Marvel: Crisis Protocol Rules Preview – Does It Feel Super?

August 7, 2019 by brennon

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Atomic Mass Games announced their brand new project, Marvel: Crisis Protocol and shortly afterwards released a rules preview for folks to drool over. So, being the massive Marvel fan that I am, I downloaded the rules to give them a look.

Crisis Protocol Main Cover - Atomic Mass Games

Download The Rules Here

It's always good when companies do this as it allows you to get a bearing on the rules before you dive into the game, as well as seeing if it's going to be a good fit for you. Added to that, any suggestions, faults, or queries people might have concerning the game can be addressed in the final product. In that spirit, this is a rules preview of the game as it stands and things could very well change in the end.

Also, it gives more time for hobby and painting when the game finally hits!

What's The Premise?

The premise of Crisis Protocol is that you'll be forming a team of heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe before taking them to the tabletop to do battle with your friends. The current rules preview focuses very much in the idea of the game being a competitive one versus one style affair, although Atomic Mass has said that there are plans for other game modes in the future. This takes the form of Raids which will feature two players going up against one mega-powered villain and also a focus on scenario-based narrative campaigns later on down the line.

Heroes & Villains - Atomic Mass Games

As an early point, I really like the idea that they are approaching the game as a bit of a sandbox. Being able to dive into your collection and take the characters you like to use in your games reminds me of the old couch-coop days of Marvel Ultimate Alliance. It should provide gamers with lots of scope for interesting tactics and team-ups plus of course it means you get to use all your favourite characters to see the 'what if?' scenarios you can bring to life.

Avengers Assemble!

I don't think I'll get tired of saying that when it comes to setting up a game of Crisis Protocol.

Anyway, that aside it makes sense for us to now look at how exactly you get ready for a game. The core idea is built around both players choosing a roster of ten characters each, pulled from what they have available, alongside a hand of eight Team Tactics cards, and then a mixture of six Crisis Cards which are equally split between Secure & Extraction.

Marvel Heroes & Villains - Atomic Mass Games

When I've talked about the game to other people I've likened it at this point to a game of Malifaux, Star Wars: Legion, or the new editions of Age Of Sigmar or Warhammer 40,000 where there's almost a game at this stage as you set up and choose the right mission for you. This is because both players will roll for priority and then choose cards from both their Secure and Extraction deck to put into play. In this way, you're already trying to work out the kind of mission your opponent is going to choose whilst also weighing up your tactical options too.

Once a Secure and Extraction card has been chosen the player with priority then gets to choose which card's maximum Threat is used to determine the 'points' cost you have to work with for the game. Here is where your pool of characters comes in. You will never use all ten of your heroes and villains so you must pick a squad which not only reflects your favourite characters, but can fit into the Threat levels available. As an example from the rulebook, Riots Spark Over Extremis 3.0 has a maximum Threat level of seventeen and Captain America has a Threat of four.

Another cool aspect to building your team is that you can build towards a Squad Affiliation. If more than half of your squad that you take for the game fits into the same Affiliation (for example the Avengers or X-Men) you'll be able to benefit from any specific in-game effects which would apply to you. In the rulebook, they point to Captain America's Leadership ability A Day Unlike Any Other which, as long as you have the Avengers affiliation, means that you can reduce the cost of the first superpower used by each character each turn. Pretty cool!

Captain America Character Card - Atomic Mass Games

At its core, this way of assembling a team and choosing specific scenarios you'll be encountering should lead to this being a very objective focused game rather than simply a royal rumble between heroes. Getting to know your heroes and how they work with the different Crisis for you to pick from is going to be key. This twinned with how hard it seems like it's going to be to properly defeat a hero (more on that later) mean that it should be quite a tactical experience.

Thok, Pow, Smack!

At the core of the game is the fact that you're going to be smashing each other in the face. A typical turn sees you taking alternative activations between players, using one hero and resolving their two actions before switching it up and letting the opponent have a go. Alternative activation was always going to be key here as it keeps each player in the action throughout the game.

Captain Marvel - Atomic Mass Games

Activations available to a character include Moving, Attacking, using Superpowers, and Shaking effects. Moving is done via the use of little unique measuring tools which you'll no doubt be familiar with from games like Star Wars: Legion.

Attacks and Superpowers are resolved using Crisis Protocol's uniquely designed eight-sided dice (d8). Each dice has symbols showing Critical, Wild, Hit, Block, Blank, and Failure symbols. When you're resolving a standard attack here's what each side is aiming for...

  • Attacker (dictated by the Strength of the attack)  - Critical, Wild, Hit
  • Defender (based on the defence rating against Physical, Energy & Mystic damage) - Critical, Wild, Block

Hit and Block are pretty self-explanatory but Wild and Critical have special effects. Criticals allow you to roll another dice into the check whilst Wild are needed to trigger certain abilities that might cause conditions like Bleed, Poison, Stun or Root for example (all of which are explained at the back of the book).

