Upper Deck’s Marvel Contest of Champions Battlerealm Review – Travel the multiverse, beat your friends, become the champion
Marvel is pretty much doing amazing on all fronts. Though they may not have a major console game currently, they have a very popular free-to-play mobile game called Marvel Contest of Champions. The premise being The Collector and someone else have collected Marvel heroes from all over the multiverse and are pitting them against each other. The game also has a comic book series, and now a board game. Upper Deck and Kabam have partnered up to bring us Marvel Contest of Champions Battlerealm.
Marvel Contest of Champions Battlerealm brings the popular mobile game to tabletops. Players choose one of the 13 available characters and use their powers to traverse the Marvel Multiverse in a race to collect battle points. The first to 21 battle points, or the last player standing, wins. The game supports anywhere from 3-6 players and uses a combination of stand-ins, cards, and dice for gameplay. Each playable character has 4 power abilities which are laid out in their player cards and activated spending the results of your dice rolls, and then innate abilities which are always in effect and are located on the character card. Each character is unique which creates numerous strategies and unique gameplay for each game.
Marvel Contest of Champions Battlerealm is pretty easy to pick up. The instructions are well written and you can pick it up with a single read through of the instructions and get to playing right away. There are some slightly confusing mechanics, like order and chain of events. For example, there’s an ability called SLAM that prevents your opponent from escaping, then there’s an ability called FLIGHT that allowed for escape regardless of conditions at the cost of only one movement. We at FBN ruled that SLAM overrides FLIGHT because otherwise, SLAM would be mostly pointless.
The game’s balance varies greatly, from a good balance to completely off balance. To put it in perspective, Hawkeye was able to completely defeat Iron Man on the very first turn of the game. It was a combination of player ability and location ability, but it seems kind of off that a player can be eliminated before they get a chance to do anything. It was a rare occurrence, and it could have been prevented with better location placement, but it still seems really wrong to be able to lose before even being able to make a move.
Characters also don’t seem to be balanced correctly. Abilities and powers do seem relevant to the characters, but it doesn’t feel very balanced. The more powerful characters like Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man seem to rely on larger rolls of the die whereas less powerful characters like Hawkeye and Falcon seem to be able to get away with very light rolls. It would make sense of the powerhouses did a lot more with their powers when you get their rolls, but it doesn’t balance out with the frequency the less powerful characters can perform their abilities. So even though you may be able to do 5 damage every 3 turns, the other characters can usually easily pull off 2-3, which makes them much more effective. Locations and their abilities do play a large role, so there is always that to consider as well. But in general, the less powerful heroes tend to be a better overall pick.
The dice aspect tends to balance out the game’s imbalances, however character choice seems to be the determining factor, and powerful characters tend to be highly dependant on a lot of luck.
Marvel Contest of Champions Battlerealm uses the same art style as the mobile game. Characters tend to be more blocky and beefier, using more squared and angled designs. It provides a cool animated look that accurately recreates the characters and also gives it a very distinguishable style that separates it from other interpretations and mediums of the characters. The character profile cards look like a recreation of the character profiles in game, which I found to be a very nice touch.
The character power cards, all feature artwork of the character on the back of the card which makes it easy to know which power cards go to which character. The part where it relays what the power is, what it does, and its requirements, is pretty plain. Personally, I feel like the power cards could have been incorporated into the character profile card. I mean it’s not new for games to do this, but it seems a bit excessive.
The character cut outs all feature Marvel heroes, two of which are unique to Contest of Champions, in action poses. The poses chosen really capture the character, and it seems like they’re all on the same scale so you get a feel of the character’s size. However, the narrow plastic base and the shapes of the character make them unbalanced and very easy to tip over. Like really easy to tip over. Like the air displacement from going to grab the dice can knock some of them over. It’s not really important for the pieces to be standing and it is not hard to remember where the character is/was. It’s just one of those things that are noticeably annoying.
Lastly, repacking the pieces is a bit quirky. Everything fits back in the box easy, and all the cards have sections cut out to place them neatly. But the cut out for the character pieces does not fit all of the pieces with the stands, and the rest of them have to be laid against the character profile cards in order to be able to shut the box. You could pull out the internal organizer and have not problem fitting everything, but it would be really disorganized and kind of illogical to do so.
Despite some balance issues and annoying character pieces, the game is a lot of fun. It is very reminiscent of King of Tokyo and King of New York, but with a slight twist that does make it unique. What I found really interesting, is that to get other players to cooperate was to repeatedly beat them silly. It was really gratifying to beat someone in order to get them to beat the other players. It was this chain of attacking that raised tensions and caused a lot of unseemly things to be said. In other words, a whole lot of fun. The gameplay goes pretty quick, and it’s easy to run multiple rounds, allowing you to play different characters and play the game differently. So gameplay balance issues tend to balance out over the long term, though if you’re like us, you do tend to stray away from the powerful heroes as they don’t seem to get the job done. The physical balance issues is just something you have to deal with.
Marvel Contest of Champions Battlerealm is a fast-paced game designed to test friendships. It is easy to learn and requires very minimal setup. The game is a good balance of luck and strategy; the dice tend to balance in inherent imbalances in the game mechanics. However, character choice seems to be the biggest factor in determining the amount of luck required. Powerful characters tend to rely heavily on the luck of dice rolls and changes the overall balance of the game. Sticking to less powerful characters, like Hawkeye and Falcon, seems to give you an advantage of players who choose powerhouse characters. However, we could have all been equally unlucky when choosing the powerhouse characters, so it is why it seems skewed that way. So the game/character imbalances maybe subjective. However, the imbalance with the character pieces is 100% objective, because… physics. It’s not a dealbreaker, and it really doesn’t matter to the game if the pieces are standing or laying down, but it’s kind of annoying when they fall down. Another minor annoyance is not having a designated space that fits all the character pieces, especially because it could have easily been accommodated. Overall though, the game is fun, fast, and an interesting use of the Marvel properties. Personally, it is way more fun than the mobile game, and a lot cheaper to play. My Marvel Contenst of Champions Battlerealm review gets a 3.5/5