Friday, October 29, 2010

Running on Empty

The point of any game is to win. From there it's a subset of having fun, and in some cases making sure your opponent has fun. Today I'm going to explain why when it comes to HeroClix in a standard scenario running from an opponent is an empty premise.

What happens when winning is not an option?

Once upon a time, point denial was a strategic factor in winning. Back when players added Victory Points to their Survivor totals, point totals could make a big difference after three rounds. Today, most tournaments are won by W/L records, with only ties decided by points. Points still play a factor in an overall victory, but perhaps not as big a roll.

I recognize when the game has reached a climax and I know I'm beat. In these cases running would just be a lousy move for my opponent. They've already beaten me. Now I don't just roll over, wave a white flag, and ask for a merciful death - I'll attack until the end. But I won't run. I may even fall back strategically, but I'm there to fight, not run, so no matter what the odds - I'll stick to my guns.

Never tell me the odds! - Han Solo

I've also been playing the game long enough to see crazy things happen: I was recently getting pwned by the Iron Man and War Machine duo up until he rolled two crit misses on one duo attack! I think it shook the player to his core and defeated his confidence, which in turn affected his game. I barely won, with my remaining figures on their last clicks.

Know when you're beaten.

As a player, it irks me when opponents run, especially if it's part of their strategy. I've watched teams built on the premise of sniping one figure, then retreating for forty minutes. It's a horrible strategy that sucks the fun out of the game.

I recall one match where I had little hope of winning - my opponent already KO'd most of my force, and was ahead on VP's - and when the judge announced there was less than 5 minutes left, I moved all my figures closer to my opponent. I didn't want to run from him and deny him more points and I knew I couldn't hope to deal enough damage to him to earn a win myself. I also knew his pride was at stake, so I didn't tell him I was making it easier for him. What did he do when I moved close enough to take easy shots at me?

He ran away.

I even pushed to chase him, and he pushed to keep running. It was the most amazing, bizarre choice I've ever seen. He easily could have wiped me out in those 5 minutes, but made a choice based on fear. Fear of critical missing me. Fear I would somehow successfully attack his strong force with my weakened figures in under five minutes. I should note this was Pre-Armor Wars, (so think: toploaded figures with a distinctive downward curve on combat values). I honestly had no chance in the time given. He won the round, but...

In the end, he lost the tournament (on points), and didn't get fellowship either.

Speaking of fellowship, I witnessed a match where a player was clearly beaten, with a wounded Veteran Lockjaw as his only remaining piece. Lockjaw ran. The other player had no taxi, no TK, low to no range and low speed, so had a hard time catching up to the pup. Likewise, Lockjaw was injured, and had little hope of doing anything effective to the opponent, who had high defenses and damage resistance. I didn't see how it ended, but I can imagine the frustration on the chaser's part, with the Inhuman's high speed and Phasing.

Running can be disrespectful to your entire venue.

In some situations I can almost understand running. Some scenarios may lend more credence to the strategy. However, in my example with Lockjaw above, what if the two players were holding up the entire tournament? There's ten other players waiting to start the next round, but Lockjaw's player decides to run out the clock. To me, that's really poor sportsmanship -

the runner's just wasted 12 people's time

(10 players, his opponent and the judge) and why? Just so he can prevent 38 points from going into his opponent's hands.

Finally, consider it's also a bad move if the runner wants fellowship - the player didn't win the round AND they have possibly angered 10 other players by making them wait on him needlessly. That's 10 players who are probably going to vote elsewhere for fellowship.

I therefore consider that running is a good strategy, only when you're moving toward your opponent.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Heroclix Scenario: Survivor

My last post poked fun at an episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Aside from the ridiculousness of the plot, and the nostalgia value of 1980's cheaply made cartoon series, Seven Little Superheroes actually makes for a great 3 round Heroclix scenario.

Survivor (or Seven Little Superheroes)
Build: a 700 point, 7 figure team - no more, no less than 7.
Golden Age or Modern Age (doesn't matter - venue's choice)
3 actions per turn (keeps the game moving fast, and makes powers like Leadership or free move TA's relevant)

Important: Before each round of the tournament, including the first round, one of your figures will get selected by your opponent to be voted off your team for the entire tournament (and vice versa). No Victory Points are awarded in this manner.

So for instance, while a team comes to the map with 7 members, the first round will be 6 figures on 6. The second game will be 5 on 5, and the last battle will be 4 on 4.

