Web Search nikon coolpix digital cameras The Miserable Annals of the Earth: These don't go to eleven

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

These don't go to eleven

This is all clix nonsense. If you're not wild about HeroClix, boogie on, reggae human.

I've always had issues with the way certain of my favorite superhero characters were translated into clix form. That's why, when WizKids changed out their chief designer job a few expansions back, and hired a guy named Seth... something or other... I had high hopes that the new guy in charge was going to set things right. After all, he was supposed to be this fanatical comics fan who really wanted to prioritize getting the characters down in clix form as accurately as possible. And I was hoping that would mean something.

Well, it has meant something, but it's something completely unintelligible to me, or at least, completely unlike what I was hoping it would mean.

This new angle on dial design in HeroClix is, apparently, economy. Seth Whatever His Name Is seems to feel that his major mandate is to battle stat inflation, which was, I admit, starting to get a bit out of hand... with the Icons set having delivered a Superman figure that had a 12 Attack, an 18 Defense, and a 5 damage, with Hypersonic Speed and Impervious, the insatiable hordes of power gamers -- folks I generally refer to as cheese-dogs -- were already starting to clamor for more. Better. Faster. Stronger. Each set, it seemed, had to outdo the last. If there was a fig with insanely high stats and powers in one set, then there had to be at least one fig in the next set that went even higher... right?

Such expectations are madness and folly, and quickly lead to a game where figures from older sets become useless and unplayable when stacked up against the powerhouses coming out in the latest edition. Clearly, something had to be done, and I acknowledge that. However, the action taken by WK in their latest two sets, Armor Wars and Collateral Damage, and now, from what we've seen, in the upcoming one, Sinister, seems to me to be somewhat overdrastic -- nowadays, it seems, everybody has an Attack Value of 9.

Okay, not everyone. It just seems that way. Here's a rough comparison I just ginned up, using the search features over at the WizKids site --

ICONS (last DC set not designed by current designer)

84 Total pieces
35 pieces have a 10 attack value (3 of these are LEs, and not available in boosters)
10 pieces have an 11 attack value (1 LE)
2 pieces have a 12 attack value (no LEs)

COLLATERAL DAMAGE (first DC set designed by current designer)

138 total pieces
30 pieces have a 10 AV (6 of these are LEs)
6 pieces have an 11 AV (1 LE)
2 pieces have a 12 AV (1 LE)

FANTASTIC FORCES (last Marvel set not designed by current designer)

126 total pieces
49 pieces have a 10 AV
13 pieces have an 11 AV
4 pieces have a 12 AV
(LEs were included in booster packs for this set, so all pieces were available to the casual collector)

ARMOR WARS (first Marvel set designed by current designer)

140 total pieces
43 pieces have a 10 AV (14 LEs) (!!)
12 pieces have an 11 AV (3 LEs)
2 pieces have a 12 AV (1 LE)

Laid out like this, the trend is pretty unmistakeable. Not only are there fewer high attack pieces per set, but there are FAR fewer per set proportionally -- and a much higher percentage of the few high attack pieces are not available in boosters, and thus, much harder to obtain.

The trend seems to be continuing in Sinister, where the vast majority of dials we've seen so far seem to top out at 9. This is a direct contrast to only a few sets ago; in Fantastic Forces, for example, even a relative loser of a character like the Shocker had a 10 attack value on his Experienced and Veteran dials, while in Sinister, master warriors like The Swordsman start with an 8 attack value (on the rookie) and reach apogee with the now apparently standard 9 on his experienced and vet dials.

Yes, 9 is the new 10. And honestly, I don't like it. I admit, it could be an emotional thing. In previous sets, it's very possible (I don't feel like doing more searches right now) that the majority of figures had attack values of 10 at some point on their dials, and I didn't notice that because it didn't bother me. To me, 10 is a perfectly acceptable stat... a bit weak, perhaps, for characters that should have greater accuracy than that, like Batman, or Iron Man, or weaponsmasters like Green Arrow or Hawkeye... but, well, it's 2 digits, and you can hit a great many figures with a less than average dice roll when you're starting out with a 10. And I tend to have very poor luck with any random chance factor in any game -- dice, card draw, whatever -- so to me, being able to hit something on an average roll or less is a prized attribute. And I doubt I'm the only gamer out there who feels that way.

