Marvel Crisis Protocol: Choosing an Affiliation, Part 3

With over twenty affiliations and counting, getting started in Marvel: Crisis Protocol can be a daunting task. Even for a seasoned player, with so much available it can be tough to decide where to go next.

This article will aim to break down some approaches on how you can choose an affiliation as well as a brief overview of their strengths and weaknesses. The other posts in this series can be found here:

  • Part 1 – A-Force, Asgard, Black Order and Brotherhood of Mutants
  • Part 2 – Cabal, Convocation, Criminal Syndicate and Dark Dimension

Before we begin let’s outline how we are going to summarize each affiliation.

  • Who They Are: A brief overview of the team.
  • How They Play on the Table: What you can expect from your models once they hit the board and what their general game plan tends to be.
  • Leadership: Some affiliations have multiple leaders and this can lead to multiple play styles depending on who you choose as your leader. In these cases we will give a rough score for each leader.
  • Affiliation Size: How many affiliated characters are there. Do you have a wide number of options available to build up your squad or will you be limited by your core characters?
  • Team Tactics Cards: Each affiliation has a number of unique tactics cards that can in many cases define their play style. The strength and number of these cards varies between affiliation but sometimes all you need is one very strong card to be good on the tabletop.
  • Ease of Collecting: Do you need to buy multiple smaller boxes to buy their core characters or can you get what you need from just the starter set plus one or two boxes?

Defenders

Defenders for Marvel Crisis Protocol - Credit - Alfred_Pharius
Defenders for Marvel: Crisis Protocol – Credit – Alfred_Pharius

Who They Are

A ragtag collection of Marvel Universe powerhouses known for facing strange threats and battling the bizarre, the Defenders are a team that isn’t a team. Initially an impromptu alliance of Dr. Strange, Namor and Hulk, the heroes who have considered themselves Defenders have changed over the years. With no fixed headquarters or charter, the Defenders are an eclectic mix of heroes which makes a change from many of the other teams in the Marvel Universe who are, ‘Oops all Mutants’ or ‘Oops all Asgardians’.

How They Play on the Table

The Defenders have a wide roster of heroes that fit multiple archetypes. For a long time, the faction saw very little play with only Dr. Strange as a leader and only one team tactics card which was nerfed soon after release. With Daredevil’s update in 2023 they gained a new leadership option and are soon to gain some new tactics cards and members with the release of the Silver Sable and Shang Chi. Generally, the Defenders are a brawling team that wants to get in there and scrap. They can make up for their lack of tactics cards with affiliated characters who have their own strong card options like Heroes for Hire for Luke Cage and Iron Fist or X-Ceptional Healing for Wolverine.

Leadership

Doctor Strange – The Mystic Empowerment leadership lets your characters pay a power to change the type of attack they deal once per turn and in addition, if the attack deals damage, give the opponent the Hex special condition. Hex can be a debilitating condition preventing your opponent from rolling additional dice for their critical results and hexing the enemy team can help to curb any big attacks coming your way. In addition, there are multiple characters in the game that have one defence type they are particularly weak to e.g. Wolverine can take a punch with his 4 Physical defence but can’t take a mystic punch with his 2 Mystic defence. The issue comes with the limitation of once per turn and the cost of power. B-

Daredevil – The Marvel Knights leadership lets allied characters once per turn re-roll dice up to the number of enemy characters within range 2. The range 2 of the leadership encourages taking characters like the Hulk or Wolverine who want to be brawling already. It also encourages crises like Research Station Attacked! or Gamma Wave Sweeps Across Midwest where the opponent is clumped into one area. In the ranking of re-roll leaderships, this one sits on the lower end. It is limited to attacks, doesn’t enable you to re-roll skulls and can only be used once per turn though on the plus side it doesn’t cost power. C+

Affiliation Size

With over twenty affiliated characters the Defenders are one of the larger affiliations in the game. They have several options to dual affiliate, crossing over with Avengers, Web Warriors and Midnight Sons.

