Marvel Champs Monday: The Pre-Legacy of Beat Cop

Phil: It’s been a while since we’ve done a full-out article regarding a specific card, let alone a card that hasn’t even been released yet.

Luke: Not officially in the US, no, but Hulk is just around the corner, so I thought it’d be worth taking a look and seeing what all the hub-bub is about.

Phil: Since her reveal, Beat Cop has been a card that has captured the minds and ire of a number of Marvel Champions fans, dubbed “OP” well before anyone had started putting it in their decks. And while I’m not a huge fan of the expression, I think there’s some earnesty in what people are trying to express when they say as much.

Luke: And don’t worry, those of you worried about spoilers; this is a card that FFG themselves revealed some time back, so we’re not looking to reveal any unannounced secrets.

Phil: Enough chatter! Let’s take a gander at what this card even does.

Luke: Both a Persona and a Support card, Beat Cop in nuanced in a rather unsubtle way. Each turn, a player can remove 1 threat for free (once she’s in play), tracking the removed threat on her card. Then, once she’s built up enough tokens, she can deal a ton of damage on a single minion, with the damage equal to the threat collected.

Phil: Presumably defeating said minion.

Luke: Most likely.

Phil: This makes Beat Cop a multifaceted card in how it functions. It slows down the pace of the game for as long as you have it in play, infinitely in theory. Only when she is desperately needed to remove a minion will she leave the playing field, taking a presumably big threat down with her.

Luke: I agree that the threat removal is easily her strongest asset, even when compared to the other Justice cards. She may be a slow burn, only ticking one away at a time, but when it becomes a free action, you can see how valuable this card can be, even at 3 resources.

Phil: That is likely the biggest element that makes me hesitate to start sounding the alarm bells. A 3-cost card can be pretty expensive depending on what character you’re playing and what other cards you need to get in play. Thor could likely benefit from the help, for instance, but all his cards are already prohibitively pricey.

Luke: Still, it’s hard to argue with the power curve on display here. Not only does she help with Justice’s main adversary, threat, but it also lightly compensates for one of its biggest weaknesses, damage output.

Phil: But will she actually be as strong as everyone suspects? We’ll have to wait until next week when Hulk lands on our doorstep.

Luke: But some of you out there have had a chance to try her out for yourselves; what are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll see you next week!

Fort: A Sound Structure

  • Designer: Grant Rodiek
  • Artist: Kyle Ferrin
  • Publisher: Leder Games
  • Release Date: August 2020 (Pre-Order Here)

Disclaimer: This game was provided to us for review by Leder Games.

Luke: Leder Games is one of my favorite companies in the industry. Not only are they helmed by some of the kindest individuals in board gaming, but they make some pretty phenomenal experiences. We haven’t spoken about the Vast series or Root here because those games work best at bigger player groups, but rest assured they are experiences that ought to be tried at least once.

Phil: So when Fort was announced, we both knew this would be a title we needed to cover. Not only is this a step away from the asymmetrical 2-hour ventures Leder Games is known for, its also a game that sings particularly well at a table of 2.

Luke: Based on SPQF, a game by the same designer released in 2018, Fort tasks players with gathering the neighborhood kids in your backyard and proving that you know how to have the best time on the block.

Phil: Something that stands out from the get-go is that players are always adding cards to their deck, widening their options, but are also giving others the opportunity to sneak cards out of your deck.

Each turn, you’ll play 1 card for its effects, potentially modifying it with the suits of other cards in your hand. All unused cards are sent to your yard, leaving them up for grabs until the start of your next turn.

Luke: Players can also spend cards to follow the actions of their opponents, meaning you’re encouraged to consider how to use each card. You may even find yourself allowing some of your friends to wander into the yard so they’re snatched up by someone else. Sure, your opponent may get a useful resource, but Dot was just weighing down your otherwise svelt engine.

Phil: And the unique way deck-building is handled is inspired. No longer do you worry if you can afford this card or that, only if it helps your engine. You’ll always have to add something, so it might as well be something good.

