We Played with Kids – Marvel United

October 24, 2020

Anyone else have a house full of Marvel fans? Our kids (ages 4 and 7) have been really into all things Marvel recently. Marvel movies, Marvel action figures, Marvel coloring books, Marvel costumes, and, of course, Marvel board games. For the past year, our kids have watched Christian and I play Marvel Champions LCG; and, due to its complexity, they become frustrated that they can’t play and lose interest quickly. We own a Marvel matching game that our kids can play – and they often do – but it doesn’t excite them as much as it used to because the mechanics are too simple as they have gotten older. We were on the search for something in the middle – not so complex that kids can’t understand, but not so simple that they feel bored. And, then, we happened upon Marvel United at Walmart (ironically, right after we decided to cancel our Kickstarter pledge for the game), and decided to give it a try with our kids. It has been a great game for our family! Here are a few reasons Marvel United is a hit in our house.

THEME

The Marvel theme is obviously the thing that drew our kids – and (who are we kidding?) us – to this game. Our kids know all the characters already and they like the Chibi art style that Marvel United uses. It is fun for our kids to see special abilities in characters that they know – like Captain Marvel using her photon blast and Hulk using his hulk smash. These kinds of character abilities combined with the artwork all add to the thematic nature of the game, drawing everyone around the table into the Marvel universe and making you feel like you are actually a superhero trying to defeat a villain. 

MECHANICS “SWEET SPOT”

It is true that the graphics of Marvel United originally drew our kids into the game, but the reason this game has had longevity in our household is the mechanics. The overall objective of the game to defeat the villain is easy for our kids to understand. And, the way to get to that objective through defeating thugs, saving civilians, and eliminating threats provides enough complexity to keep them interested. There are only three actions available to the hero characters (move, attack, heroic), which is another way that Marvel United is accessible for our kids to learn. The game may be a little too simple for Christian and I to enjoy on our own, but it’s the perfect depth for our family to have an enjoyable experience. 

COOPERATIVE

Our whole family loves that Marvel United is a cooperative game. The vast majority of kids games are competitive, which certainly has its place and teaches its own lessons, but it’s not often that kids have to think of other people around the table. The cooperative nature of the game teaches our kids to work as a team, thinking through how their turn could not only affect their character but could also affect the rest of the hero characters in the game. One of the best examples of this that occurs at least once every play through is when one of our kids realizes that there is not a lot their character can do on a given turn (i.e. their character is in an ineffective location and/or they are holding ineffective cards). Instead of just seeing their turn as a “waste” because their character is not super effective, our kids are starting to learn to set up the next player’s turn in order to help the team as a whole. Another great thing about playing a cooperative game with our kids is that we either all win or all lose. That way, when we win, we can celebrate together; when we lose, we can be frustrated at the game and not each other. Hulk not sad, Hulk mad!

VISUAL AIDS

As a parent, one thing I really appreciate about this game is the visual depiction of actions on each card as opposed to text. This helps our kids so they know what each card can do without having to read. 

WHAT IT’S LACKING

We wish we had more characters, especially villains. There are only three villains and seven heroes in the base game of Marvel United (extras are coming in the Kickstarter version, which isn’t available at the time of this post). We have probably played this game with our kids an average of once a week for the past four months, and the characters are getting pretty monotonous at this point. To be fair, the lack of character variety doesn’t prevent our kids from playing Marvel United, but it does limit their excitement. We have heard that there is an X-Men expansion coming, so we’re looking forward to the future of this game!

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