department there’s opinions on what is the right amount of reprints, and how often to use them. And I think that’s a good thing, if we were always agreeing on them we might have a blind spot. I believe those two [endurance and downtime reprints] are coming in the not-too-distant future. A campaign box and a wave of hero packs takes a lot of time…so we don’t have a lot of time to do scenario packs. A non-Marvel villain…from anywhere [to put into the game]? I like Darth Vader.”” – Caleb
“It’s as much art as it is science [difficulty]. There’s things we can do objectively to balance those, and there’s things that are open to interpretation. You just have to hope whatever it is you’re making that you’re passionate about connects with your audience. I’m happy that Mad Titan’s Shadow connects, but we didn’t radically change anything between any of our story boxes…the process was pretty much the same for all three of them. There was definitely not a shift were like oh that last one was too difficult so we’re going to make this one easier. Once GMW came out and we saw those comments it definitely started conversations, but MTS was already done by that point.” – Caleb
“Boggs wanted to do a set all about modulars…and I said The Hood, he’d be a great villain for that. That was my only contribution. With Lord of the Rings it was like, let’s be respectful to the IP. But with Marvel it’s all about doing crazy stuff. There was a comic book where there was a venom T-Rex. I think it was Old Man Hawkeye, and there was a legit Venomized T-Rex. At first the Infinity Gauntlet was just going to be in Thanos, and I was like why limit that.” – Caleb
“For the most part we take turns taking leads on different cycles, as you call them, and this [MTS] was my turn taking lead. That’s actually a complex….question and answer. While I’m lead on it every product we do, everyone signs off on it. Very early on before we finished the core set we were asked to come up with a line plan…for where we wanted to go with the first several waves of the game…but everyone signed off.
In this particular case Andrew Navaro was still the studio head…and was concerned that it was a couple years after the movie, and no one would care about Thanos. In Andrew’s defense, my original idea was to fight your way to Thanos through the Black Order…almost like a video game. I’m really satisfied with how it turned out. It gets heated sometimes [discussions]. Where people disagree with the boss.” – Caleb
“That’s like saying who’s your favorite child [what’s your favorite MTS scenario]. The first one definitely isn’t my favorite. The first villain is almost always going to be the easiest in the box…people might skip Rhino and go straight into Mad Titan’s Shadow. As a result the first is almost never going to be my favorite. And it’s almost never going to be the last one, because that’s the one we want to make the most difficult.
I really really like the Tower Defense scenario…I like the relationship between the two villains…the whole different loss condition. Thanos has gotta be up there because it’s Thanos. That was a Nate French request [snapping half the deck]. I think Hela…for its uniqueness…that Lord of the Rings approach…it has the most story. The reception to that one has been through the roof.” – Caleb
“I just thought of it now, how you don’t get to see Thanos brooding in a prison cell. Those comics are so small we can’t fit that in…we’ll see, hopefully the game is around that long…where we can pick up those loose threads.” – Caleb
“It was really Nate French that led that initiative. We knew on the hero side that each hero would have their 15 kit…then on the encounter side it was trying to learn every lesson we could from Lord of the Rings and Arkham. With Lord of the Rings and Arkham it’s a different one. The IP allows us to do stuff that we couldn’t do in other LCGs.
This idea of customizable encounter decks goes all the way back to the origins of the Lord of the Rings card game…that idea was a little too revolutionary at times…it was shot down. And Nate’s like here’s this thing I always wanted to do [with Marvel]. I wasn’t sure how many people would be interested in. I think Boggs saw the potential a little bit before I did. The Infinity Gauntlet is where I crossed that finish line. I thank my co-workers for helping me to get to that place.” – Caleb
“I think one of my favorite elements of Champions that I’d love to see in Lord of the Rings is that they really respond…they scheme in alter-ego. They feel more living and breathing as a result.” – Caleb
“The ally limit grew out of Lord of the Rings. That’s not a weakness…that is a fellowship game. With Marvel we knew it needed to be centered around the hero. One hero card wasn’t enough…we decided early on that it was going to be a kit. It’s going to be a theme…but lower the barrier of entry with new players.” – Caleb
“That’s a very deliberate thing we try to do with every wave of the game [do one of each aspect in a cycle]. So if someone really enjoys Leadership they don’t feel jealous, like Aggression has so many more cards than I do. War Machine is a long time Avenger, he’s been a leader several times, he’s an officer, we’ll make him Leadership so Valkyrie can be Aggression.” – Caleb
“It really depends, one of the goals of this wave was to be the capstone…War Machine allowed us to include some Avenger allies. We already have all the Avengers we really wanted to see by now. And I gotta say I don’t know if he’ll hear it, but my good buddy Tim Garret [sic] is a big fan of Machine Man, and [wanted to get him in]. I mentioned I was asked as a tentative line plan. We have not reached the end of that outline.” – Caleb
“Connection to the MCU and Disney+, that’s absolutely a consideration. Of course we want to piggyback off that. We’re absolutely going to be aware, but I want to dispel any myths…the secrecy on those projects is next level. There’s been a few characters we’re putting forward and people were like who is that? And then six months later Disney will announce this character is getting its own show. It’s more what do we want to do with the line at the time. Steve Horvath [ANA] said make sure you make Captain America really good. I like coming up with the hero first…then designing around that hero. It’s not out of the question doing it the other way.” – Caleb