Luke: Cards will do a variety of things, allowing you to gather pizza and toys (the primary resources of the game), gathering extra cards, removing cards from the game, or even upgrade your fort.

As your fort grows over the game, you’ll get bumps of victory points while also giving you some notable tools. The first, a Made-Up Rule, will give you a secret goal card that you’ll be able to build towards. And the second, a Perk, will give you a special power to compliment your playstyle.

Phil: And there are plenty of playstyles to be found here. You can aggressively build your fort in an effort to end the game, move cards to your Lookout so you get discounts on many of your effects, or just get a ton of points by hoarding pizza in your Backpack. There are a genuinely surprising number of ways that you can approach the game.

Luke: Every game starts with either a blind draw or, once you’re more familiar, a draft, allowing you to get a feel for how you’ll tackle the puzzle of Fort each time you attempt it. And all of this can clock in at around 45 minutes, probably less once you become more familiar with it.

Phil: To be frank, I haven’t been so impressed by a deck-builder since Xenon Profiteer. This game is clever, simple, and involved, making your decisions matter without feeling punishing.

Luke: If we were to site a “complaint” or “issue” we might have, it would be that the iconography can be overwhelming at times, even with a reference sheet. But this feels like a minuscule nit-pick in the grand scheme of things. I firmly believe that this game will have something for every type of deck-builder out there.

Verdict: Fort is charming with a beautiful art style and adorable theme, and the gameplay is smart yet easy to pick up. There are always tough decisions to be made, and there are various diverse methods to strive for victory. Leder Games has once again blown us away with another impressive title.

Marvel Champs Monday: What Makes a True Nemesis

Phil: Nemesis cards are one of the more interesting yet easily overlooked elements of a Hero set. While they add flavor and challenge to a given scenario, they don’t show up too frequently and range from overbearingly tough to underwhelmingly easy to deal with.

Luke: Not all Nemesis sets are created equal, so let’s take a look at what makes for a fun challenge without becoming obnoxious.

Phil: And the easiest way to do that is to create the difficulty range; what are the extremes of the Nemesis spectrum?

Luke: On the easy end of the spectrum, we have Thomas Edison. With 3 health, he’s a pretty quick to defeat, and while he’s protected by other minions unless you’re fighting Ultron or the Mutagen Formula scenarios, it’s unlikely that you’ll have too many adversaries to cover for him. The real threat is his Giant Robot, a minion that is more obnoxious than it is fun to deal with.

Phil: And who knows if this mechanical menace will surface? By the time it does manage to come into play, it’s doubtful that you’ll be far from victory or defeat already.

Luke: Similarly, Yon-Rogg is only as effective as his low-threshold threat; neither are particularly hard to defeat nor do they pose a terribly overbearing threat.

Phil: Yon-Rogg’s stats are rock-solid, but it’s unlikely he’ll stick around long enough to do much, and the events that he introduces to the game are fairly tame.

Luke: On the opposite end of things, Loki is an unmitigated disaster whenever he comes into play. Having a minion that could theoretically never leave the battlefield is infuriating to deal with without some method of looking at the top of the Encounter deck.

Phil: And Family Feud acquires so much threat the moment it comes into play that it becomes a constant, looming issue that is incredibly tough to recover from.

Luke: The fact that these cards come into play with such force could end some games before they even start. They can certainly provide a tight challenge if players have built up their engines a little, but Thor certainly got the shortest end of the Nemesis stick.

Phil: That leaves us with some strong Nemesis sets that will test your skills and put you on edge without throwing your game altogether. My favorite example of this is Baron Zemo. With his Quickstrike and Hit Squad dealing a cool 3+ damage from the onset, Zemo commands the attention of players, putting pressure on your health and threat-levels, making him the center of the action.

Additionally, his Hydra minions can become distracting and relentless, blocking you with Guard and potentially springing into action thanks to Hail Hydra!.

Luke: Baron Mordo shows an equal amount of resilience. Though his stats are weak overall, the fact that he casts a Magic Blast with each attack can make him an imposing foe.

