Previewing the Gameplay of Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R.
The launch of Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. is rapidly approaching! Before it hits store shelves in late June, we want to take some time today to go over what it’s like to actually play this awesome game. So sit back and enjoy this whirlwind tour of Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R.’s gameplay!
The first step for setting up any game of D.A.G.G.E.R. is to choose your heroes! As a reminder, there are 20 heroes in the game, spread out across 10 double-sided hero sheets. When you choose your hero, you pick your sheet, and then choose which hero from that pair you want to start the game as. For our example game, we’ll say we have 4 players, and they collectively choose Captain Marvel , Elektra , Hulk , and Thor as their heroes.
Each hero has three support cards that they bring with them: two that they share with their “partner” on the other side of their sheet, and one that is unique to them. After choosing your hero, you grab each of that hero’s support cards and place them in your play area. For example, our Elektra player would grab the Foggy Nelson and Stick cards (both of which she shares with her partner hero, Daredevil), as well as her unique support card Twin Sai . Your unique support starts the game facedown on its “locked” side, and you won’t be able to use it until you unlock it through your hero’s signature side mission (we’ll get to that later). For the other two support cards, choose one to start faceup, and the other to start facedown. The facedown support starts the game “exhausted,” which means it can’t be used until you charge it up (something you can do by using the “rest” action during the game).
Once you’ve set up your support cards, you grab your hero’s team-up card (another card they share with their partner) and the aforementioned side mission corresponding to your specific hero. In Elektra’s case, her player takes The Hand team-up card and The Double-Cross side mission and places them both face-down in her play area.
Next, each player chooses which of the six aspects they want to use! This is an important step; since each hero can make use of each aspect differently, there are tons of combinations to try out! For our example game, Captain Marvel’s player chooses the Protection aspect, Elektra chooses Determination , Hulk chooses Aggression , and Thor chooses Leadership .
Each aspect comes with a number of aspect tokens that match its symbol and color. When playing a game with three or more heroes, each player takes three of these tokens (making sure that one is the “boosted” token, which we’ll talk about later). If playing a game with only two heroes (such as in a solo game or a two-player game), each hero uses four tokens instead. We’ll go over what these tokens are used for shortly.
Each aspect also comes with a colored base, which you place your hero’s standee inside.
Once the heroes are set up, you then choose which of the four nemeses you want to face. Each nemesis comes with their own character sheet, mission deck, and signature minion, as well as standees for both the nemesis and that minion. You’ll also choose an enemy set, which comes with its own “first strike” card (basically the intro mission for the game). For our example game, we’ll go with Loki and pair him with the Frost Giants, so our players grab the Draugr , Frost Giant , and Laufey enemy cards as well as the Jotun Activity first strike card.
There are a few more steps involved in setup—such as building the side mission deck and event deck—but we’re not going to cover all of them today. Once the game is set up, it will look something like this:
Playing the Game
The goal of Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. is to defeat the nemesis, which can only be done during the final showdown. Gameplay takes place over two phases: the hero phase and the nemesis phase.
During the hero phase, each player takes turns performing a single action at a time (represented by spending an aspect token), cycling over and over until each player has spent all of their aspect tokens.
There are two types of aspect tokens: standard and boosted. You have multiple standard tokens to use during the round, but only one boosted token. To spend an aspect token, you place it on an empty slot on either your hero sheet, your aspect sheet, or the game board.
Some actions—such as the Leadership aspect’s “defy” action—have an extra Boosted effect, which can only be activated by spending your boosted token. Some actions are on your hero’s sheet, such as Thor’s God of Thunder ability, while others are “D.A.G.G.E.R. actions,” which are tied to bases on the game board. Anywhere you find an empty slot, chances are you can spend one of your tokens there, which means there are tons of strategic options each round!
Aspect tokens can be spent to trigger abilities on your hero sheet or the D.A.G.G.E.R. action of a base.
Several actions will have you perform a test to attack an enemy, make progress on a mission, or rest and recharge your supports. To perform a test, you roll a number of dice equal to your hero’s corresponding stat for that test, then count the number of successes. More successes means more damage dealt to the enemy, more progress placed on a mission, or more health recovered / more charge counters placed on your facedown support card(s).
As we talked about in our first look at Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. back in March, each hero has one or two combo abilities that make use of the game’s “empowered” and “primed” tokens. Triggering these abilities as often as possible is almost always a good idea, since doing so will charge the team-up track and allow you to use your powerful team-up card!
Once each hero has spent all of their aspect tokens, play moves to the nemesis phase. In this phase, the nemesis and their minions carry out their heinous acts, bringing the world ever closer to a state of total despair.
The nemesis phase has three steps: Advance Threat, Check Nemesis Mission, and Resolve Event Card, in that order.
In the Advance Threat step, the threat track at the top of the board is advanced a certain amount depending on the current conditions on the board. It automatically advances by the number on the nemesis sheet (in Loki’s case, this value is 3), but it also advances by 1 for each non-nemesis enemy in play. Some side missions can also increase the amount of threat gained at this stage (we’ll talk about missions in the next section), which means the more problems you leave unsolved, the quicker things can spiral out of control. Keep in mind: if threat ever reaches 20, the heroes lose the game!
The second step of the phase, Check Nemesis Mission, is quick and easy: you check the current nemesis mission (which we’ll talk about in the next section) and see whether or not it has been completed. If there are enough progress tokens on it to meet the requirement, then it has been completed and “passed”; if not, and the current threat value is equal to or greater than the threshold, then the mission is completed and “failed.” In either case, once the mission has been completed, the threat track is reset to 0, a new side mission is spawned, and either the next nemesis mission is put into play or the final showdown begins (we’ll talk about that at the end)!
Finally, the third step of the nemesis phase: Resolve Event Card. This step is the real meat and potatoes of the nemesis phase, as it is what determines what actions the enemies perform during the phase. To perform this step, a single event card is drawn from the deck, and all of its effects and icons are resolved, in the following order:
First, the event text is resolved. This text can either help or hinder the heroes, depending on the event in question. For example, the Preemptive Strike event allows the heroes to prevent new enemies from spawning, while the Database Breach event can allow enemies to close in faster than expected.
Next comes the event icons. These are the black icons on the left side of the card, and they do things like trigger “ongoing” effects, spawn additional side missions, and activate the nemesis’s abilities. These are resolved from top to bottom.
Next, the enemies are activated in ascending order of rank, starting with “rank 1” enemies and ending with the nemesis. When an enemy activates, it either attacks a hero in its space, overruns a base in its space, or moves toward the nearest operational base in its region. Each enemy only does one of those things during each activation, and they always prioritize attacking heroes when able, which means you’ll have to be careful to not bite off more than you can chew!
Finally, the last step of resolving an event card is to spawn more enemies. This step is represented by the rank symbols, numbers, and pips at the bottom of the event card. You only spawn an enemy if the number of heroes equals or exceeds the number of circular pips under that rank symbol. The numbers simply determine which space the enemy is spawned in.
Once the event card is resolved, play returns to the hero phase, and the cycle continues until the heroes can take on the nemesis in the final showdown. Just be careful not to take too long to get to the showdown; if the event deck runs out and you need to draw a new card, the heroes lose!
When you aren’t fighting enemies, the thing you’ll be doing the most in D.A.G.G.E.R. is completing missions. There are three main types of missions: side missions, hero missions, and nemesis missions.
Side missions come into play periodically throughout the game. They have some sort of negative effect that either triggers at some point during the round or has a persistent, ongoing effect. For example, the side mission Spreading Chaos advances the threat track at the beginning of the nemesis phase, while Simmering Unrest deals each hero a bit of damage whenever an event card triggers “ongoing” effects.
Each side mission also has a certain number of “progress tokens” that must be placed on it in order to complete the mission. The method in which you place progress varies depending on the mission; for example, the aforementioned Simmering Unrest mission requires you to use your “defy” action in a space that has a non-nemesis enemy, while progress is added to Spreading Chaos whenever an enemy is dealt damage. If you manage to complete a side mission, you can advance the team-up track as a reward, but take care not to let too many missions build up at once, or else the threat of the nemesis will start to accelerate!
As we mentioned earlier, each individual hero has their own hero mission. Whenever you perform a D.A.G.G.E.R. action at a base, you can choose to put your hero’s mission into play (so long as no other hero’s mission is already in play). Like side missions, each hero mission has its own method of being completed, and the reward you get for completing them is unlocking your hero-specific support card. However, there is some risk involved in pursuing a hero mission, as they come with an effect that specifically hinders your hero! For example, Thor’s hero mission, Proof of Worth , prevents him from using the Mjolnir support card while it’s in play. He’ll have to work a little harder than normal if he wants to be able to unlock The Warriors Three !
Finally, there are the nemesis missions. Each nemesis has exactly three of these, and they are faced in a specific order. Once you’ve cleared the first strike mission (which we mentioned earlier in this article), you’ll gain access to the first of the nemesis’s missions. These function a little differently than other missions; your goal is still to complete them, but if your team takes too long to do so, you can actually fail the mission and have it result in a worse situation later in the game. For example, Loki’s first mission, Winds of Jotunheim , requires the heroes to place 3 per player progress tokens on it in order to complete the mission. Doing so will result in the “ A Secret Revealed ” outcome, which suppresses Loki’s power during the final showdown. However, if the threat track is allowed to advance to 14 or higher, then the heroes fail the mission, resulting in the “ Blood of Jotunheim ” outcome and strengthening Loki for the final battle.
Once all three of the nemesis missions have been completed—either in success or failure—the final showdown begins!
The Final Showdown
Just as its name suggests, the final showdown is the ultimate battle against the nemesis to determine the fate of the world. The only way to win a game of Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. is to defeat the nemesis during the final showdown, so if there’s ever a time to bring your A-game, this is it!
When the final showdown begins, the nemesis’s sheet is flipped over to its final showdown side. This changes how the nemesis behaves during the nemesis phase and grants the nemesis an amount of health that scales to the number of heroes. Once your team deals enough damage to reduce the nemesis’s health to 0, you win! But beware; the nemesis isn’t going to pull any punches either.
As we touched on in the last section, successfully completing nemesis missions can help make the final showdown a little easier for the heroes. This often comes in the form of suppression tokens, which can nerf the nemesis’s abilities depending on how many tokens you place on them. Of course, the reverse is also true; each nemesis mission you fail grants the nemesis an additional ability during the final showdown, so make sure you take these tasks seriously!
With that, you should now have a general grasp of how Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. is played. There’s a lot of strategy and a lot of teamwork involved when playing this game, with countless combos and synergies for you and your friends to discover. Be sure to try it out for yourself when Marvel D.A.G.G.E.R. hits store shelves at the end of June!