Team Tactics Cards

Pentagrams of Farallah lets Dr. Strange or Wong pay 3 power in the power phase to place a portal next to themselves with an exit within range 5. At any time in their activation, a character (friendly or enemy) can spend a power to go through the portal. This card can enable some interesting tactics where characters like Ghost Rider can use his Hell on Wheels to go to the portal exit, attack twice, before using the portal to escape. However, the earliest it will be online is round 2 and abusing it requires precise positioning that may not be possible based on the terrain layout. C

Mystic Ward is a new card that lets an allied Defender spend 2 power to place a Mystic Ward token on an objective token within 3. Once a ward is on the objective it can no longer be interacted with, controlled or contested this round. This card could really slow down the game which is what an attrition team needs to do to beat out a fast-scoring team like Web Warriors. Only affecting one objective means that it becomes quite scenario dependent but on a scenario like Research Station Attacked! it could be game-changing. B+

Street Smarts lets any number of allied Defenders spend 1 power. If so, for the rest of the round as long as they are contesting or holding an objective they can opt to suffer damage in order not to be moved in any way. The cost of a health is a small price to pay to prevent being out of position, especially on characters like Wolverine who can heal the damage back. A-

Ease of Collecting

As mentioned the Defenders have a large eclectic roster. Unfortunately, none of the characters in the Earth’s Mightiest Core set are Defenders nor do they have a dedicated affiliation box. The Defenders characters come in a large number of boxes and collecting them may require a little planning. A good start would be CP23 with Dr Strange and Wong as one choice of leader, CP30 for Daredevil your other leader and CP49 with Iron Fist and Luke Cage. C+

For a deeper dive into the Defenders check out our Defenders Affiliation Spotlight.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galay for Marvel Crisis Protocol - Credit Alfred_Pharius

Who They Are

The Guardians of the Galaxy are a group of intergalactic misfits brought together by circumstance, they unite to protect the universe from various cosmic threats. For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Guardians of the Galaxy films are some of the highlights of the franchise blending action, comedy and 80s music in a beautiful dance. The Guardians in Marvel Crisis Protocol are more similar to their comics iteration, including all the main characters from the films as well as some characters yet to appear on screen like Agent Venom and Beta Ray Bill.

How They Play on the Table

The Guardians have often played as a mixed brawling team with Star Lord and Rocket Racoon blasting away from the back with Gamora and Nebula as close-range fighters. They have multiple cheap affiliated characters and a 3 threat leader which can encourage a wide team however their ‘Winging It’ leadership can only affect 3 characters at once so they tend to splash a big beater like the Hulk or Thanos to make the most of it. They do also have their own beat stick in affiliation with Cosmic Ghost Rider though after his recent changes, he is not quite the menace he once was.

Leadership

The Winging It Leadership lets Star Lord give 3 tokens out to allies at the start of each round. You can spend a token when rolling attacks, defence or dodges to re-roll two dice. This leadership is quite versatile in the number of ways it can be used. You can either save it defensively or wait until you attack and push through damage. When evaluating the strength of a re-roll it helps to bear in mind that there are several leaderships where a re-roll costs 1 power or are limited by meeting specific criteria. Handing out these tokens does not require anything other than Star Lord Being on the Table and costs no power. B+

Affiliation Size

11 Affiliated characters so a mid-size affiliation in the scheme of things. They have 2 affiliated 2 threats and a 3 threat leader which lets them play a very wide team while remaining in affiliation. B-

Team Tactics Cards

The Guardians of the Galaxy have four affiliated tactics cards to choose from.