If the attacker gets more successes than the defender then the difference is dealt to the defender in damage alongside any other special effects like being pushed or pulled around.

Red Skull - Atomic Mass Games

The same structure is used to resolve Superpowers although the key difference is that you might have to spend Power in order to resolve them. Power is a resource that is generated at the start of a turn and also from suffering damage. For example, if Captain America takes three damage from Red Skull's attack he'll generate three Power in return to show his grit and resolve coming to the surface as he seeks to overcome his nemesis.

Being a game developed by the team members with a history developing Warmachine & Hordes there's also plenty of throwing things around and into terrain. Every single terrain element on the 3x3 game board is interactive and can be torn apart and thrown at your enemies. So, Hulk can indeed pick up a car and toss it at his opponents. There are some nice and simple rules in the book for resolving this and it seems like an effective way of getting a bit of extra damage into the mix!

I mentioned above about how it seems like it will take a while to take characters down. Once a character has taken damage equal to their stamina (in the case of Captain America, four), they aren't out of the game just yet. They get flipped over to their Injured side after being Dazed (making them essentially out of action for a while). They then continue to fight on the next turn just with a reduced complement of attacks and abilities, or in some cases maybe more! This is something I'd like to see more previews on, especially for resolute heroes like Captain America and angry ones like Hulk!

Ultron - Atomic Mass Games

Whilst there are a lot of steps that the rulebook goes into for combat it's actually not that complicated. Attacks and Superpowers seem easy to use with everything written on the individual character cards for the players. My one gripe with it so far is that you'll need to seriously brush up on your knowledge of the symbols in the game. These little symbols are everywhere on the cards and included alongside special abilities and their effects. I'm used to this being someone who plays a lot of card and board games but this might be like learning a new language for some newcomers.

Pro points to using these symbols is that it makes the game very universal and you can see at a glance what a character might be able to do without delving into the text of their card.

One thing I forgot to mention is the use of Team Tactics Cards. These can be used at any time on your turn and can deliver big game-changing effects. Most of these are tied to a character and use power to activate, plus once they are used, they are gone for the rest of the game. Red Skull is used as the example in the book with his Cosmic Invigoration which can push an activated character back into the action.

So, Does It Seem Fun?

Well, from a preview of just the rulebook, yes. I can see this being a very fun game for people to dive into with rules that take a few moments to get your head around but then should become second nature. The symbology, as I've pointed out, is going to be another learning curve but once you've got that language down you should be fine too.

Painted Heroes - Atomic Mass Games

The big kicker is going to be whether or not the actual characters feel powerful enough. From the glimpse at powers from the rulebook, it seems like they are each going to have their own signature abilities in play but it's going to be a challenge balancing all of these superpowered individuals against each other. Yes, the Threat indicator is there to help keep things on a level playing field but time will tell if that actually keeps things in check.

I really like the fact that characters have got this resource of Power to manage and that you can even be a bit reckless, throwing your hero into danger so that they might generate a well of power to strike back with an even more brutal counter...it's very comic book.

Painted Villains - Atomic Mass Games

Additionally, making this game 3x3 is wonderful. I could not think of anything less heroic than spending the first two turns just moving towards your opponents. Pack these smaller tables with loads of terrain and this will be exceptionally fun.

The only other complaint I would have about the rules currently is that there was quite a bit of flicking back and forth to find exactly what I wanted. It took me a while to find out how someone turned from being Healthy to Injured. This is the kind of thing that will be sorted out later with an index and but the quick reference sheet at the back of the rulebook should help a lot to keep you going in the midst of combat.

Hulk - Atomic Mass Games

Beyond the rules though and the preview, there is something else. Yes, I do like the idea of playing as my own awesome team of heroes and villains against my friends but I am becoming someone who is more and more drawn to cooperative tabletop gaming. I would really like there to be something done by the team at Atomic Mass to focus on bringing this to the fore, may be presenting a list of scenarios where you have a Threat level you build towards as a group before throwing a key villain like Ultron into the mix alongside some lackies or minions for example. It wouldn't be hard to generate a simple A.I for the game either as others have done it in the past. Maybe this is something the community will develop but it's just a little wishlist item that came to me when reading about the game.

Maybe give the rules a download yourself and let me know what you think. I'll also try and answer any questions you might have and feel free to correct me if I've got something wrong too!

Miniatures Painted by K.C. Holt

Are you excited for Marvel: Crisis Protocol?

"Hulk can indeed pick up a car and toss it at his opponents..."

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"...it's going to be a challenge balancing all of these superpowered individuals against each other"

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