Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Power vs Flavor...

...Or why we'll probably never see a unique never before figure made by a HeroClix World Champion.

Power gamers. Min/Maxers. They go by many names, but the definition is roughly the same: players who capitalize on all the strengths of a particular game and avoid the weaknesses of certain strategies, (character builds, deck builds, team builds etc). Power gamers usually don't give a whit about flavor - by which I mean theme teams, unique character builds, or tactics that are otherwise average but evoke a lot of fun to play, but a player using flavor without Min/Max tactics usually gets steamrolled by a Power Gamer.

Power Gamers like to win. Playing to win is fun for them, and if they don't win - odds are they don't have fun. I've watched in disbelief as grown men throw tantrums over lost games like they were the John McEnroe of plastic toys. Flavor Gamers also play to win, but more importantly they play for fun. It's entirely possible for a Flavor gamer to go 0-3 and unlike a Power Gamer still have a good time at the venue.

HeroClix has an interesting mix of Power Gamers and Flavor Gamers due to the rich history from which the game draws its characters. Unlike Magic the Gathering (a game that tends to skew toward the Min/Max set) which built a universe from the ground up and populated it with characters that first appeared on cards and later appeared in novels. HeroClix has nearly 80 years of comic book, radio, television, and movie stories to fascinate its players, a built in audience to draw from. Thus, HeroClix players break into two main groups, fans of the characters and fans of the game mechanics. This isn't to say everyone who plays the game is one or the other, rather think of it like a Venn Diagram where a large subgroup is composed by the two types.

I've gotten to know many Power Gamers through the years, and they almost always have one thing in common - they don't know a majority of the "second tier" characters in the game. They aren't drawn to the game to see if the Serpent Society can beat the Detroit Justice League, they show up to see if their team can beat everyone.

Certain power combinations thrill Power Gamers the way some character combos can excite Flavor Players. If the figure isn't headlining their own movie or spotlighted in their own comic, and if the figure doesn't break the game or inject a winning strategy element they don't care.

Cypher: from zero to hero with 1 trait.

It doesn't take much to connect the dots then. Power Gamers like to win. They use figures that are easy to win with (Bullseye, Nightcrawler, Batman, Thor). They follow iconic characters that always win in their own medium. Wolverine. Punisher. Green Lantern. Superman.

At a championship level, the entrants are people who are playing for a prize, whether it be an actual physical prize, or a title to prove their greatness. Any time you have a high stakes competition some people will use whatever they can to get an advantage to win. Following this logic World Championship events will always skew toward Power Gamers, or at least Power Gamers will have the edge in these events over Flavor Gamers who may make a sub optimal game mechanic decision to maximize theme.

Over equipped or prepared for everything?

It's a given then, that with more Power Gamers competing than Flavor Gamers, a Power Gamer will win the World's Championship. And because a Power Gamer's favorite characters are A-listers, it's just as likely that the winner will pick another Wolverine, Ironman, or an already made five times over figure. As proof, I submit Ben Cheung's Nightcrawler, a character who had 5 separate HeroClix figures before Ben chose to update the Blue Elf.

George Massu, last year's winner picked Black Adam, another character that had 6 figures, two versions of which were already World Championship figures.

And that's why Vibe never stands a chance of officially getting made into a HeroClix.

In truth it would be smart of a Championship winner to pick a un-Clixed figure, one that was obscure and unlikely to get remade in the future due to the unique nature of that character. After all, if the game continues for a few years more, these A & B list choices like Nightcrawler and Black Adam will get remade in regular expansions. A Champion who picks the Rainbow Raider can rest assured that his is the one and only Rainbow Raider anyone will ever use.

Wolverines, Supermen, and Hulks will come and go, but a Rainbow Raider is forever. The one and only definitive version. EVER.

I'd love for someone to prove me wrong and that a character like Angle Man would be the next winner's chosen piece,

but somehow I get the feeling we'll be stuck with another version of Hal Jordan or Tony Stark.


Tyler said...

Mr. Mouse, if I win GenCon, I will prove you wrong by getting either Dracula or the Enforcers made.--Vlad


Since Heroclix is like chess...
why not give everyone the same team at Worlds?

There are no Power Gamers in the world of Chess.

Right Boris!