The fact that he cuts off access to one of your Invocation cards can also be rough, but Counterspell and Thoughtcasting are genuinely debilitating, hamstringing your plans by milling your hand and dishing damage or canceling your next event.

Phil: There’s just something about the title “Baron” that really gives a villain some class I guess.

Luke: What make these enemies great isn’t just that they mess with their hero’s abilities, not just that they can be hard to remove from play, but that they have tools that can slow down anyone who runs into them. Your teammate could collide into a Hydra agent and have no choice but to take them down, or be caught off-guard by a Counterspell.

Phil: Killmonger, Whiplash, and Vulture are each great examples of this as well, formidable foes to whomever they oppose.

Luke: Which make the more generic and specific Nemeses like Titania and Taskmaster stand out like sore thumbs, brief roadblocks on the road to success.

Phil: From what we’ve seen of Abomination, he looks like a towering beast that will test Hulk’s raw strength, hopefully falling in line with the pantheon of baddies waiting in the wings to ruin your day.

Luke: What Nemesis is your favorite and why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and we’ll see you next week!

Animix: Taming the Grid

  • Designer: Mathieu Bossu
  • Artist: Simon Douchy
  • Publisher: Blue Orange Games
  • Release Date: June 2020

Disclaimer: This game was provided to us for review by Blue Orange Games.

Luke: If I was to point to why the Blue Orange line of small box games is so appealing, its that they often take the best bits from larger titles in the industry and condense them into quick filler titles.

Phil: Not just filler titles, but ones that stick in your craw and make you remember them days, if not weeks, later.

Luke: Animix is another one of these titles, borrowing liberally from Arboretum and Capital Lux to create a stylish experience all its own.

Phil: Depending on the player count, a grid of animals is laid out at the start of the game, establishing the jungle through which players must navigate. How many animals are in play also depends on player counts, determining the ways players can score (similar to Ethnos).

Luke: On their turn, a player will either:

  • Swap a card with one from the grid. The newly taken card is placed in that player’s personal pool face-down.
  • Play a card directly to their personal pool face-down.

Once a card is swapped into the grid, a token is placed on it, preventing other from swapping for it at a later date.

Phil: After 6 rounds, ie when all players have played all cards from their hands, players will compare the cards in their personal pools. Whoever has the most of a given animal will be the only person to score for that animal.

Luke: How they score can vary dramatically; elephants and monkeys care about the other animals in the row/column, wolves want to be along the edges of the grid, and chameleons want unique cards adjacent to themselves.

Phil: Most of the variety of this title comes from the 10 animals you can mix-and-match, especially at 2-players, which only includes 3 animals in every game. That being said, this limits how robust the 2-player mode can be.

Luke: Compared to other player counts, the grid is fairly small and your options limited. Due to ties being friendly, many games have ended with a flat tie, with both players vying for the same animals or with scoring ending up being very uniform.

Phil: The unfortunate fact of the matter is, for a game like this to truly sing, you’ll need a group of 4 or more players. The grid becomes expansive, the bluffing funnier, and your actions more meaningful.

Luke: This is a smart game for sure, and I’d happily recommend it to those looking to play in big groups, but as it stands, we can’t recommend this for a group of 2.

Verdict: Animix does a lot with a little, pushing players to make tough decisions in about 10 minutes. At 2-players, however, there’s little of the chaotic fun to engage it, making games feel dull. Don’t pick this up unless you’re going to playing with a larger crew.

Marvel Champs Monday: Release Patterns Matter

Luke: Marvel Champions is a fantastic game for many reasons. Clearly, we feel that way, as it’s a game we discuss pretty regularly.

Phil: There’s something about the deck-construction, the genuine feeling of cooperation, and the tension that many of the villains pose that just works really well for us.

Luke: And yet… there’s something rather substantial that holds this game back. Not from a design perspective per day, but from a structural, corporate perspective; the release schedule.

