In this series for newer or casual players we introduce the various Affiliations in Marvel Crisis Protocol and dip into their comic book history.
Updated 02/03/2022 to revise Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket based on the November 2021 Updates
Okay, first off, there was a “Guardians of the Galaxy” team in the 1970s and 80s. They were set in the 30th century and were super boring. Ignore them.
The Guardians everybody knows about, and the ones in MCP, first started coming together in a couple of big event/crossover books called Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest that really defined the current state of “Marvel Cosmic.” It was a ragtag bunch of weirdos who were forced together during two big galactic wars, one against Annihilus and one against a bunch of space robots called the Phalanx. Both these series were written by Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett, and Andy Lanning and are really good (except Wraith. We don’t talk about Wraith). This is where we see Ronan the Accuser working with the Guardians in case that still seemed weird.
It’s important to note that the Guardians in the comics aren’t the comic relief buffoons of the movies, especially not Drax and Star-Lord. Drax is a very serious combat monster who was designed by aliens to murderer Thanos. Peter Quill was a former space super-hero who never wanted to be a leader but got shoved into that position during the wars. Groot starts off speaking normally but after he sacrifices himself and regrows from a twig he can only say “I Am Groot.” Rocket is still a quippy gun nut though, and Gamora is the still Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy. Other members of the team included Nova, Phyla-Vell, Moondragon, Adam Warlock, Iron Man, Captain Marvel,
Kitty Kate Pryde, Angela, Marvel Boy, Hercules, Hulklng, Wiccan…it’s a Space Avengers is kind of what I’m saying here. And while the characters’ personalities have drifted toward those of the movies over the years they’re definitely more serious in the comics and have to deal with a lot of galaxy-threatening problems.
Personally, I love the war-weary, “heroes only because nobody else will be” Guardians of the comics and I really dislike the goofy, inept versions of the characters in the movies. Aside from being British in the comics I can’t imagine that version of Peter Quill, who led desperate last-stands on enemy occupied worlds, ever doing a dance-off. It’s like they had a script lying around that wasn’t Marvel related and just did a Find/Replace to swap out the names to Marvel properties. I’m something of a grouch about the topic, and my wife has forbidden me from discussing it at home.
Annihilation (2006) The villainous insectoid Annihilus bursts free from the Negative Zone with a massive army and begins just killing his way through space. One of the first planets to fall is the homeworld of the Nova Corps, a bunch of galactic cops with super powers, leaving Earth’s Nova (Richard Rider) as the only one left. And then things get bad. Because the Annihilation Wave also cracks open a prison holding two Galactus-level beings from the dawn of the universe. I told you this is big cosmic stuff. Just please ignore Gamora’s embarrassing 1970s-leftover “two pieces of dental floss and thigh-high boots” costume. Ugh.
Annihilation Conquest (2007) The galaxy is just getting back on its feet when the Phalanx, a robotic hivemind species, decides to kill and/or assimilate all meatbags, starting with the Kree homeworld. The identity of the leader of the Phalanx is supposed to be a big reveal but they put his picture on the back of the goddamn trade paperback. Gamora’s costume still hasn’t approved.
Guardians of the Galaxy (vol. 2 (2008), #1-25) This is mostly the team from the films, and the series is also written by Abnett and Lanning. It’s largely cleaning up the mess left by two back to back galactic wars. The series gets caught up in three more big crossover events in addition to their own personal dramas and problems. Also, Gamora has finally discovered pants!
Guardians of the Galaxy (vol. 6 (2020)) This series sees the Guardians on the verge of retiring. They’re tired from years of cosmic level crossover wars, and just want to chill. But of course some other big threat comes up and they’re the only ones willing and able to deal with it. Written by Al Ewing, one of Marvel’s best.
The Guardians of the Galaxy in Marvel Crisis Protocol
The Guardians used to be more or less unplayable. They had a terrible leadership ability and nobody on the team really did anything great. A couple of them were good, but there wasn’t much to recommend them. But with the November 2021 Updates the Guardians got a real shot in the arm. Is it enough to make them awesome? Let’s find out!
Star-Lord is of course the affiliation leader. His Winging It ability lets you choose three allies each round and give them each a “Winging It” token. They can then trade in the token to reroll up to two of their attack, defend or dodge dice.
This is a giant improvement over the old version which required you to discard Team Tactics cards. You can’t put multiple tokens on a single character in any given round, but you can hand out three of them every round for free. Which is better, this or a “reroll one defense die every time” type ability? Being able to use the rerolls on three different types of rolls gives a lot of flexibility and lets you make up your game plan as you go. To “wing it” as it were. Grade: B+
Maybe the Team tactics cards available to the affiliation help to soften the blow of a disappointing Leadership ability.
