Although both Cyclops and Jean Grey were released at the exact same time as Mutant Genesis. It was truly up to the big box to jump-start the X-Men cycle. The X-Men have a large fan base, and of all the big box expansions, you could argue that Mutant Genesis was the most important one to get right.
Mutant Genesis follows the same standards as the previous big box expansions. It includes two new heroes, five new scenarios, a handful of encounter sets, and a campaign.
There’s a lot to dig through, so let’s get started.
Superman can eat his heart out. Piotr Rasputin will always be the true man of steel in my eyes. Colossus is my second favorite X-Men (Gambit is the first). So I had high hopes for the hero, and I came away disappointed. Long-time readers of my Marvel Champions reviews will immediately be able to pick out why. The four-card hand.
Colossus has very unique, fun, and thematic mechanisms. He can have two tough status cards, and he gains one whenever he flips to hero form. The concept gives Colossus a ton of flexibility. Obviously, he can use that extra toughness to tank damage and protect other players, but his kit also uses them for other purposes.
Made of Rage is a nifty zero cost that adds 6 damage and overkill for a basic attack if you discard a toughness, while Steel Fist deals 5 damage, and you can discard one to stun and confuse an enemy. Both cards are great.
Colossus has ample ways to maintain toughness as well. During set up, he starts with Organic Steel, which is his bread and butter. It only has two counters on it, but whenever you would discard a toughness, you discard a counter and gain a toughness.
Bulletproof Protector can give you two toughness cards, and Armor Up is brilliant. It allows you to flip to hero form when the villain activates. This means Colossus has room to flip to alter-ego more often than other heroes. That’s important because his alter-ego ability allows you to put a Colossus card from your discard pile into your deck, including Organic Steel.
Colossus is designed in a frustrating way because sometimes he is an absolute blast to play. He can be a mega powerhouse or an unbreakable defender. Other times, he stalls out completely and has all the usefulness of a two-ton steel door stopper.
The four-card hand hurts him badly. He has a couple of economic cards to attempt to help. Iron Will allows you to draw a card when a tough status is discarded while Titanium Muscles allows you to generate resources equal to his tough status cards. But as with Drax, Thor, and most other four-card-hand heroes. It’s inconsistent.
You have to be lucky enough to draw them and be able to afford to play them without losing control of the board state. Even then, you more or less hit the same economic level that the average hero starts the game at.
Now to be perfectly fair. Colossus can revert to his alter-ego more often than most in order to draw 6 cards. But odds are you will be using Armor Up to mitigate the tempo loss, so it results in a 5-card alter-ego hand since one of them is being used for the sole purpose of switching to alter-ego safely.
Even when you’re on a roll with Colossus, a light breeze can flatten that moment to a dead stop, and it takes the big guy several turns to get going again. A single effect that forces you to discard a card from your hand, or anything with a piercing can shut him out completely.
I had hoped that this type of hero design was behind us. Both Ironheart and Sp//dr were released with smaller hand sizes but managed to make up for it and are very powerful heroes. Colossus’s design has fallen back closer to the likes of Drax, and his potential is largely wasted.
You would think that Colossus would be designed to take the role of one of the game’s best defenders. Instead, that title belongs to Shadowcat. Even in games that my group lost, she rarely took a single point of damage. Shadowcat easily falls into the category of heroes that are so strong, it’s detrimental to the game.
In a way that’s similar to Vision, Shadowcat has a form that flips between solid and phased. While in solid form, she can use the card to generate a resource for an attack of defense card, and while she is phased, she ignores crisis, patrol, and guard. Oh, she also takes no damage while defending.
Attacking or defending causes her to flip forms, and her alter-ego ability also allows you to flip it. Shadowcat takes some serious skillful play to use since you have to carefully time when to attack or defend. But if you do, she’s practically impervious to damage.