Phil: Now, to be clear, we aren’t talking about the frequency of the content releases. Obviously, this has been a weird year for that, considering recent events, and we aren’t about to criticize anyone for such a world-altering event beyond anyone’s control.

Luke: What is under FFG’s control, though, is what content is released and in what order.

Phil: When Marvel Champions was first getting started up, the release schedule was one of excitement, interest, and hope, even before folks got their hands on it. After the base box, we would see a villain, then 2 heroes, and then another villain, a pattern that, to many, would seem reasonable and conducive to keeping the game alive and fresh.

Luke: It made sense for Norman Osborn to show up so soon after the base game, as players had 5 characters they were still learning and trying out. And with Cap and Ms. Marvel adding some new deck creation options and experiences all their own, it looked like this would be a formula that would carry the game far into the distance.

Phil: Regardless of the fact that all these pieces were eventually released simultaneously, the intent was that they would be released in this periodic manner, and in that way, it created a great feeling of progression for many gamers.

Luke: After the release of the largely disappointing Wrecking Crew, players were told to expect a new series of releases; 4 hero packs followed by a big box expansion, promising a whole bunch of new baddies to fight.

Phil: This makes sense in theory; we’re bound to see a bunch of new scenarios to fight down the road, so it’s obvious we’d see less of them in the regular cycle, right?

Luke: And yet, here we sit with a lot of the community vocally complaining about the few villains that we have to fight as it stands. With Wrecking Crew being a less popular release and Risky Business being criticized for being easier than Rhino, that leaves us with 4 villains that a majority of players find satisfying adversaries. I personally enjoy Risky Business as well, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Phil: This means that, as we get more heroes to toy with, we’re fighting against the same, small pool of villains, which can make the game feel stale. Even if you regularly circulate all 6 villain sets, it can feel tiresome after a while.

Luke: As someone who’s played 100+ times at this point, I’m craving more villains to take down in battles of glory. Custom Content can help with this, but there’s no replacing an official release from the game creators.

Phil: And looking forward, it appears FFG is intending on repeating this unfortunate cycle. After the Rise of the Red Skull set, set to double the villain pool, we’ll get yet another villain, the newly revealed Kang, followed by 4 more heroes before we see any other villains.

Luke: This looks like history ready to repeat itself, players getting a ton of 1 kind of content, then a ton of the other kind of content, rinse and repeat. The choice to release Kang immediately after the big box set is particularly baffling.

Phil: Are we excited for more villains, absolutely, but it would seem smarter to pace it out a little bit. Frankly, there ought to be a change to how the Marvel Champs content is released as it stands

Luke: That’s not to say that the big box is poorly formatted; we think 2 heroes and a bunch of new villains is exactly what the doctor ordered, allowing for the campaign mode to be a more realistic endeavor.

Phil: We’re not even suggesting they release a different quantity of content or in different sales packages. Rather, the change would be incredibly simple; FFG could release a big box set, then 2 heroes, then a villain pack, and then 2 heroes. Rinse and repeat.

Luke: Sticking the solo villain pack in the middle of the series of heroes allows for players to get some new deck-building options, then get a fresh villain to try them out against before getting more of the same content, all culminating in a mix of both.

Phil: It’s a subtle shift, but one that we think would help the game last that much longer.

Luke: Still, we have yet to see how satisfying the Rise of the Red Skull set is, and who knows what Marvel Champs has in store moving forward. But it’s worth notating a pattern that’s started and has been hurting the experience for some time now.

Phil: What do you folks think? Should the release schedule get shaken up, or are you happy with the pattern in which content is being released? Let us know your thoughts, and we’ll see you next week!

Marvel Champions: Black Widow – A Plan for Everything

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-

Luke: Meh.

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.

Marvel Champs Monday: Dodge

Luke: In any co-op game where you’re trying to defeat or outdo the AI, being able to cancel their actions is regularly a strong option.

Phil: It gives you more control over the unpredictable elements of the game, making it easier to plan without worry or concern.

Luke: And since the game’s release, Marvel Champions have seen a few instances of cancel cards, most prominently in the Black Widow expansion. Let’s take a look at the different forms these cards take and how useful they are.