“I think in the end almost every time…it pushes you to be a better designer. There’s something called low hanging fruit…it doesn’t mean they’re bad, but they get used up all the way. Sometimes it can inspire our best work…to differentiate them. From the beginning it has gone this way, on a whole your hero cards are the most powerful. Next come the aspect cards. Basic cards tend to be the lowest on the power curve.” – Caleb
“I’ve gotten a lot better at [MMA]…no I’m kidding, it comes down to our leapfrog strategy [who gets first pick between me and Boggs on heroes]. When Boggs is lead on something like Galaxy’s Most Wanted, it’s his pick, and I defer to him, because he’s lead on that. I can’t recall a time where it’s been like that…this week I can’t tell you about this product, but Boggs said if you’re not too attached to this hero I’d like to do it.” – Caleb
“[What’s your favorite aspect?] I like Leadership.” – Caleb
“Adam Warlock and War Machine [are my favorites of the wave].” – Caleb
“War Machine nemesis Living Laser [was the toughest nemesis to design in this wave. Just because sometimes a hero doesn’t have an obvious nemesis so we have to stretch a bit.” – Caleb
“Adam Warlock [I’d love to have lunch with from this wave].” – Caleb
“FFG is like a big ship, it doesn’t turn on a dime. I’m sure eventually we’ll figure out more [team-up cards]. Who doesn’t want to see Iron Man bounce a laser off of Captain America’s shield. The sky is the limit. My favorite one that’s out right now is Flora and Fauna. Playing Galaxy’s Most Wanted with Boggs…every time we played Flora and Fauna it was so clutch for whatever scenario we were in.” – Caleb
“I think right now one of the hardest things about being lead design is people waiting patiently for their favorite hero. I generally sympathize. Like there’s a lot of Daredevil fans out there who are disappointed with every release we put out…I personally love Daredevil. It’s tough, we want to get to all of them…we want this game to go on for a really long time. For every person dying for Daredevil there’s 100 people dying for X-Men.” – Caleb
“We [wanted] to make sure after the core set that there’s no single product you need. We didn’t want to put any hurdles into the game. I know that it’s a wide spectrum of people we’re trying to appeal to…I just wish [advanced players] would quit hating on them. I pretty much only play prebuilt decks.” – Caleb
“[If I had to propose a two week challenge from the MTS cycle for the community?]…The Hood recruiting the Black Order to his underground gang [with their two mods].” – Caleb
“The way things are currently setup is that if someone has a rules question they can go to our FFG website…that question gets filtered to the developers. It used to go into our work email…and the sheer volume of our Marvel questions got to be so much that we asked the IT department, can you setup a separate email account for Marvel Champions questions. That method hasn’t changed in over a decade…since I started working on FFG.
The questions have gone from maybe one here or there to a constant stream. As a studio we’re reviewing that whole process…it’s not just Marvel Champions, it’s Arkham Horror…[as for the top three questions topic posed by the interviewer, where we can post what the top three answers are every month] that is something we’re reviewing right now. I was so encouraged with the responsiveness.. Everyone wants their customers to have a good experience, I feel confident that this will be resolved soon. The one thing I’m confident of is that there will be improvements.” – Caleb
“Rocket was primarily Aaron Haltom…a good 80% him.” – Boggs
“Jim [Cartwright] and Jeremy Zwirn [championed the achievement list].” – Boggs
“It’s above my paygrade. But one of the things they’re exploring is how they can adjust the release cadence. Like maybe once every month is more than enough for somebody, but I think there was some discussion with two packs every two months or something. It’s not going to change our workflow.” Caleb
“At that point I was pretty much onto Marvel Champions and it was on to other people…I did asked to get involved some more when other people got real busy. The launch of Marvel Champions was a very hectic time for me…and everyone involved. But eventually we figured out the correct rhythm and cadence for that line…I said good news, Boggs and I are pretty ahead at this time, so I could take even as long as a month…for Lord of the Rings.” -Caleb
“[Is there a way for Peter Parker to be a web warrior?] I urge players to be patient because there will be an answer for that in the card pool.” – Boggs
“[Can you use Helicarrier to get around the new requirement keyword?] You still have to pay all requirements” – Boggs
“[Web warriors and the champions, and shield are all in this wave. What’s behind the decision to do that with Miles?] We wanted to explore Shield for a while, and we did it with Black Widow…but we never had a great slot to put it in and we talked about a few characters like War Machine as well. And with Miles and a relationship with Nick Fury….he’s obviously in Justice…it just felt like we had the space to do it and why not, we wanted to do it for a long time.” – Boggs
[How did feedback impact this box?] “Rise of Red Skull was out by then…we finished this…in 2020 [mid-summer 2020 is when we wrapped]. Almost two years ago. The feedback we incorporated was…Red Skull was received well but it was intended to be a box that was very introductory…the campaign was almost barebones, intentionally so [we expanded that].” – Boggs
“[Gwen’s] obligation is a weird one because sometimes it’s actually good.” – Boggs
[What abilities characters and locations didn’t make the cut for Miles/Gwen?] “I think for the most part we were able to solidify their personas and strong family relations. Miles early on we decided with his dad who has a connection to SHIELD. Gwen’s father plays a big role…those came in really easy, I can’t think of any locations.