With the general attack value dropping to 9, though, the odds just got significantly worse for those of us who can't count on our dice to do anything special for us at any given time. With a 9, you need an average roll to hit a 16 defense, a better than average roll to hit a 17. If someone slaps down one of the relatively few figs that has an 18 defense, things look bleak indeed for those stuck at 9. Go much higher than that... as an elite few figs can and do... and honestly, you may as well tip your figures over and go get a Pepsi. Which is to say, if you sit down at a table with a lot of your brand new figs you just can't wait to play, most or all of which have attack values of 9, and the guy across the table from you whips out a Kingdom Come Flash... that pain you feel is the fork he just stuck in your arm, because you're done.

So I don't like it. I don't like it one damned bit. When you attack someone in this game, it's extremely frustrating to roll and miss. Now, we all experience that frustration several times a game, and it bites, but it tends to be balanced by, hopefully, at least an equal number of times you roll and hit, which is very sweetly satisfying (unless the dickhead across the table makes his Impervious or Super Senses roll and negates all your damage, but that's what Outwit is for). But even more than the simple game mechanics implicit in the change, I hate it for another reason -- it shortchanges characters who don't deserve it.

Fighting stat inflation is one thing. Taking competent characters and turning them into hopeless goobers, on the other hand, is something else entirely.

Take, for example, this little fella here --

This the Swordsman, a classic character with a rich history reaching deep into Marvel's Silver Age. When he was first introduced he was an amoral mercenary type, a master of his weapon, one of the finest warriors in the world. The Mandarin hired him to infiltrate the Avengers, in hopes that this would give Swordsman opportunity to eventually kill Iron Man. In exchange, Mandarin somehow built a great many magical and advanced technological devices into Swordsman's weapon, giving him an array of offensive capacities and making him, well, more suitable for inclusion in a superhero team, and more capable of holding his own against superheroes, should they get wise to him.

Eventually, after being found out and run off the team, Swordsman returned, down on his luck, hunted by enemies, seeking redemption. The Avengers, probably more out of pity than anything else, let him rejoin the roster, along with his girlfriend at the time, mysterious Vietnamese super-martial artist, half assed mystic, and former Numma One BJ Girl Mantis. Swordsman did well at first as an Avenger, which is to say, in his first issue back, writer Steve Englehart gave us a montage shot showing Swordsman being quite effective against a variety of threats we'd never seen before and would never see again. Later on, he began to feel sorry for himself and his performance levels slacked off. In the end, though, he was instrumental in leading the Avengers to stop Kang's attempt to acquire the Celestial Madonna and through her child, rule the heavens (don't ask), and he finally sacrificed himself heroically to save Mantis from Kang's wrath.

There have been a couple of other characters called Swordsman since this. One was an alternate dimensional doppelganger created by Bob Harras during his run on Avengers in the 1990s. This Swordsman looked a great deal like our Swordsman, and seemed to have similar abilities, but we never found out much about him. He and his girlfriend Magdalene hung with the Avengers for a year or so, and then Kurt Busiek shuffled them off to another dimension with the Squadron Supreme, and that's the last we've seen of them.

Then there's the current Swordsman, some nutjob running around in an entirely different costume in Thunderbolts. He's the son or the nephew of some villain and I can't remember right now what his deal is but he's not, to my mind, really much of a Swordsman at all.

While the original Swordsman wasn't even remotely a likable character, he was an integral part of one of my favorite runs of Avengers, and the issue where he dies saving Mantis, Giant Size Avengers #2, is probably my favorite superhero comic of all time. So I've long wanted to see him show up as a HeroClix figure, and I was elated to discover he'd be included in Sinister.

Then I saw his dials.

To the right you can see the Rookie Swordsman, as defined by WizKids. He costs a walloping 20 points, which very nearly makes him a pog. His powers, for those of you who have read this far for some reason without knowing how to read WK's colored power charts, are Leap-Climb, Flurry, and Close Combat Expert. Leap-Climb let's a character get around a HeroClix map board without worrying about different elevations of terrain; Flurry let's a character make two Close Combat Attacks a turn instead of 1, Close Combat Expert adds 2 to any damage done by a Close Combat attack.

Giving Swordsman Leap-Climb is... well, it's troublesome, because he's never been the kind who jumps from rooftop to rooftop. On the other hand, we have seen him take some very long falls in comics and roll to his feet uninjured; in one early issue of Englehart's run, he tells the Valkyrie (while fighting her) that one needs to learn to take long falls in this business; it was one of the first things he picked up. So... okay, he can have some Leap Climb, although for someone as generally swaggering and macho as the Swordsman, I think Charge would have been a better choice.