Survivor forces a player to build comprehensively, and not rely on one given strategy. Players are encouraged to avoid using Tentpoles - Cosmic Spider-Man would never see the map in this event.

Survivor also allows opponents to pick off the figure they think will give them the most trouble - OOTS Batman always a bother? Say Bye-Bye Bruce. Is Kid Zoom going to mess with your Nightcrawler? Kick the 'kid back to the future (but don't expect Kurt to stick around either!).

A well rounded build doesn't need to feature seven figures each exactly at 100 points - Gamora and Annihilus, for example, roughly total 200, as do Edward Nigma and Noh-Var (@ 201).

Depending on structure (Golden Age v. Modern Age) Feats are allowed to round out a team, though like any event individual feats can't be transferred to another figure. Should a feat require two people to work (ICWO, Sidekick) both must be on the board for the card to be in play.

I've run this event in the past, and seen some great teams. One player brought 5 War Skrulls, filling out the team with other Skrull Invaders. Another player fielded seven 100-point Sentinels, only to loose to the starter Fantastic Four (and their LEs).

Survivor is a fun exercise in team building, that offers plenty of room for comic accurate teams, with the JLA, Titans, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Inhumans, and many others featuring a number of competitive characters ~ 100 points.

For those really obsessed (like me) with the Seven Little Super-Heroes, here's a team you can build featuring the episode's line-up (with a substitution for the missing Shanna)

WS007 Spider-Man
WS020 Firestar
MU029 Iceman
UL066 Captain America
SI045 Namor
SI033 Dr. Strange
SN216 Kraven the Spider (as Shanna)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Seven Little Superheroes

Seven little superheroes
will vanish one by one,

Seven little superheroes,
soon there will be none...

So chortled the Chameleon in an episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Loosely based off Agatha Christie's 10 little Indians, Seven Little Superheroes follows the exploits of Spider-Man, Iceman and Firestar as they travel to mysterious Wolf Island, meeting up with Dr. Strange, Namor, Captain America, and Shanna the She-Devil, all of whom received cryptic invitations to spend the weekend at a resort turned death camp, a sort of Club Med meets Club Dead.

Throughout the course of the episode, Chameleon uses an array of death traps, eliminating the heroes one at a time, occasionally taking their place in disguise to keep the heroes fighting amongst themselves. Namor falls first, tricked into swimming in alcohol (drying out his skin).

Namor = Whiner

"It's not water..."

...the Sub-Mariner cries in an incredibly campy moment - as though the Prince of Atlantis idiotically blundered into the trap because he was unable to smell a FULL SWIMMING POOL of Alcohol. This from a guy who spent 20+ years as an alcoholic in a wharfside tavern, before Johnny Storm sobered him up with a hot shave.

The episode is full of unintentionally funny Saturday morning cartoon cliches including annoying animal side-kicks, nonsensical death traps and a villain who talks to himself too much, using no logic whatsoever in his revenge attempts.

For instance, Captain America seemingly drowns early in the episode, showing up later caged in a prison, along with the rest of the heroes who were thought dead. Rather than kill off the heroes in the initial traps, Chameleon brings them all together to die at the hands of a giant bomb - he's wired the whole island to explode.

I'm sorry, but if Dr. Strange can't escape a simple cage,
he needs to hang up his cape.

Of course the Continental's master plan doesn't work - and why should it? As explained in the story each of the heroes had individually defeated the master of disguise in the past, so why Chameleon thought bringing them all together would result in anything buy a 7x whupping is a mystery.

From the beginning where Spider-Man finds his invitation taped to a random NYC skyscraper ledge (Chameleon obviously *knew* the Wall-Crawler would find it), to the number of times Chameleon chooses to impersonate scantily clad woman (he's got issues I tell you), this episode's got it all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

WoS figure review: FIRESTAR

Spider-Man's Amazing friend lives up to her adjective. This Diva's dial has a dual TA granting her Wild Card in addition to Avengers free movement. Free move taxis are always a welcome addition to a team, helpful for early positioning or late repositioning without eating up actions.

Flight and Running Shot keep her mobile and work well with her ranged attack power options swapping back and forth between the crowd controlling Energy Explosion and damage penetrating Psychic Blast.

