Bring On the Bad Guys With ‘Marvel: Crisis Protocol’


Assemble your teams and face off in the Marvel Comics universe.

What Is Marvel: Crisis Protocol?

Marvel: Crisis Protocol is a tactical miniatures game for two players, ages 14+, and takes 90-120 minutes to play. It’s from new game company Atomic Mass Games and published by Asmodee. It’s available directly from Asmodee’s online store or from local or online games stores. The Core Set retails for $99.99. Also available at launch are expansions for Hulk and M.O.D.O.K., which both retail for $34.95, as well as additional dice packs and measuring tools. Expansions that include additional Marvel heroes and villains, as well as different types of terrain features, will be released periodically in the future. It should be noted that currently, characters in the game are all Marvel comic book ones, not the MCU versions portrayed in the movies.

Here’s the game trailer that Atomic Mass Games produced:

Core Set contents. Image by Paul Benson.

Marvel: Crisis Protocol Core Set Components

Here’s what comes in the Core Set:

  • 10 Miniatures
  • 10 Bases
  • 1 Daily Bugle Stand
  • 2 Cars
  • 2 Dumpsters
  • 2 Traffic Lights
  • 2 Lampposts
  • 170 Tokens
  • 20 Team Tactics Cards
  • 3 Map Cards
  • 2 Affiliation Cards
  • 10 Character Stat Cards
  • 6 Crisis Cards
  • 3 Movement Tools
  • 4 Range Tools
  • 1 Learn to Play
  • 10 Dice
Character stat cards. Image by Paul Benson.

The character stat cards are oversized and brightly illustrated. Some of the iconography on the cards can be a little small and difficult to read under the descriptions of the attacks and superpowers for the character, but otherwise, everything is very clearly laid out. There’s a fair amount of icons in the game, but I found I was picking them up very quickly. The cards are double-sided; the side with the blue background represents a “healthy” character, while the one with the red background represents an “injured” character. The drawing of the character also shows damage, which is a nice touch.

The injured side of Spider-Man’s card. Image by Paul Benson.

There are several standard playing card-sized cards in the game as well. They are also clearly laid out, and the “Team Tactics” cards all feature great illustrations from various Marvel Comics artists. If you’re a fan of comic book art, you’ll be admiring each and every one of those cards.

Crisis, affiliation, team tactics, and map cards. Image by Paul Benson.

This being a miniatures game, Crisis Protocol comes with a lot of plastic. And unlike a miniatures game such as CMON’s A Song of Ice and Fire, these miniatures do not come pre-assembled. Here’s what you’re looking at once you get everything out of the baggies:

Sprues. Image by Paul Benson.

And here’s a gallery of most of those sprues so you can see them up close:

Captain Marvel sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Black Widow sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Spider-Man sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Doctor Octopus sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Iron Man sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Red Skull sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Captain America sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Crossbones sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Ultron sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Baron Zemo sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Lamp posts sprue. Image by Paul Benson.
Car sprues. Image by Paul Benson.
Newsstand sprue. Image by Paul Benson.

That can be a little intimidating for a non-hobbyist, I know. Here’s the good news: as plastic miniatures, these can be assembled with just some hobby clippers and/or an X-Acto knife and some plastic cement. Mold lines are very minimal, and the pieces are engineered so that they fit together extremely well. ProTip: If you are used to assembling Games Workshop plastic miniatures, you will find that you need to let the plastic cement set a bit longer with this slightly harder plastic.

Captain Marvel. Image by Paul Benson.
Doctor Octopus. Image by Paul Benson.
Spider-Man. Image by Paul Benson.
Black Widow. Image by Paul Benson.
Captain America. Image by Paul Benson.
Crossbones. Image by Paul Benson.
The Red Skull. Image by Paul Benson.
Iron Man. Image by Paul Benson.
Ultron. Image by Paul Benson.
Baron Zemo. Image by Paul Benson.
All of the Core Set terrain. Image by Paul Benson.

The sculpts of the miniatures are all dynamic and wonderfully detailed, taking full advantage of their 40mm scale (most tabletop skirmish-style games are in a smaller 28mm scale). And I love that all the bases are textured like different city street surfaces! But it’s not all roses… I did have a couple of issues with the minis.

First, there are a lot of pieces on each of the character sprues, especially considering the miniatures are designed to fit together in static poses. Ultron has 21 different pieces to put together for his figure alone! And some of the smaller pieces on the models could easily have been sculpted onto larger model parts. For example, did Baron Zemo’s elbow pads really need to be separate tiny pieces you have to glue onto his elbows? And couldn’t Crossbones’ faceplate have been sculpted directly onto his head?

Part numbers on sprue. Image by Paul Benson.

My other issue has to do with the assembly instructions. Note that the parts on the sprues are all numbered, as seen above on Captain America’s sprue. Yet, when you look at the instructions, the illustrations don’t show the numbers.

Assembly instructions for Captain America. Image by Paul Benson.

Most of the time this wasn’t a huge issue for me, especially as an experienced modeler. But I did run into issues dealing with some of the characters, notably in assembling Ultron’s legs and Doctor Octopus’ mechanical arms. Some of the parts in those constructions look very similar, and having the numbers of the parts in the assembly diagrams would have alleviated the frustration in putting them together. This was definitely an oversight on the part of Atomic Mass Games that I hope will be corrected in future printings of the “Learn to Play” book. Perhaps they will put revised editions of the assembly instructions online showing the parts numbers, so that less experienced hobbyists will have an easier time putting their kits together.

Update (11/15/19): Atomic Mass Games has posted a revised assembly guide on their website that includes the part numbers.

Hulk and M.O.D.O.K. Components

Releasing at the same time as the Core Set are the Hulk and M.O.D.O.K. expansions for Crisis Protocol. These are the first of many small box sets that not only bring additional playable characters to the game, but add new missions, tokens, and Team Tactics cards. Below you can see the components of each of the box sets, as well as the assembled miniatures.

Hulk box contents. Image by Paul Benson.
Hulk assembly instructions. Image by Paul Benson.
Hulk miniature. Image by Paul Benson.
M.O.D.O.K. box contents. Image by Paul Benson.
M.O.D.O.K. assembly instructions. Image by Paul Benson.
M.O.D.O.K. miniature. Image by Paul Benson.

How to Play Marvel: Crisis Protocol

You can download a copy of the rulebook here. Note that for the purposes of this review, I will be discussing the rules as written in the “Learn to Play” book included with the Core Set. The downloadable rules go into more detail, especially regarding how to set up and play games when you have enough miniatures beyond the Core Set for both players to bring a roster of ten unique characters to the table.

The Goal

The first player to score 16 victory points before the end of the 6th round wins.

Setup for the introductory game. Image by Paul Benson.

Setup

The above picture shows the suggested setup for the first few games of Crisis Protocol using just the Core Set. Games take place on a 3’x3′ playing area. Create the mission using the “Riots Spark Over Extremis 3.0” and “The Struggle for the Cube Continues” crisis cards.

One player will take the stat cards and miniatures for Captain America, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Doctor Octopus, and Crossbones. The other player will take Red Skull, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Baron Zemo, and Ultron. In Crisis Protocol, villains and heroes can team up! Players deploy at opposite table edges.

Captain America’s squad will take Team Tactic Cards “Ricochet Blast,” “Disarm,” Patch Up,” and “Brace for Impact.” Red Skull’s squad takes “Cosmic Invigoration,” “Sucker,” “One-Two Punch,” and “Trip Up.”

Set out the tokens, range and movement tools, and dice off to the side of the battlefield. The player with Captain America’s squad takes the Priority Token, and then you’re ready to play!

Game in progress. Image by Paul Benson.

Gameplay

A game of Crisis Protocol is played over 6 rounds (or less, if you can meet victory conditions earlier). Players will be trying to earn victory points by achieving mission objectives as denoted in the two Crisis Cards chosen for the match. In the case of this introductory game, you can earn victory points by having control over the “Extremis Console” tokens and by carrying “Cosmic Cube Fragment” tokens.

There are 3 phases to a round of Crisis Protocol. The first phase is the Power Phase. At the start of this round, each character will gain one power, which is the currency characters use for some of their attacks and superpowers, Team Tactics cards, and activating objectives. Note that characters will also receive power when they receive wounds from enemies.

Movement and range tools. Image by Paul Benson.

The Activation Phase is the meat of the game. In this phase, players will alternate activating one of their characters, starting with the player with the Priority Token and ending once every character has either activated or is dazed, which ends their activation. When a character is activated, it can take two of the following actions: Move, Attack, Use an Active Superpower, or Shake (remove a special condition such as Bleed or Stun). In addition, they may also interact with an objective token by paying one power if they are within Range 1 of that token. And if you meet the requirements listed on them, you can also play various powerful, one-time use Team Tactics Cards.

All characters have a movement of either Short, Medium or Long, as noted on their cards. To move a character you take the corresponding tool and place it against the character’s base, pivoting it at the center as needed to move around terrain. You never have to use the entirety of your movement. For characters that can fly or climb, you always use the Short movement tool to measure the distance they move when moving onto the terrain, disregarding actual vertical movement.

To attack an enemy character, you choose an attack from your character’s stat card and then make sure you have a target both in line of sight and in range for the attack. You then pay the power cost (if any) for the attack and build a dice pool based upon the power of the attack as well as any additional modifiers, such as a Team Tactic card played alongside the attack. The character getting attacked will build a dice pool based on their defense stat against the particular type of attack: physical, energy, or mystic. The two players then roll their dice pools and compare successes. If the attacking character has more successes than the defender, then the defender will take wounds equal to the difference between the two, also receiving the same amount of power.

Marvel Crisis dice. Image by Paul Benson.

If a character has taken enough wounds to equal his Stamina stat, then he becomes dazed and cannot do anything for the rest of the round. Additionally, some dice results may trigger effects known as Conditions that will adversely affect the character.

Many of the characters also have abilities and attacks that allow them to toss other characters or terrain through the air. Most of the terrain in the game can be interacted with and can be “destroyed” during the battle.