Mechanically Gwen went through a lot of iterations, and readying from the response/interrupt we settled on. I think she had a card draw on the interrupt…Miles was the same way…it took al little bit of time.” – Boggs
[What is the Sinister Motives release date?] “It’s incredibly soon. Depending on logistics and your local markets. The official release date is April 8 [US].” – Josh
Sometimes it’s hard to discuss things like this in public because a design decision is always made by *someone*, and oftentimes that person is a close friend or coworker. To talk negatively about a decision runs the risk of hurting someone’s feelings.
That said, I do believe it is the job of a game designer to always be critical of their body of work. How are you ever going to get better if you keep yourself in an echo chamber?
The important thing about Hulk is that many large changes were made to his design right at the finish line. If I remember correctly, something like 12 out of his 15 cards were nerfed in one form or another. Given that I was the designer of Hulk, I obviously felt that his pre-nerfed level represented the best version of him, but development is a team effort and others disagreed with my opinion.
Personally, I wish we’d kept his original version because I do believe that would have resonated better with the community. Even if he was on the strong side (which, relative to the power of many heroes nowadays, I don’t believe he was overpowered by any means), he’s the freaking Hulk and he should be strong.
With all that said, there are cards in the pipeline that will make Hulk better. I don’t think he’ll ever quite be what the community wants him to be, which is unfortunate, but there are plenty of ways that he can be made more fun. – Boggs [Reddit]
In all seriousness, I do agree that surge has maybe been overused, and some of those instances were definitely my decision. That said, surge is an important keyword for the game for one key reason: simplicity.
The target audience of Champions is one where people who haven’t played a ton of card games in the past can sit down and still have a fun time with the game pretty much off the bat. With that in mind, there have been many times when we’ve gotten to the end of development and realized that some of our cards were too wordy, or some of the concepts were higher in complexity than we wanted. One of the largest hurdles for many casual players to overcome is wordiness—not even being able to process a card because there’s too much information presented at once—and in those instances, surge was considered a good replacement as it let us break things into more digestible chunks. Instead of a card with a lot of words and two tiny paragraphs, it became two cards that a player could look at and process independently, maybe even with fewer words overall.
However, surge has definitely made its way onto cards that absolutely should not have it (Fanaticism is the best example). In those cases, surge was often added at the end in the hopes of reducing complexity (replacing whatever text with surge), but sometimes also to add challenge or to make a card spicier. While the former has merit, I don’t personally believe surge should ever really be used to increase difficulty. If players want that experience, there’s already an entire mode that exists.
As the game continues, though, I think we’ll see this issue corrected. I believe it made its way onto more of my products overall not because I love surge, but because I would often push the game into more complex areas. That sometimes meant big changes at the end, and surge was often favored for its simplicity. But both Tony and Caleb are aware of the community’s feelings toward surge at this point, and I’d wager they’ll find other solutions. – Boggs [Facebook]
“…There are different elements of [Hulk’s] design that have bled into other characters. Drax got to call his mechanic “rage tokens,” Spider-Ham got to spend resources from taking damage, Nova got to use a specific resource as double resources, etc.
It was so long ago that it’s really difficult to remember the specifics of his cards, but I do remember that Hulk Smash was its own attack. I think it was 6 cost, dealt 10, had overkill, and each physical resource counted as double when paying for it. The idea was that you could always pay for it using just 3 resources because you could build Hulk using just physical (making it stronger than Swinging Web-Kick, which is still the benchmark for big hero attacks), but in doing so, you’d lock yourself out of deckbuilding options. However, because you could guarantee 3 for 10 and overkill, it was considered too strong and was changed to its current version to make it more susceptible to exhaust/stun. I also remember comments about how it felt more thematically like a “smash” if it was an ATK modifier instead of its own attack, which I totally get.” – Boggs [Reddit]
“I directly designed and developed Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Gamora, Drax, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Ghost-Spider, Nova, and Ironheart. I contributed about 50% of the design to Venom, Nebula, and Spider-Ham, and about 30% to all of the heroes in the Core Set, Spider-Woman, Rocket, Groot, Star-Lord, and Spider-Ham.
And with every other hero, I helped in one form or another, most often assisting in brainstorming during early dev.
There are also a few more heroes I worked on that have yet to be announced.” – Boggs
[Do you think the game will be going strong five plus years from now?] “I do, yes. From a business standpoint, the game has done very well each year. When I left, there was absolutely no sign of it slowing down.” – Boggs
“It was a while ago so it’s hard to remember but I don’t believe She-Hulk changed all that much from her inception.
I know that quite a few players think I designed/developed She-Hulk because I once made a comment on Team Covenant’s stream about how I wished she had another copy of Gamma Slam, but that’s not the case. Nate, Caleb, and I worked together to create her initial concept. Nate was then the lead on her development for a time, and that eventually passed to Caleb. I was in charge of running and monitoring the playtesting forums, so I passed along tester feedback to the two of them, but I really can’t say what did or didn’t change based on that feedback.
I’m sorry I don’t have more information!” – Boggs
“[Goblin Glider] This is one of those cards that changed dramatically at the end of development, arguably for the worse. All of your points are valid and I’m sorry for the frustration you’re having. That said, I do want to take a moment to point out something some players may have overlooked. HERO ACTION: Discard any number of ATTACK cards from your hand with a combined resource cost of 3 or more —> Discard this card.
It seems that some players believe they precisely need a 3-Cost Attack to discard Advanced Glider but that isn’t quite right. That is indeed the most efficient way to remove it, but you could also discard three 1-Cost Attacks, a 1-Cost Attack and a 2-Cost Attack, or two 2-Cost Attacks. A good majority of heroes can accomplish this in their own kit, but including additional aspect Attacks can increase your chances considerably, especially in multiplayer.” – Boggs
“…I am sorry for the frustrations you’re having with Ronan. He was never intended to be as difficult as he turned out to be. The Galaxy’s Most Wanted campaign was developed during a turbulent time at FFG and, unfortunately, many things slipped through the cracks that shouldn’t have. As far as advice, rushing Ronan down seems to be the best option (along with most other villains in the game).
Try to find a hero who can deal damage without needing a lot of time to set up but also has the versatility to remove threat and mitigate damage. Groot probably isn’t your best bet here. Captain Marvel/Captain America/Doctor Strange/Ant-Man can be good pre-GMW options though.” – Boggs
[I’ve seen you post a lot about mistakes or regrets in designs for the game but I’m curious. What hero and scenario are you most proud of developing?]
“That’s a great question. I’m pretty critical of my body of work overall—no matter the hero or scenario, there’s always something I wish I’d done differently. But I had to choose, for heroes it would probably be either Ms. Marvel or Ironheart. Ms. Marvel because she was the first hero I designed and I still love her playstyle; Ironheart because she ran into some big problems at the end of her development and required A LOT of extra work, but the reception around her still seems good and all that work paid off. For scenarios, it’s a bit harder to answer.
Many of the scenarios I was the lead on either had tight restrictions on what they absolutely must/couldn’t do or received rather dramatic changes during development. Designing a scenario often felt like working inside a tiny box, whereas designing a hero was often much more free and open. For this reason, I feel less attached to many of the scenarios I worked on because a lot of the final designs turned out quite differently than I wanted or envisioned. They don’t feel as much like “mine,” if that makes sense.
That said, if I also had to pick, it would be Mutagen Formula. It’s maybe the only pre-Sinister Motives scenario I worked on that didn’t run into the challenges I’ve mentioned, and it turned out way better than I expected it to.” – Boggs
“We also had to consider what the tools were available to us [to fix prior issues]. There were certain in company restrictions and ideas at Fantasy Flight at the time, that channeled us into a certain path. One of those ideas was ‘we will not ban cards, we will not restrict cards, we will not errata cards unless they are actually broken…like they literally do not function, like there’s a mistake or something. Thou shalt not use errata to solve balance problems.’
So from a sort of company standpoint, we couldn’t just start again. At least we would have had a hard time arguing that case. Maybe we should have…if I could do it again I’d probably come up with useable upgrade cards.