It's a little disappointing that she doesn't receive one click of 10 attack, maybe on her second or third spot for incentive to keep pushing. As it is, she'll want to push off her best defense to go mobile, giving opponents an easier time dealing with her. Here the Poison on her Fantastic Forces version is sorely missed - an incentive for ground pounders to stay away from her.

Don't push too much - she drops fast although Energy Absorption may help her rise like a Phoenix from the ashes. She might go out with a bang with an 11 av, but more likely it'll be a wimper of a swan song as that bare 15 Defense really signals "shoot me before I can Pulse Wave." In all her power set and team abilities make a nice package.

Speaking of packaging - the sculpt, representing her Perez/Busiek era Avengers membership, leaves a lot to be desired. In terms of complaints however, it's a minor one, and die-hards can swap it out with the Mutant Mayhem sculpt easily.

Her cost pushes the limit of a secondary attacker and she's not a World Champion tournament winner but with several fun (read: non-min/maxed) Keywords, Firestar should be a blast for themers to play. Competitive in WoS sealed events, this figure will also shine in games of 400+ points, where she has enough TAs to copy, and friends to taxi.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Baseball Season was late this year...

With the latest All New, All Different Marvel HeroClix set X-Fans were treated to yet another Wolverine, one with an incredible healing Trait. Players have been talking about Logan's healing factor, strategizing his uses with X-Force and Wild Cards in sealed events, but so far no one has said anything about the classic combo...


There's really no mystery why people haven't been talking about it. Since Fastball Special was introduced as a game mechanic it proved to be a dud.

Mutant Mayhem debuted the famous power play as a feat, with wordy text only a rules lawyer could decipher and make work:

Prerequisites: Chosen characters must have the same team ability printed on their bases; see feat text.

Choose two characters; if one of them is KOd before this feat is used, remove the feat from the game.

Give both characters a power action when they are adjacent: The first character must have Super Strength and the second character must be grounded and have Toughness and may not have a damage value higher then 3. The first character makes a ranged combat attack against a single opposing target within 6 squares. Place the second character in any square adjacent to the target to which the first character has clear line of fire. If the attack succeeds, the second character deals the damage. Remove the Fastball Special from the game after the attack resolves.

So, every second Sunday when the moon was in the house of Orion, at the exact moment when a seven headed calf gave a goatsmilk popscicle to a three horned faun as the clock struck midnight the Fastball Special feat was used - which is to say in the 5 years since the feat was created I never saw it played once, over hundreds of games.

Still, fans wanted that comic flavor, and when Special Powers rolled around, Game Design tried again with a replacement pitcher.

It's a slightly more usable version, one that players have tinkered with, using the Outsiders ability to negate modifiers on the thrown character. It's the restrictions that prevent it from being used often. For starters, initial damage from the ranged attack is a measly two - not enough to hurt Invulnerable figures, and barely enough to make a Toughness equipped opponent flinch. This relegated Colossus to target a soft defense figure (or have a source of Outwit nearby to make it stick).

Further setbacks include attack and damage modifier penalties, but the biggest drawback was the unavoidable damage taken from the throw - unless the fastball figure's second click was better than the first, it seemed there was little point to giving up a click of life on a figure that was moved adjacent to (read: within retalliation range of) an opposing figure. In short:

Only a crazy man would want to get thrown
Enter WoS Wolverine. His second click is the same as his first. His claws offset damage modifiers. He has an 11 attack, modified to a decent 9. But the biggest selling point is Wolverine's ability to heal automatically at the beginning of his turn, offsetting the unavoidable damage. With no move and attack of his own, the X-Force leader makes a perfect missile except for one thing.

An Adamantium skeleton should count as a heavy object.

At the very least, if Pete's only dealing 2 damage, make it 2 penetrating damage - the Russian throws fast and hard.

The new Fastball Special is not a perfect set-up and some players will hesitate to push six click Logan down to five - but it is a step closer to comic accuracy. Wolverine is able to shrug off the impact with ease, something the Healing Factor Trait showcases.

The Fastball Special should be feared.

For my money, a dream version of Fastball Special would earn players bonus victory points every time it's used in game to hurt a figure, with double points awarded if an opponent actually gets KO'd by the attack. I'd like to see more combos and power plays, more examples of comic accurate teamwork with victory points rewarded as an incentive... enough incentive that an opposing player would try and stop the pitch from being thrown.

Hopefully Wizkids is practicing their pitches and we'll get to see a better version of the throw in the 2011 season.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Heroclix Rule: Keyword Completion

I'm proposing a rule of completion: when a new keyword is introduced, there should be enough figures in the set that possess the keyword to run a 300 point team.

Web of Spider-Man gave players a complete set of U-Foes, a playable force of Dark Avengers, a H.A.M.M.E.R. army, and while it wasn't "new" the Outlaws were rounded out with 6 new members (adding to the initial 2) capable of making 300 point modern age teams.

First Rule Violation: It's understandable that Game Design couldn't fit every member of M.O.D.O.K.'s 11 into the set, and while the 4 teammates that appear are welcome, they only total 233 points. Another ~ 67 point figure would have been welcome, and helped reach that 300 point goal. As it is, fans are left waiting (and hoping) for the next set to round out the team with other members like Armadillo, or Mentallo.

Second Violation: Perhaps an even bigger insult is the Marvel Divas, a four person team of grrrrl power, hailing from the 2009 mini-series by Roberto Aguirre-Sacas. WoS included Firestar and Black Cat, leaving out Patsy Walker (Hellcat) and whatever name Monica Rambeau is calling herself these days (Photon? Pulsar? Captain Marvel?).

While my wife nor I didn't care for the mini-series (the characters never felt honest, I suspect because it wasn't written by a woman) I do enjoy the four leads visual appeal (Ginger, Platinum, Brunette) and would like to field them on a HeroClix map. Others hoping to play a Modern Age line-up of Marvel's riff on Sex and the City (and Birds of Prey) will have to wait.

Hopefully, fans will not only see the theme team completed in the next Marvel set, but the Divas will also total an even 300. Currently the girls add up to 133 points, leaving room for a 60-70 point Hellcat, and a 90-100 point "Ms. Phot-ul-vel." As it is, comic accurate 'Clixers can field the fab four using older Golden Age version, but at best the team adds up to 275 points - far shy of that round 300.

Asking for Keyword Completion on the Divas is not asking a lot - their series spanned four issues, and ended. Web of Spider-Man had room to squeeze those last two Divas in. Instead, fans are left waiting, and hoping that the figures get remade, and not sent to limbo with the Morlocks and Serpent Society members.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

WoS figure review: WOLVERINE


There's a saying that goes: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In terms of strategy, hammers are all some people (Norman Osborn?) know how to play with - aggressively swinging that mallet, they wildly rush in hoping to kill everything. Normally, this sounds like Wolverine's style, but here the game designers gave us a different take. This is tactical Logan, the stealthy X-Force leader, and it takes a thoughtful mind to make the best of him.

I had the luck of playing this figure in a Battle Royal, and he proved his chops time and again. I purposely positioned so that he wouldn't get swarmed, and after the rest of my team pinged away at the opponents Wolvie'd go in for the kill. Most players lacked move and attack, and no one wanted to base the 11 AV - Snikt-ster for fear of swift and brutal retalliation.

This Wolverine is a bully.

He's best served as a mop up piece, or when picking on figures that can't dish back much damage, and don't require much effort to KO. One on one, this X-Man will rarely get KO'd by simple 2-3 damage figures, healing up constantly, reducing damage with Toughness. Enemies already worn down by the fight will have a hard time dealing with Wolverine, who is never afraid to push to attack.

Wolverine's healing trait enabled me to move into position and attack, or even push just to base certain figures, knowing that the most damage they'd deal wouldn't KO him. I had to keep reminding myself though, that I shouldn't rush into battle, and at one point fell back and regrouped rather than exposing myself to the possibility of getting surrounded by heavy hitters.

Wolverine is going to do well when he's facing figures that can't afford to push, or don't have Willpower, Indomitable or otherwise don't take pushing damage. He'll shine when he's not faced with the threat of someone dealing 4+ damage in a single attack.

Sure, some players have complained about his short dial, although the Trait makes it infinitely long. Other's complain he's too easy to one-shot - but then so are most figures in the Modern Age era where a base 4+ damage value is not uncommon. Yes, Outwit wrecks him - just like it wrecks almost EVERYONE ELSE (and really, Stealth and clever positioning should protect him from LoF). Bottom line:

If you're throwing him into a battle where he's outnumbered and expecting him to survive you're playing him wrong.