The Crew of the Milano lets Guardians spend 1 Power to shake all special conditions and makes them immune to special conditions for the round. This is pretty solid, if situational. Going up against a team that’s heavy on dishing out the conditions can be really frustrating, and this one card can let you ignore the theme that your opponent’s entire squad is built around. Of course if your opponent sees you have Guardians in your roster and has read this article, they may know they cannot choose the glass in front of you and may dodge to a different squad who don’t rely on the conditions as much. In which case at least you can use this card for Winging It.” Grade: B
The other affiliation-based card is Lovable Misfits. Remember the “janky fun” bit I mentioned earlier? Here you go. Each Guardian can roll a die and do something based on the roll. This card is pure chaos. Maybe something good will happen, or maybe you Stun yourself and everybody around you (a good time to play Crew of the MIlano I guess?). Great for players who don’t really have a plan in mind and like to improvise, because this card could just throw your plan out the window. If you’re more Ernie than Bert, or if you’re feeling like you’re going to lose anyway, this may be the best card in the game for you. Grade: D (or B+ for Ernies)
For character-restricted cards within the Guardians we get to play up the Rocket/Groot combo with Deadly Duo. There are a lot of setup conditions to fulfill but since this card does not use one of your actions you can end up getting five attacks out of Rocket in one activation. Five dice isn’t the best, and at least three of the attacks have to be against different targets, but this can help put out some pain or maybe finish off an already hurting character. Having re-rolls from Winging It is pretty sweet with this as well. Grade: B
We Are Groot is a must-have if you’re fielding our favorite tree-dude. Healing is good, and Groot’s large base lets him get more allies in range. Also this isn’t limited to characters with the actual Guardians affiliation, it’s all allies. Grade: A-
Gamora and Nebula team up to deliver a beat-down using Daughters of Thanos. Out of activation actions are always good, as are free attacks and cards with no range restrictions. Four Power is steep for a single attack considering Rocket gets to make three for the same cost. It’s one of those cards that can be great in the right situation but may not make your eight unless you’re really going for a thematic roster. Grade: C+
Building Your Roster
The one certain thing here is that you’re taking Star-Lord. The good news is most of the Guardians are pretty low Threat, so you’re likely to have 5-6 characters in your squad. Having more activations than your opponent is almost always a good thing and it’s part of the design philosophy of this team that you don’t see in other affiliations.
Star-Lord has a pair of decent attacks, average defenses, and maybe a little more than average stamina. His only superpower relies on him having terrible luck to swing things around for the better – if he rolls no hits when attacking or blocks when defending he can reroll the whole pool. That’s going to be good for people with terrible dice mojo (hi, Josh) but odds are you didn’t roll all blanks and skulls. You’re throwing away some crits and wilds probably and hoping the new roll will be better (it won’t, Josh). Hard percentages to play.
Star-Lord can equip the Power Gem, which would give him 3 Power per round, but he doesn’t have any really good way to spend it so I wouldn’t bother. He also has Flight, which I guess is a thing. In the November 2021 Updates Star-Lord gained the Hit and Run superpower, giving him more mobility so he can grab an extract token and go and still make some attacks along the way.
Overall, Star-Lord is fine but fairly unexciting. He’s only 3 Threat which is fairly uncommon in a leader so at least you’re not overspending for him I guess? Grade: B-
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Angela. She’s almost an auto-include in so many rosters these days. She’s a beat stick with a lot of ways to get some extra movement (on top of Long movement), she’s hell of tanky, and she can provide at least some amount of board control with Living Ribbons. And did I mention 2 Power per round? Five Threat is a little steep but your other characters are so cheap maybe you can have one, as a treat. With a Strength 6 builder attack she’s going to love re-rolls from Winging It. Angela is a very solid boost to the team if you want to stay in affiliation. Grade: A-
In a genre where characters are throwing around busses and calling lightning bolts from the heavens, why should you be worried about a guy with two daggers? Because that guy is Drax the Destroyer and he’s going to mess you up. Drax is a death tornado, especially when he’s already been hit a couple of times. In an ideal situation he can throw around 11 dice attacks, between Vengeance and Titan Killer. He has the familiar “reduce the amount of damage suffered by 1 to a minimum of 1” superpower to keep him in the game a little longer. His 2 Mystic defense isn’t great but at least he has six Stamina on each side and other than the Defenders mystic attacks are still fairly rare. Drax’s spender attacks can push enemies around, and he’s got a good throw too, so he does more than just knife enemies in the face. Grade: B+
Gamora is known as the “Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy” and yeah, her card kind of reflects that. Another Strength 6 builder with a very solid spender that can Rapid Strike at a second enemy, and some handy dice modification. What Gamora doesn’t have though is much past just pure damage output. She has straight 3s for defense, but she gained a point of Stamina on each side of her card in the November 2021 Updates. That plus the sweet combo of Stealth and Martial Prowess will help keep her alive while she stabs enemies to death. She doesn’t have any movement shenanigans directed toward enemies, but between a Long move and her Assassin’s Leap she can certainly get places. Gamora is a good choice to leave on a secure objective and punish anyone who gets close. Grade: B
Groot is going to be in your Guardians roster because he’s Groot and that’s a good thing to be. He’s a tank who is going to sit on a secure objective and be very difficult to shift off. Fourteen Stamina and the ability to heal three for 2 Power? Yes please. And that Team Tactics card too? It’s going to take significant resources to take Groot down so either your opponent commits those resources and the rest of your squad runs laps around the board, or they ignore Groot and you just park on an objective. And Groot’s builder is not Range 3 so he doesn’t even need to get super close to slap somebody around.
