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Monday, May 22, 2006

There ain't no rules in a knife fight

This one is about HeroClix. Mike Norton, welcome. The rest of you... move along. Nothing to see here.

Last week I set up a battle between an odd line up of JLAers and an odder line up of Crime Syndicate members augmented by the two Fatal Five members we had in clix form at the time. The battle's main point was to feature some newer figs I wanted to try out and some older figs I hadn't used in a long time. So, I had Martian Manhunter, the Vet Elongated Man, the Vet Icons Wonder Woman, the Experienced Legacy Batman, the Vet Red Tornado, and the Experienced Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, going up against Ultraman, Owlman, the Vet Superwoman, the Vet Emerald Empress, and the Vet Persuader. (I didn't have my GIANTS set yet, or I'd probably have thrown in Validus, and pumped up the JLA team with at least one more heavyweight or a couple more minor figures -- maybe the Vet Fire and Ice, a vet Booster Gold, and my Ted Kord LE, I don't know.)

Anyway, at first the JLA seemed to be holding their own and doing pretty well. But as the game wore on, I began to realize that essentially, most of the bad guys were only there to wear down the JLA as much as possible, prior to Ultraman ripping all their arms and legs off and flailing their torsos into gruel against the nearest building.

For his points, and given the kind of character he is (an evil Superman, essentially) one is tempted to piss and moan that Ultraman gets no HyperSonic Speed. At least, that used to be my action. No more of that nonsense from me, nosirree. Who needs HyperSonic Speed when you have a 12 Movement with Running Shot, an 11 Attack, an 8 range, 5 damage, and RCE on your first click? And a 12 Movement, Charge, a 10 Attack, Super Strength, and 5 Damage with CCE on your second click? Add that to Impervious and you've got one helluva demolition man. Stack Fortitude and Repulsor Shield on top of all that and, well... you've got Evil Superman, pure and simple. Run away! Run away!

I grant you, I completely forgot to try out my brand new House Rules JLA Team Ability during the battle, which might have made a difference... I missed several crucial Outwit and Incapacitate rolls that I might well have made, if I'd remembered the new Attack Value modifier the TA can give once per round. Still, once Ultraman started mixing it up, there was nobody on the board who could hurt him.

The first JLAer he took out was Batman, as Batman's Outwit was about the only thing in the game he needed to be wary of... by my House Rules, Fortitude protects completely from Ranged Outwit, but only requires adjacent Outwitters to make an attack roll... which Batman probably could have succeeded in doing, since Ultraman's defense isn't all that high. It didn't matter, though. With Charge adding one to his damage for a successful Close Combat attack, Ultraman was doing 8 clicks of damage on a punch, when he had room to fly up to an opponent. That not only hammered poor Bruce Wayne to oblivion and beyond, it also pretty much smashed Red Tornado into flinders, turned the Elongated Man into goo, reduced Aquaman to fish sticks, and crushed Kyle Rayner into minty green toothpaste.

In fact, with my House Rules increasing the amount of damage that Invulnerability and Impervious reduce to 3 and 4, respectively, there wasn't anyone on the board who could even get a click of damage through to Ultraman once Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter were knocked down a few slots -- while, on the other hand, he himself was perfectly capable of getting 3 clicks of damage past even the toughest possible opponent's resistant defenses. I had a brief flash of hope when Elongated Man pushed himself onto an Outwit click, but, well, he was pushed, and as it turned out, by bad timing, so was Kyle Rayner -- and Kyle using his Barrier ability to put a click of Blocking Terrain right on top of Ultraman was the only thing keeping the remnants of the JLA conscious right then. (Under my House Rules, you can put a Barrier or a Smoke Cloud marker on an occupied square, which I think is much more consistent with superhero combat than restricting them to unoccupied squares. This way, someone like Green Lantern, or Iceman, or Captain Cold, can use their powers to momentarily paralyze up to four opponents with Barrier, which is exactly what they do in the comics. As to Smoke Cloud, well, someone with Stealth and Smoke Cloud can, under my House Rules, drop a smoke bomb at their own feet and disappear inside it... exactly the sort of thing Mysterio does. Or you can lob a Smoke Bomb at an enemy and momentarily blind and/or slow them down, which is the sort of thing Batman should be able to do.)

Had I had a few spare points to give Ultraman the Unstoppable feat card as well as Fortitude and Repulsor Shield, even Barrier wouldn't have stopped him. As it was, though, nobody could hurt him; putting him in a big green energy bubble just slowed him down... for a while.

Ultraman not being stupid, he knew immediately that ol' Ralph was going to try to Outwit him, given a chance, so ol' Ralph never got the chance. After that, it was pretty much a done deal.

But that's not the match I want to talk about here. Right now, I'm in the middle of a battle between an Injustice League roster consisting of Prometheus, Giganta, Thomas Oscar Morrow, the Veteran Dr. Light, the General, and the Vet Hypertime Cheetah, going up against a Legion squadron composed of the Vet Wildfire, Colossal Boy, the Vet Shadow Lass, the Vet Saturn Girl, and the Vet Brainiac 5, all teamed up with Oracle... not just In Contact with her, but with her actually sitting off the board on the feat card. (I went back and forth between Brainy and the Vet Kid Quantum. Brainy isn't particularly useful under my House Rules, where Outwit at range is treated as a range attack for 0 damage. It severely limits his ability to use it. But I figured he'd be more useful as a Brilliant Tactician, than even a Triple Incapacitator... and anyway, I have no use for Kid Quantum, who is a rotten Modern Age addition to the team.)

The reason I put the Legion team together the way I did was that I wanted to try out the combination of Shadow Lass' Smoke Cloud, the Flashbang Feat Card (which under my House Rules allows Smoke Bomb to be used as a free action, if the user doesn't move), and the Legion's ability to wild card the Batman TA from Oracle.

See, under my House Rules, line of sight is required for any kind of attack -- close combat or ranged. This is a significant departure from WizKids rules, where line of sight is only important to a ranged attack. All this is significant, because what the Stealth power (or the Batman Team Ability) does is, if a person using it is on Hindering Terrain (which includes Smoke Cloud squares), there is no line of sight to them... they are, effectively, invisible. They can't be attacked.

I made this change because under WizKids rules, where you can't attack a Stealthed figure with Range powers, but you can launch close combat attacks at them, the first thing that everyone does when confronted with a sneaky figure, or an invisible one, is run right up to it and punch it in the mouth. This always bothered me... I mean, if a character is hiding behind a dumpster, or a bush, or just flat out invisible (as many characters with Stealth actually are), how can you just run up and peg it one in the teeth? If you can't see it, then you can't see it.

The most common way, under my House Rules, to deal with a Stealthed character is to blow up whatever piece of Hindering Terrain they are hiding on. This exposes them to view and lets you attack them. (How this works with characters who are actually invisible I couldn't tell you... I guess if you blast the shrub Sue Storm is lurking against to pieces, she loses her concentration and becomes visible again. Or something.)

However, you can't blow up Smoke Cloud squares (and certainly, I can't see any easy way one could destroy a patch of total darkness, which is effectively what Shadow Lass is generating.)

By sheer random coincidence (I certainly didn't actively plan it) about half that Injustice League team has Super Senses, and with Super Senses, you CAN see Stealthed characters, and attack them. Which is the only reason the IL had any chance at all in this game. But now that Cheetah has been blown off the map and Prometheus has had the Super Senses smacked out of him, only T.O. Morrow has a chance of being able to deal with the entire Legion squad... and as soon as he gets close enough, I suspect the LSH will deal with him handily. It's not like he's a powerhouse, or anything.

Giganta, the General, and Dr. Light are capable of doing a great deal of damage between them... but they can't see their enemies, as long as the LSH wild cards the Batman TA and stays in Shadow Lass' areas of darkness.

All told, I'm wondering if some one of my rules needs some tweaking. The easiest thing to do would be to re-redefine the Flashbang feat, getting rid of the 'free action if you don't move' aspect of it. If Shadow Lass had to take an action token to use her power, it would considerably even things out. The Legion would either be visible every other turn, or she'd quickly push herself into unconsciousness.

