Phil: It’s been a long wait for Black Widow for those of us in the U.S. She’s been a character that both of us have been excited about for some time, and now that she’s finally here, I think it’s safe to say-
Phil: “Meh”? What do you mean, “meh”?
Luke: I dunno man, I’m kind of… disappointed. Let me explain.
Black Widow has been a character that I’ve found underplayed in most media. She played an important role in the films for a time but has been pushed aside more and more with each entry as other super-powered heroes come into play. Yes, she has her solo movie coming soon, but that feels more like a footnote now that her primary narrative in the MCU has concluded.
Phil: Yeah, and I guess the same can be said for her role in the comics. She’s been a mainstay in many Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D.-related comics, she’s had plenty of solo series, but I’ve never felt she got the same love as the other “world’s mightiest heroes.”
Luke: So here we have an opportunity to make a truly unique and interesting character design, something of a control deck that stymies the villain while giving the heroes opportunities to strike. And, in practice, that is what she does.
Phil: The Black Widow pack introduces a new type of card; Preparations. These cards are played in advance, triggering off of villain actions to prevent effects or retaliate after the fact. They’re cheap and effective abilities.
Luke: If used sparingly. Too many in a given deck will slow down what the character can do, simply playing a waiting game. And while some may enjoy that element, I found myself missing the days of punching someone square in the jaw for 10 damage as Captain Marvel.
Phil: This is certainly a fair critique. Black Widow, from a design perspective, is made to lie in wait until the right moment. She has the same health as Tony Stark before he starts building his suit, but has plenty of ways to reduce or avoid damage, and is encouraged to switch between her 2 forms regularly.
Luke: But the bigger thing is that her ability entirely hinges on the new type of card, Preparations. Most other characters have very flexible play styles, allowing them to try a variety of different builds that can provide more or less unique experiences. Black Widow, on the other hand, is restricted in many ways by what Preparation cards are available.
Phil: And as our interview with Michael Boggs revealed, it’s unlikely that we’ll see more Preparation cards down the road, thus capping the scope of her core abilities as they are.
Luke: That’s not to say there aren’t other ways to diversify her deck; some cards introduced in this set are “Spy” specific, so we could certainly see more of those down the road. But I also assume we’ll see other spies show up as well, like Spider-Woman, a character that seems waaaaaay more interesting from a design perspective.
Phil: And that hard-limit on her character design makes her, in some ways, less interesting to play than the rest of the cast.
Luke: That’s not to say she’s bad, far from it; many players have proven that she is a very effective force in the game. What I’m saying is that, personally, I don’t have much fun playing as her.
I think the Preparation cards are a great addition to the game, and I’m excited to plug those into a variety of decks. I love some of the new Justice cards and am interested in mixing them with some of my favs, like Ms. Marvel or Spider-Man.
Phil: It’s hard to deny that the new cards are a ton of fun to toy with and try in a variety of decks. And I think canceling the villain, while an effective tactic, takes away from some of the fun the game provides.
To me, a big part of a memorable fight is being forced to fight a Nemesis, getting pounded for a ton of damage, and seeing those big, dramatic moments swing in the favor of the villain so you can fight against it and turn the tides back in your favor. Black Widow is designed to stop that from happening and make the game more level and predictable generally.
Luke: That’s a great way of putting it, honestly. I love this game for, oddly enough, many of the stories it tells, and I want exciting, tense spy missions, but what we got here was a lot of reconnaissance and a long build-up to the eventual pay-off, both in and out of game.
Verdict: Black Widow’s pack is fun enough for the cards they include, and some will have a blast playing as the Russian spy, but we found ourselves more interested in revisiting the other heroes with what new tools are on offer.