It is way less flexible to try and fix something after the fact than to just write it correctly from the beginning. And there were so many things wrong, with the proton torpedo [mechanic]. We would have had to come out with three different fixes for it, to get it to be where we wanted it in the first place.” – Alex Davy (Former FFG Game Designer for X-Wing and Star Wars: Legion)
“So my career at FFG started with Lord of the Rings, which is a huge love of mine. I had been there for eight years and thought what could I work on next that could possibly match that and we got the Marvel license, and I was like ‘woo hoo!'” – Caleb
“All the credit for this one goes to Tony Fanchi and Michael Boggs! All I did was suggest we do a Mojo scenario pack.” – Caleb
“This is the second scenario in the box, the villain is called Sentinel, and the main scheme is Night of the Sentinel. Sentinels are hunting mutants and we need to rescue them. And this one introduces a new loss condition through a modular set that is required by this scenario.” – Caleb
“I was working on this when we all went home at the outbreak of COVID.” – Caleb
X-Mansion is for sure in Kitty’s [precon], it’s in one of these.” – Caleb
“I was really focused on the upgrades…someone reminded me that part of Cyclops’ power set is he can calculate angles, even better than Captain America.” – Caleb
“[After an obligation is given to another player] You would surge, because I gave it to you.” – Caleb
“[Why is the Phoenix Force so powerful?] She’s basically a mini villain with 12 hitpoints…it’s a bit of lore for comic fans. There’s some of Chris Claremont’s biggest stories, the Phoenix Saga.” – Caleb
“I think our players are perceptive enough that there’s no X-Men art in Avengers/Guardians stuff…and there’s reasons for why that is largely beyond our control…and it’s kind of a win-win at the end of the day…you get the new art.” – Caleb
“[How do you decide what flavor text to use] I want to do a tip of the hat to Michael Boggs. The core set we went the hard way. We wrote most of it. But time-wise, we didn’t have time to go through individual issues. So Boggs discovered a website that’s just like quotes for this character.
It’s a blend. I had a lot of help on the core set. Even Molly wrote some stuff for the core set. We’ll grab flavor where we can where it works, but we’ll add something on our own.” – Caleb
“You can go out and choose any 3-5 scenarios that already exist, in products that were released, up to Sinister Motives. Any scenarios, 3-5, put them in any order you want, choose any modular and encounter sets. Come up with any campaign rules, and any campaign log, and send that to us. And there will be prizes. We’ll be launching that on September 1. There’s an article on our page, which I wrote, about the details involved and the guidelines.” – Peter Schumacher (Marketing Writer)
“[Was it harder to make cards for Champions knowing the license was in play?] On some levels it was harder, on some levels it was easier. There were definitely points like we want to do X or Y thing and we have to discuss it with licensing and Marvel first…those instances were rare…they were mostly hands off. There were only a few things that come to mind that they like, had us revise, but mostly design specifically they really were not picky, they didn’t control anything, or dictate anything we did. The way we had these pre-defined and established characters, I could read one of the comics and watch a movie or TV show with Captain America, and I could model cards after that. With the new IPs…sometimes you need to be more imaginative, or more creative. I would say in retrospect it was easier a lot of the time to make stuff for Champions and not Netrunner, but not 100% it was probably 80/20.” – Boggs
“So when I was in college I originally started out studying animation and for different reasons it shifted into game design. I got over to Korea…I came to travel and explore and teach and the whole time I was there I was working on my own projects, originally I wanted to work in the video game industry, but I realized I didn’t have the skills to do that. There was a robust group of foreigners who played board games at the time…Magic was my introduction to the greater board game world, I did that for a couple of years, and one day I happened to see a post on FFG’s website, I wanted to go back to the United States…I was hoping to get a job in the industry. I had Netrunner as my top game, and it just so happened that’s what they were hiring for. It wasn’t any special skilll…it came down to timing and resume…it was actually kind of a dorky resume, I had games listed out of 10, so Netrunner was 10/10, and they were like OK this guy knows Netrunner. I talked with Nate French a year and a half or two years after I was hired…I never quite knew how I was hired…he was like oh no I just liked talking to you…all those years struggling didn’t matter…it was just a good conversation.” – Boggs
“The first part of it, you had to write a vision document…the second part was designing five cards for different factions…and during the actual interview, those two things were the topics of discussion. I was super nervous going in but after talking to the three of them, it was the easiest interview I had in my life” – Boggs
“[On how Boggs got started at MC] So when Netrunner was canceled I was sort in this weird in-between state where I was still the caretaker for Netrunner but I wasn’t developing active content for it…I was also on Star Wars Destiny. But that had Jeremy and Lukas…so it’s not like it needed a lot of help. When I first started with FFG I kind of helped out from the beginning, but it was always in the background, with art and stuff like that…so it wasn’t like I could do a lot with the design. The whole time I helped with Destiny, it was always in the background to help with art stuff. You can’t make a full time job just writing art briefs.” – Boggs
“I was kind of bounced around. I was put on KeyForge to help a little bit…they talked about having me help on Arkham. Eventually it was decided we were going to do a new card game. Potentially doing Android again. Potentially doing it in the Terrinoth setting, I don’t know how they came about it or how it was decided, but they got the Marvel license. And as soon as they did they were like we’re definitely doing a card game in the Marvel license.” – Boggs
“So for [Marvel] it was going to be myself and Nate French. Just the two of us on it. This was right before he was set to move into the lead developer role of the studio, so it was going to be his last big project. As we started the project up, all the developers in the LCG department heard about it and Caleb Grace who was working on Lord of the Rings at the time was like I’m a massive Marvel nerd…put me on this game I want to be on this game, and so they did. And it ended up being myself and Caleb and Nate. And that’s kind of that, they got the license and told all three of us to make a Marvel game. And we were deciding were we going to do a cooperative game, were we going to do a competitive game. Something with the license, I don’t know the specifics, but they told us you have to make a cooperative game.” – Boggs
“It was actually, so the game was…pitched as sort of being a standalone. Like Lord of the Rings. Almost like uh, I don’t know if this was ever an official conversation, with higher ups, but the conversation between Nate and Caleb, and myself, was an arcade type thing…you pick a level, you fight the villain and you’re done. And that was how we developed the core set. And after the core set with the Green Goblin and Wrecking Crew…it was always intended to be this standalone thing.