In terms of a HeroClix toolbox, WoS Wolverine is NOT a hammer. My advice? If this figure doesn't work out for you - put Logan away, and stick to using Thor - he has plenty of hammer swinging experience.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How I broke into professional game design...

Short answer: I didn't. I've always wanted to get involved with one of the big names in the industry, and dreamed for a long time that I might some day see my name on a product package, inside the cover of Dungeon magazine (I still mourn the death of the printed version) or on the cover of a rulebook. I came close though...

Years ago, before I discovered Heroclix, back when I just graduated college with my creative writing degree hot in hand, I looked to the west, seeking employment in the city of Seattle with the Wizards of the Coast. I had little to no actual paid writing experience, but I was determined to not let it stop me from applying for a position that had recently opened with the Magic the Gathering team, a job responsible for churning out the colorful "flavor text" for expansion sets, among other things.

Part of the application process demanded a one page exercise of my creative writing abilities. Instead of submitting a piece of short fiction, I decided to assault them with a mock-up of a tabloid, featuring fictional stories, news, and content from the core M:TG worlds. I wanted to convey to their team that I could write in snippets, top ten lists and blurbs, keeping a simple style that was simultaneously entertaining, and hopefully humorous.

I thought I'd share the end result, which (outside of WotC's HR dept.) no one has ever seen:

I don't recall a lot of feedback on the process, but do remember getting notice that I had advanced to a high level among the finalists, perhaps even in the top 5 considered for the position. Sadly, I think my biggest drawback was the fact that I was located halfway across country and thus unable to easily meet for a face to face interview. At least, I hope that was it.

For all I know the mere mention of the insidious Groinclamp could have scared them off.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Which side do you play for...

or rather,

Which side of the map do you play on?

I played a sanctioned tournament game last week on the new WoS Bridge map, and when my opponent won the honor of going first he decided to HIDE instead of moving across the map to FIGHT. Right from the start he marched his troops up to the top of the middle of the bridge towers sending me a message...

Come and Get it!

There's nothing quite as frustrating as facing an opponent who immediately backs into a corner. In the past I've actually gotten into debates with players who try this sort of stalling. Turn one - they do nothing, waiting for me to move. Turn two - I mirror their move, telling them I can wait just as long as they can. Usually calling people out on a stalling (or turtling) strategy forces them into action.

This ain't the Girl Scouts son - NO CAMPING!

Unfortunately verbally disagreeing makes you look like an ass because you're openly dismissing their tactics. In my case last week, I understood his strategy, so while I may have viewed his positioning as unsporting I said nothing. His rooftop jamboree might not have been so odd if he had snipers, or really anyone with respectable range, but Daken and Symbiote were just sitting there sharpening their claws, waiting for Nightcrawler to deliver them a meal. In essence, wasting actions.

We didn't need a whole map to play our game.
We didn't even need half a map.

The majority of the battle took place on the first 8 squares of his side, which got me thinking about all the other games I've played where I've backed people into a corner.

In chess, when you can force an opponent to move, you force them to react to your battle plan, putting them on the defense, keeping them moving according to how you want them to move. Starting the game by backing into a corner is effectively reacting to a move the player hasn't made yet, putting power in their hands freely. Reaction strategy in my opinion is a poor one, because it leaves you no room for maneuverability.

I've played a lot of HeroClix matches, enough to know that there's a few unspoken rules regarding map positioning. Often:

  • When the battle takes place on the opponent's side, the advantage is yours.
  • When the battle unfolds in the middle of the map it's usually an even fight.
  • When an opponent's army is on your doorstep is one you may have trouble.

Now lots of other factors go into determining wins and losses, but in my experience you can generally tell who's going to win by where the figures are on the map.

In the game mentioned above Nightcrawler zipped around the map punching my troops, while I kept them far enough away from being kidnapped and delivered to his wrecking crew. He was forced to reposition, while I forced myself to push turn after turn to catch up to and attack the fuzzy blue elf.

I had to sacrifice two figures before he made a mistake, teleporting my Solo next to his Daken. Daken attacked with his Murosama blade, but rolled a 2 on damage, a mere paper cut after Toughness reduced the damage. The next turn Solo pushed to shoot the X-Man in the face. Game over.

Actions are the gasoline that fuels attacks. Attacks deliver damage that KO figures. HeroClix games are won by knocking people out and earning Victory Points. No one earns Victory Points by hiding in a corner and conserving actions.

