Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Marvel: What If? - part 2, of what might have been

Continuing from my post on what could have been with DC HeroClix, today I'm looking into the Marvel sandbox to scrounge for burried toys.

First up we have a story of a figure that almost wasn't. This photo of Captain America which has floated around since around the time Supernova was released.

The notorious "Smokey Foot" Cap was pictured on a promotional poster for the Avengers set, and never seen again until Hammer of Thor. In the mean time fans were treated to this monstrosity:

Better known as "Potato Head Cap" this figure was sculpted by the controversial Lukas Little who was often slammed on forums for his bulky looking figures with oversized heads and hands (see also Alan Scott and Martian Manhunter from Origins, Grodd and Johnny Sorrow from Arkham).

"Smokey" was a controversial figure, rumored to be sitting on Brand Manager Mark Tuttle's desk but never released, speculation abounded as to why the figure never saw the light of day. Some sources suggest occasionally a figure was made at the behest of a WK employee with no intention of producing it in the mass market. I guess when you have the keys to the kingdom you can do that sort of thing.

As far as other sculpts commissioned but never released go: Mutations and Monsters was released in the fall of 2007, but the spoilers leading up to the set had it initially named "Gods and Monsters." The "Gods" portion was dropped in favor of more merry mutants (and likely most of the grist of 'gods was saved for Hammer of Thor).

Here's a few that we might have seen under Topps run WizKids as pulled from sculptor's websites.

Exhibit A.) Eternals

Ikaris Done for Wizkids during the Topps ownership. 2007. This was another one where the head and hands had to be oversized. - James Van Shaik, sculptor

An Eternals subset would have made a lot of sense given the Neil Gaimen miniseries which ran from June 2006 to February 2007. Interesting side comment about the head and hands, which sheds some light on Lukas Little's sculpts. Also, in the Kirby vein...

Exhibit B: Medusa

If the Inhumans weren't slated for Mutations and Monsters they fight have followed in Secret Invasion. With its Fantastic Four subset, this would have been a perfect time to include the Inhuman Queen.

Exhibit C: Phoenix

Phoenix 34mm Done for Wizkids during the Topps ownership 2007/2008. - JVS

Another red-head that's both monstrous and god-like, it looks like Jean Grey could have gotten an update back in 'Mutations, but was passed over for the tiny Age of Apocalypse subset.

Exhibit D: Thor

Thor-40mm - My version of Thor. This is NOT a part of any commercial product line or sold. - JVS

The comments with this piece are very interesting. Reading between the lines it seems like James wanted a "classic" Thor, especially given that the common Thor from 'Hammer was the Straczynski update. I know I'd have preferred a Simonson era classic that wasn't part of some ill conceived duo.

Exhibit E: Power Man and Iron Fist

Iron Fist done for Wizkids Secret Invasion expansion. In the final piece the wall was removed for production reasons. The final production peice was also put together differently so that Iron Fist is pointing directly at the ground. - JVS

Not a huge difference, but like Catwoman a minor change. Luke lost the literal "Wallbuster" vision some time between design and production.

Exhibit F: Machine Man

This amazing sculpt of Aaron Stack comes strait from the pages of Nextwave via the mind of WizKids sculptor Ben Misenar. It's a no-brainer why it wasn't included in an official HeroClix expansion. All the bits sticking out of the robot's chest would have made for a difficult mold and a lot of broken, or possibly deformed parts.

Instead WizKids went with a simpler design that unfortunately isn't as cool.

He looks less likely to cut up some fleshbags, and more likely to cut up a large pepperoni pie. He slices! He dices! But wait there's more!

And we'll explore more, later, of what could have been in the Indy universe.

DC Elseworlds - part 1, of what might have been.

Ever since the Star Trek episode Mirror Mirror pop culture fans obsess over "What If" tales of parallel universes full of goateed evil version and alternate time streams that would take Doc Brown and Marty McFly years to unwind.

Heck even Marty has an alternate universe doppelganger in Eric Stolz, who was replaced by Michael J. Fox after a lot of shooting was completed. In some fringe, alternate universe maybe a goateed Eric stayed with the film.

DC has already put out one Elseworlds theme set, but there's always room for more. Taking a page from the "what could have been" playbook, HeroClix has its own close encounters with alternate reality. For instance, every set goes through a complex pot boiling process that narrows down the list of figures to make it in. When Topps sold WizKids back in November of 2008 fans knew there were still a lot of unmade sculpts, and figures "in the pipe" including the entire Hammer of Thor set.