Phil: There are only 2 types in the game thus far; canceling boost cards and canceling encounter cards.

Luke: And each has seen hero-specific iterations and Aspect-specific cards.

Phil: Canceling boost cards are always nice, especially when playing on the defensive; being able to reduce what damage you’re taking while often dishing some damage back can turn the tides.

Luke: Attacrobatics and Preemptive Strike are basically the same card with one major difference; Attacrobatics is played in advance, whereas Preemptive Strike must be played in response.

Phil: This is significant for hand-size in particular. Playing 2 cards before your turn even starts can seriously limit what actions you can take feasibly, especially if you have some expensive cards in your hand.

Luke: You also need to hold on to it until the effect becomes predictable. Being able to put a Preparation card in play and let it trigger at the opportune moment is way more satisfying and efficient.

Phil: Hence why it’s a hero-specific card.

Luke: Exactly.

Interestingly, the only instance of canceling a boost ability comes in the form of Target Acquired, a neutral card. For an effect that can be so optimal in a given circumstance, it’s interesting that this isn’t tied to a particular Aspect.

Phil: I love adding 1 or 2 into my Aggression decks, as they give me some protection while adding a few physical resources to my deck.

Luke: Canceling Encounter cards outright, though, that can be game-changing. Preventing a ton of threat from going onto the main scheme or stopping a Nemesis from coming into play can be huge.

Phil: Hence why many of these cards have caveats. Get Behind Me! requires that you get attacked instead, whereas Spycraft can only be used if you’re a spy and forces you to draw another Encounter card to replace it.

Luke: Black Widow (the ally) works similarly, making you spend a resource only to have you replace the Encounter card with a new one. To me, this can mean you spent resources only to get a worse card, which isn’t worth it. At least Get Behind Me! is a bit more predictable, if dangerous in its own way.

Phil: But of course, we have our two spider-related heroes, each with their own diffuse options to bring into play. Spider-Man can cancel any Treachery card with his Enhanced Spider-Sense, whereas Black Widow can prep her Grappling Hook, which only cancels a Treachery card she draws.

Luke: This is a significant difference, making each card on-par with one another in fascinating ways. Spider-Man has to hold his card in-hand, meaning that it has an inherent cost in that sense, but being able to protect anyone at the table is a nice boon.

Phil: Black Widow, on the other hand, just leaves her card in play, but who gets what cards can mean the Grappling Hook is much less helpful depending on the flow of the cards.

Luke: To my mind, canceling boosts are much more regularly helpful than canceling Encounter cards. Boosts give immediate effects to the villain and can do as much damage as the worst of Encounter cards, give the right circumstances. A well-placed Attacrobatics can swing the game in your favor by 6 damage (3 canceled from you, 3 dealt to the villain).

Phil: Still, Encounter cards can be a huge hurdle to deal with; assuming that you can cancel particularly punishing cards, the ends may justify the expense.

Luke: We’re curious, what are your thoughts? Which is the best cancel option to date? Let us know your thoughts below, and we’ll see you next week!

Behind the Board: Andrew Thompson on Cobble and Fog

Luke: Hello everyone, and welcome back to Behind the Board! Today, we’re going to chatting about the most recent Unmatched set, Cobble and Fog, with the artist, Andrew Thompson! How’s it going, Andrew?

Andrew: Pretty well, how’re things with you?

Luke: Not bad; I get to chat about one of my favorite board games with you, after all.

Andrew: [laughs] Fair enough.

Luke: So Andrew, I know you haven’t always worked in the board game industry; what sorts of artistic jobs have you done prior to now?

Andrew: Out of college (class of 2013) I worked at Reebok in Boston as a graphic designer. I designed apparel graphics for the running category for a year before being hired full-time to their marketing department where I did the CrossFit games posters for a few years.

For several years I also worked with Gallery 1988 and Gallery Nucleus creating pop culture art. Through those, I was able to do official work for Magic: The Gathering, Star Wars, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, Terminator: Salvation, and Bethesda Games. From there, I started attending cons and selling work there which led to me picking up freelance in the gaming community. Now I do my own personal work, including a comic on my Patreon, in addition to tabletop game art.

Luke: Wow, that’s an impressive portfolio! Have you ever had the chance to play Magic: The Gathering or have you only worked on it from a professional level?

Andrew: I’m addicted to MtG. It’s seriously a problem [laughs]. I also played Yu-Gi-Oh for a hot minute, but those are the main games I play.

Luke: Damn, I haven’t played Yu-Gi-Oh since elementary school, brings me back just thinking about it.

Anyway, how did you find yourself working on Cobble and Fog?

Andrew: I met some art directors at a convention. Seriously, it’s the best place to meet AD’s. You know, when it’s not 2020 and a pandemic is happening.

Luke: I can imagine there was a certain amount of pressure taking on a project entirely helmed by Oliver Barrett up until this point.

Andrew: Oh my god, yeah! I have always been a fan of a lot of Mondo artists like Matt Taylor, Oliver, Erica Williams, etc. Getting approached for Unmatched was a really great moment. I remember I was in Colorado at the time for Denver Pop Culture Con.

Luke: How would you describe your experience working on this entry of the series?

Andrew: Unmatched was great! Everything was smooth sailing. Particularly I loved how feedback was delivered. With games, there are always teams working on them and despite the entire team being in our chat, they would discuss the art and give feedback in one message vs everyone saying something.

I will say, I’ve only had one really bad experience working on a game. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed working with those in the gaming industry. Everyone is so passionate and I love working with teams who love what they do!

Luke: Did you have a particular process when working on the card art?

Andrew: It’s really robotic, but I blame art school (in a good way) for my process. I start with thumbnails, then I gather reference or take my own, revise the sketch, then finalize.

Luke: Hey, if it works, it works, and clearly you’ve done a phenomenal job here.

Andrew: [laughs] Well thank you, I appreciate it.

Luke: Was there any character you particularly enjoyed drawing?

Andrew: I really enjoyed all of these characters, as I’ve never played around with the Victorian era before. I had the most fun with Jekyll/Hyde and Dracula. I have an artist buddy (Inkwell Illustrations) who has strong Dracula vibes and I have a ridiculous amount of reference photos of him. Jekyll and Hyde are all me plus some age lines and facial hair! If you look at the cards, you can imagine how silly the reference photos are!

Luke: Dude, you should sport the Dr. Jekyll mustache more often!

Is there any card in particular that you had trouble with putting together?

Andrew: I struggled a lot with the conception stage of the Invisible Man. Figuring out how to show a menacing character without a face will forever be one of the most challenging design problems I’ve had to solve!

Luke: Are there any characters you’d love to see show up in the series down the road?

Andrew: Selfishly speaking, as in I’d love to illustrate them if they were to show up in an unmatched game, I’d love to illustrate Iron Man, any MtG character, or anyone from Naruto, Lord of the Rings, or Gundam: Wing.

Luke: Now that this set is complete, are you planning on working on another Unmatched set down the road?

Andrew: I don’t have the authority to make that happen but I would absolutely work on another one in the future!

Luke: What would you say is your biggest takeaway from your Unmatched experience thus far?

Andrew: Do what you love, draw how you draw, and you’ll eventually get hired based on that work. There’s a ton of companies who hire artists and then ask them to work in a different style. I’ve done that before and it’s never as strong as work that falls in with my style.

Luke: That’s such a great outlook, Andrew. I’m honestly working on that myself, so it’s nice to hear that confirmation from someone else in the industry.

Last question for you today; how can folks support you and your work right now?

Andrew: If you want to purchase any of my work, I sell playmates, mtg token packs, and art prints on my website.

I also am currently working on a comic via Patreon ($5 patrons get to see it a month early). The comic is based on my “Banishment series” which is about overcoming difficult times, accepting them, and eventually discovering how those times have made you grow as a person. The comic means a lot to me right now because it’s been a major way of working through my own struggles during this pandemic. I hope anyone who is dealing with depression, feelings of uncertainty, and anxiety right now can relate.

