SHIELD Agent Training – Your First Game

Greetings SHIELD Agents! This is the first article in a series of new-player articles, aimed to get beginner players get up to speed on the game – Marvel Champions! We’ll be kicking things off with our first training session:

SHIELD AGENT Training Session 001 – Your First Steps (Your First Game)

While we will cover a range of topics we wanted provide a good resource for players looking to play their first game. Fantasy Flight Games really provided a nice gift with Marvel Champions. When you open your brand new core-set you’ll find a beginning scenario is prepackaged and ready for you to play. The villain with be the Rhino who can face off against two players with pre-built decks: Spider-Man with the Justice aspect and Captain Marvel with the Aggression aspect. We’ll talk more about aspects and heroes in a bit. You may have noticed there were two rule books in the box — what gives? They are not two sets of rules one is a Learn to Play guide. We recommend giving this a read before your first game. The other is the Rules Reference Guide (RRG)– as the title tells you this can be used as a reference of glossary for a number of game questions. Note: Fantasy Flight Games regularly updates this guide on their website so consult there for the latest update which may include: errata, further clarifications, and frequently asked questions! Once you’ve read the Learn to Play this guide can serve as a quick reminder and get you through your first turn before you are off on your own heroic way! Let’s get started with game set-up! First gather all the tokens where both players can reach them – this guide is written for a 2-player game but you can play with anything from 1-4 players!


Set-up for this game is extremely simple. You can find detailed set-up instructions in Appendix II of the RRG but we’ll go over it here as well. First players will select their heroes

Initial Hero Set-Up

  1.  Select Heroes – Choose your heroes, if playing your first game with more than 2 players prebuilt deck lists for the other 3 core-set heroes are located in the Learn to Play guide.
  2.  Set Hit Points – Create a life dial from the provided components and set your life equal to the hit points located on the bottom of your identity card. This is the card that has an Alter-Ego on one side and a Hero on the other.
  3. Select First Player – Randomly pick a first player – we recommend Captain Marvel!
  4. Set Aside Obligation Cards – This card will have a yellow back and is contained in your heroes prepackaged deck.
  5. Set Aside Nemesis Sets – You may have noticed five other yellow back cards these make up the Nemesis set for your hero which may be called into play later  – just to annoy you!
  6. Shuffle Player Decks  – Shuffle your player decks. You are almost done with set-up for your heroes. Some heroes have a set-up ability that will trigger later. You can now put your identity card into play with the Alter Ego side face-up

Villain Set-Up

  1. Select a Villain –  This is done for you – Unpack the Rhino deck!
  2. Set the Villain’s Hit Points – Just like players the villain also needs a way to track their health.
  3. Resolve Scheme Set-up Ability – Place Rhinos Scheme “The Break-In” into play with the 1A side face-up. Set-up text could be on the 1A side for other villains
  4. Create and Shuffle the Encounter Deck –Combine the cards specified on Rhino’s 1A scheme, along with the standard set and one modular set. For your first game this will be the remaining cards. Add the obligation set aside earlier and shuffle the deck to form an Encounter deck!

Final Set-Up

  1. Draw Cards -Your alter ego will tell you your hand size at the bottom draw that many cards to get your opening hand.
  2. Take Mulligans – You can now mulligan cards from your hand. To do so discard cards you don’t like – then draw up to your opening hand size. Don’t worry you may get the discarded cards back later! We’ll cover how to optimize your mulligan in a future training session!
  3. Resolve Character Setup Abilities – Neither Spidey or Captain Marvel have set-up abilities but if playing with other characters (like Black Panther) you may get a bonus ability right now.

Your board state should look something like this (tokens and dials not pictured). 


You are now set-up and ready to run your first game! So who goes first? You do – of course!

First Turns

Let’s talk about your first turn. Starting with the first player each player will take a turn. On a heroes turn you can take several actions. Take as many actions as you want until you declare the end of your turn.

  • You can play cards from your hand
  • Activate your identity to use their basic abilities (Recovery, Attack, Thwart)
  • Call for another player’s action
  • Flip your identity from Alter Ego to Hero (or vice versa) once per turn

Usually in your first game you’ll want to get right to work playing cards. The first thing to note is several cards say either Hero action or Alter Ego action. You character will have to be in the right form to take an action. Two examples are shown below. As the Spider-Man player you will need to be in Hero Form to perform a Swinging Web Kick, but you’ll need to be in Alter Ego Form to heal up using Aunt May. To pay for cards you’ll need to pay resources. In Marvel Champions every card also acts as a resource, the number of icons in the bottom left are how many resources the card generates. Most cards generate 1 resource but a few generate two so pay attention to the card and the text on cards like Power of Justice. Ideally each turn you will play or pay with every card in your hand and after everyone’s turn is complete you will replenish your hand. So burning through your hand means you’ll see more cards in your deck!


There are several card types in Marvel Champions:

  • Events – Are one time use cards that enter the discard pile when played.
  • Supports and Upgrades – Are cards that enter your field and remain there – different cards may key off of Supports or Upgrades
  • Allies – Are other heroic characters you can call to your side to temporarily help attack, thwart, and defend! Note they typically take consequential damage when performing an action so they are short-live but still very useful!

For your first game we suggest you try to build your board state by playing Upgrades, Supports and Allies – then use events to smash the Rhino! An ideal first turn often includes some ramp and set-up for the future. As Spider-Man playing a Web-Shooter is a great way to invest in the future. You can even use Peter’s Genius ability to play it before you flip. With Captain Marvel your ramp is inherrent in your

Alter Ego ability. If you happen to draw Alpha Flight Station or Avengers Mansion they are great first turn choices for Carol.