According to interviews with WizKids staff it's a six to 9 month turnaround from the time a set list was finalized to the time a set is released. With that in mind, the creative team was always working far enough ahead to have a few sculpts that don't make it into a set. Some get held over to the next set.

The Avengers expansion, for instance featured Stingray, Living Laser, the Mandarin, and Guardsman all of whom seem better suited to the Armor Wars theme. Swamp Thing and Human Target were probably edged out of DC75 in favor of more of the Rainbow Lanterns. Morbius, the living vampire was easily a shoe in for Mutations and MONSTERS but didn't find his way into the game until Secret Invasion. Keep looking and you'll find more (Victor Mancha anyone?).

More proof of this theory lies in prototypes and master sculpts of the artists WizKid retained to bring HeroClix to the battle mats. For instance, the incredibly talented James Van Shaik has a few photos of figures that could have made it into a set, but didn't for some reason or another.

Exhibit A: Black Canary

James Van Shaik has this picture of Black Canary with the following caption:

Done for Wizkids during the Topps ownership 2008/2009

I assume James means 2008, because by 2009 Topps really hadn't done anything with the HeroClix property besides sell it. Still, a 2008 sculpt could have put this figure in line for an Arkham Asylum release, which makes since given Dinah's Gotham roots.

Exhibit B: Huntress

Done for Wizkids during the Topps ownership 2008/2009.

It appears 'Canary wasn't the only vigilante slated for a remake in Topps owned WizKids. Fellow Birds of Prey teammate Huntress was on the books as well for a much needed update. Aside from Arkham, another possibility was that these two birds were slated for the Brave and the Bold set, which was the DC theme set rumored (and proven) to follow Marvel's Hammer of Thor release. That might have made this pair a duo, so perhaps it's a good thing these two never saw the light of day.

Exhibit C: Catwoman

Another alternate reality probably saw this original Catwoman costumed Selina Kyle on top of the Bat Signal, instead of this updated version that fans got as a brick figure.

James gives us more insight on his image tag saying:

"The buy-it-by-the-brick figure done for Wizkids Brave and the Bold Expansion. Not my choice on the pose/design of this one. They wanted Catwoman laying on a wall originally, I wanted her crouched at his feet but I suggested the Batsignal to try something different."

It's telling that direction from on top also wanted the costume updated with the goggle look, and not the classic duds of the original gray suited cat burglar.

Exhibit 4: Superman

Not much evidence of anything per se, but noteworthy nonetheless. WizKids sculptor Ben Misenar went through the trouble of creating this Red Son Superman for a 'Clix for the Cure event. Given the recent Superman release it's odd that we never got a Red Son Superman in that set, but rather a second Elseworld's version of Son of Darkseid Superman.

Exhibit 5: Blackest Night part 2?

Call me crazy, but I suspect that the big portion of the "Rainbow Corps" from DC75 were jammed into the set, but originally intended for another Fast Forces styled release.

Examine the sculpts of Sinestro, Larfleeze, and Atrocitus and compare them to the Blackest Night starter figures.

The level of detail for some of these figures is off the charts compared to the rest of DC75. Most, if not all of them have that translucent plastic that summons up images of power ring constructs. Kyle is halfway there with the GLC tombstone/marker evoking Larfleeze's base.

I can imagine WizKids kicking around the idea of a second set based on initial sale numbers but balking due to some obscurity issues the set would have. Wonder Woman is a household name. Flash is a good sale point, but Larfleeze? Atrocitus? I doubt they could help carry a set.

With all these unmade sculpts and signs pointing to other planned releases it makes one wonder what else might have been. Stay tuned as next time we look over the fence at what might have been in the Marvel U.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mod-fodder: The Famle Furies

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bummed that we didn't get the Furies in Superman. Then I got to thinking about who I could mod into the Furies and it struck me:

The Locust Horde TA seems a *lot* like a Boom Tube.

Locust Horde TA - This character can use Phasing/Teleport. When it does, after actions resolve you may knock back one adjacent opposing character 1 square. Uncopyable.

So then, I started digging further into who would make great mod-fodder for the Furies.

For starters, you can't have the Furies without a respectable Granny Goodness on the team.

Sadly, Clix hasn't given us many versions of this bad Nana. Justice League was saddled with a so-so iteration that stumbled in the SP department, and the Brave and the Bold representation is a duo, from a very specific time in Granny's life.

