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Marvel: Age of Heroes

Building on the Marvel X-Men franchise, Age of Heroes pits X-Men team-ups against a series of mutant villains. Each of the 2-5 players controls usually a pair of X-Men but in this game, designed by Rodney Thompson, you're competing against rather than cooperating with other players' X-Men pairings...

Marvel: Age of Heroes is a worker placement game where, depending on player count, each player will have up to six acrylic standees for their X-Men pairing. The central board offers a plethora of places you can send your standees to in order to take actions, and as the board is increasingly populated with ally and other cards, so too the actions you take can trigger additional actions. Players can also recruit 'students' which give opportunities for extra actions, tho' unlike the X-Men standees, the students don't return to your supply at the end of the round.

Players will be making use of two sets of cards: those in the Institute deck (which includes ally, 'team up' and event cards) and Evolution cards that give your X-Men extra bonuses. And as you use your actions to play cards, you populate the board with an increasing number of options for your worker placement actions. Cards you put into play can be used by other players too but will earn you a benefit in the process, so you might even want to place out victory point or resource tokens so that they further incentivise other players to make use of the cards you put into play. If you spot similarities with Lords of Waterdeep (Wizards of the Coast), that's perhaps not surprising because Rodney Thompson was co-designer of that game too.

Its the fluid and evolving board that is the standout feature of Marvel: Age of Heroes. It gives each game a distinct story arc. For sure, you'll be battling the villains - initially 'minor enemies', replaced by 'challenging enemies' and, ultimately, a big bad - not least because that's ultimately how you'll earn the most points. However, you're not just charging at the villains and battering them to submission because first you have to build up your heroes' strengths and capabilities. Each pairing has a board showing their physical, mental and willpower resources. You'll expend these in various combinations to dish out damage to the villains so you'll need to ensure you get a sufficiently plentiful supply of resources. You'll also want to optimise your characters' abilities through judicious use of their Evolution cards. And, of course, there are always choices to be made because you can't realistically do everything, everywhere all at once.

WizKids have done an excellent job with the presentation: in particular, the fully painted acrylic standees have proved a particular hit with players, with many preferring them to the grey plastic minis most commonly packaged with board games. The Board's Eye View team liked the way each X-Men pairing has its own distinctive characteristics driving play. The game comes with three discrete scenarios and a large pile of enemy mutants to battle. We also appreciated the built-in expandability in having 'advanced' modes for the player boards and Evolution cards. So plenty here to keep you coming back for more.

Fans of the X-Men franchise will need little persuading to grab a copy of Age of Heroes but you don't have to be a devotee of the Marvel Universe to get a kick out of this engrossing and well-designed worker placement game.

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