She has two upgrades that trigger when she ignores certain keywords with phased. Acute Control damages minions, while Intangible Interference removes threat. Shadowcat surprise only deals 3 damage, but it also readies Shadowcat, and that allows you further flexibility to swap between solid and phased.
Phased and Confused works like Spider-Mans Webbed Up, but confuses the enemy after it negates an attack. It can help avoid an attack when you didn’t manage to switch to phase form, or in multiplayer to negate an attack and scheme combo. It’s very powerful.
Phased Strike is incredibly efficient, however. Not only does it do 6 damage, but you can discard one of those nasty attachments a villain has for free, which saves the team’s precious resources to be spent elsewhere.
Then you have Quick Shift that allows you to switch from solid to phased at the drop of a hat when attacked, or simply gain two cards if you’re already there.
Shadowcat is a hero capable of doing everything. She can hit hard, thwart threat with Airwalk, and is damn near invincible when played right. She needs a few energy generation cards when deck building, but that’s her only weak point, and it’s one that is easily addressed.
She’s one of few heroes that can stand up to Ronan. You still need a good bit of luck considering how absurdly busted that scenario is, but she holds her own best against him better than anyone aside from Doctor Strange.
She’s fun to play because you genuinely feel clever when you time a string of actions correctly to deal damage and thwart while ending in phased form to negate the next attack. But where Colossus is two steps backward, Shadowcat is a prime example of excessive power creep in the newer heroes.
Aggression and Protection get the newest toys alongside a hefty portion of basic cards. Polaris is a nice ally that adds toughness to an X-Men, toughness is always good. Nightcrawler can be expensive to maintain, but his ability to protect any X-Men from any amount of damage is huge. You could build a defensive deck solely around the shifty fellow.
Powerful Punch is a bit costly to deal four damage when an enemy attacks. But it has some extra flexibility since it has the attack and defense keywords. Protective Training adds three hitpoints to an X-Men ally. There’s a ton of combo potential there, especially for the Cyclops hero.
Speaking of combo plays, Mutant Protectors allows you to cheat an X-Men ally into play and declare it as a defender. There is so much you could do with that, and like all keyword-specific cards, its use grows as the X-Men card pool expands.
Defensive Energy effectively makes many defense events free as you draw a card when you spend it. There are a lot of 1 cost defense cards. Anything that adds to your action economy is great, especially for the protection aspect.
Professor X goes away at the end of the round like Nick Fury but gives you the choice of confusing the villain, stunning a minion, or readying an X-Men. Plus he can be a fire-and-forget defender since he is leaving play anyway.
The X-Jet is the X-Answer for the Quinnjet. Shadow and Steel is a nifty team-up card for Colussus and Shadowcat that boosts their already strong defensive options. Attack Training adds +2 hitpoints and +1 attack to an X-Men ally, it pairs great with the new Wolverine ally who has a nasty 3 attack and heals himself every turn.
Gatekeeper is a strange one, I have no thematic explanation for this card. You give a minion patrol and +2 hitpoints, but remove four threat when it’s defeated. I’m sure it has some uses, but its concept just feels…silly to put it politely.
X-Mansion heals X-Men as an alter-ego action. The alter-ego side of the game is in need of serious expansion, so I enjoy seeing cards like it.
There are a bunch of reprints but with different X-Men-specific artwork. I approve of the energy cards, but I’m against everything else. It clogs up my collection and makes deckbuilding confusing unless I remove them altogether, in which case having the alternate art serves me no purpose.
The aspect cards are a mixed bag. Plenty of great new additions, some oddball ones, and lots of alternate art reprints.
Sabretooth can pose a serious challenge. He requires a well-rounded approach from the heroes and some long-term planning in order to take him down. The scenario revolves around rescuing and then protecting Senator Robert Kelly. In the initial stages, he takes damage every round and takes extra damage if a certain amount of threat is placed on the main scheme.
Once you clear the Find the Senator side scheme, Robert attaches to the first player, but any undefended attack that Sabretooth makes against the first player hits Robert, who has a measly 9 HP. At the same time, if the main scheme breaks, Robert leaves play, and you lose.
