Players: Matt vs. Rusty
I may have created a monster by getting Rusty interested in HeroClix. I just hope he doesn't sue me when his new hobby drives him to bankruptcy. But until then, I'm just happy to finally get a chance to play the game.
I started collecting HeroClix when it was first introduced (circa 2002... has it really been that long?), and I bought them sporadically for a year or two. I collected Marvel, DC, and Indy minis, as well as props, maps, and miscellaneous third-party products. But in all that time, I only actually played the game two or three times, and only using the Quick-Start rules. Once I realized I just wasn't going to play it, I stopped collecting them for years.
But when I got them out to take pictures of them (pics here and here), I got interested in them again. I went ahead and bought a few of the conspicuously absent characters, and I'll probably keep buying new ones now and then. This past Saturday I finally played it using the full rules.
Game 1: 100 Point Teams
Matt: Mystique, Magma, & Shadowcat.
Rusty: Deathstroke & Damian Wayne.
My three characters were around the same point values, while Rusty's pair was less balanced - Deathstroke being a higher value than Damian.
Before the battle even began, we realized my team was going to have issues. One of Deathstroke's starting powers had him shrug off 2 points of damage whenever he was hit, and none of my characters did more than 2 points of damage. However, Mystique started with the ability to give a teammate a +1 modifier, so I planned to work with that. I knew it was a long shot, but we were really just playing for practice.
The match eventually came down to Shadowcat and Deathstroke, both standing in the bushes (for a slight defense bonuse) trading blows. As predicted, Deathstroke was the winner.
Game 2: 200 Point Teams
Matt: Supergirl, Batgirl, Spoiler, & the Huntress.
Rusty: Lex Luthor (prisoner version), Red Guardian, 3 Lackeys & 1 Vampire Lackey.
Early in the fight it looked like my team was a shoe-in for the win. My heavy-hitter was Supergirl, and she truly looked indestructible at first. However, the source of her durability was a power that allowed her to shrug off damage... a power Luthor could turn off at will with his "Outwit" ability.
We took out each other's weakest characters first, until it came down to Supergirl & the Huntress vs Lex. Victory looked inevitable... and then it happened. See, the interesting thing about HeroClix is that with every point of damage you take, all your stats and powers can potentially change. A lot of characters realistically get weaker with every hit they take. Some characters actually get stronger as they take damage. The Hulk, for example, gets more powerful the angrier he gets.
Well, this version of Lex Luthor is an interesting case. He starts off fairly normal... yes, he's just a human among super-beings, but he has the ability to out think his opponents. So his "powers" in HeroClix basically represent his craftiness. But when he reaches a certain click, he suddenly turns into a powerhouse. Apparently this represents the part of the story where he reveals that he had planned for this contingency, and unveils some sort of enemy-nullifying technology.
Long story short, Super Luthor kicked my ass.
It really is an interesting game, and a lot more complicated than the "Quick Start" version I had played previously. I like that you don't need a character sheet; and that everything you'd need to know about your character is on the base of the mini itself. But unless you have an eidetic memory, you're still going to need the power reference cards to know what all the different colors represent. Plus, some of the newer Clix have unique powers printed on the cards that come with them now.
The way some of these powers interacted with each other was complicated, and the more characters you have on your team, the more powers you have to keep track of. It's one thing if it's a power your character has all the time, but a lot of the powers change whenever you take damage. It would speed up the game if everyone at the table picked their teams in advanced, and had time to really look at their powers and memorize them. On the other hand, it's really neat when the players don't know their powers in advance. I know Luthor's second wind surprised both of us, and that sort of randomness really made the session fun (even if it did cost me the battle).
Having spent the last couple of years playing D&D 4e, HeroClix strikes me as a bit unbalanced. With the right set of wrong choices, it is possible to build a team that simply can not damage the opposing team. But I suppose building your team is part of the game itself, and something I will get better at if I keep playing it.
So here's the question - is it better to make a team of several weak characters, or just a couple of strong characters? I can see it both ways. Like I said, some of the weaker characters can't even damage some of the stronger ones without special powers or teamwork. If your team consists of several Lackeys against Superman, it doesn't really matter if there's 10 of you. Your bullets just bounce right off him, and he can take you out at his leisure. So it helps to have at least one powerhouse on your team.
But with more characters, you get more actions... sort of. You don't actually get more turns for having more characters - you still only get a set number of actions per turn (1 for a 100 pt game, 2 for a 200 pt game, etc). But the same character can't activate two turns in a row without penalty, so having more characters lets you go back and forth between moving them. When you're down to one character, you may find yourself skipping every other turn so you don't take damage.
Really, the number of team members doesn't matter nearly as much as having the right powers available to you. Luthor's Outwit power, for instance, is such a game changer as to make it almost indispensable. Certain combinations of powers can work together well, so a power gamer could come up with a much better team than a casual player. In that way, composing your team is a bit like building a single character in D&D.
HeroClix changed a lot during my hiatus. The bases of the minis are much better - you can turn them much more easily now (the original starter sets included a ring that made it easier to turn them). The maps are more detailed and better drawn, and include color-coded borders to indicate higher levels and rough terrain. The only thing I don't like is the cards they include, because it's one more complication to a system I originally loved for its simplicity.
In conclusion, it's an awesome game, even if I do suck at it.