Marvel has such a vast roster of untapped potential when it comes to heroes that it’s always exciting to see who’s going to join the team next. Could it be Falcon or the Winter Soldier? Maybe Dare Devil, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, or Shang Chi. Nope, it’s freaking Spider-Ham, a cartoon pig whose biggest relevance was being voiced by Comedian John Mulaney in Enter the Spiderverse.
You can find a video version of this review on my YouTube Channel.
The only possible way it could get worse is if, for some reason, Spider-Ham was obscenely overpowered. Wouldn’t it be a kick in the nuts if the Incredible Hulk was the weakest hero in the game while Spider-Ham was one of the strongest? Well, I hope the testicle-bearing members of my audience wore their cups. Because Spider-Ham puts most of the cast to shame and is second only to the Sorceror Supreme.
What can Spider-Ham do? Everything. He can thwart, deal damage, defend, heal quickly and generate an absurd amount of resources, with the added bonus of dealing real-life psychic damage to everyone at the table with hideous puns.
Spider-Ham is all about using his cartoonish absurdity to break the laws of reality, and by extension the game. Every time Spider-Ham takes any amount of damage, he gets a toon counter. Yes, that means that separate instances of damage grant additional counters. The next time Ultron shows up, the Avengers can take a mental health day because Spider-Ham will make him squeal like a pig.
Spider-Ham’s toon counters can be spent as a wild resource, and he can accumulate them quickly. Without any support, he has the best resource engine in the game built right into him. Don’t be fooled by his 12 hitpoints, his massive five recovery keeps the pig’s skin tough, plus a free-toon counter on top of it.
Obviously, Spider-Ham excels at taking many small hits, but thanks to his Cartoon Physics, he can also turn the biggest swings into just one, adding fire to his pig roast. Something to note is that several of his cards ask you to perform silly actions, such as wiggle, stick your tongue out at the villain, or high-five somebody.
While I doubt anyone would eject you from the game for failing to do so, the way they are written implies it’s a requirement cost of the card. Solo players may have to get creative to land those high fives.
Toon counters are also used to fuel the rest of Spider-Ham’s cards. Hogwashed deals a nifty five damage to a minion or removes five threat from a scheme at a cost of one plus a toon counter.
I Don’t Think So, on the other hand, straight up cancels an encounter card, any, encounter card, that’s right. If the villains are shy, you can provoke an attack with Petulant Pig and draw three cards, plus the toon counter you gain for inevitably taking damage. That’s a massive tempo increase at the cost of taking damage that Spider-Ham does with a smile on his face.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself with upwards of five to ten toon counters, so why not make the villain question their life choices by removing threat equal to them for free with Ham it Up, yes, for free.
Spider-Ham can power up his Thwart with Organic Webbing, and land over-killing attacks with Heavy Wooden Hammer. To top it off Spider-Ham can ensure that it’s safe to recover in alter-ego with Swinging Web Pig for a hefty six damage and confusion. I’m pretty sure the villain is going to be confused the whole fight anyway on the account of Porky Pig wearing a Spider-Man costume. I know I certainly am.
You also might as well visit the Daily…Beagle…while in alter-ego form for an extra toon counter. Peter Porker doesn’t need any help, but he can also call on Captain…Americat for even more toonage.
Cheese & Swine
Spider-Ham is obviously overpowered to the point that it doesn’t feel like a misstep. It feels intentional, and I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. It makes Spider-Ham feel even more like a joke character, and I’m not laughing.
Spider-Ham can cover any role while performing multiple. He is going to perform well in any aspect because his own kit is potent all the way around. That said, stick him with any type of healing, and he is nearly unstoppable.
Most heroes with Spider-Ham’s kind of power have some type of build-up. I like to compare his toon counters with Drax’s vengeance counters. Drax really doesn’t start to feel the full benefit until after he sustains three attacks, and then he has to fight to maintain them because a switch to alter-ego form tosses them away. Spider-Ham benefits immediately, and not only keeps them when switching. But is given extra opportunities to gain more when doing so.
His toon counters put Groot’s growth counters to shame, they both use them to power up cards, but Spider-Ham has the flexibility of only using them when he feels like it, whereas Groot has no choice. Not to mention Spider-Ham gains them at a much faster rate between taking damage and several cards that add them.
It looks like there’s a careful balance to be struck, as to not turn Spider-Ham into Spider-Bacon but he actually has great survivability between Cartoon Physics, his high recovery, and the fact that he can confuse the villain with Swinging Web Pig. And that’s all without the support of aspect cards or teammates.
Spider-Ham is quite often able to afford any card he wants while having toon counters left over that continuously replenish and his cards are cost-effective, to begin with.
Is Spider-Ham fun to play? Absolutely, with great power comes great joy from mud-stomping villains with a cosplaying pig. His mechanisms undeniably feel good, and even thematic as his absurdity feels right at home with his concept. Which is a break, in reality, to begin with.