Here's what I came up with:

As the Leader of the Furies, Granny leads the attack, boom-tubing up with a grenade scatter. I don't have a great explanation for grenades, Troika Blasts, or the Clouds sp, aside from a Mega-Rod.

Next up, Mad Harriet...

She's the most insane and psychotic of the Furies, more wild animal than woman. Kind of like a female Creeper.

Charge, Flurry, and BCF sounds a lot like Harriet, who has a wicked set of energy claws. Range and grenades don't quite fit her though.

Then there's the problem of finding a dial for Stompa. None of the Locust Horde fits her to my liking. Mauler comes the closest, but I feel is too much of a pushover, and not enough of a threat. So I have to dip into another batch of "arcade" clix, HALO.

Stompa's a big brute with a Quake gimmick, and so I'm sold on this SR Master Chief dial for the second click alone - ignoring characters to Charge and Quake.

Everything but the SR price tag sounds good to me, so this more common version of Ken from Street Fighter is a good, cheaper substitute. With Force Blast, Quake, and lots of damage reduction/evasion, I think it works.

So far, all my picks have had one thing in common - the Warrior keyword, which means I can include Lashina - the easiest mod ever!

Leader of the Furies, Lashina already has a good dial from her Arkham Asylum release.

Together, the above dials come in at 391 points with some wiggle room for feats. I don't have Bernadeth yet, or some of the "newer" Furies. Looking over the Keyword Warriors, one figure stands out as a good Malice Vundabar.

Malice hangs out with a shadow creature/cat she calls Chessure which works for her B/C/F, and God of Fear seems to fit what little I know of the character. It might be appropriate for Bloody Mary too.

In any event, I couldn't pass over that Phobos/Malice dial, it's just too good. And by good, I mean EVIL.

I still need Bernadeth though, and unfortunately I don't feel like there's a lot of real good choices in the Warrior keyword. Bernadeth is known for having a hot knife - so one figure comes to mind in the point range that I'm interested.

Backstab just seems like such an Apokalips power that I have a hard time passing it over.

Kind of an expensive mod with the dial belonging to a sought after LE, the dial fits my idea of a figure with a knife that can cut through anything (EW+BCF). At 525-ish points I need one more girl to fill out my roller derby team...

Elsa Bloodstone makes for a good Gilotina, a character known for sharp blades.

Combined this is a 595 point force, that is somewhat modular for fun, theme builds. You can add in special objects, perhaps a Yellow Lantern (+1 av for Psychic Blast and EW) and a Black Lantern (Heal 1 click when an opponent is KO'd), or maybe some Kryptonite.

Another thing to keep in mind is that with the Warrior Keyword in play, several other Apokalips themed figures are available for the force. Veteran Big Barda from Unleashed may be a dud of a dial, but fits the Furies theme as their former leader. There's also room for expansion/filler with the CJ Parademons!

Now only if I had mod skills worth a darn.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Superman: What did you pull, what did you play?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both - Robert Frost

The Road Less Traveled is one of my favorite poems, and a great metaphor for HeroClix sealed events, where one must calculate the odds and opportunity costs of running with one particular team formation.

Because players never get to field everything they get from a booster there's a question that follows them after an event - What If I had used something else? I'm not the only one to think this as Northblade writes in response to my last post about the Superman Sealed events:

Forget Darkseid in your pulls, what would you have played if he wasn't there? What else did you get and what would you have built?
It's a tough question, especially because I have a hard time remembering what my force choices were. I'll break it down figure by figure, for both 300 and 400 point builds.

Setting Darkseid aside, I think these were my choices. I confess that I may be remembering wrong on Bizarro, but for the purposes of this exercise they work.

Here's my pulls:

  • 78 Kryptonian Infiltrator
  • 153 All-Star Bizarro
  • 99 Maxwell Lord
  • 67 Element Woman
  • 90 Bruno Mannheim
  • 125 Superboy
  • 40 Hope Taya
  • 92 Libra
  • 70 Princess Projectra

Maxwell Lord was immediately dismissed as a choice thanks to his low damage values. He was a possible ally of Darkseid (they share a ruler keyword) but in my opinion can't really compete in this format without some kind of beatstick backing him up. Black Adam for instance would double the Outwit, and help shut down a 300 point Superman.

Also dismissed? Princess Projectra. I confess that I've used her in constructed to great affect where her "loaner" Super Senses helped Wildfire out of a jamb. Like Max, I didn't see her Mind Control being of much use.

