Object lesson

So, I mention in a previous entry that I'm considering throwing the blog open in April to entries from any or all of its members, and what do I get for this incredible gesture of generosity? Vague, mumbled implications of unsavory group sex, and dubious threats from several quarters to post on subjects like baseball, gardening, and recipes.

Now it's not that I have anything specifically against such topics. I mean, sure, I'd only watch a baseball game if there were hostages involved, and I regard gardening as a somewhat interesting sociological remnant left over from mankind's hunter-gatherer stage -- no, wait, that's camping, okay, I don't know what the fuck is up with gardening, all I know is, I spent enough time helping my mom with hers when I was a teenager to understand that green growing things and I both flourish best when I'm not involved in their cultivation, and as for recipes, well, if I were Robert B. Parker's genre-revolutionizing shamus Spenser, I'd probably think the idea of people posting recipes to my personal weblog was a fabulous one, but, on the other hand, I'd also be living in Boston and spending all my time pistol whipping unpleasant people with my extremely large automatic pistol, so I probably wouldn't have a personal weblog, so never mind that.

Yet, notwithstanding all these sane, cogent, insightful and inarguable points, I'm a wise, rational, adult, and tolerant individual, and if folks want to post about appallingly boring nonsense like this on my blog, well, I suppose I should just affix to my facial features a glassy eyed grin and stand silent.

But I never do that.

See, the thing of it is, is, here at the Miserable Annals of the Earth, we are nothing if not cosmopolitan. Inclusiveness is our watchword, and while I'm not entirely sure what a watchword is, still, the fact remains and it is irrefutable, we strive for mass appeal on this blog. And I feel it would be antithetical to that spirit of populism and universal openness to post entries on such narrowly focused topics as America's past time, gardening, and recipes. After all, how many among us care about the sport of Babe Ruth, Ty Young, and Barry Bonds? What proportion of the population sticks seeds willy-nilly into the fecund earth and then lolls about indolently waiting for them to sprout? And as to recipes, for the love of God, Montresor, nobody cooks these days, we all eat out, order in, or microwave. Surely, surely, only a narrow, tiny, obsessed group of fringe hobbyists would have any interest in such postings, and I say, it's time to stop sucking up to the special interests out there and get back to cultivating the masses.

I know. I know. I mustn't call you Shirley.

It is, clearly, for me to blaze the trail, to shine the light, to fix the beacon, to strike the pose, to set the example. For populist posting and all-appealing entries, I must lead the way and help us all build a bridge to the 21st Century. And so I shall. I shall indeed. I shall do so with style, with panache, with no little dash, nor derring do. I shall do it all, and do it now -- by writing about HeroClix.

HeroClix! Three sybillant syllables (okay, they're not, but it's alliterative, so back in your hole, you) that speak volumes to any who may be listening. HeroClix! A clarion call to comprehension on the part of every man, woman and child living or dead anywhere in the universe. HeroClix -- a native of Missouri might well declare dem fightin' words, only to slink back into guilty silence once informed that in point of fact, HeroClix is only one word, fightin' or otherwise.

Here are some things I've considered about HeroClix lately --

My House Rules regarding HyperSonic Speed may require further refinement. Or, it's equally possible that Kingdom Come Flash and Kingdom Come Captain Marvel should simply be banned from the game as hideously unbalanced. All I know is, when I went up against Nate during his recent visit, my Kingdom Come team, and specifically the two figs already mentioned, utterly dismantled his fairly powerful Avengers team without ever taking a lick of damage. KC Flash scurried right up next to the Veteran Iron Man, outwitted his Invulnerability, and then proceeded to pummel the Golden Avenger into shiny yellow toothpaste with a barrage of 2 damage, 12 AV HyperSonic Speed attacks. KC Captain Marvel hurtled up next to his otherdimensional namesake, and using Exploit Weakness to bypass the good Kree soldier's own Invulnerability, promptly battered the hapless wretch into cosmically aware goo.

This seems to me to be a trifle unbalanced. Perhaps it calls for further modification of my rules. Perhaps HyperSonic Speed is such an overwhelminingly effective super power that I should rule that it cannot be used in combination with any other super powers at all. Thus, HyperSonic Speedsters could not Outwit, or use Exploit Weakness, or get a damage bonus from Close Combat Expert, or Incapacitate with a blow (oooo... a HyperSonic Speedster with Incapacitate. Now there's some chocolately goodness HeroClix hasn't given us yet... exactly what would happen to a fig that ended up with eight action tokens on it in a round?)