I'm also strongly considering a change I've wanted to make since the first clix game I ever played in -- which is, to allow Energy Explosion to target terrain squares or terrain features, as well as opposing figures. I've always thought this made sense -- after all, one of the easiest ways to effect someone who is hiding is to throw a grenade somewhere near him... but I've resisted it because hitting a particular piece of terrain should be fairly easy, and if you let people with the power start doing that, they'll never aim at an actual opponent again, they'll just start blasting the square next to their target, instead. That's realistic... what makes explosives so deadly is that they don't have to be precisely aimed... but it has the potential to be enormously imbalancing. Of course, on the other hand, I already have two powers that essentially hit anything within range unless you roll a 2 on your dice -- Pulse Wave and Quake. Energy Explosion would just be one more -- and it only does 1 point of damage. So I'm thinking about that... because it would be a logical way to respond to enemies who were attacking, and then ducking back into, impenetrable darkness.

I'm still thinking about it. But I suspect my House Rules are going to get updated again, sometime soon.

I'm also wondering if Giganta gets Quake, somewhere on her dial. Because that would fix those rotten kids good, too... but, no... I just checked and she doesn't get it. The General doesn't get anything really cool, either (although I did slap an Automatic Regenerate on him; he gets FIVE SLOTS OF REGENERATION!!!)

Looks like it's all up to T.O. Morrow. If he can get close enough, and lob something explosive at Shadow Lass, it could all turn around...


At 11:34 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

With three cats roaming around the place I haven't set up games like this in a while, though they're appealing enough that maybe it's the incentive I need to do that long overdue clean-up in the comics room downstairs, so I can set up a card table in there, etc.

So, you didn't use the The Society card for the IJ members? Getting a 50% protection from Outwit's a nice benefit, and despite the way the card's worded wildcards can copy it.

It won't matter to you, operating under house rules, but if Oracle's off the map her TA isn't in the equation, so in an official game she wouldn't be able to share it. It's neither here nor there, just a tidbit I thought I'd toss out.

I've admired the lengths you've gone to since you first started to revise the rules to make Stealth more comics-accurate, though it's generally been more work involving imperfectly-represented figures (no fault of yours, just the limitations of the powers and dials) than I was willing to go into.

In the name of comics accuracy, though, I'd go with allowing Energy Explosion to be used against a Stealthed zone. Perhaps limit it so that the attack has to be aimed as closely as possible to the front, center of the area as seen from the perspective of the attacker. If there's a smoke cloud, after all, Deathstroke or whoever is going to lob a grenade into the thick of it, hoping to catch someone. Even if this is just a special rule when confronting smoke cloud -- a wall of smoke or blackness, etc. is going to be suspicious and a generally obvious target, after all. It gets trickier with Stealth, of course, because generally speaking a villain's not going to just start lobbing explosive blasts at seemingly nothing -- much less will a hero do it.

Since you're going for comics accurate and not keeping the rules just as simple as can be, maybe once anyone who's stealthed takes any sort of action against an opposing piece - included a Perplex or an attempted Outwit - that opposing piece can now target some object or bit of terrain -- again, in the center of the hindering terrain if that's all that's there, or at an object (which, as we both know, is also hindering terrain) if that's there since it would be an obvious target.

I'd also take that same approach and apply it to any of the others, even the close combatants. If someone from inside stealth attempts something against him he should be able to charge into the thick of it and take a swing. If you want to do a -1 or -2 to their AV during such an attack to handicap them a little, that's certainly at least worth playtesting.

As for allowing Smoke Cloud to be a free action via Flashbang, yeah, you may want to reevaluate that, as there should be some effort involved.

Well... I have to be up and moving at 5am, as I've volunteered to be a chaperone for Nick's class trip to Ellis & Liberty Islands.

At 5:22 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Hmmm. Having read WK's definitions of the various wild cards, I see 'on the battle map' is a prominent phrase now... a change that I have little doubt was prompted by the ICWO card. I hadn't realized that, and in my House Rules I'm using an older bit of text from some previous power cards, that simply specifies 'any friendly figure in play', which I certainly thought Oracle counted as.

Oddly, I have the newer terminology under Calculators, so I must have just copied it blindly without noticing.

I suppose I should make them consistent. Given that Oracle is the only character that can be part of a force while off the battlefield, well, I'm torn. ICWO is an unbalanced card and anything that reigns it in should be strongly considered. On the other hand, given that the team with Oracle's help can use other powers on her dial, I can't see why they shouldn't be able to wild card her TA... if WK wanted to disallow that, they shouldn't have given her one. I'll have to think about that.

