Home Game Reviews Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. Review

Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. Review

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Review of: Marvel Dagger
Board Game Review by::
Tony Mastrangeli
Price:
$89

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On Aug 15, 2023
Last modified:Aug 15, 2023

Summary:

We review Marvel Dagger, a cooperative "Save the world" type board game published by Fantasy Flight Games. In Marvel Dagger, players are working together to stop one of the game's four villains.

Marvel DaggerWhen I hear someone ask “Just how many Marvel board games do we need?” my standard reply is: “At least one more.” I mean, it’s a fun theme with lots of potential. I kid a bit here because Marvel is clearly what zombies were to game themes of the early 2010s. Nowadays you can’t walk through your FLGS without bumping into a handful of Marvel games. But as long as they are fun, I’ll continue to give them a try.

And that’s where we land with today’s look at Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R., which stands for “Defense Alliance for Global and Galactic Emergency Response.” That’s also the last time I’ll be typing out Dagger with a bunch of periods. So grab your spandex and jump aboard the helicarrier as we take a look at this newest save-the-world game.

Gameplay Overview:

Marvel Dagger comes with 4 different villains you can take on with your choice(s) from more than 20 heroes. Each player will start by choosing a hero to use and an aspect (6 in total) to pair them with. Once the villain is chosen and the board is set up, gameplay takes place in rounds.

Marvel Dagger Hero
Each hero is pair up with one of six aspects.

First up is the Hero phase. On a player’s turn, they spend one of their action tokens, either on their hero sheet, aspect sheet, or the board. Different actions include moving around the board, fighting bad guys, trying to defy a mission, resting, or a taking location-specific action. In general, players will be trying to defeat the bad guys on the board, while also taking care of any missions that spawn.

Combat and tests are handled via dice rolls. Each hero has 3 attributes—strength, defiance, and tactics—and the value of the hero’s specific stat determines how many dice are rolled. Each symbol you roll on the 8-sided dice that matches the skill used counts as a success. Mechanically, there isn’t really anything different between trying to diffuse a bomb or punching Ultron in the face.

One of each player’s action tokens is also a boosted token which gives them a bonus when used on an aspect action. This might mean doing damage while you move, adding success to a mission when you fight an enemy, or giving other players a chance to act out of turn.

Marvel Dagger Mission
Each villain has 3 missions you’ll have to try and defeat.

After each player has used all of their action tokens, the Nemesis phase begins. First, threat is increased based on a number of factors (minions on the board, villain number, overrun bases), then the main mission is checked to see if the villain succeeded or failed. Finally, a Threat card is drawn, which will cause headaches for the players in a variety of ways: adding minions, activating villain powers, moving enemies around the board to attack players and overrun bases.

Once the players have completed (or failed) the three villain missions, then the final showdown begins. It’s here where they have to defeat the villain to win. If 5 bases are ever overrun, or a specific player has their heroes defeated twice, the players lose.

Marvel Dagger Gameplay
Combat and tests are both handled via dice rolls.

Game Experience:

I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to other games with Marvel Dagger: It’s like Eldritch Horror, Arkham Horror 3e, Pandemic, Marvel Champions … and there is some truth to each of these comparisons. There are definitely some mechanics from those games sprinkled in here or there. But if you were expecting Eldritch Horror with a Marvel Skin, it’s also not that. Don’t get me wrong, I love Eldritch Horror, but I also feel like I can comfortably own both games without major overlap. For those curious, I’ve also found Marvel Dagger to be much, much more combat heavy than Eldritch Horror. You’ll typically spend way more time punching bad guys than defying missions.

Marvel Dagger Side Mission
Side missions will pop up that will either be minor villains or things to do.

The best part of the game is its core action system. I really liked the aspect tokens and how they make turns go by quickly. Instead of having to wait for someone to take all 3-4 of their actions on a turn, each player takes just one and its on to the next player. Not only does this reduce the downtime in the game, but it also helps foster teamwork. Many players have a power (passive or otherwise) that will trigger off something the bad guys or other players do. So there will be times when one player will move to a location, wait for someone else to arrive and buff them, and then attack a bad guy with a nice bonus.

There is even a track on the board called “Teamup” that anyone can power up. These allow players to activate their teamup-specific card, which can have some really powerful effects. That’s also why I’ve found Marvel Dagger plays better at the higher player counts. I think 3 players is probably the sweet spot (4 is solid too). At 5 it just runs way too long, and solo, you are missing out on some synergy the other players would provide. The extra hero powers and the ability to be in different spots on the map definitely outweigh the extra successes needed to beat a mission.

Marvel Dagger Aspect
Each turn you’ll place one of your aspect tokens and take the action.

Let’s talk about those successes. Marvel Dagger can be a pretty swingy game. There will be times when you will be rolling smoothly and then a villain card spawns an enemy on a base, who immediately activates and overruns it with no chance to stop it. Too bad so sad. There is also a lot of randomness from the dice rolling. There are 3 different symbols on the dice (plus 1 wild face), so more times than I like I would roll no successes simply because I rolled the other faces. This can be frustrating in a game with limited actions. A turn where you move, attack with a single one default success or even zero successes, and then just rest is a pretty boring turn.

But that’s probably the biggest knock against Marvel Dagger. Because what it does have is some solid replay value. With more than 20 different heroes, 4 villains, and 5 minion sets, there is a lot of variety here. You can take on Thanos with Ultron’s Drones while controlling War Machine and Mighty Thor. I did find it interesting that just about every hero has an alternate counterpart with the same name. For example, both Spider-Men are there (Miles and Peter), both Thors (Jane and Odinson), and two Black Panthers (Tchalla and Shuri). Yet for some reason, they dropped the ball of Electra being called Daredevil. She’s just in there as Electra, even though she took up the mantle of Daredevil in The Woman Without Fear run last year. (OK, Marvel nerd hat taken off.)

But each of those heroes feels unique. Even between Hulk and She-Hulk, they don’t just feel like name-swapped versions of the same character. So I appreciate Fantasy Flight Games going the extra mile on the heroes. One place where they mis-stepped a bit though is with the villain missions. Some just feel really samey, and I would have liked to see some more variety here. Maybe in a future expansion (no surprises here if you’ve played a Fantasy Flight Game before).

Marvel Dagger Villains
There are four different villains to take on.

Final Thoughts:

We’ve had a lot of fun with Marvel Dagger and some really tense moments. Even when it the game gets a bit swingy and starts to snowball against us, we’ve usually managed to dig ourselves out of that hole. I also liked that when a character dies, you come back as one of the other heroes in the box (at least the first time). This helps keep the stakes high without having to deal with player elimination.

While the theme does falter at times (and I wasn’t a huge fan of the artwork), the mechanics are solid and it works really well as a “cooperative, save the world” type of game. Heroes not only have the ability to improve during the game, but there are usually lots of things for you to focus on in any given game. For fans of the Marvel heroes and the cooperative games, this one is work checking out.

Final Score: 4 Stars – A solid “save the world” dice chucker that offers a surprising amount of replay value, could use an expansion though on the villain side.

4 StarsHits:
• A diverse lineup of over 20 heroes
• Quick turns
• Action token system works really well

Misses:
• Game can be swingy at times
• Could use more variety in the missions

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