Marvel Champions: The Hood Scenario Pack Review

The Hood Scenario

The Hood, Upper Hand, The Hoods Pistol and Madame Masque cards.

The Hood Scenario pack is interesting because the main focus isn’t truly on The Hood himself. His scenario only makes up 16 of the 78 cards. The vast majority of the pack revolves around the inclusion of a whopping 9 modular encounter sets. Plus alternate versions of the Standard and Expert Sets.

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The Hood uses modular sets as his main gimmick. He isn’t very threatening on his own unless he manages to bring out both of his pistols. It’s the vast connections he is able to make that you have to worry about.

The Hood gets 7 encounter sets that you choose yourself or at random, and he begins the game with one of them. As the game plays out, he adds more and more of those put aside encounter sets to his deck. It’s an incredibly cool idea, and it feels like your battling a fairly non-threatening villain that’s continually making bigger and meaner friends.

The concept is incredibly solid, and The Hood had the potential to be one of the most diverse feeling scenarios released so far. I say “had” because his other gimmick ruins it entirely.

The Hood's Mantle, Establish Dominance and Field Recruitment Cards.

If you have read my piece on Fixing The Imbalance In Marvel Champions. You will understand my take on the game’s action economy and tempo. But to break it down simply, there is a finite number of villain actions that a hero can reasonably respond to each turn. This is why Heroic Mode was a terrible band-aid fix for increasing the difficulty, because it breaks the game’s internal math.

When fighting The Hood, even on standard difficulty, he will temporarily switch the game to heroic one to eight randomly with Foul Play. Foul Play is basically surge by another name and continually deals you extra encounter cards and breaks the game’s internal math.

Extra encounter cards are needed thing in Marvel Champions to spike the tempo in the villain’s favor, but only in moderation. There’s very little rhyme or reason for when The Hood is going to go on an encounter card spree. It could be on turn one, turn eight, or every turn in-between. In the first game I played against The Hood he landed eight encounter cards in one turn against my partner.

Unbridled Ambition and making Connections Cards

One of the worst things about The Hood is just how random it is. In some games, he is a complete pushover because his gimmick never triggers. In other games you lose on turn one, and there was nothing you can do about it. It’s a slot machine scenario where your deck and skill are largely irrelevant. You pull the lever and see if you win or lose because if he piles enough encounter cards onto the field you can’t mathematically tackle enough of it to stand a chance.

You can increase your chances of winning by building a rush deck with a few specific heroes where you aim to take him down within just a few turns, but that’s a single viable playstyle, and it blacklists half of the hero roster.

Luck is always a factor in card games, but The Hood removes the skill aspect and bases your loss or victory on the luck of the draw. It’s not fun. It’s not interesting and it ruins the great concept of being focused on the encounter sets. The Hood is the most poorly designed villain so far. It is incredibly disappointing since we’re so deep into the lifespan of the game.

The Hood Encounter Sets

Thankfully the real meat and potatoes of The Hood pack are the modular encounter sets that can be mixed with any villain, and the pack comes with nine of them. Each one adds additional variability and can combo well with different villains. Although, I’d probably consider mixing the smaller ones with a second set, even if the villain traditionally only gets one.

Double Trouble, Mandrill and Griffin cards.

The Beastly Boys features two threatening minions with Mandrill and Griffin. The set has a focus on confusing and stunning heroes. The more stunned and confused characters that are in play, the more potent the set is. Stun and Confuse are the bane of some heroes already so it can be a challenge when combined with certain villains.

Brother's Grimm, Black bird Pellets, Corrosive Egge Bomb and Unbreakable Thread Cards.

Brothers Grimm features a load of attachments for mystic minions such as the Brothers Grimm minion themselves. But if a mystic isn’t on the field they attach to the villain instead. The attachments are nasty because they each deal you an extra encounter card and can’t be discarded through resources like many other attachments. Luckily, they discard after going off which does keep the set balanced with most villains.

Calvina Zabo, Hyde formula and Mister Hyde Cards.

Mister Hyde is an interesting set featuring a very nasty minion in the form of Mister Hydee himself. If his alter ego minion happens to be on the field when he enters play, you’re going to have a bad day. I also appreciate that Self Experimentation can interact with other brute minions and villains by blocking damage against them.

