Games are announced all the time! In fact, on average we tend to get an announcement of a new game at least twice a week, almost throughout the year!
However, on occasion, a game is announced that makes most of the industry and hobby alike; pay attention and stop what they are doing. One such announcement came earlier this year at the annual GenCon event in Indianapolis and caught everyone by surprise.
During their live showcase event on the eve of the show, industry giants Fantasy Flight Games did something unexpected during their in-flight report, and turned the floor over to a brand new company Atomic Mass Games, who in turn announced their first project, a superhero miniature game set in the Marvel universe and featuring some of the most iconic characters in history.
Soon word began to get out like a brush fire about this new game and the stunning looking miniatures and demonstration boards that were at the show, with YouTube legend Crabbok delivering one of the first hands-on videos of the game itself, Marvel Crisis Protocol!
After what seems like an eternity the superhero skirmish/team up game is now finally here.
The core set is pretty much packed to the gills with Marvel goodness and it’s a pretty good experience when you pop that beautifully painted lid for the first time. There is a lot of stuff here and that shows as soon as you open the box.
The Learn to Play book sits nicely on the top of the product and this full colour booklet acts as a guide to the game’s mechanics and the background of the characters, also how to assemble your models and terrain and rulers. This, however, is not the full rules for the game and you will need to download those from the official Atomic Mass site (HERE). Its well laid out with lots of examples and a great read. Marvel Crisis Protocol is aimed at a specific market and is trying to capture those who are pretty new to the hobby, hoping most likely to grab those who love the Marvel phenomena!
The game comes with lots of tokens and I do mean lots! These will cover everything from power for the heroes and villains, to damage and condition chits and everything else you need to play the game!
Here is my look through the game and unboxing
The game comes with a whole bunch of cards, that give you the main rooster cards for your models, team affiliation cards, scenario cards (more on which in a moment) and even terrain deployment cards. On the whole, the cards are of regular size with the exception of the character cards which are oversized and come in at 6″ x 4″ which is good for some reasons, but a bad idea for others.
The good thing is that you can very easily see the details and information on the cards, even if you have vision problems like myself. They are clearly set out and easy to read, and all the character cards are double-sided, with one side featuring the character as they start the battle, and the other side featuring the character after they have taken some damage! During play once a character takes enough damage to go over its Stamina, the following turn the card is simply flipped to show its damaged side. Some characters get stronger or unlock other powers when they are damaged, others stay the same!
The bad thing about the size of the cards is well the size of the cards! They don’t fit into regular card sleeves and the sleeves that are available are quite expensive. You could, however, use postcard mounts for your cards as they are the same size, or failing that even laminate them. The truth of the matter is it is all down to you personally. The cards are coated in a film that makes them feel like they have a satin finish, which will give them some degree of protection!
Each of the character cards details everything you need to know about that character, from the faction they are most likely to be affiliated with, to their name or secret identity and much more. Every character is unique meaning only one of its kind can be on the table at any given time. You could have Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Spider-Man/Miles Morales together, but not two of the same identity! There will be a way around this naturally in future releases as there are more versions of Spider-Man than any other character in the Marvel Universe and it will be interesting to see how Atomic Mass Games handle this going forward!
The rest of the anatomy of the card is as follows and reading down the card!
Hero Name: In this case Captain America. The name that the character is currently going by. In the comics, it is not unheard of for a character such as Captain America to go under different names, such as Nomad when he dropped his official title!
Alias: This is the secret identity of the character, in this case, Steve Rodgers. This makes every character unique to the game being played and no more than one character with the same name can be in play at any given time.
Stamina. The amount of physical damage a character can take before they are dazed or stunned and the card flipped to the injured side.