However, once the novelty of rubbing a pig’s butt across Thanos’s purple face wears off, Ham gets to live in the binder with Doctor Strange because it’s the equivalent of sitting down, flipping the table, and declaring victory. There’s not much point in wasting time in between when the outcome is the same.
People playing standard heroes won’t want to play with you because no one wants to feel like B movie extras while Spider-Ham hogs the spotlight. So, even if Spider-Ham was designed to intentionally be super strong because that’s funny to someone for some reason. It’s a terrible misstep and a waste of cardboard and ink.
The vast majority of Spider-Hams’s premade deck consists of reprints, maybe the most so far. Great Responsibility, One Way or Another, Making an Entrance, Followed, Web of life and Destiny, and Team Building Excercise all work to further my belief that not even the designers took the pack seriously.
There are a few new inclusions, however. Lady Spider and another justice aspect Spider-Man card further help to flesh out the web warrior theme for the color yellow.
Even the Odds is a great pick against side scheme-heavy fights. I do love Overwatch since it can really help set up big combo plays when it comes to threat removal. Justice is the most straightforward of the aspects to the point of feeling dull at times, so combo setups are the most welcome additions.
Scarlet Spider is a bit of a weird one that feels too costly given the gamble involved with his ability. Then we have the Warrior of the Great Web, a whoopsy we made a poopsy patch for mistakes made early in the game’s life cycle. Namely, not giving Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, or other Spider allies the web warrior trait. It’s one of those discount band-aids that itch and constantly fall off, however. Without the setup keyword, its usage is going to be extremely clunky.
As my brain cells slowly succumb to the puns and visit the great web in the clouds, I couldn’t imagine what horror awaited me in Spider-Ham’s nemesis set. It’s none other than, the Green…Gobbler.
The Green Gobbler is a direct counter to Spider-Ham and is one of few things that can slow his boorish rampage. The Gobbler simply erases ham’s Toon counters, and Nefarious Trap gives the Gobbler a second chance at hitting the table. Funny enough, it can be gamed in multiplayer to allow Spider-Ham from getting Gobbled. For further pun pains, we have Feast on This. It’s pretty mean but straightforward damage treachery.
Of course, I have to mention Spider-Ham’s obligation, I Really Want a Hot Dog, which depicts Porker engaging in some friendly neighborhood cannibalism as hotdogs are largely made from pig products. It’s not like I already wanted to vomit or anything…
Like the rest of the pack, The Green Gobbler feels slapped on and undercooked.
The Inheritors Encounter Module
For me, the pack might as well read. The Inheritors pack, give us $16.99, please. That’s where most of the value is for me. It’s a great module featuring named characters as minions. It’s an interesting set because it’s potent no matter what, but adds some extra spice against web warriors. Considering how strong that team is in Marvel Champions, that’s a good thing. Every card has an additional effect if a Web Warrior is in play.
The Inheritors are vicious even without the bonus. Each Inheritor boosts every other Inheritor in play, and Hunting the Spider Totems gives additional chances of pulling them from the deck.
Some very strong deck build strategies revolve around ignoring minions. The Inheritors simply won’t let you. If you let them snowball, it’s game over. Having multiple minions gain acceleration icons, villainous, and other buffs is extremely threatening, and each Inheritor is tough enough that they take effort to remove.
It’s a great set and the highlight of the pack.
It’s difficult to formulate my feelings on Spider-Ham. Despite my dislike of the character and my bias against it, he is fun to play. However, he is fun for the wrong reasons, and that joy is short-lived. My favorite Marvel character is Doctor Strange, and until I came up with my own fixes for him, he sat unused because trivializing the challenge gets boring fast.
Spider-Ham is the same way. His utter strength is hilarious early on because of how stupid it is. But when the villains don’t bite back, it gets repetitive fast. In a multiplayer setting, the strongest and weakest heroes can bring down the whole table. Maybe, you don’t mind curb stomping the villains, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else at the table does.
In my review of Sp//dr, I mentioned how I was concerned about the power creep that showed up in this cycle. Spider-Ham skipped the creeping altogether and smashed the door open. With the X-Men on the horizon, it’s hard not to feel concerned, especially because Spider-Ham feels like a joke taken too far. If Deadpool ever makes an appearance, can I expect a hero I want to play? Or a lot of broken mechanisms because the merc with a mouth is funny and breaks the fourth wall?
Between Spider-Ham and the massive number of reprints, the only thing I can say is that I really like the Inheritors Module and leave it at that.
- The Inheritor Module is great
- The prebuilt deck works because of how strong Spider-ham is
- More Web-Warrior Support
- Spider-Ham is very overpowered, and it feels intentional
- The goofy nature of the hero won’t appeal to everyone
- Tons of reprints present
- Getting Spider-Ham before so much of the Marvel Roster feels wrong