Magic Muscles, Bulldozer, Wrecker and Piledriver Cards.

The Wrecking Crew is another set that interacts with Brute Minions and villains by giving them toughness or retaliate. The set comes with four very strong brute minions with each Wrecking Crew member. The set is a great adaption of the existing Wrecking Crew Scenario without having to play the awful scenario in order to fight them.

Speed Demon, Boomerang, White rabbit and Beetle Cards.

The Sinister Syndicate offers a gang of minions that have fairly unique abilities. Such as Speed Demon that attacks you when you attack him or Beetle that trashes your upgrades. It also combo’s well with villains and other sets that have criminal minions with the Crime Pays side scheme.

Crossfire, Controller, Corrupter, and Mister Fear Cards.

Crossfire’s crew is another set with a bunch of named minions, and this set excels against allies. For example, Crossfire targets characters with the lowest hitpoints which are usually going to be an ally card. We definitely need more organic ally counters so I really enjoy the set.

Ransacked Armory is a set with a bunch of minion attachments that can get really nasty with tougher minions. It does feature a couple of armored guard reprints, but they honestly fit what the set is going for pretty well.

Tech Gauntlets, Jetpack. Holoshield Generator and Flamethrower Cards.

State of Emergency is a neat set mostly made up of side schemes and no minions. It essentially has the heroes responding to a bunch of disasters which is thematically very cool. Heroes do more than just punch bad guys in the source material, so it’s nice to have that in the game.

Hot Pursuit, Feisty Heist, Offshore Inferno, and Disaster At The Docks Cards.

In the same vein, Streets of Mayhem is a set of environment cards that are meant to be different criminal strongholds and hideouts. They have wide-sweeping effects such as granting ALL characters +1 attack or thwart making it a very unique set.

Warehouse District, Secret Lair, Sewer Tunnels, Back-Alley Enclave cards.

The encounter sets are definitely the strong point of The Hood pack. Each one is unique, and adding nine new sets to the card pool instantly increases the game’s variability by a wide margin. I’ve also always felt that sets with named minions are great, and we get a lot of them with The Hood Pack. That makes me very happy.

Alternate Difficulty Sets

This is what I’ve truly been waiting for because the announcement that we were actually getting official alternate standard and experts sets halted me from making my own. I assumed I didn’t need to anymore.

The Hood pack comes with a brand new standard and expert set that you can use in place of the originals for an increased challenge. But I’m let down by how some of them function.

They do not scale well at low player counts. This cements the idea that low player counts are not receiving the playtesting that they truly deserve. Additionally, the sets play heavily with surge and extra encounter cards. Once again toying with the internal math too severely.

Mob Mentality, Dark Dealings, Total Annihilation and Overwhelming Force Cards.

Dark Dealings is like Advance but grants the villain +1 scheme. The problem is, an unlucky advance at lower player counts was already enough to end a game unfairly due to the much lower threat thresholds on main schemes.

I like Mob Mentality a lot since it nails you with something regardless of what form you are in. But its hero effect works like Gang Up and adds surge as well. That is excessive, the villain is already getting a large action increase with the extra attacks. Piling encounter cards is not the correct way to increase difficulty. Otherwise, heroic mode would feel fine, and these alternate sets wouldn’t even be needed.

Overwhelming Force is a great card because it forces you to discard your highest cost upgrade or support rather than letting you choose with Caught Off Guard. The alternate Standard set also has a copy of Shadows of The Past, but it’s unchanged.

Total Annihilation is nearly perfect. It replaces Assault and adds overkill to the attack, which weakens ally chump blocking, but it has surge again! Surge is an important keyword for the balance of the game, but not when it’s overused like this.

Formidable Foe Card

On to the alternate Expert set we see the largest example of poor scaling. Formidable Foe is a permanent setup card with an acceleration icon and grants the Villain steady. That is incredibly punishing at low player counts for two reasons.