That was the case up until we started developing the first major expansion, we were deep in development, but I would say the product was roughly around 70-80% finished, and we were getting to the end, and I think it was Andrew Navaro [former FFG head of studio] that was like I want this to be a campaign. This needs campaign elements, you need some sort of thing that ties it together. I remember that Caleb was very much…not against it, but had a concern like how much development does a campaign take…any sort of thing you’re adding to a box it takes time away from someone else. From what Caleb has said there’s also a huge subset of players who play them standalones. For Caleb he wanted more time to focus on making each individual scenario and hero better, but ultimately we had to make time for the campaign elements.” – Boggs
“Campaigns do take a lot of time, but they’re also the thing in a way that’s the least important…having the scenarios function and be fun, those are the top priorities, and the campaign is sort of at the end of the process. I actually think Caleb’s original direction was probably better for the game overall, and I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the Marvel Champions campaigns…a lot of players don’t like them…and I think they don’t like them because they’re expecting something deeper and more interesting like Arkham Horror but the game was never built with that in mind. It was a secondary thing for sure.” – Boggs
“So I’ve been working at FFG for six or seven months. I joined back in March, so my job is broadly speaking, I offer internal support to the designers, as they build up their rulebooks. Part of that responsibility….is answering rules questions…I meet with our designers probably once a week, to discuss more complicated rules questions, before I answer emails. I’m actually very new to Lord of the Rings LCG.” – Alex
“So I’m a big fan and proponent of transparency, especially in terms of ransomware attacks…they’re so common at this point. I just think it’s easier to own up that hey this happened…it did happen at the end of 2020, I believe in November, and a lot of us working in…via VPN…into the server were suddenly not able to get access to a lot of data. Projects we were working on, we’d have to wait 30 minutes for a download sometimes…15 minutes just for a file to open. But the company left a lot of the…even the employees in the dark. It was not shared what happened. We roll into 2021, and COVID had been happening for a year at that point…I was one of the few people working in the office at that point.
The only people in the building were myself and the IT guys. I started just asking questions, like this seems odd, and just asked the head of IT at the time, we got ransomwared, right? And he said yeah probably, and just walked away. And I asked another IT person about it, and they were like you’re not supposed to know that. That’s when I realized…the ransomware had crossed, or there was a bug…the marketing department lost approximately six years of marketing work. So I started pestering people in my department, like MJ and Caleb and they’re like oh we’re going to look into that. And we started realizing source files were gone, and not accessible.
And that’s when a lot of employees started asking what’s going on and where can we get these things? And the company still never told anyone in the company what happened. Perhaps they did after I left in April of 2021, but up until that point it was hush hush, this didn’t happen, even to employees in the company. I think the upper management was just really embarrassed.” – Thompson
Josh: “So after looking at this and seeing other design processes, give other people an idea of what’s similar to what you might do.”
Tony: “Probably the first thing I’d point out…the comic panels in the rulebooks. Those are a very important part of Marvel Champions, it gives the game that comic book feel. Those are great but they can also be a little restrictive with what we can do with the campaign structure, so we’re limited. So all the branching stories…AH does a fantastic job of those, they don’t quite fit the structure of Marvel Champions campaigns.”
Caleb: “Yeah people reach out…have you thought of branching paths and failing forward…we only have so many cards we can put in the box, and only so many pages we can put in the rulebook. So far we haven’t cracked that code. We’re under some restrictions the people are doing this aren’t. We’re designing new scenarios. Space is a premium, we’re figuring out…we want all these different modular sets…so in order to fit this thing we need to share sets between scenarios. It’s a little bit like Jenga.”
Tony: “Another advantage the contest entrants have is they can combine many different products…whereas we make every product standalone, except for the core. As I was thinking about how I’d approach this contest, the scenarios that exist have story elements you need to kind of tie in, like Hela, she didn’t show up a lot, maybe that’s due to the story elements.”