Flurry and CCE are fine; the Swordsman should have both. But look at those horrible stats! This guy is a master of his weapon and he needs to roll above average to hit anyone with a 16 (which is to say, above average, but not uncommon) defense? He needs a 10 (on two 6 sided dice) to hit the clix version of Iron Fist! This is a guy who was one of the finest fighters in the world, who was hired to take on the Avengers? Come on. I can see Mandarin hiring this goober to wash his lackeys, maybe. But to fight the Avengers? No way.

Nearly as troubling as the stats is the rookie level's lack of any range strike or attack powers. This would seem to indicate that this is the Swordsman as he existed before Mandarin gimmicked up his sword, which is to say, as he was for about six panels in his first appearance. Why would you make a fig out of this guy? It's like making a figure out of Peter Parker, just before he got bitten by the radioactive spider, or of a 7 year old Bruce Wayne. This is obnoxiously stupid. The rookie Swordsman should be a bad guy, and maybe his stats shouldn't be quite as good as his later levels, but it should be the guy who nearly beat the Avengers.

And, to reflect that the rookie is a bad guy, I think he should have gotten a villainous TA of some sort. No, Swordsman never worked for Dr. Doom, and no, he was never a Master of Evil, but Minions of Doom and Masters of Evil TAs have been given to other figures that were never officially part of those factions, just as the Avengers TA is given to Thunderbolts and Alpha Flight characters. (On a side note -- this exasperates the crap out of me. How much money is it going to cost WizKids to create specific TAs for specific teams? Fobbing Alpha Flight and Tbolts off with the Avengers TA sucks.)

Okay, the rookie reeks, granted. But maybe the next two levels are better. Let's see the Experienced Swordsman --

Well... you can't see it here, but the Experienced has the Avengers TA on his dial, which is as it should be. WK has gotten very stingy with giving out the Avengers TA (as we'll see with Swordsman's next level), because they gave us a Feat Card that works very well with it, so now they don't like putting it out too much. I can understand that, but characters that deserve the TA should get it. In this case, Swordsman has it, and that's fine. But that dial...!

Swordsman's sword, at this point in his career, has an array of powers that are, honestly, just mind boggling. (It's fairly obvious that Stan Lee decided to create a character like Hawkeye or Green Arrow -- the archetypical superhero-archer, who fires gimmicky arrows with great accuracy -- with a different weapon, and since it would have been cumbersome to have a character hauling a few dozen different swords around, he simply built a lot of different gimmicks into the Swordsman's blade.) How they work I could not tell you, and why the sword hasn't run out of charges, or had its battery go flat, in all the years since Mandarin first charged it up, I have no idea, as well. But Swordsman has demonstrated over his career the ability to fire beams of pure force out of his weapon, magnetic attraction beams, heat rays, freezing rays, paralysis rays -- he even had a sleep gas attack in there, once.

You can't really reproduce this in detail with WizKids's power card, but still, you could justify a great many powers with this -- Energy Explosion, Incapacitate, Smoke Cloud, Poison. And if you want Swordsman to have a power that bypasses an opponent's damage abatement powers, you can always hang an Armor Piercing on him. And he does have a few clicks of Incapacitate, which is a good all purpose power to simulate many of the effects the sword can create -- put a Stunning Blow on his so he can do damage with an Incapacitate attack as well, and he'd be pretty well set there.

But that dark blue power you see in his second attack slot? That's a power called Psychic Blast, and that makes no sense to me at all.

Look, I acknowledge -- a character with Psychic Blast doesn't have to be Psychic. This is one of those powers where the name isn't as important as the game mechanic, which is to do non-reducible damage (damage that cuts through all damage abatement powers) at range. So I'm not saying "Well, Swordsman isn't psychic, he shouldn't have Psychic Blast". What I am saying is, well, Swordsman doesn't HAVE any powers that can get 3 clicks of damage past, say, Iron Man's armor or Thor's Invulnerability. 1 click of damage, okay... he could do that with a gas attack or something; and again, that's what Armor Piercing is for. But 3 clicks? No. Psychic Blast (or Piercing Blast, as Mike Norton calls it) is just wrong for the Swordsman. His weapon can't wound a god or bypass the best cybernetic armor in the galaxy. He simply doesn't have that capacity built into it.

And, again, that attack is just wrong. He gets the ubiquitous 9 Attack Value, for one click, and then he's down to an 8 or less and the only thing he can cut with that sword is a bouquet of daisies for Mantis. Hey, buddy, whoever you are... the Swordsman called. He wants his costume back.

But what about the Vet? Maybe he'll redeem the whole REV. After all, hardly anyone plays any level of a REV but the Vet anyway, unless there's a really good reason not to (like Black Canary's Vet not having any range strike, because by that point she's lost her sonic scream powers).
Hmmm. Well.. the Vet hasn't improved on that lousy 4 range, which is sad, given that blasting stuff with his sword is pretty much all the Swordsman does. And the powers seem a little better, but..

Oh my God. The Vet... doesn't have the Avengers TA.

Now, this is ridiculous, and will not stand. Fortunately, under my House Rules, if I play a theme team (which I usually do) I can put any TA that is justified by continuity on the force, provided the entire force has that TA. So I could play this guy with a team of Avengers and give him the TA, and I will, I'm sure. (What I'm more tempted to do is get an extra Veteran Taskmaster, break open the dial, steal the disk of paper with the powers and stats printed on it, and slip it into an Experienced Swordsman's base. I'll have to remember that such a modified Swordsman would be a 75 point piece instead of 35, but I can do that.)

Still, leaving the Avengers TA off the Vet Swordsman is just inexcusable. It's the kind of thing that really infuriates hardcore fans who know the characters. If you're going to give us the fig, that's great; the only reason to do it is to make us older fans happy (the Modern Age comics fan has no idea who the Swordsman is, and unless he's got a 15 attack with HyperSonic Speed, they don't care, either). But that being the case, why do something this stupid, just to aggravate us?

All right, let's look at the dial itelf though. Hmmm...

Well... the attack is still crappy. If there's only a vague vestige of a justification for earlier versions of the Swordsman to have a 9 attack, there's no excuse for giving it to the Vet. (The Vet Taskmaster dial I referenced above starts with an attack value of 12, and, like this Vet Swordsman, has Blades/Claws/Fangs in his first slot. Now, that's the Swordsman, dammit. Taskmaster is a goober; if he can have stats like that, certainly Swordsman should get them.)

The defense... hmm. A 17, with Energy Shield/Deflection. I know from the threads at WK's boards that a great many cheese-dogs who have never even heard of the Swordsman are already drooling at the thought of pulling a Vet in a sealed booster tournament -- against other figs whose attacks mostly average around a 9, a character with a 19 defense against ranged attacks will be nearly impossible to hit. Now, it's been pointed out to me before, when I raged against Swordsman getting ES/D over on the WK boards, that he has demonstrated an ability to whirl his sword around like a helicopter blade and deflect attacks. Of course, he was deflecting arrows; I'm thinking this might not work as well against particle beams... but never mind, he can do it, so fine, he can have it. And I have no trouble with him having Combat Reflexes, which is further down his dial, and which gives a plus to defense against close combat attacks. The Swordsman should be very difficult to hit in close combat.

One click of Charge isn't enough, Swordsman was always charging into combat... but at least he got the one. The Vet gets no Leap Climb, so apparently he's forgotten how to take long falls (or climb walls) by this point, which is sad. He does get some Flurry, which is appropriate. Force Blast? (The purple in his Speed slot.) Well, I guess Swordsman can do it, and under my recent redefinition of the power it will be useful when playing in the context of my House Rules, but under normal WK rules, it's just a waste of ink and points. Nobody ever uses the power in a standard WK game; under their rules, it's nearly entirely useless.

The rest of it -- one click of Blades/Claws/Fangs, some Incapacitate -- that's fine. The final two clicks of Psychic Blast are just as stupid and out of place as they were on the Experienced version, but at least here the attack value is so low it's unlikely anyone will ever try to use them. And this dial is interesting in some ways; the second slot, with Flurry and Close Combat Expert, has the potential to see Swordsman dish out some real damage if he gets two lucky rolls. The third click, with Flurry and Incapacitate, could see Swordsman putting two Incapacitation tokens on an opponent that started with none, and if he has Stunning Blow on him, doing 6 clicks of damage, too... not too shabby, the kind of swashbuckling derring-do and effectiveness we'd expect from the character. If only his attack weren't so sad ass, I could get excited about playing him.

Now let's turn our attention to another long awaited character -- Black Bolt.

This is a Unique, so he doesn't have Rookie, Experienced, or Veteran versions. There's only one dial. And I really really wanted it to be a good one, one that would represent the Black Bolt we know from the comics faithfully and well.

A little background on Black Bolt -- he's the ruler of a secretive, super powered race of genetically mutated human/alien hybrids called the Inhumans. All the Inhumans have super powers, and most of them have freakish or, well, inhuman, appearances. Inhumans are neither good nor evil by nature; as with anyone else, some of them are good, some of them are bad, most of them are just kind of blah. Black Bolt and the Royal Family generally behave as the protectors of their race, and are fairly heroic and altruistic; on the other hand, Black Bolt's brother, Maximus the Mad (also included in this set, although we haven't seen his dial yet), is as bad as they come; a super genius with some psychic abilities who is constantly scheming to steal Black Bolt's throne and wife (another Inhuman named Medusa).

Black Bolt has a normal human appearance (actually, he's a total babe, judging from how women in the Marvel Universe react to him) and the inherent superhuman ability to harness the electrons in the air and use them in various ways -- he can fly, increase his already signficant levels of superhuman strength and durability, and project energy blasts that range widely in power. Unfortunately, this power is in some way linked strongly to his larynx. While he's learned to channel the electron flow in various ways through sheer willpower as I've described above, he has no control over the release of electron-energy that occurs when he speaks. Thus, if he lets so much as a whisper past his lips, the effect is catastrophic to everything around him -- he can knock down a skyscaper with a murmur, or level a metropolis with a shout.

He's also, of course, a regal, kingly presence and the natural alpha male of the Inhumans. He's extremely altruistic and very very fearful of the damage his voice can do (this isn't an uncommon trait in the Marvel Universe; Cyclops is also very afraid of the damage his eye beams can do, and other characters have similar fears regarding their own potentially uncontrollable abilities). We've seen him speak maybe half a dozen times over the forty years since the character's creation; it's always a last ditch measure of absolute desperation.

I'd have given Black Bolt high stats (for a Seth-designed character, the Sinister version has very good stats, but I'd have gone higher). I'd have started him out with some Charge and Super Strength, and probably a high defense to keep him from being hit, so I could give him one click of Leadership. (I'd have created an Inhumans TA so he could use a Feat Card called Inspiring Command -- the only good use for the otherwise generally pointless Leadership that WK has given us -- or at least given him the FF TA, like previous Inhumans Crystal and Medusa have had.) I'd have then gone to Running Shot and maybe some Ranged Combat Expert, perhaps with some Incapacitate or Barrier (Black Bolt has sporadically demonstrated the ability to form short-lived 'electron structures' out of the energy he commands), still with Super Strength, and probably some Invulnerability. On his last click of life -- and I'd have given him a deep dial -- I'd give him some Pulse Wave and a decent damage, to represent the option for him to speak, as a final, last effort. I might have even created a Feat Card just for him, something like BLACK BOLT SPEAKS -- Prerequisites: Black Bolt When this character attacks using Pulse Wave, quadruple his effective range and damage done. After the attack resolves, remove this character from the game.

That's how I'd have set up the character. Unfortunately, what we got was this mess instead:

Leave aside the little stuff -- no Super Strength at all, what the hell is he doing with the power Defend, Energy Explosion, or Psychic Blast, none of those fit, and, well, no Leadership, and Black Bolt isn't exactly the kind of guy who either Outwits or Perplexes anyone, so I don't know why he's got those powers, either, no Leadership... okay, this is fucked over with a dead stick for sure, but, hey, at least they got the last click of Pulse Wave and the high damage right...

...but what the baby jesus are they doing, giving Black Bolt Pulse Wave on his first two clicks?

Pulse Wave, with Black Bolt, is clearly meant to represent him speaking, with the uncontrollable blast of destructive energy that results to all around him. By giving Black Bolt this power on his first two clicks, Seth has essentially turned him into a guy who flies into combat screaming his own name like, I don't know, Space Ghost, or something. "BLACK -- BOOOOOOLT!!!" the King of the Inhumans literally booms out, as he rides the wild shrieking wind down towards his foes, and watches with grim satisfaction as they, and all their works, crumble into dust before his awesome sonic majesty.

I mean, seriously -- what the fuck?

This isn't the biggest disappointment of the set for me, though... at least, to date.

That would be this guy, right here:
I know what you're thinking. Why the christ is John Shaft a HeroClix figure? Well, that's not John Shaft, and no, it's not Samuel L. Jackson, either. That's Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD... as he appears in the horrible and mindlessly idiotic alternate timeline that is home to Marvel's Ultimates line.

Now, over there is what the real Nick Fury looks like, and below is the fig WizKids originally gave us of him, which doesn't look good from the angle they shot it at. But I have it, and it's really a very nice looking fig, and it's one of the first Uniques I ever bought as a single, and I was and still am very happy and pleased to have it, as Nick Fury is one of my favorite characters of all time.