Libra was kind of a dud pull for me too. He's not bad, per se - he just can't do much that I would considering using Mastermind for. I want to get to that PC, and by that time he's lost his best combat values. I think it's telling that he was the only figure on my force to be KO'd in every game.

Bruno Mannheim, like the 3 above - just didn't seem like a viable choice for the first half of his dial. Sure, I could have some LoSH team synergy with the SE TA, but then I'm forced to use another figure that I didn't want, just to get some Outwit.

So I kind of immediately set those four figures to the side of my figure pool and took a look at the remainder. I can always go back to them if I need to.

Of all the figures I have here, Superboy stands out as the MUST play. Opening TK and Perplex seal the deal, but the Superman TA and strong damage output don't hurt either.

In a 400 point battle, I'd back him with:

Bizarro - Superboy's TK and Perplex would help me get an opening strike with the big brute.
Hope - again, TK and Perplex lends itself to a nice alpha atrike with a disposable piece
Kryptonian Infiltrator - a great dial for some sets this figure is just outclased here. Still, not a bad attack piece. I didn't read the fine print on the SP and thought it only worked with Kryptonian Keyword figures, but it also works with Superman Allies.

I'd play that 400 point team with Superboy starting as a TK cannon, coming into the fight fresh, later in the game after his teammates had softened up the opponent. I think it would do fairly well given average dice rolls (7's) and sheer damage output. My hope would be that opponents would have such a hard time pegging down Bizarro that Hope and Infiltrator would get less attention on the map.

In 300 points, the decision of what to play is a lot less clear. I WANT to use both Bizarro and Superboy but have no filler. In 300 I can't even guarantee that Superboy will survive an alpha strike, so I'd steer towards Bizarro. At that point it boils down to who else I can fit on a team with him.

Element Woman and the Kryptonian are possibilities, but I don't like how they play (no move and attack!). I'd probably go back to my "cast offs" and sort through, picking up Maxwell Lord to play with Hope Taya and Bizarro.

Maxwell Lord might have a decent shot at surviving because of Super Senses and the inability to be targeted. Most importantly, he brings Outwit to the board, something Bizarro might need to stick damage to opponents.

In 300 points, I can see where my team would have fared poorly against Imperirex, but may have been average (or a little below average) otherwise. I think the key to winning with my 300 point team would be Mind Control/Incapacitate from Maxwell Lord as often as possible. I expect Max would get some serious nosebleeds from feedback damage and pushing, but to win he MUST use the opponents figures to deal damage.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Superman Sealed Review

Those of you who read the Superman Marquee Primer on HCRealms.com may be interested to read this follow up report, featuring the figures I rated after seeing them in play.

I played in a 400 point, two booster sealed event and pulled Darkseid, Libra, and Hope Taya as my force. Darkseid was a must play, and it came down to who else would fit. Hope was a shoe in for my team, and if I had anyone cheaper I would have tried to shoehorn Element Woman in as well. As it was I went with the not so obvious choice of Libra because he can attack immediately following Darkseid's Boom Tube.

The following are the teams I played against, and how I think they performed.

First Round:
Sun Boy - Performed exactly how I expected him to. He hit once and then crumpled like tissue paper. Opening Pulse Wave caught me by surprise (I had chosen to Outwit Manchester Black's TK instead), but fortunately he only rolled a 7 on his attack, hitting my Mastermind fodder.

Manchester Black - got his TK/PB Outwit often. Didn't get to do much, but put the hurt on Hope. I can see where he'd be a good figure to field, just not against the team I was playing. I think I rated him right, though maybe he's closer to 3.5 stars. When he gets based he's absolutely shut down.

Lois Lane, Superwoman got chased around the board by Hope. I was trying to get an Alpha Strike on her, but my opponent was far too clever to let me. Lois probably transformed a little too late in the game - by the time she had changed she was stuck with two tokens on her and had to clear while Darkseid set up and followed through with Omega Beams to vaporize her. She's sub par for this set unless you can push her and get her into battle right away.

Parasite couldn't counter any of Darkseid's powers. He got Mind Controlled by Libra to attack Manchester, and then was vaporized in short order by the Omega Effect. Parasite could have been more formidable against another team where he could have Outwit... something.

I think only Libra was KO'd this round. My opponent hadn't played much and was a little rusty. His combination of figures wasn't horrible, and with some strategy he could have really made a dent in my force (Parasite, for instance could have used Super Strength stolen from Hope).