Crew of the Milano lets you spend a power on each affiliated character to remove special conditions and prevent special conditions from being added for the round. There are several debilitating special conditions around such as Stagger and Root which can make this card particularly useful under the right circumstances. A-

Galaxy’s Greatest lets up to 4 injured Guardians members spend 2 power, if they do, they add a die to their attack and defence rolls. Adding even 1 die to attacks can push the damage output significantly, as well as increase the chances of hitting specific triggers. Especially if they can manipulate their dice like Gamora or have access to beams like Agent Venom. A

Lovable Misfits is a flavorful card that reflects the winging it nature of the team. Guardians characters can spend a power and those that do roll a dice, depending on what is rolled they get one of a variety of effects. There is a higher chance of getting a good result but equally, there are some results that might ruin your game plan entirely like stunning several of your own team members. C

Finally, Foreign Assignment is a card specific to Agent Venom that lets him spend 2 power when he is near Guardians allies, depending on who he is near, he gets a different effect. In ideal circumstances, you can do this multiple times in a row chaining between multiple characters to get free attacks, movement and throws. B

Ease of Collecting

There is currently no Guardians of the Galaxy affiliation box, though it is likely that Atomic Mass Games will make one in the not-too-distant future. Star Lord comes in a box on his own CP18 with most of the Guardians cards included. After him, you can look at some boxes that include two Guardians characters such as the Rocket and Groot box, CP17 and the Gamora and Nebula box CP16. B-

For a more in depth overview of the Guardians of the Galaxy check out our Guardians of the Galaxy affiliation spotlight or our Getting Started with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Hellfire Club

Emma Frost of the Hellfire Club. Credit Alfred_Pharius
Emma Frost of the Hellfire Club. Credit Alfred_Pharius

Who They Are

The Hellfire Club in Marvel Comics is a wealthy social organization with a dark secret.
On the surface, it appears to be a prestigious club for elites, but beneath the champagne and caviar lies a mutant underworld. Led by cunning and powerful mutants like Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost, the Hellfire Club often clashes with the X-Men due to their self-serving goals and willingness to manipulate others for their own gain.

How They Play on the Table

In Marvel Crisis Protocol, the Hellfire Club is a similar affiliation to the Dark Dimension in that they may take any character in the game as long as they are led by their leader, who in this case is Emma Frost. One key difference between the Hellfire Club and Dark Dimension is that the Hellfire Club leadership is attached to a tactics card that takes up one of the 5 needed in your squad. There are also no Hellfire Club team tactics cards outside of the leadership. The leadership itself gives additional power to its members as well as healing. This leads to a play style where the Hellfire Club takes several, already hard-to-kill characters and make them even tougher in order to win out on scenario. They have a similar play style to Kingpin’s criminal syndicate in that they want to stand on secures and score quickly however they often have the additional power needed to help them control the battlefield to their benefit.

Leadership

White Queen’s Pawns is Emma Frost’s leadership and is attached to the My Hellfire Club card. Once per round at the end of a character’s activation, Emma Frost can use the leadership, and allied characters that are holding or contesting an objective remove a damage and gain a power. Characters not holding or contesting an objective suffer a damage and lose power, and Emma Frost gains power for damage suffered in this way. This leadership encourages all your characters to contribute to scoring to get the most benefit. The free healing can stack up over the course of the game and make characters that are already hard to kill like the Rhino or Ulik even harder to kill. It also synergises with characters with Healing Factor as they can freely suffer damage from the leadership only to heal it straight back again. The biggest downside to the leadership is that it takes up one of your five team tactics cards but that is a small price to pay to be able to cherry-pick the best characters in the game to make the perfect team every time. B+

Affiliation Size

Just like with the Dark Dimension, there is only one affiliated character in Emma Frost. However, they can choose any character in the entire game to make up for this. D / A

Team Tactics Cards

The only Tactics card available to the Hellfire Club is the leadership, having this leadership also reduces the total number of Unaffiliated Team Tactics cards you can take.  C-

Ease of Collecting

All of the characters are available in one box CP103. On top of getting Emma in the box, you also get Psylocke and from there as mentioned you can continue building up the Hellfire club with anyone you want. If you want to remain true to the comics then you can stick to adding in more mutants with the Brotherhood or Uncanny X-Men affiliation boxes. A

Hydra

The many heads of the Hydra. Credit – Alfred_Pharius

Who They Are

In the Marvel Universe, Hydra is a notorious terrorist organization that thrives on chaos and world domination. Founded out of the ashes of World War II villainy, Hydra is a multi-faceted threat. Led by cunning minds like Baron Strucker and Red Skull, they employ advanced weaponry, fanatical devotion, and sleeper agents to infiltrate and destabilize governments. Their motto, “If one head is cut off, two more shall take its place,” reflects their relentless pursuit of power and their ability to constantly resurface.

How They Play on the Table

Hydra have a couple of play-styles depending on the leader they take. Baron Strucker encourages you to take characters and scenarios that can give out special conditions so that you can cripple your opponent. Meanwhile Red Skull Master of Hydra favours a team that can take objectives quickly so that they can snowball an early lead with the amount of power they generate. Finally, a team under Baron Helmut Zemo wants to leverage the advantage gained by having additional cards to play with.

Some common additional elements you’ll see in a Hydra team is a big beater like the Hulk who has been brainwashed to become a Sleeper Agent, as well as a team that can pivot to a Cabal leadership if necessary as there is so much crossover.

Leadership

There are three leadership options available to Hydra:

Baron Strucker – The Hydra High Council leadership lets Strucker’s allies move special conditions that they have onto enemies by doing damage with attacks. It also lets them heal by giving special conditions to enemies. This is a strong effect but its usefulness varies based on who you are facing. Some factions like the Winter Guard or Asgard have easy ways to remove special conditions and there are a lot of popular characters with immunities like Beta Ray Bill and Ultron which can make it difficult to make the most of the leadership. B-

Baron Helmut Zemo – The Army of Evil leadership is all around abusing Tactics cards. Instead of the usual 5 allowed in a squad, the army of Evil is allowed 6. In addition once per turn when a character pays to use a card they can gain power back. This leadership can give some interesting turn-1 plays such as using Eyes on the Prize on a long-moving character to let them safely take a central objective and run away. As Hydra have multiple leaderships you can start under Baron Helmut Zemo and use Versatile Strategy to switch to a different leadership once you’ve used your cards up. Ultimately though, you can at most get 6 power and one card from this leadership which may not be as useful as other leadership options. C

Red Skull, Master of Hydra – The World Domination leadership is powerful and straightforward. During the power phase, allies get additional power if they are holding or contesting an objective. One extra power at the start of a round can be the difference between having a charge online and having to waste a move action. It is also a safe way of generating power that for the most part you control and doesn’t require your opponent to damage you. A-

Affiliation Size

Hydra has a relatively large roster on their own as well as a tactics card that encourages you to splash one big character. Additionally, Hydra might have some of the most affiliation crossovers in the game with almost every Hydra character also being affiliated with the Cabal so a dual Cabal / Hydra is not only possible but with the card Two More Shall Rise is encouraged. B

Team Tactics Cards

Hydra have more tactics cards than most affiliations with 8 in total some highlights include:

Sleeper Agent which lets you choose a non-Hydra character and give them a superpower which prevents enemies from using reactive superpowers and team tactics cards. However they lose the superpower if they make an attack without dazing an enemy. This can be particularly effective when used on a big bruiser with a terrain throw like Hulk who can prevent Brace for Impact. B+

Inevitable Betrayal lets you choose an enemy on an objective and let them count as one of your characters for scoring purposes. This can be fairly impactful and will generally be a 2-point swing when used as you are gaining control of a point your opponent would have had. However, 8 power is a very steep cost to pay and it’s likely you could prevent your opponent scoring a point with a 3-cost superpower instead. C

World Domination triggers if you control all the secure objectives on the board. When that happens for every 2 secure objectives you gain a victory point and each character gains a power. The effect is very powerful but can be difficult to achieve. The exception is on Mayor Fisk Vows to Find Missing Witnesses where with only 2 objectives on the board you can start with Red Skull, Master of Hydra and secure both on round 1 with his Hydra Grunts. B+

Overall Hydra’s tactics cards have the common theme of having powerful effects but being difficult to pull off or expensive in terms of power for what they do.

