Why You Should Be Playing Marvel Crisis Protocol


Marvel Crisis Protocol (MCP to most people) has been out for over 4 years and there has never been a better time to get into the game. If you love the Marvel universe, have been curious about the game, or are looking for a secondary game to supplement your hobby read on!

The setting

Ever dreamed of recreating the epic airport fight scene from Captain America: Civil War? Or maybe watching X-Men ’97 has you itching to see the classic X-team face off against a trio of towering Sentinels?

Either way, you’re in luck! With over 150 characters from more than 20 affiliations, Marvel Crisis Protocol has something for everyone. Whether you’re a casual fan who’s seen a few films or an avid comic book reader, your favorite characters are probably already here.

The roster ranges from well-known tentpoles with entire movie franchises built around them to lesser-known heroes like Beta Ray Bill, aka Bojack Norseman, who answers the question: “What if Thor was a horse person?”

Bojack Norseman – Credit Alfred_Pharius

But it’s not just about the characters. Atomic Mass Games have done an amazing job of capturing the essence of each hero in the game’s rules. Wolverine can take a beating and heal up, just like in the comics. Spider-Man uses his witty banter to make his opponent’s attacks less effective. And Hulk? Well, let’s just say you don’t want to make him angry. The thematic elements woven into the rules create truly cinematic moments on the tabletop.

Cinematic Moments

One unique aspect of Marvel Crisis Protocol is how much the battlefield itself matters. There’s no set terrain, just recommendations for amount and size per table. Everything on the table gets a size assigned at the start (1 to 5). A car-sized object would be size 2, so a strong hero like Spider-Man can pick it up and throw it. Meanwhile, a small building might be size 4, requiring the immense strength of Hulk to toss. (Bonus points for shouting “HULK SMASH!” when you do it)

Finished Wakanda Terrain for Marvel: Crisis Protocol. Credit: McBill
Finished Wakanda Terrain for Marvel: Crisis Protocol. Credit: McBill

This means each game offers a completely different environment, but the rules adapt seamlessly. I’ve played in events where one moment I’m fighting in Wakanda, using giant Panther statues for cover. The next game, I’m dodging fighter jets on a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier! In each case, my opponent and I agree that the Panther statue is size 2 and the jet is size 3, allowing us to interact with the board regardless of the setting.

Adding to the cinematic feel are MCP’s unique dice. The system uses 8-sided dice, and rolling a “critical hit” lets you add another die to the pool. In Warhammer 40k terms, this translates to “exploding 6s (or 8s)” on attacks and defenses. It represents heroes finding that crucial weakness at a critical moment and can lead to big swings out of nowhere.

This does make precise calculations (“mathhammer”) difficult in MCP, which some players dislike. However, I personally enjoy the decision-making required by a constantly changing game state.

Comeback Mechanics

As an avid Warhammer 40k player, the following scenario was all too familiar: Arranging a game at the local store, obsessing over my army list for days, agreeing it’d be a casual match, lugging my miniatures across town only to watch my meticulously painted models get blasted off the table before they even fired a shot. Then endure two hours of watching my opponent roll dice at what little I had left.

Thankfully, MCP has ways to mitigate/minimize this and you almost always have a chance to turn things around with a bit of luck.

Character cards have a “Healthy” and “Injured” side. Taking enough damage flips your character to “Dazed,” preventing further damage in that round. Then, the following round they flip to the “Injured” side and keep fighting. So, even if your opponent gets lucky and wipes out a key character early, it can still activate and fight back.

The “Injured” side often mirrors the “Healthy” side, but sometimes they inject a little flavour to reflect how the character changes with damage. For instance, an injured Wolverine enters a berserker rage, dealing more damage but losing focus on objectives.

Additionally, superpowers and strong attacks require energy, often gained by taking damage. This adds another strategic layer: Do you attack Wolverine and risk him healing that damage and unleashing his full power? Even dazed, he’ll be back next round ready to brawl. Sometimes, it’s best to leave the man with knives in his hands alone and focus elsewhere!

Alternating Activation

Skirmish tabletop gamers will find this familiar, but for those used to commanding a full army, it’s a game-changer. Many traditional tabletop games involve waiting for your opponent to move their entire army, then their entire army gets to shoot you, zap you and bash you before you get a chance to do anything.

In MCP, you activate one character at a time, then your opponent reacts with a character of their own. This creates a constantly shifting battlefield. Even with a plan going in, you will need to adapt on the fly.

For example, I might have a plan for Captain America to dash across the board and claim an objective. But during my opponent’s activation, they blast Thor down to one health point! Now, I need to react. Instead of the objective, I move Cap next to Thor to act as a bodyguard and keep his fellow Avenger alive.