Doctor Octopus faces off against Black Widow and Ultron. Image by Paul Benson.

The final phase is the Cleanup Phase. In this phase, players will score victory points for achieving mission objectives. Any dazed characters will lose wounds off of their card and get flipped to their “injured” side. Some injured character keeps the same stats and attacks as a healthy one, while others get minor changes and occasionally even a bonus superpower. If an injured character receives wounds equal to or greater than their stamina, they are knocked out and removed from the game. If a player knocks out all of his opponent’s characters, that also qualifies as a win.

I’ve obviously only covered the very rough basics of how to play the game, just to give you a taste for how things work. To get a fuller picture of how to play the game, I highly recommend reading the rules.

First Look Verdict: Marvel: Crisis Protocol

Since its surprise reveal at Gen Con 2019, the anticipation in the gaming community for the release of Marvel: Crisis Protocol has been huge. In this week’s episode of South Park, you can even see some kids playing Crisis Protocol, among other games. Gamers have been asking: will this game be the one to truly capture the adventure and excitement of the Marvel Comics universe? Does it feel, well, super?

Each of the characters in this initial release has a very flavorful power set. For example, Spider-Man has a “Web Line” superpower that allows him to snag an enemy with a, well, web line, and pull him closer. He also has a “Spider-Sense”  that is a passive ability allowing him to reroll defense dice when he’s attacked. Iron-Man has a “Repulsor Blast,” which not only does damage but pushes his foe away. The Hulk, as “The Strongest One There Is,” can toss trucks and market stands. These abilities make them feel straight out of comic books.

One-Two Punch Team Tactics card. Image by Paul Benson.

And there are definitely big, exciting moments that can happen, especially as the game progresses. Remember, as your character takes damage, they also receive a commensurate amount of power, which can be spent on attacks, superpowers, and Team Tactics cards. In one of my games, I had built up enough power that Ultron was able to use his “Metallic Fury” attack against Doctor Octopus, which at base strength allows me to roll 7 dice. But I was able to combine the attack with the “One-Two Punch” Team Tactics card, giving me a total of 9 dice against my foe! Additionally, the attack allows you to choose whether the attack is physical or energy, and I chose energy as Doc Ock is weaker in defense against those attacks. So I rolled my 9 dice, against Doctor Octopus’ paltry 3 defense dice, and did… 1 damage. That’s right, I whiffed big-time with Ultron’s attack, leading my opponent to let out a sigh of relief, and me to utter, “Curses!” By the way, as there are attacks that can have you rolling a lot of dice, as well as dice roll results that will have you rolling additional dice, I highly recommend picking up one of the dice packs that will be available at launch.

Playing with just the Core Set can feel a bit limiting, as starter sets for miniature games often do. The rules allow you to have heroes and villains team up, just as occasionally happens in the comic books. Beyond the suggested setup for the initial games, you can choose to put together teams of just heroes versus just villains using only the characters and missions in the Core Set. But as anyone who has ever played miniature games before knows, part of the fun is building your own lists. Each Crisis Card has a maximum “threat level,” which essentially counts as the maximum points value for each side when assembling your teams. Additionally, you can build teams with “Squad Affiliations.” With the Core Set, there are only two affiliations: Avengers or Cabal. If at least half of the characters on your team are on one of those lists, you can choose that affiliation and benefit from special leadership abilities, as well as have access to squad-specific Team Tactics cards. With the release of more characters in the future are certain to come more squads, as well.

Starting a game of Marvel: Crisis Protocol. Image by Paul Benson.

Tabletop miniature games are unique beasts in the gaming world. Unlike a board game, which is generally a fairly static affair when it comes to gameplay, miniature games are more like a constantly evolving ecosystem. Over the lifetime of a game, new editions will bring about sometimes drastic changes to the rules, and introducing new units can dramatically shift the “meta” (most effective tactics available). So how to go about giving a verdict on a miniatures skirmish game that is brand new, where people are just starting to learn tactics and strategies? One where the bulk of characters for the game haven’t even been released yet?

As opposed to giving a final verdict in this review, I’m treating this more like a first look at the game. There’s a lot to explore in the interactions between different characters and the Team Tactics cards, and that will only grow as the many character expansions are released in the coming months. So this is definitely not the final word on Marvel: Crisis Protocol. I’m intending to revisit the game in those months to come, and see how those new characters, powers, and missions affect the game overall.

But in the meanwhile, I highly recommend checking out Marvel: Crisis Protocol. It may not have the strategic depth of certain other miniatures games (Infinity,I’m looking at you), but it is still tactically satisfying while creating big, cinematic moments that are evocative of the comic books we know and love. Excelsior!

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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This post was last modified on November 15, 2019 6:21 pm

Paul Benson: @https://twitter.com/Boardgamesguy Paul is a comic book writer, screenwriter, an avid board and tabletop gamer, reader of comics and collector of statues and figures. He is the creator of the webcomic "Heroines for Hire" and co-writer of "Disaster!: The Movie." He currently writes "E.I.: Earth Invasion" for Wunderman Comics.