Now, I hate the Ultimates. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. I won't bother to go into why here, just take it as a given that I loathe the Ultimates characters with every fiber of my being, and let's move on.

I hate the Ultimates Nick Fury, the same way I hate all the other Ultimates characters. Every time WizKids brings out another Ultimates character in clix form it aggravates the crap out of me, and this one is especially infuriating to me. As with the Ultimates Captain America of a few sets back, what makes this version so goddam objectionable is that WizKids has made the dial much, much better than the original, or 'real', version of the character we were given.

Let's compare:

The top is the dial of the first Nick Fury, the real Nick Fury to me, from a very early expansion called Clobberin' Time. The bottom chart shows the dial of the new, infuriatingly wrong, Ultimates Nick Fury.

Both dials have things to say for them. The real Nick Fury gets a shorter range, but has 2 range targets, which is very useful -- especially under my House Rules, where Outwit (the black power on the Damage slot) is handled as a range attack. He gets several clicks of Running Shot, which will endear him to normal WK players, as Running Shot is one of the few powers that allows you to move and attack at the same time when you are playing by official WK rules. Unfortunately, his attack has dropped to a nearly useless 8 by the time he gets this power, so he can move around and shoot, but he won't hit anyone other than HYDRA agents who are already shot up a little, and maybe the Foggy Nelson pog. (Even in the old days, many characters were given obnoxiously and inappropriately low stats... don't even get me started on the first version of Hawkeye.)

Samuel Jackson-Fury gets no Running Shot, which will make mainstream clix players disregard him almost entirely. Under my House Rules, however, this doesn't matter as much -- Running Shot is nice, since it lets you move, shoot, and continue moving, allowing a fig to potentially dart out from behind cover, make a ranged attack, and dive back into relative safety again -- but, again, under my House Rules, all figures who have ranged attacks can move up to half their Speed value and take a shot at someone. So Samuel Jackson-Fury is okay there; he's as mobile as most. And has a longer range than the real Nick Fury, to boot.

The real Nick has no attack powers at all. This is rank. Look at SJ-F -- he's got some Energy Explosion (to simulate Fury throwing explosives, something he's certainly equipped with). He's also got two clicks of Psychic (or Piercing) Blast. Now, again, this power shouldn't be there; Nick Fury uses advanced SHIELD weaponry, but he doesn't have anything that's going to leave a mark on an Invulnerable or Impervious character. Some Incapacitate, to simulate a stun-beam of some sort, would have been more appropriate. Still, Sam Jackson-Fury does have the Psychic Blast, with a higher damage value than the real Fury ever gets. This in and of itself makes him a much more formidable figure.

Sam Jackson-Fury also has one click of Toughness, to simulate the SHIELD body armor that... um... he isn't wearing, but the real Nick Fury is. He has a higher defense than the real Fury (one point of Defense makes a huge difference in this game). He keeps that Defense for two clicks, and even then only drops to a 16 for another 2, while the real Fury starts with a 16 defense and drops steadily from there -- again, by the time he gets Running Shot, one of the two powers he has that is truly useful under WK's standard rules, he's got a 6 movement, an 8 attack, and a 14 Defense -- at this point, Dennis the Menace can take him out with an aggie from his slingshot.

The real difference, though, lies in the three clicks of Willpower Sam Jackson-Fury gets, starting with what is arguably his best overall click, his second. Here he pops up to a 10 AV, matching the best AV the real Fury has. He still has a 17 Defense -- tough to hit when you have a 9 AV, which nearly all the figs he'll be facing do. Willpower means he can push, or take actions on two consecutive turns, without taking damage, so he can stay right there on that click blasting away until he gets hit. He has a 3 damage with the power Outwit, which lets him cancel any one power from the dial of anyone within 10 squares of him, meaning anyone he has the range to shoot at. Outwit is generally used to get rid of damage abatement powers like Toughness, Invulnerability, or Impervious, but Sam Jackson-Fury doesn't need to worry about that rubbish, since he has (nonsensically) a blaster that will hurt anyone from Dr. Doom to Superman (Psychic Blast, remember). So he can use his Outwit (a free, automatic action under WK's rules) to get rid of other stuff, like damage avoidance powers such as Super Senses, or just annoying powers you don't want your opponent to have, like Perplex or Outwit or especially Probability Control.

