It’s safe to say that the focus of this review was one of the most anticipated games of 2019, when Atomic Mass Games announced they were creating an objective-based miniatures games, people will have been intrigued; when they let slip that it was themed around the Marvel Universe: Boom, we have lift off.
Now, there’re lots of Marvel-themed games already out there; by lots I mean a ridiculous number, and Fantasy Flight Games have only just released another one in the form of the card battling Marvel Champions, but moving & fighting with your favourite heroes’ miniatures added to the hobby side of Crisis Protocol meant that I personally was very excited about this game and knew I’d be jumping in with two Hulk-sized feet. So, let’s assemble our Avengers and take a look at Marvel: Crisis Protocol all the way through to the Endgame.
As I have already said, Crisis is an objective-based game that uses a 3x3ft. game space that can be filled with various different themed terrain that the players can think of, although you are provided with buildings, vehicles and other smaller pieces of city terrain in the core box, which I will say is terrific value for the amount of content provided.
In the core box, players will be able to use any of these ten heroes and villains: Captain America, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Crossbones, Ultron, Red Skull, Doctor Octopus and Baron Zemo. Although there are more advanced rules about creating team affiliations, such as the Avengers, players will be able to mix and match, allowing for Ultron and Iron Man to team up or Spider-Man and Doc Ock to be on the same side.
At the start of the game, players will use the crisis and map cards, and a scenario will be created, such as rescuing civilians or finding parts of the Cosmic Cube, with rules for each mission found on those cards themselves. Tokens will be placed out on the game space matching the cards chosen.
Players will now draft a number of heroes from their pool depending on the mission and threat level; each hero costs a number of threat points, and your team can’t exceed the mission’s threat level, which in the core box will always be 17, with the likes of Captain America costing 4 threat. Each hero comes with a stat card that denotes everything players need to know about that hero, including movement speed, defence, attack and any superpowers that your hero may have. The heroes are then deployed at opposite sides of the game space, and we’re ready to go.
In turn order, players will now activate one of their heroes carrying out two actions, which could include moving, attack, use of a superpower or shake, which allows players to get rid of a special condition, such as bleed or stun suffered by being attacked themselves. Players can also interact with objective tokens to help gain victory points or play team tactic cards that could boost a hero’s attack, give them more power or heal a friendly hero.
Movement in Crisis is extremely easy: There’re 3 different length-hinged movement tools, and when a player preforms a movement action, also called advance, they simply place one end of the tool in base contact with their hero and then move the hero so its base is touching any part of the movement tool. Other movement includes throwing or pushing enemy heroes and climbing up or over terrain, such as buildings.
There are three types of attacks in Crisis, not including the superpowers: physical, energy and mystic, and they will, of course, vary depending on which hero you’re attacking with. Each attack available to a hero is listed on the stat card, which will tell players the range of attack, number of dice rolled and if the hero has to spend power tokens in order to carry out that attack.
As an example, Captain American uses his Shield Throw, which is a physical attack, and the range is 4, allows 4 attack dice to be rolled and costs no power to do it. This attack also has the Ricochet keyword attached to it, meaning that a second target can be hit with this attack, potentially doing damage to two enemy heroes.
Combat is decided by dice rolls, so the defender will now roll to try and cancel out any damage rolled by the attacker, and special abilities and superpowers may also come in to play in what is a very fluid combat system. As I have already said, Crisis is an objective-based game, so the focus isn’t really on wiping out your opponent from the game space but on scoring victory points. Over six rounds, players will try to score as many victory points as possible, which will decide the winner of the game.
That was a very brief overview of the gameplay, so I’ll now talk about my positive and negative points, starting with the latter:
My first negative will divide opinion and will also be a positive for a great many players, and that is that the minis and terrain come on sprues, which I hate. I will concede that the detail quality is superior, but I don’t believe it outweighs the increased time aspect of alternative options, such as that of a game like Star Wars: Legion with their push fit minis. Building minis such as Captain Marvel was an absolute chore, with some pieces, such as her arms, being needlessly fiddly. The problem isn’t just with Captain Marvel. Crossbones’ face piece is separate to the head, which is ridiculous, as well as the shoulder guards and pouches on Captain America being separate components from the rest of him, which is just silly. When compared to the arms of Doctor Octopus, which are just one large piece and fit together very easily, it’s just frustrating that some of the other minis are the polar opposite.
Something else that I think could have been done better was the iconography in the game, of which there is quite a lot. The number of them available doesn’t bother me, but it’s the size of the icons on the cards that I think could have been larger in size. The artwork, not only on the stat cards but covering the whole game in general, is absolutely amazing, but many of the cards have massive areas of waste, which could have been utilised for bigger iconography, therefore, making it easier for the players during gameplay.
The big overriding positive to Crisis Protocol is the way Atomic Mass have brought the theme to the forefront of the game, and that isn’t just through the aesthetics of the minis or terrain provided. When using Spider-Man, it really feels like the hero that we have all grown up with: He fires webs, crawls up buildings, can use ‘web-a-pult’, which throws enemies or terrain across the game space or into a larger piece of terrain to damage them. He is everything that we’ve seen in the movies or read in the comics. This is repeated throughout all the heroes provided in the core set; Red Skull makes use of the Cosmic Cube, Captain America feels like a selfless leader by protecting his allies, whilst Crossbones is just an absolute brute who just wants to walk forward and punch heroes in the face.
I really haven’t played a Marvel game that brings this level of theme or the feel of using actual superheroes like Crisis Protocol, which is where this game shines.
The rule book is also worth a mention as it has been extremely well designed, laid out and presented. It is only a ‘learn to play’ with the more advanced rules being found online, but it provides all the information needed to get started, is clear and concise and has loads of photographs of painted minis and terrain, as well as an assembly guide.
Designers: Will Shick & Will Pagani
Publisher: Atomic Mass Games
Release Date: November 2019