To make matters worse, Sabretooth himself is extremely hard to defeat. He pulls an encounter card and heals equal to the boost icons every single time he activates.
This puts players in a very tight position. You have to balance when to find the Senator, how to defend the Senator, and clearing the threat, all while building up an alpha strike against Sabertooth to bring him down. Simply picking away at his HP won’t work, he heals far too fast for that strategy.
Sabretooth is a villain that forces tight teamwork to succeed. There can’t be a weak link, everyone has to carry some weight against him. You also have to be prepared to deal with every facet of the game, from threat to damage and defense. Especially defense.
Sabretooth has multiple copies of Unrelenting Savage, which triggers an extra attack. Not only can he knock out an unsuspecting hero, but if he catches the first player at the wrong time, Robert is toast.
However, nothing about Sabretooth is broken or unfair. It’s a very well-designed scenario that simply puts pressure on the player in different ways. It also manages to capture the villain quite well thematically in terms of his aggression and healing factor. It definitely feels like you’re fighting Sabertooth. Sabretooth is a pretty iconic X-men villain so it’s great that he is design works well.
Project Wideawake and Mastermold
I’m going to talk about two scenarios at once because they feel incredibly similar, and it’s to their detriment. Both have different mechanics, but the focus on sentinels takes away from their own novelty. In fact, the villain you face in Project Wideawake isn’t even a villain at all, it’s just a Sentinel. I think it’s meant to represent a horde of them, but it just falls flat and feels forgettable.
In the case of Project Wideawake, it modifies the Operation Zero Tolerance modular set so that its side scheme is permanent. Project Wideawake is essentially an anti-ally scenario, allies who are defeated by attacks are captured similar to how The Collector works in Galaxy’s Most Wanted. If too many allies are placed under Operation Zero Tolerance, the players lose.
Master Mold, on the other hand, focuses on swarming you with upgraded Sentinels. Master Mold’s main schemes grant every Sentinel minion guard, teams will certainly need some minion swatting power to win.
Both scenarios have different playstyles, but the overarching themes blend together so much that unless it’s on the table in front of me, I can have trouble recalling which cards belong to what scenario, or even remembering which is which until I pull them out.
The X-Men have a large roster of villains. There was no need for two of them to feel so similar in one box. The generic Sentinel villain is also pretty lame. Project Wideawakes mechanics also feel recycled. It uses both, the Collector’s main mechanism and the ally rescuing gimmick from Taskmaster. It’s tweaked slightly, but not enough to shake that feeling of deja vu.
Mansion attack pits you against multiple villains at once, but in a slightly more simplified manner compared to similar scenarios. How many villains you need to defeat essentially sets the difficulty of the scenario, and you battle members of the Brotherhood one by one.
Each of the four, Blob, Toad, Pyro, and Avalanche have varying strengths and weaknesses, so it pays to be adaptable when fighting them. Another neat aspect is that the scenario features multiple main schemes that function as different environments inside the mansion.
Each environment imparts some type of bonus to ALL characters in-play, be they hero, minion, ally, or villain. Fighting in the Courtyard grants every character +1 attack while Cafeteria grants all characters retaliate, for example. Thematically it really doesn’t make any sense, but it’s a neat gameplay mechanism in any case.
The scenario makes use of the Brotherhood module, so a member of the Brotherhood who isn’t currently the villain, can still appear as a minion, and that’s neat.
There’s a whole host of cards that cause specific members of the Brotherhood to activate against you or force you to bring them out if they aren’t currently in play. The scenario does a really good job of making you feel like you’re fighting the entire Brotherhood, even if you’re technically only fighting one villain at a time.
Magento is the powerhouse you would expect and a two-fold villain. He tends to break the action economy like other problematic villains, such as The Hood, but to a lesser degree. All three of his main schemes have the same function. When Magneto attacks, the main scheme gets a magnet counter. once it has three magnet counters, they get discarded, and you discard cards from the encounter deck until you reveal a magnetic card.