However, if I do change the wild cards so that they can't use her TA, well, I'd have just stuck Robin or Spoiler into the Legion squad. Various time travelers have teamed up with the Legion in the past, including Tim Drake, in a recent crossover, so that doesn't bother me greatly.

I think I do want to give Energy Explosion the ability to target terrain. I just haven't figured out how to do it. Offering the ability to attack a Stealthed fig in Hindering Terrain at a modifier to AV is a brilliant idea, though... one I hadn't considered. Perhaps range strikes are always negated, and close combat strikes are prevented until the Stealthed fig interacts in some way with an opponent... after which the opponent may attempt to attack the Stealthed fig from an adjacent square, at, say, a -2 or -3 to AV. Yeah, that would work well.

Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it.

At 6:22 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Oh, and I did give the IL the Society TA, and it let Prometheus actually KO Brainiac 5. Brainiac had tried twice to Outwit Prometheus' Super Senses, but that damn Society roll prevented it both times.

I think on Stealth, to keep it comparatively simple, I'm going to make it a straight "you can't make a ranged strike on a Stealthed character, and Stealthed characters gain an additional +2 to Defense Value when on Hindering Terrain." That, in addition to the +1 that Hindering Terrain gives anyone, should be enough of a plus to adequately simulate the effect, whether it's invisibility or just ultra-sneakiness.

I think I'm also going to rewrite Batman and Kabuki TAs, so they simply say something like "Characters with this TA are considered to have the Stealth power on every slot of their dial that is not a KO slot." That way I can just move away from the whole 'line of fire' thing entirely.

Not sure how to write up the terrain-targeting effect for Energy Explosion. Probably best to say you can only do it against terrain inhabited by a Stealthed fig -- which isn't as unreasonable as it sounds. A Stealthed fig, whether they are sneaky or just invisible, can be assumed to be moving more slowly than a non-Stealthed fig. Thus, lobbing a grenade into their general area would be more effective on, say, the Black Panther, when he's hiding, or Sue Storm, when she's lurking, than it would be against the Flash, who is only fleetingly blurring through that square anyway.

Something like "Energy Explosion may be directed against terrain squares in which opponents are actively employing the Stealth power. Such squares are considered to be opponent figures with a Defense Value of 12 for this purpose. A successful Energy Explosion attack against such a target will do Energy Explosion damage to any figure in the square, as well as to any figure in any adjacent square."

Yeah, that should work.

At 12:35 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Just to proved that I don't need no stinkin' commenters, I can fill up my comment threads all on my own...

I sometimes forget my own rules. Right there in my Stealth rules, I allow the following:

Characters without Super Senses may make either a normal Ranged or Close Combat attack for zero damage if they choose on a Stealthed character hiding in hindering terrain. Whether successful or unsuccessful, they take an action token. If successful, they have ‘spotted’ the hidden character and may then engage them in Close Combat, but not with Ranged Attacks.

This could certainly include things like a giant flailing around inside a square of darkness trying to find an opponent to beat up, or a fellow with a gigantic gun firing rounds at random into the darkness in hopes of getting lucky. So I had a built in mechanism in my own rules that would keep the Shadow Lass/Batman TA from getting too out of hand; I just forgot about it.

Which means my Stealth rules really don't need any work. However, I did go ahead and make the following change to another power:

ENERGY EXPLOSION: This character's ranged combat attack can do damage to all figures adjacent to the target, and does not require a clear line of sight to be employed. (Optional) Give this character a ranged combat action and reduce his damage value to 1. A successful ranged combat attack does damage to the target figure and every figure in a square adjacent to the target. Energy Explosion does not require a clear line of sight; an Energy Explosion attack can be made on any opposing character within the attacker's range, whether the attacker can see the target character clearly or not.

This will allow Energy Explosion to work the way it should -- like someone throwing a grenade. You don't need to see your target to lob a grenade at it, you just need to have a vague idea where it might be. This won't let EE be used on terrain features or squares, but it will allow the power to target Stealthed opponents, so I'll settle for that.


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