Speed: The movement that the character can make using a move action. Ranges are split from band 1 which is a normal person on foot too band 3 which is representing flight or wall-crawling or some softer form of motion that the character can make. The higher the value, the faster the character can move and the further distance it can travel. All movement is measured using range rulers very similar to those found in Star Wars Legion (more on which later)
Size: This is the size of the character and goes from 1 which is tiny to size 5 which is colossal! Size determines the number of factors in-game, such as line of sight and cover provided by terrain. If you are a size 4 hiding behind a size 2 dumpster you’re not going to benefit from any protection that the dumpster may offer. Size also comes into effect when you through or push characters into something else such as picking up a car and hitting a character is going to hurt!
Threat Level: There is no real points value in Marvel Crisis Protocol, but the way you determine what characters you can take for a mission is down to the Threat Level of the mission and the Threat Level of each specific character! In the core game, the Threat Level of all the missions is 17, which means that you can only take characters who are less than or equal to the Threat Level of 17. Captain America has a Threat Level of 4, which puts him easily below the cap of 17 and will allow you to use other characters in the scenario.
The next line on the card deals with the defence factors of the character.
Physical: The characters resistance to damage inflicted by attacks with the Physical trait, from punches and kicks to gunfire. The higher the value then the more defence the character has against this form of attack!
Energy: The characters resistance to damage inflicted by attacks with the Energy trait, from Iron Mans repulsor blast to Thor’s lightning attacks The higher the value then the more defence the character has against this form of attack!
Mystical: The characters resistance to damage inflicted by attacks with the Mystical trait, from magical attacks and hexes of Scarlett Witch to Helas swords or spells. The higher the value then the more defence the character has against this form of attack!
Reading further down the card and we get to the character’s skills and abilities which form the basis of their attacks and defences and superpowers.
All of the characters’ skills and powers fall into one of three categories; Active, Reactive and Innate! These are generated by taking damage, effects from cards or objectives or sometimes from causing damage to an opponent as stated by the characters’ card. Each skill or power will have a power cost value assigned to it, a cost of zero means that no power is deducted to use this power, normally reflecting training or reflexes, etc.
Active: Active powers are those that require the character to spend power points on to use. Each active power will have a number assigned to it, with this being the amount of power that needs to be expelled to make this power work. These are designated by the crosshairs style symbol.
Reactive: Reactive powers require a trigger effect to allow them to happen, normally against the character. Characters then spend the power cost for the power and it takes effect. These are designated by the arrow style symbol.
Innate: Innate powers are those that are constantly active within the character and are always usable. These are designated by the infinity style symbol.
Once a character has taken equal too or over their Stamina, they are considered to be dazed and lose any further actions for the remaining turn, unless they can shake off the effect. Dazed characters are flipped from the healthy side of their card to the injured side during the start of the next turn. This also means that no matter how much damage a character takes during the game, they can’t be tabled in a single go by multiple attacks against them. It also adds very much to the cinematic theme of the game itself and captures the comic book feel very well.
Missions in the game play a key part in the overall feel and are generated using the Crisis cards, these will dictate what happens during the scenario and what the victory conditions are. The Crisis cards also have a threat level value which indicates how many points of Threat you can take from your initial pool of ten characters. Each Crisis card is either a Secure or Extraction type and players choose from their cards and play one each to develop the adventure and generate the total threat value.
Team Tactic Cards
Of course, the whole aim of the game is to bring your own unique style of play to the game and choose from a huge roster of characters within the Marvel Comics universe to do so. This means that more often than not, members of your team may be mortal enemies for the most part, but have put aside those differences and fight along side each other forming a team. Team Tactic cards can be used to buff your characters during play and sometimes strategic use of them can really turn the tide of a game. Some Team Tactics cards are unassigned when means anyone can use them, while others are team specific and can only be used by that particular team, such as the Cabal or Avengers. These cards will state when they can be played during the game (at the start of a turn or when a certain condition is met, etc) and once played they are exhausted and can’t be used again.
Marvel Crisis Protocol also comes with three double-sided map cards that are used to generate where the terrain is placed on the table top. Games in Marvel Crisis Protocol are played on a 3′ by 3′ square board and the terrain is a very important component of the game as nearly all of it can be destroyed or used to effect during play. From picking up a dump truck and swinging it around like a bolas to dropping a building on someone, the terrain plays a great role, but don’t expect much of it to stay around for long, especially when the heavy hitters like The Hulk are around!