The real Fury gets Outwit, too, although by the time he does, his Attack Value is an 8 and he's unlikely to hit anyone. However, I should admit here, under WK's Outwit rules, this power is always a nuisance (under my rules, it's much more limited), so any fig on the board with Outwit that is playing in a normal match has the capacity to be somewhat effective. (Under my rules, attempting to Outwit a figure that isn't adjacent is handled as a range strike, so while the real Fury's 2 range targets helps this a lot, his AV of 8 and his range of 6 make him much less potentially damaging than Sam Jackson-Fury... again, under my House Rules.)

Sam Jackson-Fury gets more damage all the way down his dial than the real Fury, starting with a 3, and eventually dropping to a 2, but at this point he gets Ranged Combat Expert, meaning that on a ranged attack he does 2 more damage.

All the way around, the newer, Ultimates version of Nick Fury is a more effective piece than the previous, mainstream version of the character. I can't tell you how much this enrages me, especially since the new Fury costs 1 point more than the original Fury. (You ditch all that Running Shot, you have a smackload of points to spend on other powers, I guess.)

Beyond that, though, I'm emotionally troubled by that Psychic Blast, just as I am with the Swordsman having it. It's a very effective power, but those characters simply should not have it -- and that makes me feel almost as if, if I play with those figs, I'm cheating.

I would much, much rather it was Incapacitate, instead.

Another much anticipated character included in this set is The Stilt-Man. His dial sucks, too, but I won't object to it; he's pretty much a goober in the comics and he should be a goober in clix form, too. But I'll be very pleased to get a fig of him.

All told, I'm mostly happy with the character choices in Sinister, but I've been overall more disappointed than not in how those characters have been defined. Looks like I may have to design and print some dials of my own...


At 4:30 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

It's always interesting to get another look at the new dials through the eyes of another comics fan when they know both the characters and the game mechanics. I'm left wondering if I've simply gotten more accepting -- more resigned -- to some of what goes on. We had similar problems with the Swordsman, though the Leap/Climb didn't bother me because I was looking at it more as a representation of his general nimbleness and his being skilled and tricky enough to disengage from an opponent at will. Of course, it starts to fall apart the moment one considers that the same power enables him to essentially ascend to/descend from a tall building.

"Simple" rules lead to broad blankets and the need for squinting one's eyes a little to see the intentions. In a more well-designed game -- one where they accepted that this would be a strategy game where wildly diverse characters were represented instead of making it a fun, easy-to-learn fantasy combat game -- we'd have these threads disentagled and be able to choose just what the character needed and leave off the rest.

When it comes to the Psychic Blast (I'd just suggested "Piercing Blast" as a more generic name if enough people found "Psychic" to be too narrow a term) they gave Swordsman, I took it that Seth's intention was to have this be the vaguely-defined blaster the Mandarin had installed in the sword so that he could be a threat to someone like Iron Man. I haven't dug out the various Swordsman appearances from early on for a re-evaluation of his gimmicks, so I don't recall how potent that blast was meant to be. That it's accompanying a Damage of 1 on the Experienced and no more than 2 on the Vet goes a long way to mollify me, though. Sure, we know that he shouldn't be able to do much more than threaten Thor with a bad haircut, but I'm fairly sure he's tagged Iron Man at least once... so giving him a chance of doing one or two clicks of damage doesn't cast too dark a cloud over my day.

Sticking with the same power, I am told that the reason the Ultimate Fury (quickly may he rot) has the effect of Psychic Blast is that his gun fires bullets that are intangible until they pass into a target. Maybe Ultimates John Byrne handed over the process when he took Ultimate Vision apart -- who knows? The physics of calculating the momentum of massless objects, not to mention dealing with conservation of energy concerns when mass suddenly comes back into the picture is far more trouble than that universe is worth, so in the end I have to give it a magic pass - his bullets work that way because they do.

As noted elsewhere it's clear that the gradual trend in Heroclix is towards more more dice rolls between hits. Decreased odds of hitting in the first place and an increased number and incidence of powers and Feats that call for rolls before or after attacks, any of which can potentially prevent the attack from happening or otherwise make the one who's attacked evade the damage.

The comics-based rationale given for this is that the average comics battle isn't a three-panel rout. Blows and blasts are launched, and in reaction characters duck, leap aside, pick up impromptu shields -- they manage not to get seriously tagged. Oh, sure, many a battle starts with Our Hero taking a shot to the back, but unless the scene's a set-up for something else he generally bounces back from it after a moment and most of the battle proceeds as if it was a... dramatic nicety. As with a swordfight there's generally quite a bit of parrying before a thrust hits home.

Do I find this all a completely satisfactory resolution? Well, no, of course not. I do see it as the best we're going to get at this time, and I at least understand the thought that went into the decision.

I offer no sane explanation for the niggardly appraoch in handing out TAs, other than that Seth may be listening to too many of the wrong players. Wanting maximum flexibility in the game I didn't mind seeing the Avengers TA on Alpha Flight and Thunderbolt pieces, nor Spider-man or Minions of Doom showing up on characters who might not be in Spidey's immediate family nor who ever even met Dr. Doom. Alternate TA cards give us some nice flexibility, and the Thunderbolt-able Avengers TA on the experienced Swordsman opens him up for use either as a hero or a villain -- so I won't complain on that that score.

We're certainly in agreement that the lack of it on the veteran's criminal at a fan level. Similarly, I can't see any reasonable argument for the experienced Nighthawk to be sans TA at the experienced level, since he effectively jumped from the Squadron Sinister to the Defenders within a single issue, and I'm anticipating something verging on anger when I see the Kyle Richmond LE, as it'll probably be something around the point value of the Experienced and could very well have a TA.

Prize LEs remain my #1 problem with Heroclix, but that's not an issue to get into here and now.

The lack of Leap/Climb on the vet Swordsman bugged me because it makes him feel so easily trapped once he gets into close combat. Moreover, it finds me having to consider whether or not I should spend 10 more points on him for Swingline. The ES/D and Combat Reflexes, along with the way the character tends to go for close combat, suggest we're supposed to reach for the Heightened Reflexes card for him to help protect him from some other attacks.

The Force Blast appears to primarily be there to allow him a means of breaking away from someone and possibly do some damage if he can back them up against a wall or knock someone who can fall off a roof at a stage when otherwise he's best suited to being a tie-up piece with some slim chance of rolling well enough to do damage.

There's no skirting the issue that we got the budget pack of Swordsman interpretations.

On Black Bolt, I took the Perplex and Outwit to be evidence of what I'll irritatingly call The Picard Effect.

In ST:TNG Riker and company were regularly almost slack-jawed in admiration for the brilliance and leadership that was Captain Jean-Luc Picard. That we rarely saw any practical hint of these abilities was seemingly beside the fact; those who would be in the best position to know apparently did, and we were supposed to take his reputation and position as evidence of it.

So, that said, a leader who rules in silence (save through some hand gestures and some verbal interpretations by Medusa) must have something else going on to enable him to keep his brillaint brother off the throne most of the time. Everything can't simply be staying in line because they're afraid of him. (The Inhumans must live in mortal fear of Black Bolt coming down with a cold or allergies. One sneeze and that's it.) The emigration and suicide rate would be tremendous.

Anyway, he obviously wields considerable influence and is looked to for solutions, and painting with the giant pixels that are the Heroclix Powers and Abilities it's not a completely unacceptable way to paint that picture.

As for Super Strength, well, we have two issues here, though they're both encompassed by the phrase "cost and utiltity." Within the bounds of Heroclix rules were they to give him Super Strength he would likely cost as much, if not more, and would in general be less effective. While in your house rules Super Strength means, well, Super Strength, in the world of official clix is just means he can pick things up to hit people with or possibly throw at them. As he deals some nice damage on his own and has been given a ranged attack much more far-reaching than he'd be able to throw objects (which in general would also do less damage), and Black Bolt's generally not a tear up the scenery and beat someone with it kinda guy... Seth's alternate choices were much more effective than Super Strength. Do they create a character who will battle the way Black Bolt does? Certainly not. However, like Icons Superman, what we've been given is a character who can (in their clixish approximations) do many of the things the character could do. The big difference is that these clix of Superman and Black Bolt will be played by any competitive player as if these heroes have been mind-swapped with Lex Luthor and Maximus.

As for Sinister as a whole, I'm watching for the other shoe to drop and all to be revealed. Finding out that some of the things we've seen (number of targets on E & V Trapster and V Spider-man, for instance) aren't correct helps.

I know that much as objects were a focus for Seth when designing Collateral Damage, enhancing close combat (largely by making it safer than it has been) has been a large part of the focus with Sinister.

Now to decide whether or not to invest in an automatic dice tumbler before this set comes out as a way of avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome...

At 5:12 PM , Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Good LORD, Man! Even for Mike Norton, that's a damn long comment!!

I just wanted to say that even though I don't play and don't have the continuity history and don't know all (or even most) of the rules (or stats), I really enjoyed reading it.

It's always delightful to read about something you're so fired up about. You have so many funny expressions that you keep me going, even on a topic that isn't as interesting to me.


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