Marvel Champs Monday: Words Have Meaning

Phil: Keywords are a big part of how we understand and interact with many of the cards in Marvel Champions, though some more so than others.

Luke: Keywords can certainly add a lot to any LCG, enhancing the system with new mechanics while making it easier to understand what a card does at a glance. Yet provide too many keywords or make many of them inconsequential, and you’ll end up diluting the language of the game, making it more obtuse with each expansion.

Phil: We thought we’d look at each of the keywords for Marvel Champs that have been released up to this point and talk about which ones add a lot to the game, which ones have fallen flat, and which ones could use some more love from the game devs.

Luke: Let’s get into it!

Guard and Overkill

Phil: One of the most intuitive and easily implemented of the keywords, Guard adds an obstacle to deal with before slamming the big bad with everything you’ve got. They can make some attacks less optimal, as heroes may be forced to waste excess damage output to deal with minions, and can have some nasty effects associated with them that will pressure you to deal with them.

Luke: Luckily, the game provides us with one of the easier workarounds for this problem, Overkill. By letting us crash through minions, we can potentially kill 2 birds with 1 Hulk Smash!

Phil: Similar to the Crisis symbols on schemes, this additional pressure can make for tense scenarios where you and your friends are surrounded by beefy Guards who make it increasingly difficult to deal with the Villain at hand.

Luke: They can be a little annoying if they become overly present in a single encounter, but having that additional pressure can go a long way to making a fight feel more intense than it may otherwise.

Quickstrike, Retaliate, Ranged, and Incite

Phil: Depending on how many allies you flood the board with or what Aspect you’re working with, you may find yourself flush with health and able to take on just about any enemy you may face. Enter two terrifying terms.

Luke: Quickstrike can take you by surprise, dishing a bonus in very inopportune moments. I’ve certainly gotten killed by it once or twice in the past.

Phil: But Retaliate, that’s the true terror. Consistent damage that wears down aggressive allies, takes away Tough statuses, and generally becomes a sizable burden to deal with.

Luke: By far one of the more punishing keywords thus far, Retaliate makes each attack feel like a tough choice. Is it worth it to deal 2 damage to Arnim just to take 1 as well? Every swing has to be weighed and considered, and it makes for earnestly exciting fights.

Phil: What’s more, it’s so empowering when you have it. Black Panther and Hulk welcome the attacks of minions so they can wear themselves out on their armored suits and thick skin.

Luke: Due to how it can be used for or against the players while also impacting how you interact with the game, Retaliate may be my favorite keyword so far.

Phil: Enter Ranged, a keyword that outright avoids Retaliate. While primarily seen with Hawkeye’s arrows, Ranged will be a strong tool for players to take advantage of when dealing with some of the more defensive villains down the road.

Luke: On top of all of that, there’s Incite, a term that does damage when it comes into play… to the scheme.

Phil: What Incite we have seen is of smaller values, but any boost to how far along the scheme is can spell death, especially when you aren’t anticipating it.

In this way, Incite acts in similar ways to its health-draining brethren, killing any chance the players have at success at a moment’s notice.

Toughness and Piercing

Luke: Toughness provides characters with a Tough status as they enter play, making them a force to be reckoned with from the onset. That is, unless they’re smacked with a Piercing attack, removing the Tough status before it can be of any use.

Phil: There’s nothing quite like setting yourself up to have a Tough status take a punishing hit only to have it cut down, slamming you full-force in the face.

Luke: It makes a rather valuable resource more selective in its use, which is probably for the best. Tough is an incredibly powerful tool, so having a counter to it only makes sense.

Phil: It seems that this was a big goal in the creation of Rise of Red Skull; making counters for what keywords are already in play. It’s a smart implementation, especially this early in the game’s life, and will likely service the future of this system well.

Permanent and Surge

Luke: The Encounter deck. Ever the instigator of bad things to come. And when bad things come, they come in droves. Enter Surge, that dreaded term that makes more bad things come out of the deck than there ever should.

Phil: Nothing is quite as frightening as discovering that more cards need to come out of the deck than initially anticipated, as ever card is the promise of something sinister on the horizon.

Luke: Permanent, on the other hand, stands in the middle of the battleground, middle-fingers raised in the air, saying “Deal with it!”

Phil: Both of these keywords force players to deal with more of the bad stuff than usual, but in opposite ways. One creates a boundary that will never be overcome, whereas the other floods the play space with more evils to face. They look to pressure us into tight spots and seeing how we might react.

Uses and Restricted

Luke: Sometimes, there need to be limits on how buck-wild a player can make a deck, and these 2 keywords look to rein in the machinations of players in some manageable ways.

Phil: Restricted makes it so a deck can only have so many cards of a certain power-level in their deck, whereas Uses limits how many times a card can be used before it’s removed from the board, limiting its abilities.

Luke: This is standard deck-building stuff and hardly worth noting, but they’re worth addressing in a cursory manner due to their importance to the system.


Phil: A new terms meant to facilitate campaigns, Setup simply allows players to start the game with this card in play.

Luke: As it stands, it’s a fairly bland term, but I could see some heroes or future cards benefiting from this a lot. Imagine a character like Hawkeye starting the game with his bow already in play!

Phil: So, what’s to be gleaned from all this?

Luke: Well, it’s clear that there are various counters set in place for some of the stronger elements of the game. Retaliate and Tough now have very clear answers that remove their effects from play. This helps to support the idea that there’s no one right way to play or any one stratagem that makes the game easier to tackle.

Phil: Other than allies-

Luke: Yes, we get it, allies are super good. But I think we’re starting to see villains and mechanics set in motion that slow down minions or make them less effective when dealing with the hurdles Marvel Champs sets out before its players.

Phil: Additionally, there are a lot of keywords that have yet to be used to their fullest. Setup, Permanent, and Restricted are all terms that are only seen occasionally thus far. The promise of more down the road is very exciting.

Luke: Lastly, I would say the most involving keywords are the ones both sides can harness. Toughness, Retaliate, Piercing, Overkill, these are all effects we can use just as easily as the villains can, and make them more nuanced and involved to consider, unlike something like Surge, which is more one-note because only the villains have access to it.

Phil: I for one am looking forward to what other keywords are on the horizon. What keywords are you all waiting to see implemented? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see ya’ll next week!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *