Thursday, October 04, 2007

Comics Teach You Heroclix: JLA 13!

Some people seemed to enjoy my last exegesis of a JLA fight scene as a Heroclix battle, so I thought I would do it again using my Book of the Week, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA No. 13. Let's look at the scene where a subteam of JLAers arrive to check out Firestorm's hospital (which is apparently gigantic, skylighted, and astonishingly empty of furniture, I might add).

Team One:
the Heroes

Green Lantern 98 points

Red Tornardo 67 points

Hawkgirl 51 points

That's 216 points. Ordinarily, when you make Heroclix teams, you compose them toward multiples of 100. In a "300 point game", for example, each player puts together a team whose total does not exceed 300 points. For each 100 points of game, each player gets an action per turn. In a 300 point game, each player gets three actions per turn; in a 400 point, it's four per turn. This team is too light for a 300 point game. No wonder the villains kick their butts.

Team Two:
The Villains

Killer Frost 76 points
Shadow Thief 65 points
Fatality 92 points
Poison Ivy 49 points

This team is 282 points. A nearly 70 point advantage is quite a lot in a 300 point game! But having more points and more figures doesn't necessary make a team superior; it depends on their powers, the map environment, and the players.

Sometimes, if you put too many figures on your team, you might find they are each too weak to overcome their foes. An army of 64 Snapper Carrs might be more points than one 251 point Superman, but guess who's gonna win that fight at the end of a very long game?

You know, stupid as it might be, watching Superman kill Snapper Carr 64 times would not be the worst afternoon I've ever had.

Heroes, First Turn, Three
Actions (all Moves).
Red Tornado, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl arrive on the scene.

Fliers can carry one other figure who moves with them "for free", but they can't carry other fliers. Clearly, each of these characters is arriving under its own power, so each figure gets an action token for moving. That's a total of three actions, the number of actions alloted to each team in turn in this, a 300-point game.

Villains, First Turn, First Action (an attack to Incapacitate).
Killer Frost makes a successful Incapacit
ation on Red Tornado.
Why go for Red Tornado first instead of Green Lantern, especially since GL is obviously more powerful? Two possible reasons...

(1) Red Tornado has the highest defense of the three heroes, so he's first priority because if you don't make him vulnerable right away, you might not get a second chance.

(2) Red Tornado has Willpower when he starts out. We've discussed before that there's a price to pay for using the same figure twice in a row, called "pushing damage". A figure that acts two turns in a row is "pushing itself" and so takes a click of damage. But some figures have "Willpower", the ability to ignore pushing damage; it represents
qualities such as gumption, orneriness, or doggedness that have made the character "practiced" at pushing themselves, and therefore immune to its immediate effects.

Because all the heroes just moved, they all have action tokens on them, and ordinarily, they would hurt themselves
by pushing if they tried to retaliate next turn. But Red Tornado is immune to pushing damage because of Willpower. That means he's the most likely opponent to attack you first; so, you Incapacitate him, which adds another action token to him. Now, he cannot attack you, because no figure may move or attack of its own volition when it has two action tokens. This is why Killer Frost goes first; she can Incapacitate other figures, not just attack them.

Villains, First Turn, Second Action (failed Attack).
Shadow Thief attacks Hawkgirl
, but misses.

Shadow Thief and Hawkgirl don't have ranged attacks but they are adjacent to each other and can engage in "close combat".
Most basic "combat values" of a Heroclix figure are found on the dial within its base, and those values changes as the figure takes "clicks" of damage. But "range"-- the distance in "squares away" that a figure can make an attack-- is printed on top of the base and doesn't change as the dial gets clicked down. Each figure has range (anywhere from 0 to 12 squares, although a figure with a range of zero is also said to "have no range").

Figures with zero range have to be beside an opponent in adjacent square to attack. As you can imagine, it is very important to know the ranges of your team's figures and play them accordingly! Remember, when in
Identity Crisis when Kyle Rayner very stupidly tried to punch Deathstroke in the face? He made the mistake of coming within Deathstroke's range (six) when he should have attacked from eight or ten squares away (which is within Kyle's range but outside of Deathstroke's). Kyle just buys Heroclix because they're pretty sculptures; Deathstroke actually plays the game.
Hey, Hawkgirl, has Willpower! Well, of course, she does. She needs it simply to wear that hat in public. Shadow Thief needs to attack Hawkgirl right away, because she is definitely going to come out swinging next turn. But he misses! Uh-oh! I wouldn't want to be Shadow Thief!
We don't talk about rolling the dice much here but almost all attacks depend on a dice roll, and sometimes you just don't roll what you need to. It's good to have a back up plan, in case you miss making your attack roll. Shadow Thief's back up plan is to get face-maced.

Heroes, Second Turn, First Action (double attack).
Green Lantern hits both Shadow Thief and Killer Frost with the same attack.

Yeah, that's gotta hurt, no matter how fabulous your hair is. In addition to telling you a figure's range, a base also tells you a figure's "targeting" (represented by a number of cute little lightning bolts). Most figures just have one bolt; they can attack one opponent at a time. Some figures have two (even three!) bolts, and can target more than one opponent with a single attack. Multiple targeting is usually reserved for characters who have multiple weapons (Deadshot, Green Arrow, Batfamily members, Capt. Boomerang), use energy powers they can split up or fire from each hand (Obsidian, Green Lantern, Sinestro, Wildfire, Captain Atom), or make attacks based on psychology or perception (Dr. Psycho, Scarecrow, Mirror Master, Queen Bee). When you make such an attack you have to split the damage up between any figures against whom the attacks succeeds. Green Lantern does four clicks of damage, and here I'm guessing Shadow Thief takes one click and Killer Frost takes three.

Since GL just moved, he's pushing to do this and takes a click of damage, but it's probably worth it, because he's doing four clicks of damage to his foes.

Heroes, Second Turn, Second Action (successful attack).
Hawkgirl attacks Shadow Thief. She doesn't miss.

Hawkgirl, with Willpower, ignores the 'push', and clobbers Shadow Thief. I'm going to say Hawkgirl arrived on the scene on her second or third click; I mean, her arm's in sling, right? So she's only doing one or two clicks of damage at this point. She does hurt Shadow Thief, but she's probably clicked him on to one of the slots where he has Invulnerability or Toughness as his Defense power. Those are "Damage Reducing" powers, like we mentioned last time; they will reduce by one click (if he has Toughness) or two clicks (if he has Invulnerability) the amount of damage that he'll take the next time a foe successfully attacks him. In the case of the Shadow Thief, this represents that he's gone into more defensive, durable versions of his shadow form. Lots of really durable characters get these two powers (e.g., Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Krypto, Mary Marvel, Robotman, Steel).

Villains, Second Turn, Only Action (successful attack)
Fatality sneaks up and kayoes Hawkgirl!

Killer Frost and Shadow Thief probably don't want to push this turn; they've already taken a beating. So they rest, and Fatality attacks. Hey, who put her on the team? One of the differences between comic book battles and Heroclix battles is that in a comic book, you can use the element of surprise. That's hard to do when the person you're playing against can see everything on the board just as you can!

Anyway, Hawkgirl, with her lower defenses was an easy target and Fatality does four clicks of damage, and that's enough to reach the point on Hawkgirl's dial that has nothing but little red
KOs on it. Hawkgirl is out of the game.

Next turns; everyone "rests".

Oh, in the comic they do some posturing to give the artist something to draw and trade barbs so the letterers can pay the rent. But this is just a holding pattern. In Heroclix, you don't have to make actions every turn; when you "rest" a character by not giving it an action during its turn, you can remove the action tokens it has accumulated, thus freeing it to act on your next turn.