The Root special condition can be infuriating for characters that rely on super powers, especially since you don’t even need to roll to hit. Groot is on a 50mm base and only has Short movement, and I wish he had some other way of getting himself around the board, but you can’t have everything. Grade: B+
Nebula has the fact that she’s Threat 2 going for her. She can’t contest or interact with objectives so she’s just going to be plinking away at enemies. Her melee builder can Shock on a wild, and she’s got an okay defensive ability but there’s not much exciting here. If you’re going to maximum activations, sure, bring her in, but otherwise I don’t really see the point. Grade: C-
Rocket Raccoon is also 2 Threat and delivers more firepower, but boy howdy is he squishy. He needs to stick near Groot to shunt attacks over to his buddy, and without it he’s toast. Only 3 Stamina per side and 2-2-3 for defensive stats isn’t going to keep him on the table long, even with perma-Cover; there just aren’t enough dice in the pool that changing one over to a block is going to save you. At leastRocket now won’t get taken out by being thrown into Groot, and his Personal Bodyguard is now Range 2 so he doesn’t have to stick so close to Groot to stay safe.
But as long as he does stay reasonably near Groot, Rocket is going to pump out Range 5 attacks and punish anyone who tries to get near him with Booby Traps. Both Booby Traps and Rocket’s Hadron Enforcer attack can deal damage without allowing for defense rolls, which is always nice. I like to look at Rocket and Groot as one Threat 5 character with two activations and a pretty sweet couple of Team Tactics cards. I’d never take him solo though. Grade: C (solo)/B (with Groot)
While you’re doing some mental refiguring of Threat costs, it might be good to just approach Ronan the Accuser as a 5 Threat character and assume you’re going to give him the Power Gem. Unlike Star-Lord, Ronan has a lot of good ways to use that extra power. Specifically, it’s throwing the Judgement special condition on anybody who hurts his friends. Not gaining power from taking damage hurts. Or he could spend the extra Power on his Strength 8 attack that deals both Shock and Stun. Also a good option!
Ronan has better than average defenses but doesn’t have any defensive tech so keep that in mind when positioning him. He also doesn’t have any special movement beyond a Medium move and being on a 50mm base, which is by itself quite good. Grade: B
Well, there isn’t really anything in the Guardians’ Leadership to synergize with, so probably look at what they’re missing. There’s no shortage of damage dealers in the affiliation and a couple characters are tanky but board control is lacking. Shuri or Medusa could help out there. A couple characters could stand to have a bodyguard nearby so, as always, Okoye is a good choice.
But let’s lean into the most unique design element of the Guardians: a cheap roster. At 15 points you can easily field five characters. Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, and Okoye only brings you to 10 Threat. Heck, throw in Nebula and Black Widow. Can any other affiliation drop six bodies on the table at 15 Threat? At 20 you can hit eight characters (let’s say Toad and Drax). They’re not going to be powerhouses but spread out across a B, D, or F map and overwhelm your opponent with activations. It sounds like a lot of fun, win or lose. And that’s what you’re here for.
Are they any good?
The Guardians are certainly better than they used to be, but I’m still not sure they really have a distinct identity. Avengers or Web Warriors can run a spam list just as well and actually have members who are really good at stuff. It will be interesting in the coming year to see if the Guardians get a lot of play and is someone much smarter than me unlocks some killer tactics for them.
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