Luke: I’ll definitely have to take the time to check that out! Thanks so much for stopping by, Andrew, I really appreciate it.

And thanks to all of you reading this! Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments, as well as who else you’d like to see us interview, and I look forward to seeing ya’ll next week.

Unmatched: Cobble and Fog – Fighting on Solid Ground

  • Designers: Rob Daviau, Justin Jacobson, and Chris Leder
  • Artist: Andrew Thompson
  • Publisher: Restoration Games
  • Release Date: June 2020

Phil: We at 1-2-Punchboard are big fans of Unmatched.

Luke: Have been since we had the chance to give it a go at Origins last year.

Phil: So any chance we have to talk about this gem of a series, we’ll take, and surprisingly, we have yet another expansion to talk about.

Luke: With the Jurassic Park set having only come out a month or so ago, it feels like a treat to get 4 more characters are 2 more maps.

Phil: The first big box release since the base game.

Luke: This is also the first set not illustrated by Oliver Barrett; Andrew Thompson has taken the reins this time around, bringing his own unique flair to the series, and I have to say, he’s done a fantastic job.

Phil: Oliver’s a tough act to follow, and I can certainly say that both are incredibly talented humans who have brought such life to these titles. Genuinely, I applaud them both for what their skills have added to this series.

Luke: For those of you just hopping aboard the Unmatched train, this 2-player-focused series pits famous characters from pop culture against one another in a battle to the death.

Phil: This time around, we face the likes of devilishly smart Sherlock Holmes and Watson, the crafty Dracula and his Sisters, the devious Invisible Man, and ever-conflicted Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Each has their own decks and abilities, but the gameplay remains the same across all heroes, tying everyone together in an intuitive system.

Luke: Each turn, you’ll take 2 actions, either moving, fighting, or using a special ability. Moving tends to be the only way to get more cards, making it an integral step to take so you have options to work with. Instant effects vary from character to character and can help to differentiate play styles. But the meat and potatoes is the combat.

Phil: After someone declares they are attacking, laying a card face down, their opponent may either block or not. Revealing any played cards, players will compare card effects and values, seeing if the defender takes any damage or what abilities come into play.

Luke: And hot damn, these characters have some spicy options to work with. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde focus on defense and attack respectively, pressuring you to flip back and forth as need be while sometimes taking some risks. The Invisible Man can disappear from the board for entire turns before reappearing anywhere he wishes. Dracula can dish some serious damage while hypnotizing players into using different cards than they selected. And Sherlock can look through his opponent’s hand and discard some of his opponent’s options.

Phil: Every hero feels powerful in their own right, but you’ll have to play smart and carefully to be successful. Something to stress about this set is its best for more familiar, advanced players.

Luke: Hero abilities are more nuanced and involved, and card effects can take up large portions of a card, meaning you’ll have to pay close attention to every move you make.

Phil: But unlike the base game, I feel like this set provides a more diverse line-up of fighters in terms of their mechanics. Everyone feels far more unique and pushes you to try different tactics.

Luke: And the boards provide little details to make them all the more exciting to traverse. A sprawling mansion allows players to move across the map through secret tunnels whereas the streets of the city could feature a rooftop brawl, cut off from the rest of the map.

Phil: Overall, this is a phenomenal set if you are already invested in the game. I would recommend checking out some of the other releases of the series first, but once you’ve grown acclimated, there’s no other game out there quite like it.

Luke: I will say, on a personal note, that this is a first set where I generally just don’t care for one of the fighters. The Invisible Man is conceptually awesome, disappearing in a puff of smoke across the board while milling the opponent’s deck, but in practice, I’ve found him tiresome and annoying to fight against. Particularly when he can just leave the board for a whole turn twice per game, it can be frustrating to have nothing concrete to do until he reappears.