Magnetic cards showcase the full range of Magnetos’ abilities. He can protect himself with a Magnetic bubble, completely stall out a hero with Wrapped in Metal, or most amusingly, launch a Sentinel at your face with Magnetic Missle.
The other half of Magento’s scenario functions as a mini adventure in a way that’s similar to Hela. There’s a set of three side schemes that have to be completed in order to fully damage Magento, and doing so also takes away Magneto’s steady trait as an added bonus.
Magneto walks the line between being a challenging villain and a broken one, and that line is thin. Magnet counters get added at a brisk pace, especially at higher player counts, so he is always activating extra cards beyond the normal action economy cycle of a villain.
At the same time, rushing him isn’t an option since you have to go through several side schemes first. Unlike Villains such as The Hood or Ronan, Magento is a little tamer, but fighting him is still somewhat swingy. Some games are going to be harder than others based on the type of magnetic cards he pulls
The scenario does manage to capture the feeling of fighting Magento. Not just with his magnetic powers, but the fact that heroes are never just fighting Magneto, they are also fighting whatever plan that he cooked up. The side schemes do a good job of showcasing the fact that taking down the master of magnetism isn’t just a punching match, and that’s pretty cool.
I’m never a fan when a villain’s schtick boils down to slapping the players with more encounter cards, but Magento’s variation of it is mostly bearable. Plus, the mini adventure does help elevate the fun factor. Magento is a challenge, and Mutant Genesis captures the spirit of the way his battles with the X-Men have always been portrayed, and that’s great.
Mutant Genesis comes with a handful of Encounter Modules that are all pretty great. I’m always a fan of actual villains showing up in Encounter sets, and Mystique, The Brotherhood, The Acolytes, and Future Past all fulfill that role.
Mystique in particular can be pretty nasty. Her Infiltration cards enter your deck and force you to discard an ally or support when you draw it. Additionally, the villain can’t be attacked while she is in play. It’s a nice play on her powers, she basically acting as a body double for the villain, or pretending to be one of your allies, and that’s neat.
There are two Sentinel-focused sets, Sentinels and Operation Zero Tolerance. Both of them function well as minion-based sets but somewhat blend together the same way the two Sentinel-based scenarios do. In fact, it feels like they exist as an extension of those scenarios, rather than as individual encounter modules.
Mutant Genesis is somewhat of a mixed bag. Shadowcat is a super strong hero, while Colossus trips over his four-card hand. Sabretooth stands out, while Master Mold and Project Wideawake blend together.
Mansion Attack is a solid scenario, and while Magento tends to be swingy, the spirit of the villain is captured quite well, even if his mechanisms are borrowing ideas from other scenarios without much originality.
Mutant Genesis is the kick-off of X-Men entering the game and is probably a must-have based on the fact alone. Fans of previous campaigns will find a similar one in Mutant Genesis as well, and it functions like previous iterations of campaigns found in the other big box expansion.
Mutant Genesis is far from my favorite big box expansion, but it has its strong points. It’s a roller coaster of highs and lows, but honestly the same could be said about Marvel Champions as a whole. It’s par for the course at this point, and if you’re all in on the game, you can probably look past the shortcomings of Mutant Genesis and have a great time anyway.
More Marvel Champions Reviews
- A nice kickoff to the X-Men cycle with plenty of X-Men-focused player cards
- Shadowcat has a clever playstyle that’s a lot of fun
- Great new encounter modules
- Sabretooth is a great scenario that feels fresh
- The game captures the spirit of battling against Magento quite well
- Mansion Attack is a nifty take on fighting multiple villains
- Shadowcat is overpowered
- The four-card hand hinders Colossus’s otherwise fun playstyle
- The two sentinel-focused scenarios blend together
- Magneto can be pretty swingy