“I was playing Venom [with Boggs], and was saying wow this hero is really fun…and he was like yeah you designed most of it.” – Caleb
“[My brother] was there for a really long time [at FFG]…but he’s moved on to a different job.” – Caleb
“I’ve been playing that game [the Star Wars deckbuilder that was just announced at Gen Con 2022] on a near weekly basis for two years now and I haven’t gotten tired of it.” – Caleb
“Boggs loved the characters…Nate loved the humor…I loved the stories. We jotted these things down, and it became our guide [on how to create Marvel Champions]. We really started with the Marvel experience.” – Caleb
“Most of the complexity comes from specific card interactions rather than the game mechanics themselves. The game mechanics themselves are pretty straightforward. It’s the cards that can build up the complexity and I think that’s an important distinction.” – Caleb
“[Precons] Was one of the smartest decisions we’ve maybe ever made. Our earlier LCGs were real trailblazers…but we talked about, what if we put the whole story in one box. We thought what if we built the decks for people.
“40 is the minimum and 50 is the maximum [hand size]. We had some interesting conversations about that. Nate he’s a stone cold killer when you play Game of Thrones with him. Boggs was a big part of the Netrunner community. Competitive gamers know deck consistency is one of the keys to success. The more that you can thin your deck. Deck minimum is really important to establish…and one of my favorite things is that you draw a new hand. 40 isn’t a number we pulled out of a hat, we just found it was the right number. After that it became a question of should there be a maximum. We just said look you don’t have to go much higher than 50.” – Caleb
“Five players was never on the table…well, it kind of came up…but it’s not something we’re going to curate. There has to be a cutoff point for us to design heroes and scenarios and that’s a bridge too far.” – Caleb
“[Do I have a favorite single card?] I don’t know that I do. Serious gamers will ask about balance. Casual gamers will ask about theme. Dark Phoenix was all about theme for me. If Dark Phoenix is going to be a nemesis it should be ferocious, it should be formidable. With Phoenix in particular you’re talking about our only 3 THW hero…with Spectrum there’s a small opportunity cost. You have the free wild resource right away, and formidable stats, and Mind Control is maybe the most powerful card in the game. When you have a hero that can do that, the counterbalance is what happens when I spend those resources?” – Caleb
“We were demoing the game at Gen Con 2019 and everyone’s first question was: ‘when are the X-Men coming.’ We hadn’t even done Captain America yet, or Rise of Red Skull, and Guardians and all the Avengers yet. It’s been a long time coming. I definitely felt the pressure. The X-Men are my favorite characters, and Cyclops is still my favorite Marvel character.” – Caleb
“We didn’t really get feedback until we were working on Galaxy’s Most Wanted. We had playtester feedback, but I think it’s important to make a little distinction. You don’t find a lot of casual gamers volunteering to be playtesters…well I guess you’re not volunteering anymore there’s compensation…to be interested in the playtesting process you have to be interested in the game. It’s going to be skewed more into the more advance players…so you need to keep that in mind.
That was a little like designing in the blind…like Rise of Red Skull. And we got some feedback that it was maybe a little easy. When Boggs was working on GMW there was that feeling that we had to ratchet it up a little…and Boggs was doing some really creative things to add difficulty, like not just putting surge on things or upping the numbers, but changing the way you play.
Rise of Red Skull was kind of our safe bet.” – Caleb
“MJ Newman…her big request [with Black Widow] was to put more aspect cards in the back of the pack, so you can play her with other aspects. We didn’t want to lock her in. I did the same thing with Cyclops.” Caleb
“There were people in the office who advocated pretty strongly that we should have a shared turn…and there’s validity to that. But I wanted structure…imagine teaching that to someone…you can do this…and this on your turn. I felt like it would lead to…people playing everyone’s turns for them. If you’re teaching someone you can say I’ll take my turn, then you can take yours.” – Caleb
“Mutant Genesis is intended to kickoff the next phase of Marvel Champions. The three-part story structure seems to be commonly accepted. We should have the first three waves pick up and culminate in that box. There are so many characters associated with the X-Men. “There are so many mutants coming in expansions.
Sometimes we do things to create player expectations, and sometimes we do things that can’t be predicted at all [like Web Warriors]. Cross your fingers knock on wood, this game could go for a long time, and our goal is to get to all of them [mutants]. Tony and Boggs did some great collaborative work on the follow-up to Mutant Genesis.” – Caleb
“As a rule for myself personally, I do not view any custom content. Just, ever. And it’s not because it’s not worthy or important to a game’s health. I don’t look at it because when I’m creating cards I’m not stealing ideas. As far as playing the stuff I’d love to, it’s hard to imagine when I can find time. And after the livestream, they asked if we wanted to come back and play some, and I’d love to.” – Caleb
“A lot of it comes down to alter-egos. The designers often have such a specific vision of how they want alter-egos to look that it can be very difficult to find comic art that meets the brief. Not many comics dedicate large panels to characters doing “boring” stuff, like Ant-Man chilling on the couch or Colossus painting. I look through ~500 comics for each hero and sometimes the art just isn’t there. And if it is there, it’s not always usable. These images are often too small to use as feature art and present cropping challenges. Other times they’re in an art style that doesn’t get approved by the Marvel licensing team.