The first is an inherent flaw in the game’s use of Hazard and Acceleration icons. The threat threshold of the main scheme scales linearly with the number of players. The Break-in with Rhino requires 7 threat for a single player and gains one threat each villain phase. It requires 28 with four players and gains four threat per villain phase.

An acceleration icon with four players is only a 25% increase of threat added during the villain phase. With a single-player, it’s a 100% increase. Formidable Foe is permanently doubling a single player’s threat gain. That’s a massively punishing factor to start the game with.

The next part is steady. Steady requires two confusion or stuns cards in order to stun or confuse the villain. Placing two such cards in a four-player game is viable, doing so with 1 or 2 players is unlikely. They can still stun or confuse the villain. But it’s probably going to take multiple turns and simply requires a much higher investment to pull off than in a four-player game.

It’s clear that lower player counts are not being given the same kind of care that the higher player counts are. A lot of the Marvel Champions community plays at lower player counts exclusively. So, I believe this neglect to be a grave mistake and a massive disappointment.

Slug It Out, Seek and Destroy, Ruination and Cruel Intentions Cards.

The rest of the alternate expert set, like the alternate standard set is a mixed bag. Cruel Intentions is terrible and is simply tossing more encounter cards at you. Ruination is a bit excessive with the extra threat plus Incite 1, but it’s a fair increase for expert mode. I love Seek and Destroy since it’s a way for the villain to get your Nemesis on the field aside from Shadows of the Past.

I like Slug it Out’s boost effect since it’s more ally hate, but it’s honestly excessive. An extra 2 damage from nowhere even in alter ego form can result in a cheap feeling loss.

I may be disappointed in The Hood scenario, but that’s nothing compared to my disappointment in the alternate difficulty sets. There is a line between challenging and cheap, and they cross it. But the terrible way they scale at lower player counts is by far the most heartbreaking.

Verdict

The Hood scenario and alternate difficulty sets are a massive disappointment. But the fact that the pack comes with 9 great encounter sets redeems the pack and makes it a must-have. All things considered, the scenario takes up only a small portion of the pack anyway.

The alternate standard and experts sets have severe issues. But they are actually still worth having for personal tweaking, and I do have some ideas kicking around.

The modular encounter sets are the real stars though. Each one is unique, fun and adds a ton to the game. They allow old villains to have different feels and levels of strength. Rhino hits differently with the Wrecking Crew and Mister Hyde at his side for example. In the end, I have to recommend the pack purely for the encounter sets. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing entire packs dedicated to them, because The Hood pretty much is already.

My Perspective On The Hood

I really can’t understate my disappointment in the alternate standard and expert sets. They were one of my grand hopes for the game, and their poor implementation is soul-crushing. The Mad Titan’s Shadow renewed my hope in the game. Then The Hood crushed it between the scenario’s awful design and the alternate sets’ poor scaling.

As I was evaluating the pack, I did initially decide to drop the game after Vision releases. Its flaws are never going to be addressed, and low player counts are being disrespected. However, the gears in my head also began to spin. I could see ways to tweak the alternate sets using existing cards to mold them to my liking. I always wanted to make a Fixing the Imbalance Part 2, and now I have several other ideas for the game.

Because I have a massive personality flaw with the obnoxious need to fix things, I’ll be sticking with the game for now. My Marvel Champions content is my most popular anyway, so I feel like I would be letting people down by dropping it.

In the future, you can look forward to a lot of balance tweaks from me. For the alternate sets, Galaxy’s Most Wanted and perhaps even The Wrecking Crew and Norman Osborn scenarios. The one thing I can say about The Hood is it gave me tools to work with.

(Also, for Asgard’s sake! Fantasy Flight Games, if you’re reading this, I primarily play solo and two-player, hit me up, and maybe I can help!)

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Pros

  • 9 Fantastic Modular Sets
  • The Set Has A Strong theme
  • Many Of The New Encounter Sets Have Named Minions And That’s Awesome
  • Having Alternate Difficulty Sets Grants Strong Tools For Tweaking.

Cons

  • The Hood Is A Terribly Designed Scenario That Boils Down To Being “Surge” The Villian
  • The Alternate Standard And Expert Sets Toy With The Games Internal Math Too Much And Scale Poorly At Low Player Counts.