One thing to remember during the first turn is you will ready before the villain acts during the villain phase. So there is no reason to not use your basic abilities. We recommend during their turns both players flip to hero form and exhaust to attack Rhino (there’s no threat on his scheme to thwart yet). You’ve probably picked that up in the Learn to Play guide but Identity cards have 4 basic abilities.

Hero Form:

Attack – exhaust to deal your ATK value to an enemy as damage
Thwart – exhaust to remove your THW value from a scheme
Defend- exhaust to reduce incoming attack damage by your DEF value (use this during the villain phase)

Alter Ego Form:

Recover – exhaust to heal hit points equal to your REC value

Once both players have completed their first turn the hero phase ends! You’ll want to ready all your cards in play and draw up to the hand size designated on your identity card. Note, for both Carol and Spidey their hand size is smaller in hero form! This means in future turns if you want more cards you will have to flip back to Alter Ego form. Now, it’s time for Rhino the charge in and take control of the game for a moment.

First Villain Turn

The villain phase is broken into 5 steps

1. Place threat indicated in the main scheme’s acceleration field onto the scheme. Note, if any acceleration icons or tokens were present the threat would go up even more. If the threat reaches it’s threshold of 7 per player Rhino wins the game! Rhino’s scheme goes up each turn by 1 threat per player- so with no bonus effects for Rhino and no removal by the heroes you’ll have 7 turns to defeat him.

2. The villain will activate once per player.

  • If that player is in hero form Rhino will attack them. Deal one card facedown from the encoutner deck to boost rhino’s attack based on the number of boost icons. The attacked player will have the chance exhaust to defend (or have a friend defend for them) to reduce the attack by their DEF value. You can also exhaust an ally to have them soak the attack (not recommended unless the ally is low in health). Once a defender is decided or the attack is declared undefended flip the boost card to see how much Rhino hit you for.
  • If the player is in alter ego form Rhino will scheme. He will still get a facedown boost card. Now instead of attacking the player he will progress his scheme and place threat onto the main scheme! Here the players have no chance to defend, there a few cards that can reduce this threat placement but not many. It can be dangers to stay in alter ego form too long!
  • Regardless of form any minions engaged with you will also attack or scheme after the villain completes their activation

3. Encounter cards should now be dealt to each player facedown. If a hazard symbol is in the field you’ll need a second encounter card for the first player (and the next player if another hazard symbol is present!)

4. In player order, each player reveals their hazard card and resolves the effects. If the card is:

  • A Minion Card – It engages that player
  • A Treachery Card – It is immediately resolved and discard
  • An Attachment Card – It attaches as the test box describes
  • A Side Scheme – It enters play and effects the game in a new way, all three icons are present in Rhino’s villain deck along with his suggested modular set!
    • Crisis icons prevent you from removing threat from the main scheme while this side scheme is in play
    • Acceleration icons increase the threat placed on the main scheme at the beginning of each villain phase
    • Hazard icons add additional encounter cards to step 3 of the villain phase

5. The first player token is now placed to the next clockwise player and the hero phase can begin again.

Follow-on Turns

Game rounds will continue as heroes take their turn, then Rhino takes his turn. If you defeat Rhino’s Stage 1 card you’ll need to bring his Stage 2 card into play, resolve any when revealed effects and defeat him all over again. Most villains are stronger later in the game (just like heroes) so Rhino is going to punch harder. Once Rhino has been defeated twice the heroes win the game. Heroes will lose the game if all heroes are defeated (hit points are reduced to zero) or if Rhino completes his scheme! Complete your first game as you learn all about Spider-Man and Captain Marvel’s decks. Below we’ve included a list of tips and commonly missed rules for players first game


  • Spider-Man is very good at defending with his 3 DEF, he also has one of the best healing supports in the game so he can often take an attack for Captain Marvel allowing her to use her activation for attacking and thwarting.
  • Both heroes will benefit from flipping often. Spider-man can generate a resource once per turn on his alter ego side and Carol can choose any player to draw a card.
  • Make sure to use your heroes basic ability every turn! There’s no reason to remain ready at the end of your turn as you’ll ready before Rhino activates.
  • Remember you’ll draw to a full hand every turn – don’t linger on pretty looking cards if your deck runs out you will simply reshuffle your discard!

Commonly Missed Rules in your First Game

  • Pay attention to card actions that require a specific hero/alter ego form!
  • Remember you need to defeat Rhino twice! Once on Stage 1, once on Stage 2!
  • Rhino has 1 SCH but he can still threat out very easily with boost cards – don’t linger in Alter Ego form too long although the extra cards can be tempting.
  • Spider-Man draws a card when a villain initiates an attack against him. This means when Rhino originally declares an attack. He won’t get this bonus from a minion attack and also won’t get it if defending for Captain Marvel. He will get this bonus even if he uses an ally to block though as Rhino targets Spider-Man then the heroes decide how to react.
  • Peter Parker’s resource generating ability must be spent immediately you can’t generate resources and then flip forms to spend it.
  • Captain Marvels hero ability allows her to cycle a card with an energy resource for a new card but it requires you to heal a point of damage (everything to the left of an arrow is a cost).

 Session Complete

This concludes our first SHIELD Training session. Let us know how your first game went and check back or subscribe to be alerted of upcoming articles of interest to new and experienced players! If you are an experienced player and read this far… let us know a common rules mistake you experienced in your first game. We’ll add them to the list above! KennedyHawk recently played through the starter game solo you can check out the video below!

Training Sessions

We have a whole slew of topics we want to cover in future training you can check out the entire series to date below – as always – thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply