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.