Marvel Champions: Thor – Bringing the Hammer Down

  • Designer: N/A
  • Artist: N/A
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
  • Release Date: March 2020

Luke: Thor is likely the most divisive of the Marvel Champions heroes thus far. He’s gotten a ton of flack for being “underpowered,” with solo players finding little to no success with him, and with it being the last release before the quarantine, there are those who have been stewing over it for a few months.

Phil: Not us though. While we could have released this review some time ago, we wanted to take the time to dig into the character and see the overall reactions online before providing a full review on Thor, seeing as we had the time to kill.

Luke: So let’s take a look back on the God of Thunder and see what this hero pack has to offer.

Phil: Being a god and one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel mythos, players were expecting a play style that rivaled Captain America in terms of flexibility and raw power. What they found was a hero that, while he can wipe the board of minions pretty quickly, can barely hold his own against Klaw or other scheme-heavy enemies before succumbing.

Luke: This does make sense thematically but has rubbed many in the wrong way, saying that a human like Black Widow, out of the box, is more successful in scenarios than a literal god.

Phil: And while we get that perspective, we’ve found it a little shortsighted. In our interview with Michael Boggs, head developer of Marvel Champions, he pointed out that Cap and Black Widow, agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. who specialize in efficiency, have basically peaked as they are. Steve Rodgers does what he does well, but if things don’t get shut down quickly, he can run out of steam. And from what we’ve heard, there’s unlikely to be more Preparation cards down the road, meaning Black Widow won’t have more cards to fuel her system.

Luke: Thor, on the other hand, has a lot of room to grow, with future cards added to the pool of options likely expanding his play-ability.

But that doesn’t make him better now, which begs the question of why FFG felt that now as the time to release him.

Phil: He’s a classic Avenger, and with this “season” of Champions being dominated by the core cast of the films primarily, it made sense from a sales perspective.

Luke: Perhaps you’re right, I just wish we had more tools to mix-and-match with him.

Phil: You make it seem like Thor is a “bad” hero to play with.

Luke: I am, but that’s not my intention. I think Thor is a phenomenal pack that everyone should pick up at some point. I just think he could have benefited from being released later down the line.

Phil: Maybe we should actually talk about the pack itself?

Luke: As we discussed in our Marvel Champs Monday article yesterday, Thor is built around creating a loop of generating resources and dealing damage, with his trusty hammer at the center of this storm.

Phil: Many of his tools are both important for his success and rather expensive. Want to have a reasonable hand size? That’s gonna cost yah 3 resources, but Asgard is perhaps one of the most integral cards to bring into play.

Luke: Thor’s hand size has certainly been a point of contention, and while Asgard is powerful it also brings Thor up to par with the average character, making it feel like an extra step to the norm than an upgrade.

Phil: Even his low-cost cards come with hidden caveats. Lightning Strike costs 1 resource to play, but then you have to pay a ton of Energy to deal enough damage to make it worthwhile. And Defender of the Nine Realms may be free on paper, but depending on what minion it forces into play and how many encounter cards it discards in the process, it can be a risky play for 2 cards and some threat removal.

Luke: This often means that deck-builders will have to find ways of cutting costs in other areas of their deck design and construction. The God of Thunder resource generation helps, along with Mjolnir‘s ability to be spent and returned to hand, but Thor is, by design, a character that needs help getting his engine running.

Phil: This isn’t helped by him having the most punishing rival of the lot. Loki is often brutal to deal with, frequently negating large swaths of damage due to the luck of the draw. He is, by far, the most infuriating card to deal with in any game.

Luke: Family Feud is no joke either, often providing the villain with a permanent scheme boost due to how much threat ends up getting put on it.

Phil: For all these reasons, there are those players who have accused Thor of being swingy, and there’s some truth to that. Thor is much more reactive than other heroes. Like Ms. Marvel, you’ll have to count cards and estimate your odds, moving with the flow of how the game plays out.

Luke: But that’s what makes him so fun to play, in our eyes. I personally love Leadership Thor, providing some fun interactions and thematic moments while giving you the room to build up your tableau.

Phil: It would be easy to write off Thor at this point in the life of the game, but we feel that he’s already pretty damn fun to play, especially in 2-player games, and we’re looking forward to seeing how he evolves with future expansions.

Luke: Oh yeah, we haven’t talked about the Aggression cards in this set!

Phil: Well, many of them are minion-focused, as is fitting of Thor, but I honestly don’t have much love for those.

Luke: Perhaps, but some of these cards are just too damn fun not to highlight. Jarnbjorn is a kingly card that can help bring down some of the burliest baddies, Hercules and Heimdall are the most expensive allys we’ve had yet, and while they aren’t always the best, they are exceptionally powerful if you manage to get them to the table (say with Peter Parker or Steve Rodgers), and Mean Swing has a ton of potential for those heroes with access to weapons, or simply in tandem with Jarnbjorn.

Phil: Frankly, almost all the cards in this set make me excited, with Get Over Here! being the only big exception.

Luke: It’s certainly the most niche card in the lot, though I can see why it’s here, clearly playing off of Thor’s strengths.

Phil: So yeah, we actually really enjoy Thor and, while he may not be our favorite come the end of the year, he brings a lot to the table that’s worth appreciating.

Luke: Thanks for stopping in as always, and we look forward to discussing the Black Widow pack in the coming weeks, so be sure to stay tuned for that!

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