Rules Reference Debrief

Tony Fanchi Presents the Updated Marvel Champions Rules Reference


Greetings, heroes! 

The Marvel Champions: The Card Game design team is delighted to present you with version 1.5 of our online Rules Reference. With nearly 2,000 unique cards in the game, you are bound to have questions about how one or more cards interact with the rules of the game. In this Rules Reference update, we have added, expanded, and revised many game term definitions in an effort to help you more easily find an answer to these questions. 

We wanted to discuss some of the more impactful changes in this update to give you context about why they were made. 

Changing the Game 

One fundamental rule of Marvel Champions is that an ability must “change the game” in order to be initiated. This seemingly simple rule led to many questions about what exactly qualifies as “changing the game.” Perhaps more importantly, this rule could sometimes feel overly constraining on the players and limit their creativity in finding fun card combinations. 

However, we did not want to simply remove the rule since that could open up gameplay possibilities that would break the sense of immersion the game provides. Allowing heroes to punch non-existent minions or investigate non-existent side schemes just feels silly and detracts from the story being told through the gameplay. 

With those considerations in mind, we have replaced the “change the game” rules with narrower targeting rules. Any ability that requires a target must have a valid target in order to be initiated. For example, an attack event that only targets minions must have a minion to target in order to be played. If an ability requires more than one target, it only needs to have a single valid target to be playable. This means Melee (Ms. Marvel, 30) can still be played even if you have only the villain to attack. 

So, what qualifies as a “valid target”? In short, it is any target that can be affected by the ability. For example, Get Ready (Core Set, 69) can only target an exhausted ally and For Justice! (Core Set, 60) can only target a scheme with at least one threat on it. 

If an ability has more than one effect, a target is valid if at least one of those effects would affect the target. For example, Concussive Blow (Ms. Marvel, 31) can target an already-confused enemy as long as you paid for it with a physical resource in order to deal damage to that enemy. 

Additionally, you do not take into account the cost of an ability when determining whether that ability can affect a target (though you must still be able to pay all costs in order to initiate the ability). For example, What Doesn’t Kill Me (Sinister Motives, 16) has an additional cost of healing 2 damage from your hero and an effect of readying your hero. If your hero is already ready, you cannot play What Doesn’t Kill Me because your hero is not a valid target for a readying effect, even if What Doesn’t Kill Me can affect your hero by healing damage from it. You also cannot play What Doesn’t Kill Me if your hero is exhausted but is at full health because you cannot then pay the cost of healing two damage from your hero. 

Adjusted Permanence 

The permanent keyword has received some refinements in order for it to function more as intended. We have clarified that cards with the permanent keyword do not count towards a player’s minimum or maximum deck size. This is because these cards are never shuffled into a player’s deck or the encounter deck, and are instead set aside at the start of setup. No longer will Wolverine be unable to get his claws out of his hand! 

Setup For Success 

With 35 scenarios now released, each with their own unique setup conditions, we felt it important to formalize the setup process more fully to ensure players can set up the game as intended. The updated setup instructions now include steps for campaign setup and the setup keyword. They also clarify the order in which main scheme and villain “Setup” and “When Revealed” abilities should be resolved. 

In the process of developing all those scenarios and playing countless games of Marvel Champions, we have observed how players (including ourselves) tend to set up the game in practice, and how that differs from the rules as written. In order for the rules to more closely align with how players actually set up the game, we have combined the “Create the Encounter Deck” and “Shuffle Encounter Deck” steps into a single step. 


We put a great deal of effort into making sure the language in every component of the game is understandable, consistent, and grammatical, but there are always going to be mistakes that make it through. That is where errata come in.

Because there have been 21 products released in the nearly two years it has been since our last rules reference update, we have a fair number of new errata in this update. Most are minor technical edits that don’t change the function of a card, but there are a handful that we made to benefit the long-term health of the game that we would like to address:

Cosmo (Star-Lord, 20/Nebula, 20) was originally written to allow him to interact with any deck in the game. Many players have found him an invaluable companion for Doctor Strange and his invocation deck. However, we have found over time that this flexibility creates obstacles when we are trying to design scenarios or heroes who have a special deck that would be negatively affected by Cosmo’s ability. For that reason, we have decided to restrict Cosmo’s ability to only affecting player decks and the encounter deck, which still provides him a great deal of flexibility without standing in the way of new designs.

James Rhodes ’s (War Machine, 1B) ability to shuffle War Machine events back into his deck was always intended to be limited to once per phase, but the limit was omitted. It has now been added.

Ms. Marvel (Nova, 2) has a powerful ability to recur event cards at the cost of dealing herself damage. However, because of a distinction we have recently drawn between “dealing” and “taking” damage, it became possible for Ms. Marvel to infinitely recur the event card “Go for Champions!” (see below). To limit this interaction, and also to ensure Ms. Marvel cannot bring back events that are removed from the game or put into other out of play areas, we have added language that limits her ability to bringing events back to hand from her player’s discard pile.

“Go for Champions!” (Ironheart, 25) is a very powerful card, as we knew it would be when we designed it. We thought the limitation of one per deck would help keep its power in check, which is true for lower player count games. However, in games with four Champion heroes all with a “Go for Champions!” card in their deck, the card can trivialize the game and remove any tension from the gameplay. To address this issue and the issue mentioned with Ms. Marvel above, we decided to have “Go for Champions!” remove itself from the game when played. This change makes it a one-time (per player) climactic moment in each game when the Champions come together and turn the tide of the battle. It also makes the decision of when to play the card much more interesting. Rather than playing it at every opportunity because of how powerful it is, you now have to consider carefully whether you want to play it early in the game to help you get off to a fast start, or spend it as a resource the first time you draw it so that you can play it later in the game when you can get the most value out of it.

Those are the main changes we wanted to highlight in this update, but there is much more to explore. As Marvel Champions grows and evolves with every release, so will its rule set. We hope that, with each update, you find the Rules Reference more complete and easier to navigate. As always, if you have a rules question you just can’t figure out, you can send it to us through our rules contact form: 

Until next time, keep saving the world! 

Tony Fanchi 


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