To one extent, it makes sense. No matter how many times Quicksilver drives left hooks into the manly loaflike jaw of Thor, or Superman, or Ares, or Count Nefaria, none of those worthies are going to be much more than annoyed with the meteoric mutant assailing them at high velocity with a barrage of babygirl buffets. And yet, Captain Marvel, with the Wisdom of Solomon, should be able to see the weak spots in an opponent and bypass their defensive powers, while the Flash, as a master of the Speed Force, should be able to vibrate his fists at whatever frequency is necessary to bring even the Man of Tomorrow to his knees.

And it's not like HeroClix doesn't have a cure for such ribaldry anyway, a cure known as Mind Control. Had any of Nate's figures possessed so much as a Whirling Hypno Coin, they could have taken momentary control of the KC Captain Marvel and had him pummel the KC Flash into gumbo in a mere trice, after which, they could have declared that KC Captain Marvel was turning off his Impervious, which would have lasted until the start of his controller's next turn. With his Impervious turned off, Captain Marvel would have been easy meat; Hawkeye, Captain America, and Quicksilver between them could have turned out his magical lights in jig time. (Which is not, you may be surprised to learn, an actual racial slur, but is, in point of fact, merely a reference to the fleet footed Hibernian dance of the same name.)

So, perhaps, it isn't necessary to actually further refine my rules. Perhaps I should, in fact, take this as evidence that my House Rules actually accomplish their stated goal, which is to say, making HeroClix work more consistently with their comic book source material. After all, in the comic books, the Kingdom Come characters are pretty damned formidable. I suppose it only makes sense that Iron Man and Captain Mar Vell couldn't stand up to them for longer than a heartbeat.

In other examples of vindication for my House Rules, we have a recent combat where I used a lot of the Collateral Damage villains on one team. Captain Cold is largely ineffective (or so it seems to me he would be) under normal HeroClix rules, as he's a single target Incapacitate piece with Barrier, a crappy attack, a so so range, and a decent movement, plus a couple of clicks of Running Shot. (In point of fact, he doesn't get his first click of Incapacitate until his second power slot, where he still has Running Shot, but his movement has dropped considerably, from a 10 to an 8).

With a 9 attack, Captain Cold's odds of actually hitting his nemesis the Flash with a blast from his cold gun are pretty much slim and none. The most recent version of the Silver Age/Modern Age Flash, the Icons Unique, has a 19 Defense, meaning Cold needs to roll a 10 on 2 d6 to hit him... not very likely. The original Flash piece, from Hypertime, has only a 17 defense, which means Cold needs only a slightly above average 8 on 2d6 to hit him, but that Flash also has Super Senses, so he can dodge a successful attack on a 5-6 on a d6.

All told, for someone who usually manages to successfully blast the Fastest Man Alive at least once per confrontation, Captain Cold has a woefully inadequate attack. Put him up against any HeroClix version of the Flash, and he's going to get beat to pieces in less than a nanosecond... especially under my House Rules, which allow multiple close combat attacks for full damage.

And yet, under those same House Rules, Captain Cold is a marvelously effective piece. Why? Because I have made a slight tweak to the power Barrier. Under HeroClix rules, you can only set up Barrier markers (defined as Blocking Terrain that fills an entire square) in four consecutive squares of completely open terrain, the first of which, at least, has to be within the attacking fig's range. This makes Barrier useful, sure. However, under my rules, you can set up a Barrier token on any square, even one that contains different terrain types, or, most importantly, an opposing character. This has the effect of suddenly surrounding the target character with a square full of Blocking Terrain (in Captain Cold's case, we can assume he's just used his cold gun to embed an attacker inside a gigantic iceberg, something he often does in the comics he's taken from). The fact that Captain Cold can, on his first click, move up to 10 squares (again, under my House Rules) and then create four continuous squares of Blocking Terrain, starting up to 8 squares away from his position, allows him to potentially imprison up to 4 opponents without having to make an attack roll... said imprisonment which will last until the start of Cold's next turn.

It's a lovely power, one that is fairly common in comic books (where lots of characters have the power to momentarily immobilize their opponents) but that doesn't really have any representation in WK's normal rules. Oh, sure, you can slow someone down with Incapacitation, which gives a successfully hit target an extra action token, but Incapacitation is a chancy thing, and very different in effect from enclosing an opponent inside a Barrier. With Incapacitation, if the target had no action tokens on it, then it can still move next round, it will just take a click of damage doing it (or not, if it has a power called Willpower, in which case, it will just move anyway and ignore the attack effect completely). If the target already had an action token on it, then, yeah, you've effectively paralyzed it next turn, and given it a click of damage, too (unless, again, the target fig has Willpower).

