Marvel United is a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players who assume the role of some of Marvel’s most popular Heroes to defeat the Villain and thwart their evil plan. Think you have what it takes? Find out in our Marvel United review.
Marvel United Gameplay Overview
In Marvel United, each player takes on the role of one of the included Marvel Heroes. During the game, you will play cards from your Hero’s deck and build out the game’s Storyline.
Cards have actions that allow you to move your Hero, rescue Civilians, and attack Thugs, Henchmen, and the Villain. You’ll also use your Hero cards to clear Threats and perform your Hero’s unique abilities.
In each game, players face off against one of the three included Villains: Red Skull, Ultron, and Taskmaster. Each Villain has its own Dashboard, Threat cards, and Master Plan cards that determine the Villain’s plan and how they cause trouble in the game.
Six random Locations form the main “board” that acts as the battleground for Heroes and the Villain. Each Location has spaces to hold Civilian (blue) and Thug (red) tokens.
Each Location also has an “End of Turn” effect printed on it. However, these effects are covered by Threats cards. Players must work together to clear a Location’s Threat before being able to access its powerful effect.
Every game of Marvel United uses the same 3 Missions — Clear Threats, Rescue Civilians, Rescue Thugs — regardless of the Villain and Heroes you’re using.
The players’ goal is to complete at least 2 of these 3 missions, then defeat the Villain by reducing their health to 0, at which point you win immediately!
The Villain, however, wins if they’re able to accomplish their plan. This happens if:
- the Villain must draw a Master Plan card and the deck is empty,
- any Hero begins their turn with no cards in their hand or deck, or
- if the Villain achieved the conditions of their villainous plot on their Dashboard (if they have one).
If any of these conditions occur, you lose the game.
How To Play Marvel United
The Villain always takes the first turn in Marvel United. On a Villain turn, draw the top card of the Villain’s Master Plan deck and add it to the Storyline.
(The Storyline is an area on the table that’s used to keep track of turns, actions, and the order in which cards are played.) The revealed Master Plan card is then resolved from top to bottom.
Master Plan cards usually have a number circled by an arrow. This represents the number of Locations the Villain will move and in which direction.
Master Plan Cards often also have a “BAM!” icon. The effect of the “BAM!” is unique to each Villain (and sometimes Henchmen).
The lower area of a Master Plan card features either a special effect or indicates to which Locations more Civilians and/or Thugs are added.
After fully resolving the Master Plan card, play proceeds to the Heroes.
Each Hero begins the game with a hand of 3 cards. On your turn, you do the following in order:
- Draw a card from your deck.
- Play a card to the end of the Storyline.
- Resolve your action
- Resolve the Location “End of Turn”effect, when applicable.
Steps 1 and 2 of a Hero turn are straightforward, but Step 3 is where things get interesting and exciting so let’s look at the iconsyou’ll find on Hero cards.
The Hero cards represent possible actions in Marvel United, but they also serve as the Hero’s health; for each point of damage your Hero suffers, you discard 1 card to the bottom of your deck.
If you run out of cards in your hand, you’re “KO’d” and the Villain activates their “BAM!” effect.
Each Hero deck has a custom set of cards that feature 4 of the game’s action icons. These icons are:
- A green arrow, representing the Move
- A fist on a red background, indicating Attack.
- A yellow shooting star for the Heroic
- A grey icon, representing the Wild action (perform a Move, Attack, or Heroic action).
After you add a card to the Storyline, you may then resolve the actions on your played card AND the actions on the previous Hero card in the Storyline. You choose in which order you perform all these actions.
It doesn’t matter that a Master Plan card is separating them in the Storyline.
For each action icon, the Hero may do the following:
- Move: The Hero moves to an adjacent Location, in whichever direction.
- The Attack action has 3 options:
- Attack a Thug at your Location, remove it, and add it to the “Defeat Thugs” Mission card.
- Attack a Henchman at your Location and remove 1 of their Health tokens. If this removes their last health, their Threat is cleared. Remove the card from the Location and add the Threat token to the “Clear Threats” Mission card.
- Attack the Villain in your Location and remove 1 Health token from their Dashboard, only if you have completed 2 missions.
- The Heroic action has 2 possibilities:
- Rescue a Civilian at your Location, remove it, and add the token to the “Rescue Civilians” Mission card.
- Add a Heroic action token to a Threat card. If the Threat card is completed, remove the card and add the Threat token to the “Clear Threats” Mission card.
On the last step of your turn, you may use the Location’s “End of Turn Effect,” if it has been revealed as a result of clearing the Threat there.
Play then moves on to the next player in clockwise order.
Marvel United’s turn sequence is unlike what you might be used to in a cooperative game: every player takes a turn, the baddie/villain takes a turn, repeat. In Marvel United, the Villain plays and then 3 Heroes each take a turn before it’s the Villain’s turn again. This means that in a 4-player game, for example, one person won’t play before the Villain’s next turn.
During the game, after the players have completed their first mission, the Villain’s turn accelerates and the Heroes are now “Under Pressure.” This means that the Villain plays after every 2 Hero cards in the Storyline.
Even though completing missions increases the frequency of the Villain’s turn, it is essential to success in Marvel United.
That is because the Villain cannot be attacked and damaged until the Heroes have completed 2 of the 3 missions — and remember the only way to win the game is to defeat the Villain.
You do have some choice in which missions you choose to complete. While you only need to complete 2 missions, if you’re able to complete all 3, there is a small reward.
Marvel United Review
Marvel United is an incredibly fun game. If you have ever wanted to take on the role of your favorite Marvel hero and fight against their foes, you’ll get a sense of what that’s like with this game.
Even with mini-Marvels, this game oozes theme; partly due to the clever mechanisms in the game and partly because of the game’s captivating table presence—even if it is a massive table hog.
A Word of Warning
If you aren’t into the Marvel theme, this game might not be for you. As I mentioned, the superhero/Marvel vibe is strong and immersive so don’t go into Marvel United expecting anything different.
Additionally, as with many cooperative games, Marvel United can trigger the alpha gamer to emerge in a player. (An alpha gamer is someone who bosses the other players around and tends to make a fun gaming experience unpleasant.)
Lastly, Marvel United only comes with 3 Villains so you may find you’re tired of your options once your play count gets into the double digits.
Luckily, there are A TON of expansions for Marvel United, including the introduction of the X-Men.
Marvel United is a great Marvel-themed cooperative game. It plays quickly, it’s challenging without being deflatingly difficult, and it’s easy for gamers and non-gamers (particularly younger kids) to get into.
You might also be interested in the following:
- Marvel United: Rise of the Black Panther Review
- Marvel United: Deadpool Review
- Marvel United: Enter the Spider-Verse Review
- Marvel United: X-Men — X-Force Review
- Marvel United: X-Men — First Class Review
- Marvel United: X-Men — Blue Team Review
- Marvel United: X-Men Review
- Marvel United: Return of the Sinister Six Review
- Marvel United: Tales of Asgard Review