Battle as Hypothetical Superheroes in ‘Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game’

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Disney+ has really added to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, with a number of live-action series including Wanda-Vision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye, Moon Knight, and Ms. Marvel. However, in 2021, the animated series, What If…? took viewers for a turn as it entered the multiverse where heroes from other universes were different. These heroes can now battle on your gaming table, or any horizontal surface, with the Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game.

What Is the Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game?

The Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game is a tabletop tactical combat game for 2 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 30-45 minutes to play. It’s currently available at your FLGS as well as online from retailers such as Amazon and has a suggested retail price of $69.99 for a copy of the game. It can be played as a standalone game or combined with other HeroClix figures. 

The Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game was designed by Scott D’Agnostino, Kennie Pena, and James O’Brien and published by WizKids, with graphic design by Patricia Rodriquez, Mark Shabunia, and Daniel Solis.

The Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game Components

Here is what you get in the box:

  • 10 HeroClix Pre-Painted Miniatures
  • 20 Character Cards
  • 6 Full-Color Double-Sided Map Tiles
  • 42 Action, Object, and Terrain Tokens
  • 17 Scenario Tokens
  • 11 Scenario Cards
  • 2 Special Edition The Watcher six-sided dice
  • 2 Full-color Powers and Abilities Cards (2022 edition)
  • 1 Full-Color HeroClix Core Rulebook (2022 edition)
The Watcher's Team
The Watcher’s Team. Image by Michael Knight.

The ten miniatures come pre-painted and are divided into two teams. The Watcher’s team includes the Watcher, Captain Carter, Party Thor, Killmonger, and the Hydra Stomper. Dr. Strange Supreme’s team is comprised of Dr. Strange Supreme, T’Challa Star-Lord, Gamora Daughter of Thanos, Post-Apocalyptic Black Widow, and Zombie Captain America. Each miniature is mounted on a HeroClix dial base with all of the character’s stats and values. 

character cards
Cards for the characters explain their powers. Image by Michael Knight.

Each of the ten characters comes with two character cards. One is for the basic abilities and the other for the advanced abilities. The basic abilities are best for players new to the game while they are learning. Once they understand the game system better, the advanced abilities allow for more complex powers. These cards also list the point value for that character and show all of the dial values in a table. 

map tiles
The map tiles. Image by Michael Knight.

The six map tiles are double-sided and allow you to create two different maps. One is a Downtown map with both indoor and outdoor locations and the other map is an apocalyptic avenue outdoor map. These tiles are thick cardboard and will not have creases like paper maps. Some scenarios use only one or two map tiles while others use all six.

tokens
Object, action, and terrain tokens. Image by Michael Knight.

The game comes with a variety of tokens. Some are used to show actions while others designate rubble or smoke on the map. Small and large objects are also represented by tokens.

objective tokens
Objective tokens. Image by Michael Knight.

There are also specialized tokens that are specific to scenarios and objectives. 

scenario cards
The scenario cards for the first two scenarios. Image by Michael Knight.

The 10 scenario cards are labeled A-J and let you play through a series of battles that tell the story of the conflict between The Watcher and Dr. Strange Supreme. One side of the card tells the story of the current scenario and describes the setup for the battle. The other side lists the objectives for the two opposing sides. The results of one scenario direct you which scenario to play next. There is also one Story card that sets the background for the campaign.

dice
The special game dice with the Watcher symbol. Image by Michael Knight.

These two dice are custom-made for the Marvel Studios Disney+ series. The six-side of the dice feature The Watcher logo. 

power an dabilities
The power and ability cards explain what the colors on the dials represent. Image by Michael Knight.

There are two Power and Ability cards that list all of these features available in the game. They serve as a quick reference on how these power and abilities are used in the game. The basics of the rules are also included on these cards so players don’t have to continuously refer to the rulebook. 

How to Play the Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game

The Goal

The goal of the game is to defeat the opposing team by completing the scenario objectives. 