Finally, I encourage the use of the term "Girl Scout" describing a figure or team that CAMPS on their side of the map waiting for you to come and buy cookies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

With Great Power...

Spider-fans are familiar with saying:

With Great Power comes great responsibility.

It's too bad that so many HeroClix players don't understand this type of responsibility, and have been thinking up nasty tactics and ways to exploit Cosmic Spider-Man that make SIF complaints look petty in comparison.

Don't get me wrong, I love the character and the concept. The sculpt is amazing. It's also based on one of my favorite story arcs from before the Spider-Clone madness that nearly killed the title in the 90's. In fact, it's my love of the character that's driven me to disdain the HeroClix point bloat.

See, I'm familiar with the storyline that spawned Cosmic Spidey. It all started during the Acts of Vengeance, when Loki came up with the concept of having the villains trade foes. For example, instead of having Magneto fight the X-Men, and lose like usual, he suggests pitting the master of magnetism against Spider-Man.

The tale starts out with Spidey fighting minor league villain Trapster, but quickly escalates as Dr. Doom notices Peter's increasing power levels (which are due to a research laboratory accident - what else?). Doom sends all sorts of high-powered players against Spider-Man, including Titania, Goliath, Magneto, to test the Wall-crawler's strength levels.

It all culminates when Sebastian Shaw (X-Men villain, Black King of Hellfire Club fame, and manufacturer of mutant hunting Sentinels) pits the gray skinned Hulk against Pete. As Pete is giving the Hulk a solid pounding Loki magically activates and merges Shaw's Sentinels (into the Tri-Sentinel) to attack a nuclear power plant.

One of the best parts of the story arc happens when the uber powerful Graviton ambushes Spider-Man as he's heading to intercept the Tri-Sentinel. Graviton, a being of immense power had tangled with Spidey weeks earlier, ripping the entire Daily Bugle building up from its Manhattan foundation and sending it into the sky. Parker overcame the foe, and returned everything to status quo, except of course Graviton now held a grudge.

So, it's with some satisfaction when without breaking a sweat Peter one-shot KO's Graviton (who's faced the combined might of the Avengers in the past) and continues on his way, leaving the powerful master of gravity reeling.

Is the HeroClix Cosmic Spider-Man too powerful?

Maybe. I can't really judge it on those merits. I could easily argue it's not powerful enough. No, my rejection of the figure is it's overall lack of comic accuracy.

See, when Spider-Man gained his powers it wasn't just extra strength, durability and heightened senses. Suddenly he could transmute matter at will (a'la Firestorm), and his webs took on the shapes of constructs. Like a Green Lantern with light, Spidey could make fists, pillows, and other objects out of webs.

No where on the current HeroClix dial is this facet of his power even remotely explored. Rather, the game designer opted to stick the figure with an ability to see and shoot through walls. While it's true Spider-Man could tune his senses to an extreme degree at the height of his cosmic-ness, he never really made a point of shooting through walls and around corners to get the bad guys.

I like the figure, I want to play the character, but feel dirty given the power set. I was hoping for something along the lines of free Barrier, Probability Control, and Super Strength... something like this:

Because while Spider-Man had cosmic power, he still fought most of his battles like Spider-Man would. He was uncomfortable with flight, and had some very big fears about hitting people too hard and applying too much force. He never would have blown a hole in the middle of a tank and then hid inside sniping at enemies while they tried to figure out ways to get at him. It's just not the Parker way.

I'm saddened that game design couldn't see the abuse built into this character. As far as HeroClix are concerned game design is kingmaker - the creator. The ability to build dials from the bottom up is the closest thing to having Cosmic Power in real life. And, as any Spider-fan knows

with Cosmic Power comes Cosmic Responsibility,

Unfortunately game design failed to see that many players who use Cosmic Spider-Man don't even have the "great responsibility" tenet covered, making this figure a Spider-Fail.

Newsflash: Cosmic Spider-Man is Overrated

Playing Cosmic Spider-Man is like playing any video game in god-mode. It's fun to beat down the opposition for a little bit, but it really doesn't take much skill.

Power players are obsessed because he's the most expensive single figure, and with the Power Cosmic TA is all but unstoppable. Add to it that he can Wild Card (Mystics, Bat-Ally), and SHOOT THROUGH WALLS and it's a no-brainer why the Min-Max, "gotta win" set is all over this figure like fat kid on bacon.

