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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Outside the box

So, I have this Suicide Squad vs. Batman & The Outsiders battle set up downstairs, for some time later this Labor Day weekend, when I'm not playing Magic or grilling brats or something. And the more I thought about the freakin' Outsiders TA, the less sense it made to me. I mean, sure, it's hard to come up with a new, original Team Ability in HeroClix, which already has a dozen or so. But -- well, here's the Team Ability that WizKids came up with for the Outsiders:

Once at the beginning of your turn as a free action, a member of this team chooses a target friendly or opposing character within 10 squares; the member must have clear line of fire to the target. Until the beginning of your next turn, the target may not be the target of powers or team abilities that modify its combat values. This team ability may not be copied by wild card team abilities.

What this seems to mean is that, well, anyone that WK puts the Outsiders' Team Ability on has the ability to simply glance at an opposing figure and, for a pretty lengthy period of time, 'freeze' the numbers on that opponent figure's dial.

I could not, for the life of me, understand two things about this --

(a) what good this was, in terms of game mechanics

(b) how in the name of God a character would get this power (pointless or not) simply by being a member of a moronic Mike W. Barr superteam from the 1980s

Both factors are important. If the power doesn't do a damned thing within game terms that's worthwhile, well, it's broken, and my House Rules exist to fix broken things within HeroClix. On the other hand, even if the power if effective, if it doesn't make any kind of sense for the characters who have it to have it, then, well, that's still broken, and again, an application of my House Rules is required.

But, having set up the Suicide Squad/Outsiders battle, it occurred to me that the Outsiders TA could very well be useful to prevent the Suicide Squad from using THEIR Team Ability, to wit:

SUICIDE SQUAD : When an adjacent friendly figure is KOed, Suicide Squad members may Regenerate as a free action.

Since Regeneration would undoubtedly modify a character's combat values, it made sense to me that the Outsider TA could prevent this. Okay, this would be somewheat useful. Still, I could not for the life of my understand how one would justify, say, Black Lighting, Geo-Force, or, for the love of sweet baby Jesus, Rita Farr, being able to pull this off. Sure, if it works you can keep Wolverine or Sabre-Tooth from Regenerating in the middle of combat, and that's the spiff -- but how in the world do a buncha losers like the Outsiders get away with that?

So I posted the question to the WizKids board, in a thread called "Suicide is painless", as follows:

Okay. Can the Outsiders TA be used to cancel out the Suicide Squad TA? In other words, can Arsenal decree that Deadshot's combat values may not be modified, then blow up Killer Frost, who is adjacent to him, and Deadshot then cannot do his free Regenerate? A free Regenerate would modify Deadshot's stats, right?

Here are some of the responses I got (I won't bother reprinting the ones from the guys who just printed all the lyrics to the original movie M*A*S*H theme song, since they didn't really address the point, although they certainly reflect on the level of commentary you can expect on these boards):

Not quite....ok, actually not at all!! Healing (clicking the figures dial counter-clockwise) does change the stats, but it doesn't "modify" the figures stats in game terms. Modifiers add to or subtract from the number on the dial without actually changing what is there, but healing (and damaging) a figure simple change what "click" appears in the stat slot on the figure's base, so, while the stats are different, they haven't been modified (again, at least not in game terms).

Ah. So, it doesn't work, because, you know, we say it doesn't work. Well, fair enough, it didn't make any sense to me that the TA should do that, anyway. But if that doesn't work, then what DOES it do?

Well actually it's one of the most useful TA's around as it totally negates the ALT F4, Defenders, Sinister Syndicate and any other TA's that function similarly to them.

Huh. Hadn't thought of THAT. See, all these Team Abilities... the Alternate Fantastic Four TA, the Defenders TA, the Sinister Syndicate TA, etc, allow a figure to replace a particular combat value on its dial with the combat value from a teammates' dial. So the Outsiders TA would effectively make this impossible. Hmmm. Okay, still can't see how in the world a bad Mike W. Barr team should have this power, but it seems to be more useful than I'd thought.


Outsiders does *not* negate any of those TAs, since none of those modify stats, they replace them.

Oh. Well, piss. But, then, what DOES it do?

It also negates ES/D, combat reflexes, ranged combat expert, close combat expert, Ultimate X, 2000AD, hydra, SHIELD, Morlocks, PD, enhancement, etc. I don't see how it would negate F4 ATA or Defend though. Those are replacement values, not modified values which in game terms are two different animals.

Ah. So, it won't cancel out REPLACEMENT values, which, in some bizarre way, are not modified values at all. But it will keep people from directly adding or subtracting to their Combat Values through various other Team Abilities or Powers that do that.


Still, it makes no sense to me that these characters should have this ability due to their team alliance, whether the ability is useful or not. So I decided to change it, as follows:

OUTSIDERS: A member of this TA may not have its dial altered in any way by opponents when adjacent to another member of this TA. A member of this TA may modify the combat values of any adjacent member of this TA by 1 as a free action, once per turn. This team ability may not be copied by wild card team abilities.

See, this strikes me as being appropriate to a group that prides itself on being 'Outsiders'. Opponents cannot use their own abilities to alter an Outsider's combat values, and the Outsiders, when working together as a team, can modify each other's combat values, slightly.

So I mentioned that, and, of course, drew the inevitable response:

After reading your manifesto, why even ask questions or post here? That makes no sense to me. You play a completely different game then Heroclix so any answer you get here will be incompatible with the rule set you created and make you seem argumentative to those they play by wizkids written rules.

This strikes me as typical of most gamers. They may not actually understand the official rules, but by God, they'll defend them to the death!


At 11:09 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

I have a Masters of Evil vs the Avengers team set up, and will be settling in to play that late tonight as my way of starting to celebrate the Labor Day holiday.

The Outsiders is one of those TAs that's been around since Legacy, which still makes it feel new to me. I was recently considering assembling an Outsiders team, in fact, but hadn't because my recent team-building's been restricted to Marvel.

As best I understood the thought behind it, the TA was intended to represent that this was an unorthodox bunch, representing a monkey wrench to be thrown into other people's plans. They didn't do what an opponent expected - didn't play by the same rules, perhaps.

The foremost use for it (competitively) is to screw up those Perplex-laden teams. Facing someone who always puts a CT Nightcrawler or Ultimates Thor on his team along with two or more Perplexers to kick up the Damage? An Outsider can nullify that strategy.

I've also seen people pay for the Saboteur card, putting it on an Outsider as a way of destroying the strategy behind a wildcard-heavy team, since the Outsiders TA is uncopiable and the Saboteur card forces an opponent's wildcards to copy that TA... the net result is that the wildcards copy nothing. This still strikes me as something that's not firmly enough established to be guaranteed as something a random judge would say works, but it does have some history.

That it also shuts down Ranged Combat Expert, Close Combat Expert, Energy Shield/Deflection and Combat Reflexes' close combat Defense modifier, to name four prominent powers, makes it a potentially extremely useful power.

The biggest drawbacks to the TA are the limited number of characters with it (though that's gotten better between the Giants set and Collateral Damage) and the whole "at th beginning of your turn" phrasing, which makes it far less flexible than any other targeted free action ability. Outwit and Perplex can be used anytime during one's turn, for instance, so someone can move into position and then use it. An Outsider, though, has to move into position and then wait through his opponent's turn before getting a chance to use it, giving his opponent the opportunity to either strike or reposition himself to remove the vulnerability. I know at least one venue that's officially house ruled that clause out, so that it can be used at any point during a turn. (Providing the venue posts such things on the website while advertising the event, they're completely sanctioned by Wizkids, btw.)

As was pointed out to you, yes, it wouldn't do anything to the Suicide Squad TA.

Your alternate TA seems fine, though, but you'll likely want to add two words so:

OUTSIDERS: A member of this TA may not have its dial altered in any way by opponents when adjacent to another member of this TA. A member of this TA may modify one of the combat values of any adjacent member of this TA by 1 as a free action, once per turn. This team ability may not be copied by wild card team abilities.

Without it it's open to interpretation that one could alter more than one stat simultaneously, kicking up Speed, Attack, Damage and even Defense Values since there's nothing telling us when the effect ends.

Have fun!

At 8:16 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

I hate leaving comments unanswered this long. Time just slips away.

Your justification for the Outsiders TA is certainly more than anyone over at the WK boards could muster up. Honestly, it just fills me with despair, how difficult/impossible it is to even raise the subject of internal continuity, or consistency with the comic book source material, in any meaningful way, over there. Most of the readers there simply cannot comprehend it; it's like trying to make them think about quantum physics, or something.

Still, even with your justification (which is pretty good) I'm still going to go with my altered TA. For one thing, I've read quite a few Outsiders stories, and while it's fine to say that 'they don't play by the rules', well, it's just not true of how the group was written. About the only unpredictable character in the whole team was Metamorpho. Him I can understand locking down someone's dial, keeping Hydra or SHIELD from working together as a team, etc, etc. The rest of them are pretty much just straightforward superhumans. Fast, agile, hit you with something. Flying around, blast you with something.

Beyond that, it's an entirely internal, self referential TA. I suppose there may be others like that (well, the wild cards certainly are) but essentially, it's a game mechanic that does nothing except cancel out other game mechanics, and it does that in a bizarre, quarter assed sort of way.

I'll add in the two words you suggest, although, as nobody plays by my House Rules but me, this is all essentially useless effort anyway... but then, so is blogging. Or life... now I'm starting to sound like you.

Oops! Gotta run for the bus. Thanks for the comment.


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