Marvel: Crisis Protocol by Atomic Mass Games is a table top miniature game using the Marvel comic books for inspiration. With the huge success of the property and the long lived nature of the Marvel Comic Universe there is tons of content for everyone. Especially with the success of Marvel at the movie theater many of these characters are becoming household names and are growing in increased popularity. For us miniature gamers, who doesn’t want to put characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Punisher on the table?
With ever growing choice in the miniature gaming hobby though does this game pan out as something worth buying or should you pass on it?
In Marvel: Crisis Protocol you play a small skirmish force, typically 4-6 models, against an opponent’s similar force. Forces are able to be selected from any model in the range, providing huge flexibility in force selection. There are bonuses if you form affiliations with your models, basically taking half or more of your models from a given faction will unlock a leader’s ability and also other possible powers via the form of cards.
To play a game though, you want to have a collection of at least 10 models to select from. This is because each game you will determine a threat level (points) that you will play as part of the mission selection process and then build your crew from 8 team tactics cards and the 10 models you brought to that game.
Each mission will have two Crisis Cards that provide placement for objectives and rules for scoring points. Games last for 6 game rounds or when one player scores 16 points (which is the typical way for games to end). Mission cards are sorted into two types, secure and extraction, with each player contributing one of those cards to the overall mission.
During game rounds, players take it in turn activating models much like most skirmish games. Models are allowed two actions followed by any number of super powers that the model has, paying for those in a currency known as power. Power is obtained on per model basis from taking damage, some attacks, and some super powers. It’s an interesting dynamic that provides the kind of feel of characters doing more awesome things as they get further into the fight.
Most characters in the game have two sides of their character card, a healthy and damaged side. As the character takes damage they will become dazed and at the end of the round the character card will flip. This really gives you the feeling of those comics where the hero gets beat up and then in next month’s issue they somehow get out of it.
You can just imagine Iron Man being surrounded by robotic thugs being controlled by Ultron on the last panel of a comic as his armor is broken and he is bleeding. Oh my, how will he overcome this? The next game round his card flips and with the saved power calls his Friday AI for targeting aid and blasts a mighty uni-beam from his armor’s chest piece before throwing a mighty strike into the last robot that was standing.
The game has an abundance of theme and really feels quite a bit like you are playing out your favorite team matchups from the comics. As I mentioned above with the rules overview, their are moments when you feel you are picking up on the panels of your favorite comics. The models really capture the classic poses and feel of the characters from the comics. The mission objectives are thematic, though I feel like they have a bit of a repetitive nature with the way they feel.
A big plus for Atomic Mass Games and their approach to this game is that they offer ultimate encounters. In ultimate encounters you play multi-player games (or even possibly solo) scenarios where you take on some of the biggest bad guys and super powered fights from the comics. Take on Ultron as the main villain, defeat Thanos and the Black Order in their quest for infinity stones, or even take on a rampaging hulk. They continue to create more ultimate encounters as they produce more models in the range. These games are great for enjoying the narrative side of the game and enjoying the game for what it is.
The models for this game are all plastic, multi-part kits. You can use standard plastic cement to assemble the figures, which is what I would recommend.
The bases that come with the models are all sculpted bases. For all of the figures I own, those bases are some form of street base. There are quite a few designs, but this game has a tendency to make you want to grow your collection with all of the synergies and such and you may find the selection of bases a little limited.
The other thing that sometime doesn’t work always with the bases is that often times the models will be sculpted in a pose that involves some form of debris, rubble, or other involved scenic piece. Those scenic terrain features as part of the model can be another item that people may or may not care for, but I actually like the well posed models with those thematic elements.
As far as the models themselves, they are roughly 40mm scale. This makes the models quite a bit larger scale then likely anything else you may have in your collection. You would think this would translate to better detail in the models, but I find that the details are often very soft or lacking. Take the Hulk that they produce. He’s a big model with shredded jeans. Those jeans lack features like pockets and additional little rips or holes which I found a bit disappointing. Still, as a fan of the Marvel universe seeing these characters painted and on the tabletop more then makes up for the sometimes lack of detail.
There is a lot of really cool, good things about Marvel: Crisis Protocol. The theme of the game really comes out and for fans of the Marvel Universe you can play out various missions and scenarios that help you re-capture some of your favorite scenes from the comics and movies. If that sounds cool to you, then this is probably a game you should check out.
The game has relatively easy to learn rules which makes picking the game up, giving demos, or teaching the game very easy. The real complexity seems to come more in the strategy and crew building with your selection of what models you take from the ten you brought to the table to play in the mission and counter the models your opponent is playing.
That said, I don’t care for the fact that the crew building is quite so open-ended with model selection. This allows for some team ups such as Thanos being included in an Avengers affiliation crew. While, you could probably refer to some comic where this happened this is much more about creating powerful gaming lists and loses the theme a little for me. For me, that’s a ding against the game. It also allows players to power game the system which I dislike personally.
The models being a larger scale make terrain a bit of a challenge. Atomic Mass Games is producing a great set of terrain to go with the game, but you have to spend a bit to collect those kits as well. However, it’s not that big of an issue and I use my buildings and modern terrain that’s scaled more for 28-32 mm gaming and it works just fine.
The last thing I will say in regards to the game are the rules. The rules are solid and well supported by Atomic Mass Games. They have a regular FAQ and have all ready addressed some competitive challenges that have been introduced to the game in the form of ban lists. I find that the rules and game play seem a little on the lighter side.
I also find that dice rolls can be very swingy. What I mean is number of the attacks and defense rolls use anywhere from say 3-7 dice or so. This means that dice luck can play a huge factor as to the success of your battle plan. While some characters have ways to mitigate dice luck, the best way to counter it is going to be with re-rolls. This leaves characters that would otherwise be pretty strong left off the table because their ability to mitigate dice luck is lacking.
All of this said, Marvel: Crisis Protocol is a fine miniatures game with a great theme, beautiful models and good rules. If this is a setting you are into, I would recommend the game to you. If you just are looking for a great miniatures game and the theme isn’t what’s important to you I would say you should look elsewhere. For me, it’s mostly about collecting the models and uncovering the little stories that each game will bring. I find it a great secondary game for me that I don’t have to commit as heavily to playing over and over to enjoy the game. If that’s something you are interested in, then this game might be the game for you.