Spider-Man is one of the more iconic superheroes ever, and Marvel’s most commercially successful creation. While teaming up with various partners, groups and organizations throughout the Marvel universe, he is also popular enough to stand alone, probably most famous when going solo – shooting off his mouth, as well as his webs. With independent treatment in books, television, movies and even on Broadway, it’s fitting the flagship hero finally gets his own focus in WizKids’ Dice Masters system.
How to Play
The Amazing Spider-Man is the fourth Marvel Dice Masters set. As you’ve certainly deduced from the name, it revolves around the famously sarcastic web-slinger, his allies and notorious enemies – including new team affiliation Sinister Six. Other traditionally indie Marvel characters who have worked in some capacity on and off with the teen superhero receive the Spidey team group like Daredevil, Luke Cage and Ghost Rider. Although their abilities largely remain general in scope. The series also includes a smattering of popular unrelated extras, like Wolverine, Black Widow and Drax the Destroyer. The general mechanics and game play remain the same as with other sets and IPs across the system. You can reference our review of the original Marvel Dice Masters sets for the basic rules.
Web Blast or Public Menace?
Much like Spider-Man’s signature weapon, the Marvel universe is itself a giant web in which most major superheroes and super villains have been entangled in some way or another. Long fiercely independent, Spider-Man himself has partnered with numerous other crime-fighters – even joining the Avengers at one point – in the last couple decades. Therefore, many of the characters in this set can thematically contain the Spider-Friends team logo even if their relationship was fleeting at best. The human mutate has never been one of my personal favorites. The smart-aleck teen act never really resonated with me, nor his loaner mentality. If you’ve read or seen any of my previous thoughts on the system, you know my loyalties lean towards another hero – alas mournfully absent from this collection! However, this release looks to have some slick elements that promise to enhance the Dice Masters system overall.
The biggest addition consists of three new keyword mechanics, which seem to me to have been present in a couple of characters from previous sets. That would have been muted, though, whereas here they are defined and used extensively. The first is Underdog, which is an ability that triggers when your opponent has more dice fielded than you. This is quite prevalent throughout the set, including a couple basic actions, and might give you a special leg up when outnumbered. The second addition is Ally, an ability in which the character also counts as a Sidekick when fielded. Since these characters also generally possess other traits, players that favor team builds which rely heavily on Sidekicks will find Ally a double boon. The final addition is Aftershock. This indicates that the trait triggers when the character die leaves the Field Zone, wreaking residual damage and chaos in its wake.
The Ally concept is further enhanced through another interesting strength which hasn’t been really prevalent in the first three Marvel sets (not sure about other IPs) – weak and even non-attacking characters with support abilities. There are at least versions of Pepper Potts, Mary Jane and Aunt May with some strong boosts to other characters, though they do little themselves. In Potts’ case, she can’t even attack! I haven’t seen all cards in the set, of course, so I’m not sure how prevalent this runs. And it’s not all terribly dissimilar to many team affiliation boosts. However, the emphasis on support in lieu of other strong characteristics is different. While a very interesting idea, I think it remains to be seen if its practical effectiveness is worth using at the expense of other heroes/villains with traditional powers.
Fans of Spider-Man will certainly revel in the set’s many familiar characters – both traditional and modern. Stalwarts such as Spider-Girl, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, Iceman, Venom, Firestar and Black Cat receive versions. Plus some more modern introductions like Iron Spider and Scarlet Spider appear. There are plenty of Spider-Man’s iconic hardcore nemeses, too, such as Carnage, Sandman, Kingpin, Lizard, Doc Ock, Green Goblin and even Kraven the Hunter. The villains continue a trend, in my opinion, of expensive and hard to implement team builds. I’m sure more sophisticated Dice Masters players than me make it work. I’ve tended to stray from heavy use of villains. They just seem difficult to wield and this set proves little exception. However, you could pull together a few frugal versions from across the different sets to construct a reasonably manageable team.
Per previous sets, not all cards are married to the set’s theme. Indeed, there are some strange inclusions here. You have Blink, Blade, Black Widow (Avengers), Drax (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Wolverine (X-Men). Gladiator makes an appearance, too. Given this state, would it have killed them to keep Captain America going? I don’t think so. In any event, the set also continues the newer trend towards eight super rares, instead of four, as the system’s format began way back with Avengers vs. X-Men.
All that said, Amazing Spider-Man will prove a good utility set. There are enough Spider-Friend specific team abilities to make for synergetic constructive builds. At the same time, there aren’t so many that it will hamper its usefulness when mixed with other series (as is the case in War of Light). This means there are plenty of options for tournament play. And it should work well in a rainbow draft format. Despite the new keyword mechanics, it’s actually a pretty straight-forward and non-intimidating set with a variety of uses.
With another ten basic action cards, there are a variety of both powerful and underwhelming options. Web-Blast is the most damaging to non-Spider-Friends as it damages a non-Spider-Friend character – and knocks one out as an Underdog. Back for Seconds! is a nifty action which lets you field any character from your used pile when you’re the Underdog. And Exposed! forces your opponent to pay a life for each non-villain assigned to block you – a fun way to expose chump blocks.
Again, without having seen every single card (and likely never will), there are sure to be many characters and/or versions that will rarely see the table in any setting because of real or perceived flaws. Some are just that much weaker or more expensive than others. But that’s endemic to any Dice Masters set, and indeed any collectible game. The release also includes the full-color illustrated dice bags, but they’re still cheap. One of ours ripped during the first play. We generally use other bags, anyway. Other than that, my only quibble with the set is that the dice are not as impressive overall. While definitely well-produced, there are a lot of basic, generic-looking symbols and drab colors. The quality is good, but the aesthetics aren’t up to par compared with previous dice. However, that’s all in the eye of the beholder and, besides, you can’t knock them all out of the universe…
The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t just for fans of the web-slinging wise-cracker. Whereas the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four and even Guardians of the Galaxy received heavy to ample treatment in the first three Marvel sets, Spider-Man and friends (and enemies) finally take center stage. With some opportunities for interesting Spidey-themed builds, it’s also an easy set to intermix with previous ones. And while many are still pretty expensive, there are at least a few villains entering the fray that may prove viable and reasonable with baddies from other releases. All in all, there are plenty of powerful options here. Please use them responsibly.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Wizkids for providing a review copy of Marvel Dice Masters: The Amazing Spider-Man.