As mentioned above, there are a lot of tokens in the game, 170 to be precise and new expansions only add to this such as the Gamma Shelters you get with the Hulk expansion. Some players are pointing out that this is over the top and should have been cut down before release, but to be honest, compared to some games the amount of tokens is pretty much a norm. You have tokens for Power, wounds inflicted objective markers and so much more. Luckily each of the tokens is described with an image at the start of the book so you can identify which is which.
Like a lot of miniatures games, Marvel Crisis Protocol uses dice to resolve checks and combat, etc. The dice used in the game are eight-sided, and use symbols rather than numbers to generate a result. Failure: The skull icon means that the die has failed its roll and can’t be rerolled again no matter how many criticals you may roll.
Hit: The roll was a success and this counts towards whatever action was being attempted.
Critical: The roll is a success and furthermore an additional die may be rolled for each critical that is initially rolled. This exploding dice mechanic however only allows for each critical to be rerolled once and you will not gain any more successes for other criticals rolled during that resolution.
Block: Used when defending against attacks, each block icon rolled will negate a successful hit or critical or wild. Wild rolls, however, will still generate their effect.
Wild: The wild counts as a hit when tallying up the symbols and may also have another effect as noted on the characters’ card. Some wilds will cause the character to make a follow-up action or push a model away from them.
Learn to Play
As already mentioned, the Learn to Play book that comes with Marvel Crisis Protocol is not the full rulebook and you will need to download the core rules from the Atomic Mass Games website.
The Learn to Play book will teach you the basics of the game, what each phase consists of and how it happens and much more. It is filled with lots of examples of play and dozens of awesome photographs of the excellently painted studio models. The book comes in at forty-six pages and contains a quick reference sheet at the back which breaks down the anatomy of each turn stage by stage.
There is a little section of the book that is given over to the background of each of the ten characters within the game and explores their comic book origins. Please note that while many of the characters in the game have appeared in the very popular Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, they are not the same as their comic book counterparts, which is what Atomic Mass Games have gone for. The backgrounds on each character match those of the comics, though if the game is successful and there is every chance that it will be, there is no saying that some of the cinematic counterparts may be released further down the line.
Overall the Learn to Play book is well laid out and easy to read, and even contains that most elusive of things these days, a contents page!
As well as the rules and backgrounds to the characters, the book also serves as an instruction manual on how to assemble the miniatures provided. Each is shown in a step by step exploded diagram that is pretty straight forward and simple for even a newcomer to the world of hobby games to follow and the miniatures shouldn’t cause to many problems at all. Atomic Mass Games have also uploaded step by step assembly guides for each of the core characters from the game to their YouTube channel!
Okay, the main reason people will no doubt want to buy this game is because of the models, pure and simple! The game comes with ten large scale miniatures of some of the most iconic characters in the history of comic books, many of whom are firm fan favorites and are all listed below.
Each of these amazing looking miniatures is a multipart kit that comes on a small sprue and will need to be clipped off and assembled before you can play with them.
Speaking of which, you will need to use either model glue or super glue when putting these miniatures together. Unlike say Star Wars Legion where you can on the most part just push fit those models, these do need to be glued together!
Each of the miniatures is extremely detailed and captures the comic book feel perfectly. Each model is around 38mm in scale and they stand pretty tall when next too miniatures from other companies, with Ultron standing head and shoulders above the rest of the core set. Each miniature also comes with its own detailed base, that depicts a section of a street scene, including paving, grates and such and as a nice wee touch, Atomic Mass Games have used the extra space on the Spires to add small pieces of street scatter such as bottles, cans, etc. And it is repeated on the models with extra parts appearing on the sprues such as an extra head for Spider-Man or Cosmic Cube for Red Skull.