Speaking of deep fried fatty foods, Spidey's a cheese curd festival waiting to happen, the deep fried Twinkie at the State Fair that you know isn't good for you but can't resist the temptation to try. Just once. Or twice. "For fun."

The 319 point Goliath appeals to the type of people that liked kicking over sandcastles when they were young, and playing mailbox baseball when they were teens just for the destructive aspect.

To coin a new phrase, Cosmic Spider-Man is a bully's piece - you don't play him when you want a real challenge.

You play him when you want to grind an opponent's figures to dust.

You play him backed up with TAs to copy (Stealth! Mystics!) and a solid strategy to exploit (Shoot through the walls of the Sinister Prison! Hide in the Avengers Airbase tank!) that opponents all but give up out of the sheer frustration of fighting the figure. You play him for one reason - TO WIN. And Cosmic Spider-Man is pure win.

But is he fun?

Is cosmic Spider-Man fun to play against? For that's the true measure of a good figure and a great team. Sadly, Cosmic Spidey falls into the "no fun to play against" category more often than not. Likewise, more often than not the mere threat of his presence is enough to invite hardcore escalation to the battlefield as people:
  • a.) start changing their teams in order to beat him,
  • b.) build the same teams they always did and lose gracefully or
  • c.) stop showing up to play.
Often, the influx of a's eventually turn the b's into c's.

Can you win with Cosmic Spidey? Sure. No problem. That's why he's overrated.Can you win with X-Force? How about the U-Foes? Now that is a challenge.

Winning with Uber-Pete tells me nothing about your level of skill as a player. It tells me a LOT about your character. Especially the third week in a row that you field him.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Team building with a twist - Paging Dr. Jackal!

One of the best things about a new set is the life it breathes into older figures. With each expansion the sheer number of exciting and different force builds increases, and Web of Spider-Man is no exception.

In addition to the prepackaged modular keyword teams like U-Foes, X-Force, HAMMER, and the Dark Avengers there's the other type of team building - the ones that eschew the Keyword bonus to exploit a power combination for the Min-Max players.

Finally, there's teams that are just plain silly and fun. Take the Jackal for instance. The villain responsible for creating the Spider-Clones makes his debut in Web of Spider-Man with an interesting set of powers that benefit duplicates.

What's interesting to note is his power taps into names, not figures, which allows for some loose interpretations on the battle map, and clever exploitation as we'll see below.

One of the things that always intrigued me as a comic reader is the way character names were compartmentalized into separate universes. DC had Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and the Boy Wonder, but not Wonder Man - that character belonged to Marvel. Obviously trademark issues were at stake preventing the big two from overlapping... except for where they DID overlap.

For instance, I find it hilarious that DC owns a character named Captain Marvel (which must be a sticking point to this day between the big two) and it's no surprise that Marvel in turn created their Captain Mar-vel in a thinly veiled retaliation, and eventually won the rights to the name in court.

Aside from the flagship characters, the big two blend together on a few other names as well. In some cases it's a simple "same name spelled different" as is the case with Sersi and Circe. Much of the double dipping comes from mythology as well - it's hard to justify a trademark on Norse mythology if you didn't invent it, which is why DC has a Thor and Loki, in addition to Hercules.

Finally each company has rights to a Chameleon, Sandman, and Enchantress. In HeroClix, there's a few places where these names overlap which lead me to create a Same Name Different Universe team, featuring Jackal as a linchpin.

72 WS046 Jackal
101 WS055 Sandman
59 OR086 Sandman
40 AA103 Henchman
13 IC018 Henchman
66 WS019 Chameleon
30 UN037 Chameleon
141 HA011 Enchantress
75 LG009 Enchantress

The not-a-clone team throws the Keyword bonus out the window, but picks up some surprising synergy. Three Wild Card TAs share Sinister Syndicate attack values and JSA defense values. The Mystics TA hands out some feedback damage, while the Suicide Squad TA extends the life of a few.

Aside from TAs, there's a good variety of support powers - TK, Perplex, PC, and Outwit are all present. Chameleon (DC) & Enchantress (DC) make for fine taxis, while both Henchman serve Jackal as Mastermind fodder. Positioned well everyone that needs to can use the Jackal's special power granting even a lowly Henchman some Shape Change.

I'll admit it's not the most competitive team, but played well it could win a few fights, should turn a few heads and may just earn fellowship.