Marvel Champions: The Once and Future Kang Review

The Once and Future Kang is a scenario expansion for the Marvel Champions living card game. You can find Marvel Champions products at Fantasy Flight Games.

Time Travel Hijinks

Kang is quite possibly the most unique iteration of a villain in Marvel Champions to date. Kang’s a time traveler, and the designers have managed to implement time travel as a mechanic into the scenario.

It takes a little bit to wrap your head around it since Kang breaks much of the standard formula. It is time travel, after all. But the execution is shockingly solid.

Normally, a villain has two stages, the third one is reserved for expert mode. With Kang, you always fight three stages, and a second set of expert cards are included for that mode instead.

Additionally, you progress some of the scheme stages simply by defeating him. Most importantly, is Kang’s stages are separate from each other. Kang doesn’t take status cards or attachments with him to the separate stages. That’s because each stage of Kang, is a different fight through time.

Once you defeat stage one, Kang hurls the heroes through time to fight different renditions of himself. You are forced to randomly fight one of four other Kangs before you can get back to the real one.

The mechanic goes even further in multiplayer. Each player must battle a different version of Kang alone, in a separate game area away from the other players. Nothing in those game areas affects the others, and the players are unable to help each other until their own Kang is defeated.

Kang the Conqueror

Even without time travel, Kang is both unique and formidable. You don’t include your heroes’ own obligation cards in his deck, because he brings a set of them himself.

These obligations put the player in a unique position. To get rid of them, you not only have to give something up, but you must also switch to alter ego mode.

The mechanic presents the players with a new layer of decisions. I’d wager most players only switch to alter-ego mode to heal up. Now you must choose whether or not to endure the obligation or take the time to get rid of it. That choice isn’t always an easy one. Cards, like Depowered, have to go away fast. That wicked obligation doesn’t let you play hero specific cards.

But ones like Stolen Memories can be trickier. For heroes like Black Panther or Iron Man, losing eight cards from the deck could be devastating, others might be able to weather it. Yet in one game I ignored it only to draw a second one. With 16 cards gone plus my cards on the field, I was left with very little to work with and had encounters out the wazoo.

A few of Kang’s cards gain power based on your obligations as well. Such as Time Travel Tactics that deal damage to you for each obligation in play. Besides obligations, Kang is a well-rounded villain much like Captain America is a well-rounded hero.

Kang is perfectly capable of strong-arming you with attacks, especially with Future Weapon. He can place threat on the board, pump out minions, or wreck your cards, whether they are in play or in your hand. Every match I’ve played against Kang has felt like taking on a mastermind countering my moves.

He loves to nail you when you’re setting up too. Playing an Avengers Mansion only to lose it to Time Travel Hijinks that very turn hurts. I’ve drawn a great combo in my hand only for Kang to wipe out it all out with Manipulated Time Stream. He can be frustrating as heck to fight but in a good way.

If you manage to make it to stage three, Kang really hits you with a whopper. He draws out your nemesis minion. In addition to the challenge, it also adds some personal flair to fighting him with each hero and even more replay value.

On the flip side, you can employ some interesting strategies against Kang that you can’t with other villains. If you can bring him down fast enough, you can ignore the threat on some of the main schemes since they advance no matter what and you don’t get penalized for it. It gives the more aggressive heroes a unique opportunity to get an advantage.

It’s the same deal with villain attachments, sometime you can ignore them because they don’t transfer to the next version of Kang.

Kang’s mechanics all play to the theme quite well and make sense in the context of the universe. Stolen memories taking away your options, depowered by removing your superhuman abilities. It’s always nice to see the game married to its theme.

Master of Time

As I mentioned before, Kang’s second stage separates and isolates the players, and they have to fight one of four random versions of Kang. The execution is a ton of fun, because it’s one more random factor aside from encounter sets. You’re never sure if you’re going to be taking on Iron lad, Rama Tut, Scarlet Centurion, or Immortus.

It also adds a different kind of anxiety. Some players may be saddled with a Kang they struggle with or otherwise be in worse shape than other players. If one player defeats their own Kang, they can join another player’s game area to help them out.

It’s also unique in that you can’t really lose at this stage unless your hero is defeated. If the main schemes pop, they make Kangs final form stronger by adding in a Kangs Dominion card for each main scheme that pops. But you don’t outright lose like in other stages.

It is possible to accept your fate, switch to alter ego mode, and prep for the final stage, allowing your personal main scheme to break. As that is preferable to losing your hero and getting booted from the rest of the game.