The terrain pieces are fantastic and once again come with scenic scatter to spice them up and assemble very easily. The Daily Bugle newsstand is detailed and even features a piece that has newspapers modeled directly on it. The logo that proudly proclaims this as belonging to the most famous of New York’s publishing houses is raised so it makes painting it much easier, a great idea and one that I am sure many will love.
Next, we have two sets of street furniture which come in the form of a set of traffic/crosswalk lights and two old-style street lamps. These are great detailed kits and make a worthy addition to the set, adding that New York City vibe to a game that already seems steeped in Marvel mythos.
Finally, we get two sets of dumpsters and two saloon cars. The dumpsters are the kind you will find at the side of buildings, and each has the Damage Control icon of the bulldog. Damage Control made a very brief appearance in Spider-Man Homecoming when they took over from Adrian Tomes and his workers, but has been around in the comics for a long time. Damage Controlgoes into areas that have been the playground of the epic battles between superpowered people and cleans up after them, as they can leave behind billions of dollars worth of destruction in their wake. Just watch an episode of any Marvel cartoon and you will see how much collateral damage the supers actually do!
The saloon cars are more or less 1/43rd scale which puts them as very close to 0 gauge in the terms of scale, which means that we can work out a great selection of buildings from third parties that will go well with the game. The two cars are identical and both come complete with wing mirrors and even an optional topper that can turn them into a taxi cab, again great attention to detail from Atomic Mass Games.
As with all the miniatures in the game, the terrain is a breeze to put together and the assembly instructions are very easy to follow making the kits very simple to put together.
Finally, we come to the measurement rulers for the game, and these come in two varieties. First up we get the movement rulers, that are used to move your heroes and villains around the tabletop. There are three rulers in the game and they are designed to pivot in the middle in the exact same way as the ones found in Star Wars Legion. Each character has its own movement stat on its card (see above) and it ranges from short (S) to medium (M) and long (L) and each of the rulers has the corresponding letter in the middle, and also some really nice looking artwork depicting the Hulk leaping across the city, a speedster running and a flyer in full flight! Of course, you can just leave them grey plastic, but they are screaming out to be painted up, much like the next set of rulers.
The range rulers are designed to measure how much distance is between a character and an object or target, and we get four of them from rangers two right through to range five! Each ruler is made from the same sturdy plastic as the rest of the core set and has some totally gorgeous looking relief on them. Note that there are only four rulers but one goes up to five, well range one is the distance of the width of any of the rulers, eliminating the need to make an extra ruler!
Marvel Crisis Protocol is a game that is designed to get people playing games who have never played a miniatures game before. Its rules are simplistic, yet never dumbed down and will appeal to both veteran and novice gamers alike. It has a lot of scope for the future and I for one can see the game becoming a huge hit, especially at large shows and comic conventions.
There is a lot planned for the upcoming releases of the game, with three or so releases being scheduled for the next few months and featuring some real fan favourite characters like Thor and Venom, and early into 2020, we will see Thanos appear, in the largest kit in the line so far!
I am extremely impressed with the production values and playability of Marvel Crisis Protocol and think that Atomic Mass Games has done an outstanding job in every aspect of the game. The production values are excellent, the artwork is perfect and the miniatures are among the best I have seen in many, many years and I look forward eagerly to each new release to add to my collection.
I am more than pleased to name Marvel Crisis Protocol as Gamers Web Game of the Year 2019, and really excited to see just what the future has in store for this awesome product!
You can find out more about Marvel Crisis Protocol by visiting the official Atomic Mass Games website and Facebook group. Below are links to a few sites and YouTube channels that are ideal for getting the most out of the game and don’t forget to join the guys from Atomic Mass Studios every Thursday at 1pm PST for their excellent live Twitch streams over on Twitch TV.
Now if you will excuse me I think I can hear Daredevil coming into my mansion so I better go grab my cane, capesh!
Marc November 19th 2019
All images copyright Atomic Mass Games All Rights Reserved