March 25, 2021 – Via a lengthy design diary, new details for Marvel United X-Men were released by publisher CMON. Andrea Chiarvesio, one of the designers of both games gave an intimate look inside the creative process and gave plenty of new information on what fans can expect from the new title.
We announced back in January of 2021 that this game was coming, but the details were sparse. All we were given was a teaser trailer that promised the inclusion of some of our favorite heroes and villains. We now get to see specifics on features, feedback that was responded to and how general challenges may be overcome.
Andrea first spoke about their happiness with how the original Marvel United came out and recaps the game beautifully.
“It’s a game that uses only 3 icons (plus a wild one) to deliver the experience of being a Hero, with an engine solid enough to support unique mechanics, turning every game into a different experience just by changing the Villain, the Heroes, or simply the seating order at the table. I also feel we were able to overcome the biggest challenge of the project – convey the uniqueness, powers, and personality of each different Hero by using only 12 Hero cards for each (actually, just with 10, since two cards must be identical in each Hero deck to scale the game difficulty). It’s kind of easy to cover a character’s backstory and abilities in a 100-page novel. It’s a much more challenging feat to do that with what’s equivalent to barely a 12-line summary.”
Changes are definitely coming. In Adrea’s words, “this new expansion gave us the opportunity to bring some exciting changes to the general game structure and experiment with new mechanics, taking into account all the great feedback we got from players of the original game.”
MORE PLAYERS CAN PLAY NOW
“One of the challenges we tackled was adding more players to the table. We already knew that simply adding a fifth hero player would not have worked…. So, the natural choice was to give the fifth player the role of the Villain, following the path partially already explored with the Traitor Challenge in the Tales of Asgard expansion.”
“Given the small size of both the Master Plan and the Hero decks, we felt that the Villain and the Hero players really needed something to surprise each other and make games less predictable. This lead … to the introduction of Super Villain and Super Hero cards. Their trigger conditions also allowed us to break the strict “I perform my turn with no interferences” structure that works so well for a cooperative game, but less so for a competitive one.”
Andrea continues to talk about the different challenges that have gone along with that process and the satisfying results they were able to achieve. After discussing this major hurdle, next up was another very important aspect to get right, the uniqueness of the X-Men Universe characters.
A NEW ANTI-HERO CHARACTER CATEGORY IS COMING
“Their stories sometimes have no clear distinction between friends and foes … we knew that some characters should be allowed the double role of Heroes and Villain … We now have Anti-Hero characters, a new feature for the United games. These characters come with both a Villain Masterplan deck and a Hero deck. We hope players have fun learning how to both utilize these characters as an ally as well as what strategies work best against them as an enemy.”
3-CARD SPECIAL ABILITY MAX EXPANDING
“Mutants’ powers have so many little nuances and different ways to express themselves … the 3-card limit on special ability cards … was going to be too strict for the X-Men. That’s also why one of our very first decisions was to raise the number of special ability cards for each Hero from three to four.”
“Along with this, we decided to assign some Heroes cards/powers as special, having the player start out with them directly in their hand at the start of the game. Some heroes have signature powers that should be featured in every game. While uncommon in our experience, sometimes the randomness of the draw had Hulk playing without ever getting angry or Thor never throwing Mjolnir. We did not want this to happen with Wolverine’s regeneration or Mystique’s polymorphing powers. They should always show up at least once.”
LOCATION EFFECTS ARE THERE BUT NEW & EXCITING
“Something we also got a lot of feedback about was that players wanted more variety in Location effects. There are some basic effects (drawing cards, moving to another location, etc.) that we needed to have in most of the games for balancing reasons, so these needed to be included in X-Men. However, we still managed to give all the locations in this new version of the game a unique effect that fit with them thematically, too.
Much more to come…