Maybe there’s too much blood or too much cleavage showing. Maybe it is includes characters that Marvel has asked FFG not to feature together (Marvel says X-Men and Avengers characters can’t be on the same art). There are so many hoops to jump that the art options shrink really quickly. I try to give designers about 3-4 options for each card, but if none of them meet expectations, it’s commission time. Because of the restraints, alter-egos will almost always be commissioned pieces. Commissioning both alter-ego and hero ensures consistency between the art styles on both side of the card since they are often created by the same artist. At this point in the game’s life cycle, most of the high quality hero portraits are used for allies since commissioning hero cards has become the norm.” – Guzmán
“It’s not as simple as ‘just use their art’ because the designers have very specific ideas of what they want the cards to feature, and it is often very difficult to find existing art that fits each card in the design file. What if none of those top 5 artists have an image of Wolverine regenerating?
What if they do but they are all either too small, too graphic, too difficult to crop, too old, features another character, or fails to meet another requirement of Marvel’s licensing team? It’s relatively easy to find images of Wolverine fighting and slashing, sure. Not as easy to find workable art of his cabin, his skeleton, and everything else the designers want.” – Guzmán
“As for my role, I’m essentially given a list of card titles and the designers’ preferences for what kind of image they are looking for. I go through as many issues as I can within the deadline to give them 2-3 options that I think fit the bill. Ultimately, the designers have final say of what gets picked. If they really like one of my suggestions, they’ll use it. That’s what happened with ‘I got better.’
Sometimes I’ll suggest a piece and they’ll use it for another card instead. Other times Marvel will reject a piece for a host of possible reasons. If the designers don’t like anything I suggested, they’ll commission a piece or dig through the slush art. So my job is to go through comic art for the design team so they have more time to work on other parts of the product.” – Guzmán
“And you are totally right about cost being a hug factor. It’s really nice to hear how much people love this game! Like most of you, I love comics and games, and I’ve been so fortunately to work with such amazing people to make an incredible game. My role is a little unique in that I’m a contractor that pretty much works exclusively on Marvel Champions (I also did Keyforge art briefs for a bit but then…).
I started out as an intern and really liked working on the core set art. They asked me to keep working on it after my internship ended, and I’ve played a part in most releases. I’m not an FFG employee so I don’t get the same level of accreditation as the rest of the awesome crew but you’ll typically find my name in the rules inserts as ‘special thanks to José Guzmán.'” – Guzmán
Boggs talks Mojo and other development work on the Marvel Champions Discord
“[I like GMW, but I totally get the hate] I do, too. GMW has many problems. There were definitely changes at the end that shouldn’t have been made, but GMW was also created during the most turbulent time at FFG. Even without the changes, a lot of poor decisions got through that shouldn’t have. Oh man, it’s hard to remember. Ronan got super buffed (yay Fanaticism), various tweaks and adjustments to other scenarios/Rocket/Groot, market cards got changed, campaign schemes got changed. Lots of stuff.” – Boggs
“This wave [the first X-Men wave] is 100% Caleb” – Boggs
“I say this as someone who loves Spider-Man and all of the Spider-verse stuff…but many of the Spider-people are pretty much the same, at least in their power sets. Minor variations here and there, but it would be pretty difficult to design distinctly different hero kits for many of them. Spider-Man Noir was discussed at length, but Spider-Ham and Peni were chosen because their power sets are so different from the standard Spider suite. Also, Asmodee/FFG wants Champions to reach the widest possible audience, and it was thought that with the release of Into the Spider-verse, Spider-Ham and Peni would be more recognizable to a general audience (kids!).” – Boggs
“I got the ball rolling on MojoMania—wrote the vision document and designed the initial pass for each scenario. Tony was involved during that whole process but was sort of “training” to be on Champions and working on something else (Unfathomable, maybe?) during that time. Eventually though, I handed everything over to Tony and he took it from there. He did all playtesting, balancing, rules, flavor text writing, etc.” – Boggs
Marvel Champions is sort of the ideal game to have guest designers, in my opinion. Each hero’s pack is sort of its own standalone thing that can be designed entirely separate from the rest. In fact, we want each hero to feel unique and different from one another, so I would say having guest designers is a huge boon in that game, as each designer brings in their own ideas and their own mechanics. For Widow, I was a bit more aware what the cardpool looked like, since I had been playtesting the core set and first wave of heroes quite a bit, but for Sp//dr I had almost no idea what the environment was like. I just had a cool idea for the hero. For both, I did a bunch of research on the character, drew up some card titles and wrote art briefs, designed the core mechanics of the character, and then showed the team what I had done. Inevitably there would be changes, as some cards were above or under curve, other cards might already exist in some capacity, that sort of thing. Occasionally we would have to redesign something entirely if it didn’t fit the lead’s greater line plan or the rest of the cycle. But for the most part, it was pretty smooth. – MJ