Marvel: Age of Heroes by WizKids
Players: 2 to 5
Playtime: 60 to 90 minutes
Perfect for: Groups who enjoy competitive strategic worker placement games that build engines, especially those with a special affinity for Marvel’s X-Men universe.
Marvel: Age of Heroes is a game of mutant team building with the goal of taking out an assortment of villains. Players take control of a famous X-Duo (i.e., Storm & Forge; Jubilee and Wolverine, etc.), and leverage their special abilities to grow in strength. Once powered up, teams battle iconic X-Foes such as Sabretooth, The Blob, Mystique, and Magneto to prove themselves the best X-Heroes of all.
To begin Marvel: Age of Heroes two to five players select their character(s) and associated game board, tokens, and card upgrade deck (called Evolutions). On a turn, a player assigns one their heroes by placing on the main board in an unoccupied space—this is the Institute Phase. These assignments allow them to collect a resource type or play cards from their hand that expand the number of locations players can go to. Most of these expansions grant future visitors enhanced benefits (i.e. more resources or victory points), while also giving the original builder a bonus whenever someone activates the location. The Institute Phase continues until everyone has allocated all of their heroes and students, or has passed.
In the second phase, the Mission Phase, players designate heroes they allocated to the X-Jet in the first round to go on one of the available missions. Missions typically involve a hero (or a student in some cases) to battle a villain. To battle, a player must exchange a specific bundle of their collected resources for hits on a foe. Scoring hits is the primary way people gain victory points, although there are additional ways such as being strategic about where heroes go on the main board to collect bonuses. After defeating a predetermined number of villains, the game concludes and the player with the most victory point wins.
What works in Marvel: Age of Heroes is its deep versatility and thematic adaption. Players who enjoy worker placement games with multiple paths to victory will find plenty to relish here. As each Marvel: Age of Heroes’ evolves, new potential synergies emerge which give players many different viable options for progress. At the same time, because Marvel: Age of Heroes is a competitive game players must be strategic about when and where to procure resources—wait too long for a spot and it might not be available, wreaking havoc to a well-laid, multi-step plan. In addition, Marvel: Age of Heroes has double-sided boards for each player, various options for upgrades, and three different main game scenarios. This ensure a very high replay value where no two games will be the same, and players must adapt to the conditions to win.
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Marvel, along with other popular franchises, has many associated games that simply apply the brand name to an established mechanic. This is not the case with Marvel: Age of Heroes. Instead, designer Rodney Thompson (Lords of Waterdeep, Tyrants of the Underdark) has taken great care to graft the characters’ traits and mutant powers onto their in-game abilities. For example, Gambit’s upgrades help him collect more cards; Rogue “steals” power-ups; Wolverine likes to fight; and Kitty Pryde can navigate the board with fewer restrictions. Marvel: Age of Heroes feels like an X-Men game with a worker placement style rather than vice versa. This approach only makes the game more delightful and engrossing—a treat for fans of these superheroes.
Players who don’t enjoy games with a multitude of decision-making with cascading effects may not enjoy Marvel: Age of Heroes as much as others. While the mechanics are easy to pick up (thanks in part to strong iconography), analysis paralysis is a real possibility given the variables and linkage between them. A well-executed move could very easily result in a domino effect that maximizes efficiency and victory points. Finding that move is easier said than done, as it may require running through various scenarios and guessing what opponents might do. In short, Marvel: Age of Heroes is a very big game and might actually work better with fewer players as a result.
Marvel: Age of Heroes is an excellent worker placement game. Thanks to a fantastic blending of the source material with well-balance mechanics, Marvel: Age of Heroes is likely to find the table repeatedly with game enthusiasts who appreciate the genre. Highly recommended.
Recommended if you like: Lords of Waterdeep, Euphoria, Marvel Legendary