Players choose one of four superhero teams: X-Men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Jean Grey), Fantastic 4 (Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, The Thing), Avengers (Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man), or Marvel Knights (Spider-Man, Daredevil, Elektra, Dr. Strange).
Each team has a Mastermind Villain working against them, controlled by one of the other players: Magneto, Dr. Doom, Red Skull, or Kingpin.
One of the designers, Roberto Di Meglio, kindly answered some questions about the game for us.
What goals did you have for Marvel Heroes?
We wanted to maintain the flavor of the universe without linking it too strongly to any specific storyline. This was very difficult because the Marvel universe is an evolving place, so we had to decide on what we considered the "archetypes" of that universe: which heroes, allegiances, enemies, etc.
We wanted the game to be flexible -- but not so much that it became too abstract and strayed from the flavor of the stories. We wanted combat in the game, but a game which was not all about combat. We wanted a simple game, but something that fans could appreciate for the way we represented characters and situations.
Those are a lot of conflicting goals to balance, so this was not really an easy task!
Could you summarize the gameplay?
You manage a team of Superheroes, and the Mastermind Villain who's the arch-enemy of one of the other teams. Everybody plays both as the good guys and the bad guys. Of course, you're playing them at different moments so your good guys don't really have anything to do with your bad guy.
There's a main storyline called the Scenario, which sets special rules and the general goal. Your heroes must face the Dangers, Crime, and Mysteries created by the game mechanics and the other players.
Your Mastermind Villain tries to make life difficult for the opposing team and to advance towards completion of his "Master Plans." When you try to solve situations (called "Headlines"), you will face opposition from super-criminals run by the other players.
Headlines sound interesting. How do they work?
Every turn you'll have new Headlines, written in the form of newspaper titles. The Headlines have specific references to comic stories, but also several other elements: how dangerous they are, and the type of abilities and skills that a hero must have to face them.
When heroes try to face these challenges, they can use their skills to reduce the "trouble level" of the situation, but then other players may use villain cards against the superheroes. In many adventure games, opposition is generated randomly; here it's up to the players to define the opposition. We find this system more fun and interactive.
Why did you decide to have each player control a villain in addition to superheroes?
Every story must have heroes and villains, so the question was how to represent villains. We essentially had three options: one player runs the villain and everybody else the heroes, "automatic" villains, or the current solution. We think this solution creates more interaction between players, which is a problem in many adventure games.
We had to take great care that you couldn't abuse the fact that you control both heroes and villains. So you can't use heroes to help villains, or vice versa.
How did you choose the characters?
Certain heroes are immediately recognizable to anybody who knows a little bit about Marvel. We couldn't miss them: Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Hulk, and The Fantastic Four. Then we decided the structure of 4 teams with 4 heroes each, so the choice of 16 characters was almost completely straightforward after that.
Dealing with villains was more difficult, because we couldn't represent them all with figures (a game with 100 painted figures would be very expensive!). We decided to pick one arch-enemy for every team to represent in a prominent way, with a figure and "full" character abilities, and to pick more villains as "minor encounters," represented as cards -- although some of them are quite tough!
What distinguishes Marvel Heroes from HeroClix and the recently announced Marvel Legends HeroScape?
Both of those games (I must guess about Marvel Legends) only focus on combat. We have combat, but it's part of a much broader picture. Our goal is a game where you actually see superhero stories unfolding.
Everybody loves to see superheroes fighting, but there's much more than that in the Marvel universe. We wanted a game that offered a broader view. It's impossible to pack half a century of great stories in a single product, but we tried to put into our game as much as we could!