Second Round:

All-Star Bizarro Moved a little too close on his first turn. Darkseid's Boom Tube, and Outwit, and an a followup attack from Libra for 3 damage softened him up. Bizarro pushed onto his 16D Impervious, and Darkseid finished him the following round with Omega Beams. Bizarro was more of a threat to me than Supergirl and had I not memorized his dial he could easily have torn me apart.

200 point Supergirl lasted the longest, but had to push to keep up (and away) from Darkseid. She also did enough damage to KO all my Mastermind fodder, and at one point if she landed one attack roll could have won the game by dealing 6 clicks to a bare defensed Darkseid. Overall a solid performer on her front dial, but one that fades fast.

Hope Taya Performed as expected - a minor annoyance who dealt a little damage and was quickly seared out of existence by Omega Beams. For the cost, and outstanding figure.

Third Round:

Seven Deadly Brothers - proved annoying. "Deal with me" he said, leaping next to Darkseid and shutting down the Omega Beams. Hope Taya softened him up before Darkseid opened a Boom Tube to reposition the team away from Imperirex's oncoming drills.

Brainiac 5 - put himself in the line of fire and suffered a round 2 Omega Beam. After Boom Tubing away from the drills Libra finished off the Colluan. B5 Proved to be a minor annoyance with Outwit/PC/Perplex and i could see where the Double Outwit (from Imperirex) wrecked may teams before me.

Imperiex was feared. Drills, high defense, and massive damage made Darkseid cautious on approach. Imperirex's downfall was positioning - Hope Taya destroyed blocking terrain that opened a line of fire for Omega Beams. Rather than retaliate, 'Rex repositioned the drills and the stony lord of Apokalips finished him with more Omega Beams.

Again, only Libra was KOd (notice a theme?).

Final Round:

Seven Deadly Brothers (x2) - fell fast to Omega Beams, but served their purpose - blocking Line of Fire to Zod and Non. In that sense they were better than I expected (but not great!).

Non - Left himself open to Omega Beams and didn't move close enough to charge on his second turn (he's a little slow). He fell, but not before dealing enough damage to KO Hope and injure Libra. Indomitable made both Zod and Non capable of pumping out a lot of damage very fast. Darkseid was angry that he could not counter Non's Super Strength.

Zod - suffered a dose of Omega effects, but then came back strong, critically hitting Darkseid. Darkseid never made the attack rolls necessary to recover and so Zod made Darkseid kneel before him. Had I been thiking strait, I would have based Zod and shut down his Psychic Blast. As it was, I didn't want to waste an action when I could have fried Zod at range. Whoops.

As far as impressions of my team go:

Libra was chosen over rulers Maxwell Lord and Princess Projectra ONLY for sharing another keyword with Darkseid to use with Boom Tube. Libra never used Mastermind so he could get to Probability Control faster. Libra never stole energy but did Mind Control once. Despite being on a winning team Libra did not do much to help win, except act as a meat shield. Libra did throw up all over himself (rolling a crit miss) on the first attack of my first round. I attribute it to motion sickness after being Boom Tubed, though it was, in effect, an accurate showing for his dial. I am unconvinced this figure will do well in constructed, as his performence in sealed was marginal at best.

Hope Taya earned her 40 points in every game, either hitting once for 4, or by tying up opponents and forcing them to move away from her. Hope was a solid investment, and only ended up as a bullet shield once.

Darkseid proved to be a stony lord of Apokalips, decimating everything in his path. I got lucky in the fight with Supergirl and rolled a Critical Miss with him, bumping him to better defenses after he had lost his minions. He's surprisingly fragile, though annoyingly mobile. The combination of Phasing/Teleport followed by a free "minion" attack really proved annoying to my opponents and let me get a first strike in when needed. It also felt dirty, like cheating the NAAT rules. Off his top dial, his attack values drop to average and he becomes less of a threat.

In every game my opponents let me get away with Psychic Blasting through damage reducers only to Outwit something more important. Had they based Darkseid, his PB would have been shut down forcing him to choose to use Outwit on damage reducers or move away. You don't win a lot of games by running, and so I wasted a lot of time frying the small guys - Hope, 7DB, etc. While the remainder of my team tied up the opposition.

In all, I feel like everyone at the venue had solid pulls and the set played well, if only lending itself to some very fast games. Oddly no one pulled a Common Superman.