Avenger Assemble
Avengers Credit – Alfred_Pharius

These dynamic situations happen constantly, forcing you to react to both the dice rolls and your opponent’s choices.

Game Variety

High replayability is a hallmark of MCP. You could face the same opponent multiple times and still have completely different experiences due to the variety of missions and character choices.

During list building, you select six missions from two categories: “Extract” missions involve securing and escaping with objectives (like rescuing civilians or artifacts), while “Secure” missions focus on controlling specific areas on the board. Each mission offers unique strategic twists. For instance, “Gamma Wave Sweeps Across Midwest” features gamma radiation damage for characters outside designated shelters, encouraging strategic grouping and making area-of-effect attacks more impactful.

Missions also have different “threat values” that your team’s total character value needs to meet. Characters are roughly costed based on their power level. For example, the mighty Hulk is a 6-threat powerhouse, while Hawkeye, a guy with a bow and arrow, is only 3 threat. Your team consists of 10 characters and you pick and choose which ones you take for each given mission.

The combination of these factors ensures unique experiences every game. Plus, with matches typically lasting under two hours, you can often squeeze in multiple games per evening.

Hobby Projects

The sculpts in MCP are all dynamic and faithful representations of their comic book counterparts. While some of the earlier releases had questionable choices (Baron Zemo‘s separate elbow pads, anyone?), the latest wave has been incredible. See our review of the recent Shadow King and Professor X box.

The mono-pose nature of the models is a double-edged sword. Some players appreciate getting the perfect pose every time, while others find the limited customization (mainly through head options) restricting.

However, with only ten characters in a roster you can devote significantly more time and effort to each miniature compared to batch painting an entire army. For seasoned hobbyists, there’s a lot of potential to push customizations to their limit. I’ve seen people who converted their entire roster in a Samurai theme complete with custom swords and bows.

Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master

The core rules I have been sprinkling through the article are great for casual players who just want to see their favorite superheroes duking it out on the table. And for seasoned veterans who want a tactical game to sink their teeth into.

Rival Panels Spider-Man versus Doctor Octopus for Marvel Crisis Protocol MCP painted by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

Atomic Mass Games have done an excellent job creating detailed timing charts for when different effects in the game happen. Nine times out of ten, any rules disputes can be solved by determining when the timing of an effect happens. For that tenth time, they have a dedicated rules forum to cover any interactions that are less obvious.

Casual Play

There is some great support for casual game modes. The ‘Ultimate Encounters‘ are custom scenarios where you and a friend have to team up to take on one of the big baddies in their ultimate form. They have made several of these freely available on the Atomic Mass Games site. I recommend Mutant Masterworks which has you teaming up to stop a souped up version of Magneto from stealing a nuclear warhead.

The most fun casual game mode is Separation Anxiety which is a four player free for all fighting to capture the alien symbiotes. When you pick one up your character gains a random new superpower which can lead to some hilarious combinations like a giant sentinel suddenly gaining the ability to pounce with the agility of the Black Panther.

Competitive Events

For the more competitive gamer, MCP events are some of the most fun you can have wargaming. With the terrain being such a big part of the game organisers will often encourage the players to provide terrain and boards with prizes for best game board.

The last event I went to I played in the jungles of Wakanda, downtown New York, deep space and Ant man’s lab (as if everyone had been miniaturized).
It’s a far cry from 40k events where every game somehow takes place in the same ruined city over and over again.

In terms of competitive balance Atomic Mass games have done a good job of keeping the different affiliations in line with one another. Most competitive events are tracked on longshanks and win rates for all factions sit between 45% and 55% which is exactly where you want the balance to be. When problem models do come out they are quick to errata to keep things in line and in those cases they provide all updated character cards on their site for free in an easy to print format.


The release roadmap was recently revealed at Adepticon. Later on this year we can expect to see more Spider-Foes to round out the Sinister Six. Apocalypse, the first and nastiest mutant, and hopefully in time for Halloween we get Marvel’s versions of the classic monsters like the living mummy and Werewolf by night. They also mentioned some planned releases into 2025 so there is a lot to look forward to.

Getting Started

Now that you know how great the game is how do you get started. There are actually two starter sets the original starter set and Earth’s mightiest core set. Both are a great value with the amount of terrain, tools, tokens, dice and characters you get. The original starter set is due to be discontinued quite soon but the characters will still be available in new affiliation packs for the Avengers and the Cabal.

After the core set you will want to choose an affiliation and get playing! For any X-men fans, take a look at our recent Getting Started with Uncanny X-men article.