Phil: That being said, I loved playing as him, as there’s no other hero that’s been released who plays in such a skittish, stealthy manner. Not every character will be to everyone’s liking, of course, but I think the hero will be great for some and polarizing for others, more so than the rest of the cast.

Luke: Still, I would hands down recommend this set without hesitation. What it adds to the experience is well worth the price tag.

Verdict: Unmatched: Cobble and Fog is a fantastic addition to the series, adding a ton of new toys to an already robust series. It shouldn’t be the set you start with, but once you’re more familiar with the system and heroes, this will be a must-buy.

Marvel Champs Monday: Be Prepared

Phil: With the release of the Black Widow hero pack has come Preparation cards, a new way to get the upper hand on the villain. Put into play in advance, these cards can trigger when certain cards or effects come into play, allowing you to navigate the uncertain waters of the villain deck with a bit more control.

Luke: From what we’ve heard from head developer Michael Boggs, it’s unlikely that we’ll see other Preparation cards down the road, at least for a long time, meaning we have 10 of these toys to play with as we see fit.

Phil: But how players can get the most out of them, that is the question. Preparations have their own nuances and uses to navigate, making it a sometimes difficult task picking and choosing how to best build your decks.

Luke: Let’s take a look at the effects of these cards and how we’d suggest including them to your decks.

Phil: I think the biggest mistake I made out of the gate was flooding my Black Widow deck with Prep cards. Her ability triggers off of them, making it a seemingly obvious choice.

Luke: Same, but playing a game or two like this quickly reveals how little control you actually have when employing a strategy like this. You end up so shackled to the villain falling into your traps that your turns barely feel substantial.

Phil: And the effects of Prep cards, while useful, may not do as much damage or thwart as well since they often cancel the negative effects of other cards.

Luke: Leading to slower, more arduous games.

Phil: It’s far better to choose a handful of these effects to include in a single deck. Hell, Black Widow may be able to get by with just her core Prep cards, depending on how you build your deck.

Luke: So what Preps you do end up including should have great effects. Cards like Espionage or Spycraft seem neat in theory but are rather situational in practice, making them a questionable choice even if you are allowed to use them.

Phil: Preparations won’t fit in every deck, but they can be huge boons in shoring up your weak-points and better supporting your hero in trying times. The best Prep cards are those that allow you to get more value out of your actions.

Luke: Rapid Response stands out in this regard, allowing you to bring defeated allies back into play. Doubling up on the effects of Nick Fury or Heimdall can be huge, as well as Leadership-specific heroes like Falcon.

Phil: The most common type of Preps, though, are those that mitigate the actions of the villain. Counterintelligence reduces the amount of threat put on the main scheme, Counterattack allows you to deal damage equal to the damage dealt to you, and Defensive Stance reduces the damage an attack would deal to you.

Luke: The last notable iteration is the preventative measures that outright cancel what the villain attempts to do. These are a bit more common in Black Widow’s cards, but Target Acquired can be a clutch card to have in play, depending on the boost effects of your foes.

Phil: Grappling Hook, a Widow-specific card, is obviously the crowned jewel of this, making it a strong variation on Enhanced Spider-Sense. Spidey can cancel anyone’s treachery card, but only the “When Revealed” effects, whereas Black Widow needs Grappling Hook in play and can only target cards she draws, but can cancel any card outright.

Luke: All of these cards are pretty cheap, sitting at a 1 or 2 cost, which can make them more viable than your average card.

Phil: Perhaps, but the more I look at them as a whole, the more skeptical I become about their general use. Outside of a few stand-out selections, Prep cards will, to me, end up being filler cards. Do I need more of a given resource and don’t know what to put in this slot? My Aspect-specific Prep will likely get the job done.

Luke: I wanted to like Preps a lot more, and I think I’ll enjoy using them in smaller doses. Rapid Response easily makes me the most excited, but I’m curious to see how players will begin to use them at large.

Phil: What do you folks think? Which is your favorite Prep card? How useful do you find them on average? Let us know down below!

Luke: Thanks for stopping by, we’ll see you next week!