Marvel United is a boardgame designed by Andrea Chiarvesio and Eric Lang (Quarriors, Blood Rage, Rising Sun, Cthulhu: Death May Die, Chaos in the Old World, among the others), illustrated by Édouard Guiton and published by CMON. The game was promoted and funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It is a collaborative card game for 1-4 players, that uses a basic mechanism of hand management. Players impersonate superheroes fighting a villain and his acolytes: they must coordinate to save civilians, capture criminals and finally defeat the villain. Each character comes with a miniature and a card set with specific skills and abilities. The starter box offers 6 superheroes (Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Wasp, Hulk, Ant Man) e 3 villains (Red Skull, Taskmaster e Ultron). More characters are coming with expansion sets.
We interviewed Andrea about his game and his relationship with comic books.
How did the Marvel United project develop and how did you and Eric Lang manage your collaboration? Did this project pose any specific challenge? E.g.: did the Marvel IP pose any constraint?
With our previous co-designs Eric and I were already used to do much of the work from distance, and this project was not an exception. Of course, a lot of progress was made easier when we had the opportunity to see each other and test the prototype on a physical table, but I would say that no, there were no unique or unexpected challenges. It was one of those projects that found its design path quite naturally and smoothly.
Dealing with the Marvel IP was exciting and, although of course there are always constraints, I would not say that there were unexpected problems. I have to say that both Spinmaster USA (the editorial partner of this project) and Marvel have always been enthusiastic about the project and truly proactive partners.
Did the setting and the lore of the Marvel Universe inspire you any choice regarding game mechanics or development?
Game ideas and mechanics for us at CMON are always based on the setting, the challenge is how to better convey the setting through the mechanics. In practice, the entire design process was guided by the desire to make the setting, while at the same time keeping the game accessible to the widest possible audience, perhaps fond of comics but not necessarily of board games.
Marvel United will be enriched by several expansion packs, with heroes and villains: which design solutions allow to add such expansions avoiding breaking the game system? Are the expansion packs developed and tested along with the base system?
Precisely because we have worked so hard in order to have a solid and versatile game engine, we have – I believe – managed to create a basic game system that allows to insert a large number of variants without “breaking” the mechanisms!
Our goal was to make sure that every single villain in the game would have offered a different challenge and a different gameplay experience to players. I feel we have succeeded. If you then add to this a system of variable difficulty levels thanks to the different Challenges included in the system, I think the game can offer fans an even greater longevity.
Marvel United exploited a Kickstarter campaign that collected more than 2.800.000$. Which is the importance of the crowdfunding for a project like Marvel United? Why was it launched by KS and not directly through the retail channels?
Crowdfunding is a fantastic tool that allows us to offer backers a product with the highest possible added value. We want our games to offer a top class experience both in terms of mechanics and components, and Kickstarter also gives us the opportunity to involve backers in this process. For us it is a privileged instrument to deliver to our players innovative games with the highest quality.
You are a superhero comics passionate (I saw pictures of your bookshelf): which are some of your most beloved, among classics and recent?
I recently read again Old Man Logan, a story I love because it shows a situation in which the villains win and thrive, which in real life seems to me to happen much more often than in comics. Another title that I really appreciated is Powers for the brilliant way of mixing the superhero genre with crime, another genre that I am passionate about. Among the classics, I must “trivially” mention pillars such as Watchmen and or Kraven’s Last Hunt.
In other interviews, you stressed the importance of storytelling in games (and in Marvel United you name “story” the card track): from which comics would you like to create a game that would value the narrative mood?
There are so many… just to name a few, too bad I was already beaten on time by colleagues on comics I love as Lupin the Third, Corto Maltese, Dylan Dog, etc … I wouldn’t mind going back to my childhood for a while and design a game from any Matsumoto or Go Nagai title.
More generally, comics are an almost infinite source of interesting stories from which equally engaging games can be drawn, without forgetting that the reverse path is also possible: our Zombicide, Invader, Death May Die, Starcadia Quest and Rising Sun games have also recently become beautiful comics, for example!
Interview realized by mail during December 2020.
Born 1970 in Turin, Andrea Chiarvesio has so far designed more than 20 games (more than 50, counting expansions); among them, Hyperborea, Kingsburg, Munckin Dungeon, Signorie, Wacky Races and Wizards of Mickey. He is currently working to new games and you can find him at his Facebook page.