Setup

Before you begin setting up, select a scenario card. If this is your first game, select scenario card A. For subsequent games, who wins the current scenario determines which scenario to play next. After a scenario is chosen, decide who will play as each of the two teams. Collect the characters and the corresponding character cards as listed on the scenario card and turn the characters to their basic dial starting click by turning the dial to click number 1 and the green starting line. Each player then rolls two dice. The one with the highest roll is the first player and the other person is the second player. 

Assemble the map tiles together to create the map called for on the scenario card. The second player chooses which starting area they want. Then the first player places their team of characters in the starting area followed by the second player. Place supplies of action and other tokens in easy reach of each player. Turn the scenario card over to the side with the win conditions and position it so that the team victory conditions are facing each respective player. Be sure to give each player a Powers and Abilities card for quick reference. You are now ready to start the game. Check for any effects that happen at the start of the game and then the first player takes the first turn. 

setup
The first scenario set up and ready to play. Image by Michael Knight.

Gameplay

The game is played with each player alternating turns. Each turn is divided into four phases. At the beginning of the turn phase, resolve any effects that may trigger or end during the beginning of a turn. The action phase comes next. Here the active player may take up to three actions and as many free actions as they wish. The third phase is the end of turn phase, and here any effects for the end of the turn are resolved. Finally, the clear phase lets you clear or remove all action tokens from all of the current player’s characters that did not receive an action token in this turn. 

Actions

The majority of each turn is spent on the action phase, so let’s discuss that now. During a turn, a player can assign up to three actions to three different characters. A character can only perform one action per turn. There are three basic actions. First, a character can move a number of spaces equal to its speed value on their dial. Movement can be both orthogonal as well as diagonal. A player can perform a close attack as an action against an opposing character in one of the eight spaces surrounding the character. If the character has the ability to do ranged attacks, that is the third type of basic action. To make a ranged attack, check the range of the character on the dial and then count the spaces between the character and the target. As long as another character is not in the way and the terrain does not block the line of sight, the ranged attack can be made. 

character dial
Captain Carter’s dial shows all her stats and powers for the start of a game. Image by Michael Knight.

Since we are playing with superheroes, many of the characters have powers they can use as an action instead of one of the three basic actions. The Powers and Abilities card shows all of the abilities available in the game. Some, such as Charge, have the keyword POWER in their description. In the case of Charge, the character can move half of their speed and then make a close attack. Some characters have free abilities. These can be used without counting as an action, but a free action can only be used once per turn. However, different free actions can be performed within the same turn. 

After a character has performed an action, place an action token next to them. If a character performed an action during the previous turn, you can perform an action during the subsequent turn. This will place a second action token next to them. This is called pushing. In the next turn, you are not able to use that character. They must rest so they can remove the action tokens at the end of the turn in which they did not receive an action token. 

Combat

Once you have decided to perform either a close or ranged attack, it is time to resolve the combat. Start off by determining the target. Characters will have one or more bolt icons next to their range value. Each bolt represents a target they may attack. You cannot target the same character more than once during an attack. Now determine if you hit the target. Roll two dice and add the result to the attacking character’s attack value. Compare this total to the defender’s defense value. If the total is equal to or greater than the defense value, the target is hit. Otherwise, the attack fails and the target was missed. Use the same dice roll for all targets, but compare the results to each target’s individual defense value. If the attacker rolls double sixes, this is a critical hit. If the target is hit, it receives 1 extra damage. On the other hand, if double ones are rolled, snake eyes, then it is a critical miss. The attack automatically misses and the attacker takes one unavoidable damage. 

The attacking character deals damage equal to its damage value. If there are multiple targets that are hit, the attacker decides how to divide up the damage. Characters that are hit may have powers that modify the damage.  After the damage is determined, hit the character, then rotate their dials one click for each damage so that the click number on the dial increases. If “KO” appears in the dial, the character is KOed and removed from the game. Finally, check to see if the target is knocked back. If the attacking character has the Knockback ability, or the dice roll was doubles, except for double ones, the attacking player can move the target up to 3 spaces away from the character that hit them.

backside of cards
The backside of the character cards show the dial stats in an easy-to-read table so you know what to expect as you take damage or heal. Image by Michael Knight.

