Review: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Part One

Published on April 17th, 2012, Margaret Weis Production’s (MWP) Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game was released. This game was subject to no small amount of buzz. It was first announced that MWP had acquired the Marvel license at GenCon 2011. This license joined forces with some other incredible licenses, including critically acclaimed television series like Leverage, Serenity, Battlestar Galactica and Smallville. I finally got my hands on a copy as a birthday present.


MWP also had a fantastic stable of writers to put together Marvel Heroic Roleplaying including Cam Banks, Rob Donoghue, Matt Forbeck, Will Hindmarch, Philippe-Antoine Menard, and Jesse Scoble. The level of talent shows in the design of the game as well as in the writing throughout the book.

It should be noted that this review is coming from only having read the book (which is one of the few game books that I’ve read cover to cover mind you), but I have unfortunately yet to get it on the table. I do hope to do so very, very soon.

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the outset. I love this game, and it is my firm belief that if you are a fan of the Marvel universe, superhero roleplaying games, or of Margaret Weis Productions, you should get it. You can grab it from Amazon for $13.59 or you can get it directly from MWP’s website for $19.99 with the bonus of a free PDF copy. It clocks in at 227 pages in length and is only the size of a trade paperback, more than fitting for the property.

Right from the outset, it is obvious that this is not your typical roleplaying game. Most games dedicate a large section of the book to creating your own persona, and this one does have a section for creating your own hero and talking about the various powers and specialties. But that is not the primary focus of this game. Instead, Marvel places a much bigger emphasis on selecting an existing persona from Marvel’s impressive stable of characters and playing as them for a while.

Whaddaya mean we don’t need a healer?

And the reason for that is the game is not focused around having a character for a long-term story, but instead to explore various characters for a session or two and then take on another character in the next event. You don’t have to worry so much about character balance or having “the right character for the job” in the group of heroes. Whereas a Dungeons and Dragons party may very well fall apart without a Wizard or a Cleric, there is no danger of this in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, in fact, it might make for some very interesting drama. And with 23 characters in the book, from Captain America to Wolverine, Iron Man to Spider Man, Mr. Fantastic to Ms. Marvel there’s bound to be a couple that catch your eye.

So, just how does the game run? Well, at its core, Marvel is powered by the Cortex Engine, MWP’s in-house game engine, though those of you familiar with any of the previous incarnations of the game might have to take a harder look to notice it right away. It’s the heavily modified version of Cortex from Leverage and Smallville, and is actually modified  a little bit more to focus on the four color action of the Marvel universe, and it does so beautifully. The dice mechanics can take a little while to get your head around, but once you do, it is incredibly intuitive and easy to pick up. In the next installment we’ll get into a discussion on just what dice to pick up and when, as well as talk about my favorite part of the game, the Doom Pool.

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