In an actual Heroclix game, this is the point at which Red Tornado would thaw out and start making wind at people. But apparently Dwayne McDuffie has no more respect for him than I do, so he will remain as a Tornadoscicle, essentially kayoed from the game. For our purposes, we can imagine that Killer Frost wasn't really kayoed by Green Lantern's boxing glove and that she continues to attack Red Tornado until he's out.

Heroes, Fourth Turn, Only Action
Green Lantern moves to "base" Fatality

Hawkgirl's out of it. Reddy's being/has been Killer Frosted. It's all up to Green Lantern. Instead of a boxing glove attack, he moves in close to Fatality and bottles her up. Why? Because Fatality's Damage power is Ranged Combat Expert; this increases the damage of any successful ranged attack she makes by two clicks. If you move adjacent to a figure, it can only make a close combat attack against you (that is, any attack of zero range) not a ranged attack (an attack from a non-adjacent square). [Actually, those of you who play lots of Heroclix will notice that I am not telling the entire truth at this point, but I think you'll understand why and forgive me.] So by moving adjacent to Fatality (which is often called "basing" someone), he reduces her effectiveness.
Some figures are designed best for distance combat, with powers like Running Shot (move up to half your top movement, then make a ranged attack), Ranged Combat Expert (increase damage by 2 clicks for ranged attacks) and Deflection (increase defense value against ranged attacks by 2). Such "ranged fighters" include the likes of Adam Strange, Capt. Boomerang, Firestorm, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, The Ray, Starman, and Dr. Polaris.

Some figures are designed best for close combat and have powers like
Charge (move up to half your top movement, then make a close attack), Close Combat Expert (increase damage by 2 clicks for close attacks) and Combat Reflexes (increase defense value against close attacks by 2). Such "hand to hand fighters" include the likes of Batman, Cat-Man, Wonder Girl, Timber Wolf, Hawkman, Bronze Tiger, Captain Marvel, and Animal Man.
Anyway, basing Fatality ties up Green Lantern, too. If you are based with an opponent, you're pretty much stuck fighting them until one of you is kayoed or runs away. Or until something else weird happens that separates you, like a teammate carrying one of you away (which, remember, fliers can do) or someone getting knocked away by the force of an attack (which happens when you roll doubles on a successful attack). That means Green Lantern can't attack the weakened Shadow Thief unless Shadow Thief moves adjacent to him, so GL taunts...John Stewart plays Heroclix. Probably with Dwayne McDuffie.

Villains, Fourth Turn, Only Action.
Poison Ivy incapacitates Green Lantern.

Oops. When GL moved next to Fatality he didn't see Poison Ivy right there, and she successfully Incapacitates him.

Don't be suprised GL didn't see Ivy; she has "
Stealth"! When a figure with Stealth is in or behind what's called "hindering terrain" (squares marked on the game board to represent areas where there's stuff to hide behind, like trees or furniture or smoke), other figures can't "see" it to attack. This is a very very nifty power, particularly if the figure is good at close combat and is facing distance fighters. Batman family figures often have Stealth (or the nearly identical 'Batman Ally Team Ability'), and are always sneaking around the board. Lots of Batman Enemies have Stealth on their first click, just so they can deal with Batman, really. Plus it lets them make those dramatic entrances they do, like in Jim Lee full-page splashes where they just stand there, waiting to get printed on a poster.

This is very bad for Green Lantern. He's taken two clicks of damage from pushing/being pushed by incapacitation. That puts him on his third click, where his defense against a close combat attack is only 14. Poison Ivy will push to attack next turn and probably succeed, which takes him down another notch, and puts her on her second click which has the "Poison" power.

Poison is like a free attack every turn; all she has to do is sit beside him and each turn he takes another click of damage.

Even if he manages to hit her once or twice, he'll be kayoed before she is. Poison is one of those powers that either works really well or not at all. Durable characters with powers like Toughness or Invulnerability just ignore it, and swat the poisoner like a bug. That's why you hold your poisoner in reserve, waiting until your heavy hitters have made the opponents vulnerable. Then you bring them out to finish them off.

Which is exactly what happened in this scene from Justice League 13.


Zaratustra said...

You could make maps for these things too, if you ever found yourself really bored.

Jon said...

That was really cool.

Anonymous said...


Nate said...

your just teaching me tactics I'll whip ya with this Saturday!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, anyone who considers RPGs to be silly, childish, or inferior to, say, chess, should read this analysis.

(This battle took place in a hospital? Poison Ivy is walking around in a hospital, barefoot? Ewww...)

Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed reading your blog on comics but the Heroclix articles I never really got since I've never played Heroclix but now I see the attraction. Excellent. But Green Lantern doesn't have Willpower?

Michael Strauss said...

Of course she's walking around barefoot in a hospital. She's evil.

These breakdowns of the fight scenes as Clix battles are awesome.

The JLA goes into a 300pt match with ony 216pts? Is this because Black Canary's the "leader"? Or did the Leaguers have a bunch of feat cards that they forgot to play? (and no I've never done that)

Anonymous said...

Why would Poison Ivy be able to control intestinal "flora"? That seems like a gross confusion of terms, like asserting that Aquaman could telepathically control Goldfish crackers...

Anonymous said...

asserting that Aquaman could telepathically control Goldfish crackers...

One more reason we're lucky Meltzer left the book.

Anonymous said...

That was really well written. Almost makes me want to play Heroclix instead of SuperSystem. But only almost.

I just prefer games where you can make your own characters when you feel like it, instead of being stuck using a semi-appropriate clix dial for, say, Vibe. Or the Golden Oldie. :)

Captain Infinity said...

Aquaman could telepathically control Goldfish crackers. Because he's the goddamn Aquaman.

Anonymous said...

That was a thing of beauty.

Anonymous said...

I think I finally understand this game. I must have dozens and dozens of Heroclixs now. But up until this moment I really wasn't able to play because no one who has played ever explained it to me. Now I think I get it. Thank you.

Brainfreeze said...

These are very cool--much easier to understand than the actual Heroclix materials. I'm going to have to show them to the thirteen-year-old--thank you so much for coming up with this!

Anonymous said...

By the way, regarding Fatality:

"Let me out of here!"

Has that ever worked?

Anonymous said...

*clap, clap, clap*

Scipio said...

Thank you all for letting me know that you enjoy these. They are rather a lot of work for me to do, and knowing that they are helping people warm up to Heroclix makes it worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Hey Scipio,

I love the blog in general, and I love your HeroClix posts in particular. Thanks for these.

Now, dish... where did you get those lovely homebrew character cards?

Anonymous said...

The mere idea of playing a 300 pt game hurts my brain.

We play with 800 or 1,000 points. Otherwise, you can't put a real super-team on the board.

Marcos said...

Since GL just moved, he's pushing to do this and takes a click of damage, but it's probably worth it, because he's doing four clicks of damage to his foes.

Wait, wait. Are you saying that Green Lantern doesn't have Willpower ?!

Scipio said...

"Now, dish... where did you get those lovely homebrew character cards?"

Oh, those are merely screen captures from Battleplanner. Battleplanner is EXTREMELY helpful if you're a Heroclix player. You deserve Battleplanner.

As for Willpower, GLs often do not have it. Why? Because, although Willpower is essentially an offensive ability, in Heroclix it's located as one of the Defense Powers. So, on any slot of the dial where a figure has Willpower that precludes it from having any other Defense powers, the kind that help you avoid or reduce damage to yourself.

In other words, when a GL has Willpower he also has a glass jaw. Which is perfect when you're playing Hal Jordan.

The good news is, now that Heroclix has "special power" tailored toward individual characters it will be possible for them to make a GL that has Willpower and another Defense power at the same time. Perhaps even in the next set, "Crisis", which is due out in February.