However, when you set up a Barrier on a square where an opponent is, you don't do any damage to them -- you just immobilize them, as they are suddenly stuck fast in the middle of blocking terrain. This is much more consistent with the effect of, say, Spider-Man's webbing, or Captain Cold's ice attacks, than the way Incapacitation functions. And, even more realistically, if your fig has a power that lets it destroy Blocking Terrain (Super Strength) or just ignore it (Phasing/Teleport) then, well, what happens in comic books will happen in the game -- your Super Strong character will flex his or her muscles and shatter the ice walls around it (or tear the webbing like tissue paper, or whatever) and your Phasing/Teleport character will simply bamf to another location, or waft through the binding material like a ghost.

Still, against a group of opponents like Domino (who is always hiding on Hindering Terrain and being really annoying with her Probability Control powers), Professor X (with his highly unpleasant Mind Control abilities, as well as three targets he can use it on), and the Beast and Wolverine, Captain Cold can be a very effective piece. Combine him with Felix Faust, who also has barrier (Felix sets up mystical constructs that encase his opponents, like giant hovering crystals and such like), so they can trade off paralyzing annoying opponents, and you have a very useful combination indeed.

In addition to Barrier, I'm also very pleased with similar modifications I've made to the Smoke Cloud power. This came in very handy late in the game, when my Owlman piece had a somewhat battered Flash on one side of him and a barely bruised Wonder Woman on the other side. Down to nearly his last click of life, Owlman did what he most likely would have done anyway in the comics -- dropped a smoke bomb at his feet and hid within the billowing black vapors.

Under HeroClix rules, of course, you can't set up Smoke Terrain markers on an occupied square. Under my rules, of course, you can, which allows figures like Owlman, who have both Stealth and Smoke Cloud, to obscure themselves, protecting themselves from all attacks, unless the attacker has Super Senses or the ability to destroy Hindering Terrain. It certainly saved Owlman's bacon for another couple of turns, and did it in a very satisfyingly comic book-compatible manner, as a little added bonus.

In other notes, the Veteran Dr. Light knows how to rock, if only on his very first click. 10 Attack Value, Incapacitate, 10 Range, 17 Defense with Energy/Shield Deflection, 3 Damage with Ranged Combat Expert... hang a Stunning Blow on this guy and he's an accurate long range cannon who deals out 5 clicks of damage AND an Incapacitation token with every successful strike. (He's probably not this good under WK rules, which generally tend to contort all logic and sense in order to keep any efficient power combination from actually functioning... I'd imagine there's some rubbish somewhere in a FAQ about how Incapacitation and Ranged Combat Expert are both Power Actions, so they can't be used together. But we don't have any truck with such idiocy in my House Rules; Dr. Light could certainly do an intensely effective energy attack that also momentarily Incapacitated a target by, say, blinding it.) Put an Armor Piercing on him and, well, yeah, he's now a 117 point figure, but he's hard to hit from range, and anything he points at either screams in pain or just plain dies.

And then he gets two clicks of Pulse Wave, which under my House Rules is a truly fabulous power... yeah, there's a lot to like in Dr. Light. And did I even mention the wild card Calculator TA that he and Captain Cold both share? All around, these are sweet, sweet figs... if only under my House Rules.

On the other hand, even my House Rules can't make the Trickster worth using. Well, sure, another Perplexer is always handy, but otherwise there's not much there. Yeah, yeah, his Plasticity/Poison combo could do some damage, especially with an Armor Piercing hung on him, but the problem there is, by the time it comes up he's down to a 14 defense value, which pretty much any piece of plastic or even most pogs can pummel at will. He's got some Energy Shield/Deflection in these slots, but he's really only effective in close combat, so it's not like that's much help. Maybe if they'd given him at least two targets, you could get some use out of his first click of Running Shot/Energy Explosion... but as it is, he's just a big lame loser. If I ever get a Reverse Flash I'll put Trickster out as part of a Rogue's Gallery team, and try to keep him back so I can use his Perplex... but I won't expect him to live long.

And, hey, guys, I'm just kidding about the baseball, gardening, and recipe entries. Post anything you want. Really. Maybe you'll end up getting more comments than I do... at least, on my HeroClix entries.

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