Game Spotlights

Published: April 5, 2023

Adam Knight

A Beautiful Day for a Skirmish – Marvel Crisis Protocol

Marvel: Crisis Protocol—A Beautiful Day for a Skirmish

The hapless citizen stands in the town’s center, oblivious to the growing alien infection inside them. Their only hope lies with the two strangers dashing through the streets, a dynamic duo dedicated to daring-do: Black Widow and Doctor Octopus. And who is getting in their way, plotting to capture the citizen for their own nefarious purposes? Iron Man and the Red Skull.

Both sides and their various superpowered flunkies blitz the town, launching cars, leaping buildings, and melting their foes with energy blasts. It’s the stuff stories are made of, but more than that, it’s the stuff of skirmish games.

painted marvel crisis protocol miniatures
Marvel: Crisis Protocol miniatures, painted by Kevin T.

Take your best friend or worst enemy, plop them at a table opposite you, and there are nigh limitless possibilities for making war upon one another. You can spray lasers with stormtroopers, send in the Orks in both Warhammer 40k and Fantasy, or get weird with the likes of Malifaux. Heck, if Mad Max is your thing, Gaslands lets you repurpose old Hot Wheels for vehicular carnage.

Today, though, we’re tearing up the comic books and pitting their panels against one another in Atomic Mass GamesMarvel: Crisis Protocol.

The Multiverse of Mauling

Crisis Protocol takes the skirmish part of skirmish games seriously. While there’s nothing stopping you from taking a hero and villain horde, plopping them all on the table, and going at it for a days-long battle for the world, the core game pits small teams, usually four to six on each side, against each other. This might be dull if your four dudes were one-note goblins from War of the Ring, but here we’re talking about The Avengers, Thanos and his Black Order, the X-Men, and even Deadpool and his buddy Bob.

Marvel Crisis Protocol Warmachine miniature
Custom painted Warmachine miniature by Dustin V.

Team-building with all these high-powered persons takes more than totaling up the biggest numbers, namely because Crisis Protocol uses scenarios to help keep things more than just a brawl in the map’s middle. Victory can come by knocking out the opposing team through sheer power, but it’s more likely you’ll get the win by playing to the map’s objectives. Those include holding control points, rescuing citizens, snagging powerful crystals, and more. Your team comp has to balance fighting prowess, mobility, and support so you can handle any situation.

Affinities, too, drive your rosters. Nick Fury and Captain America lead their own factions, conferring bonuses if most of your team matches up with their goals. The most here is important: you can have your fantasy team-up with Spiderman, Venom, Spider-Woman, and Magneto if you like, and get Spidey’s Web Warriors faction bonus. Rather than restricting, the affiliations make roster-building manageable.

And you can ignore them entirely, reach into a bag and pull out the force of your dreams (or nightmares).

Taking Names and Throwing Cars

Once you’re facing off, Marvel: Crisis Protocol throws a few wrinkles in to make the game feel worthy of its comic book origins. For one, the terrain you’ll find in every scenario is more than window dressing, more than cover. Cars and other objects can be tossed about by anyone strong enough to do so, smacking heroes around and moving cover. If your character can fly, scale buildings in the blink of an eye. Even the slowest heroes move faster than your average trooper, meaning the games don’t devolve into back-and-forth shootouts as both sides peek out from behind corners.

painted miniature figure
Mysterio miniature, painted by Austin D-S.

Instead, the Hulk’s much more likely to launch Wolverine into the middle to snag an objective while Ultron lays down covering laserfire from a nearby gas station roof with more dice than drone bots.

When Wolverine’s gambit meets the combined arms of Crossbones’ slugging punch and Iron Man’s repulsor blasts, Crisis Protocol offers up another tasty wrinkle: merely slagging a hero down to zero health doesn’t mean they’re done. Instead, flipping his hero card over, Wolverine gets a second life, one often more powerful than the first. He’ll get a shot to save his skin, or take a few bubs out before he bites the big one.

Fast Gameplay

Making all this more cinematic are the alternating actions. You won’t feel the urge to go make lunch while your opponent moves and rolls for their entire force. Instead, a second’s blinding action and you’ll be back at it, deciding which of your dwindling roster gets to make the next move. After everyone’s gone, the round clocks out, points get scored, and the heroes ready up for another go. Make it through six whole rounds without a team getting toasted—or a points cap getting reached—and tally points to see who comes out on top.

Crisis Protocol delights because these matches come and go at lightning speed. Once you’re up on the slim rules, matches can go by in an hour or less, giving you time to run it back once or twice. Better still, Crisis Protocol can go as a weeknight staple, an easy game to port around as the terrain and map size is small enough for on-the-go gaming.

Captain America with shield and Red Skull with cube
Marvel: Crisis Protocol

Avengers, Assemble

If the call to spandex combat is getting your interest, starting in Marvel: Crisis Protocol is about as easy as it gets in the genre. The broadly available core set is one of the best values in hobby gaming, coming with a full ten hero roster, terrain, and all the tokens and dice you need to get going. When playing just with this set, you’ll pit five on five, just like a normal game. But, and this is so rare for games like this, you can ready up the included ten and bring them to a tournament for a legal roster.

That said, Crisis Protocol is a hobby game. You won’t be able to crack the box and start playing in ten minutes. The game and its numerous hero miniature expansions require assembly, meaning you’ll be clipping Captain America from a plastic sprue and gluing his parts together before you can play. It’s important to understand this before diving in, because the hobby element is either the tasty caramel nougat inside Crisis Protocol’s chocolate shell, or a sour note on an outstanding snack.

Three Big Reasons to Pick Marvel: Crisis Protocol

Black Panther, Deadpool, BODOK, and Luke Cage miniatures from Atomic Mass Games

First off, the mini quality is exceptional. Atomic Mass makes great sculpts, with most easy to put together (save Baron Zemo’s arm pads. Tweezers, please) and looking excellent when done. Grab some primer, some paint, and you can have some brilliant minis looking like they popped free from your Saturday morning cartoons and onto your table.

Second, giving the mini-building hobby a try can be the start of a satisfying adventure. I look at it like jigsaw puzzles, but ones that don’t fall apart when you’re done. Get your feet wet with a game like Crisis Protocol, with its small assembly amount needed to play, and you might find yourself enjoying it enough to look at its bigger cousins, like Warhammer or Star Wars: Legion.

And last, because Crisis Protocol remains a great value for this type of game. Not only is the core set a complete start, but Crisis Protocol’s nature means you can grab the heroes and villains you like, and that’s it. No need to get a thousand troopers, or buy into forces you don’t enjoy just to meet an arbitrary point count. If you like the X-Men, you can just trot out Cyclops, Jean Gray and the rest and be good to go as long as you like.

Go Time

Marvel: Crisis Protocol Core Set box
Marvel: Crisis Protocol Core Set

So once you’ve picked your team and taken a good swing with a paint brush to pretty them up, it’s time to take your squad out on the town. Crisis Protocol, given its quick play time and broad appeal, makes for an easy add to your rotation. Atomic Mass sponsors tournaments and special events as well!

Looking into the wide world of miniatures wargaming can be intimidating. Marvel: Crisis Protocol is as welcoming an introduction as it gets, without the hardcore violence, complex armies and assembly, or obscure settings of other games in the genre.

Pick up the core set, some hobby tools, and put on your costume. It’s time to save the planet…

Or destroy it—your call!

adam knight gaming author

Written by Adam Knight

Spinning stories and playing games under the direction of his two cats, Adam delights in the roll of the dice and a well-told tale. Find more of his adventures at Black Key Books.

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