Game End

The game ends when the scenario objectives for either team have been met. In most cases, it involves when all or a certain number of opposing characters have been KO’d. 

Why You Should Play the Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game

I first played Marvel HeroClix when it first came out in 2002. It used the same clicking dial base as WizKids Mage Knight miniatures wargame, which I had played a bit. As I stayed busy with young children and a new job, I stopped playing and my small collection of heroes and villains went onto a shelf.  Now, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel series on Disney+, my children and I are big Marvel fans. Therefore, when I saw that WizKids was releasing a game based on the Disney+ and Marvel Studios What If…? series, I was excited to try it out with my son. 

The HeroClix system that this game uses is great for people like me who like playing games with miniatures, but have neither the patience nor the talent to assemble and paint miniatures. Therefore, I appreciate that the miniatures in this game come pre-painted—and they look good too! Second, all the information you need to play a game is right on the dials of the characters. You can quickly see how far they can move, their attack and defense values, and so forth. Colors on the dials represent their powers and abilities. As they take damage or heal, just click the dial and some of the values, powers, and abilities change. No need for record-keeping or character sheets. All of the info is on the dial under the miniature. I like the addition of character cards that list the specific powers and abilities customized for that character. For example, Zombie Captain America has a Hungry ability which is actually Flurry that allows him to make two close attacks and Dr. Strange Supreme has an ability called Strange Consequences which is the Outwit ability that prevents a targeted character from using a power of your choice until your next turn. These cards also help new players learn the game and how to play as each of these characters. Due to the fact that so much of the game is built into the miniatures, a lot of tokens and other means of keeping track of info is not necessary to set up a game quickly. In fact, after opening the box and deciding on a game, you can be playing in a matter of minutes. 

basic and advanced
The basic and advanced character cards show the differences in powers. Image by Michael Knight.

I like how the Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game comes as a standalone game that is ready to play right out of the box. It has some durable map tiles that are so much better than paper maps that fold up and have creases when you play with them. Plus the maps have square spaces so you can count distance for movement or ranged attacks rather than having to get out a ruler or measuring tape like some miniatures games. The scenario cards are a great way to play the game. They tell you everything you need to set up and play a game and add a storyline so you have some context on why you are fighting each other. This provides an excellent method for introducing new players to the HeroClix system, especially since the scenarios use the basic abilities of the characters. While the suggested age is 14 years and up, that is for learning to play on your own. Younger children could play, especially with the basic abilities, as long as an adult or older child is there to help them learn how to play.  

I am very impressed with the Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game. The rules are fairly simple and straightforward, making this a quick game to learn, and after a brief introduction, it can literally be taught to others while you play. Since each character has a few powers and abilities, players can concentrate on just those specific to their characters and not have to master all of the powers and abilities available in the system. The basic and advanced dials all built into each character allows players to take the game to the next level without having to change anything. You can use the same game to play with your younger children as well as your experienced game group. Furthermore, once you get into the game, you can easily expand it with HeroClix booster packs, which each contain a random assortment of five miniatures. The characters from Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game are part of a new series called Marvel Studios Disney+ HeroClix.  The series has 60 different figures all of which are based on the Marvel Disney+ series. In addition to the 10 figures you get with the stand-alone game, in the boosters, you can also get such characters as Miss Minutes and Alligator Loki from Loki, Agatha Harkness and Monica Rambeau from Wanda-Vision, and Sharon Carter and John Walker Captain America from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. If you are a fan of Marvel stories and characters and interested in an easy-to-learn miniatures system that requires no assembly or painting, then I highly recommend the Marvel Studios What If…? Miniatures Game

Strange's team
Dr. Strange Supreme’s team. Image by Michael Knight.

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

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