The time-traveling second stage is one of Kang’s highest points, but also one of its potential flaws. I say potential because not everyone will care. But up until now, I’ve felt that Marvel Champion is every bit as strong as a solo game, as it is a multiplayer game. It’s a bit iffy with Kang.

It’s still fun to play, don’t me wrong, but you miss out on the separation and isolation solo. More than that, the balance is a bit wonky with one player, and you can game the system because of it.

Even with only two players Kang’s Dominion can be scary. If you get one, you can’t attack Kang while it’s in play, and it would start with six threat. If both players fail the second stage, you would get two of them, and it would be a big deal.

In solo play, you’re only ever under the threat of a single Kang’s Dominion, and it would only have three threat on it. Most of the time it’s wiser to simply ignore the scheme and let it pop, using that time to heal and prepare for stage three. By doing so, you can probably handle the singular Kang’s Dominion just fine. I don’t at all feel like that’s the intended way to play it.

Furthermore, having two to four nemesis minions come out at once in stage three is significantly scarier than just one. Though one game I did instantly lose as Black Widow. I didn’t anticipate the fact that Task Master gets extra attack for every upgrade. Kang matches last awhile, I had 9 upgrades. Whoops.

Encounter Sets

The Once and Future Kang comes with three encounter sets that can be used with any villain. Temporal, Master of Time, and Anachronauts. Temporal is the most basic one. It’s minion heavy, but they aren’t super threatening, though I do love quick strike on minions, which Ancient warrior has. Chitauri Soldier has a stun as boost effect that did screw me more than once.

Temporal does have a Tyrannosaurus Rex though, which means it wins by default. I really wish it had six hit points equal to the number of players though, as we have seen with a few other minions. Oh well.

Master of Time is interesting because it’s literally Kang, again. He has a different subtitle from the villain Kang which means it can be included in the Kang villain deck. Yo dawg, I heard you liked Kang, so we put Kang in your Kang so you can time travel while you time travel…Forgive me, I’m a millennial.

Here’s the rub, as cool as it might be to include Kang in another villains deck, it works best with…Kang. This is due to the Master of Time obligation, Fear of Kang. It stops you from attacking Kang. While it can occasionally come out with minion Kang, it’s far more threatening with villain Kang because it protects him too.

I really have to wonder how many times the word Kang is going to appear in this review. I love the new villainous keyword though, giving minions a boost card is nasty!

The Anachronauts is a challenging set featuring a cadre of minions that will ruin your day whether they hit the board or appear as boost cards. Nearly all of them grant a boost effect AND a second boost card to the villain.

Apocryphus will discard one of your supports or allies which really hurts. Deathhunt 9000 gets the villainous keyword. Sir Raston is beefy with guard and retaliate. Terminatrix has quick strike and piercing while Wild Run discards from your hand.

It’s a great and challenging minion based set. If you are ever feeling masochistic, try running it with Zola from Rise of the Red Skull and grab something to wipe your tears. Overall I enjoy all three sets, even if I feel Master of Time loses much of its power outside of Kang’s deck.

Verdict

Kang’s mechanics are unique, and playing against him is a different experience in many ways. The implementation of the time travel mechanic is nothing short of brilliant, and the cards are thematic to boot.

The experience is tarnished in solo play, and he is the first villain I can say that about. The balance is wonky, and as a result, you can game the mechanics as a solo player.

The encounter sets are solid, even though Master of Time doesn’t play its best outside of Kang’s villain deck. The new villainous keyword is great though, and I hope to see it on more minions going forward.

As with the villains in Rise of Red Skull, I do feel like the designers have hit their stride and now know how to make great scenarios. Kang is a great new villain that plays in a unique manner. It’s just a shame that solo players get a lesser experience. That said, if you’re okay playing two-handed solo, you can negate that flaw altogether.

If you enjoyed this review, you may also want to check out my review of the Marvel Champions core set. I don’t run ads on my site, so every donation to my Kofi page also helps out tremendously.

Pros

  • Unique and well rounded master mind style villain
  • Incredibly interesting time travel mechanic
  • Solid encounter sets
  • New obligations cards add a new layer of player decision making
  • The mechanics are married to the them in satisfying ways.
  • Using nemesis minions as part of the scenario is clever
  • High replay value

Cons

  • The time travel mechanic falters in solo play and can be gamed
  • The Master of Time encounter set doesn’t work the best outside of Kang’s Villain deck