Ease of Collecting

Earth’s mightiest core box includes three Hydra characters including a leader in Baron Helmut Zero which is a good start. After that, you can start with the next 2 Hydra leaders with Arnim Zola and Baron Strucker CP76 and Red Skull, Master of Hydra CP74. B+

Inhumans

The Inhumans Credit – Alfred_Pharius

Who They Are

The Inhumans were genetically engineered more than half a million years ago by the alien race known as the Kree, who discovered humanity’s latent potential thanks to the Celestials. The Kree intended to create an army of superhumans for themselves, but instead, the Inhumans developed into a distinct society. They gain their powers through exposure to Terrigen Mist, which activates the augmentations in their DNA. They are led by the Inhuman Royal Family and their King Blackbolt who’s voice is so powerful even a whisper can destroy a mountain.

How They Play on the Table

The Inhumans playstyle often revolves around their leader Black Bolt. As a 5 threat model, you will want to make sure you make the most of his abilities as he can end up as a turret without any targets if he isn’t positioned correctly. His allies help him do this with Royal Decree from Medusa and Teleport from Lockjaw. Their leadership allows them to move power around ensuring that the characters who benefit the most from additional power always have it.

Leadership

The King of the Inhumans leadership lets your characters pay a power to give an ally within range 3 a power. This can lead to some interesting early plays as you can give characters more power than they would usually start with. One extra power on a long mover like Quicksilver will let him play Eyes on the Prize and safely take a central objective in one move and run away. It also lets you stack power on characters who really benefit from additional power like Cosmic Ghost Rider or Captain Marvel, Cosmic Avenger to keep them topped up all game. For affiliated characters, Ms Marvel gains a lot from starting on 3 power as she can Embiggen immediately and start giving your opponent some giant High Fives. A-

Affiliation Size

A relatively small affiliation with only 8 affiliated characters. Most of these characters are actual Inhumans while Beast, Ronan and Quicksilver are Inhumans via marriage or alliances. With only 8 characters their core can become quite predictable and you will often find yourself playing the same few characters. C+

Team Tactics Cards

Attilan Rising has an injured Inhumans character play it and all Inhumans characters gain power equal to the number of injured Inhuman characters. The biggest issue with this card is that it gives power to characters who – because they have been injured – are likely to have power already. On top of that it only benefits Inhumans characters not your unaffiliated splashes. C-

The Inhuman Royal Family is played in the power phase and lets an allied Inhumans character pay 2 power to reroll any number of dice in one of their attack or defence rolls. Rerolls that allow ‘any number’ of dice are particularly useful as you can keep all your initial successes and reroll all failures (not including skulls) as opposed to ‘reroll all’ effects which would require you to reroll your successes. As you can save it for any point in a round this card helps with dice consistency especially if you need a key attack to go off. It can also pay for itself if you use it on a builder. A

Finally, Terrigenesis lets an Inhumans character pay 3 and choose an opponent with a civilian token within range 3. Roll 4 dice and do damage for each crit and wild, if you Daze or KO them you get 2 Victory points. 2 Victory points is a big upside and you score this immediately so you would win if you were already on 14. However getting this to happen is difficult, on average you’ll get around 1 crit or wild on 4 dice so ideally you need your opponent to only have one health left. On top of that. not every Extract is a civilian so the card will only work on specific scenarios. B-

Ease of Collecting

There are no Inhumans in either core set nor is there an Inhumans affiliation pack. However with a relatively small affiliation and two boxes that will get half of your characters –  CP 34 for Black Bolt and Medusa and CP35 for Crystal and Lockjaw – they can be an easy affiliation to collect B+

For more on the Inhumans check out our Inhumans affiliation spotlight.

That’s it for part 3. Stay tuned for the next instalment when we tackle the Midnight Sons, Sentinels, SHIELD, Spider-Foes and Uncanny X-men!