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Subject: Better with time (or Forget it's collectible) rss

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HeroClix is a game that falls into 2 different categories of game that many gamers try to avoid. Miniatures and Collectible games. And I for one was one of those gamers who tried to avoid this one at first, despite the coaxing of my gaming friends. I just didn't think it would appeal to me. Well, I changed my mind. Let me tell you why.

HeroClix has been around for several years now and many sets have been introduced since then. Come to think of it, the rules have changed a couple times since it's debut too. That's something that will also bother some gamers, the fact that the rules periodically change. But the way I look at it, if the game is evolving to make it better, then change is good.

I'm not going to get into what the game once was. I have a feeling that those who've given it a low rating in the past, might give it a higher rating if they played it again. So what's the game like then? Well, it is a miniatures game in the sense that the pieces are in the form of pre-painted miniatures, but I think that's where it stops being a miniatures game. The pieces represent comic book heroes and villains from the Marvel and DC universes (depending on which sets you're playing from). To date, many many pieces have been made and almost every well known character has been made with at least one or two versions. The quality of the minitures is getting better all the time and the paint jobs have improved greatly (yes, the painters have learned to stay in the lines). The playing surface itself is what differentiates HeroClix from miniatures games. Games are played on large, thick, glossy paper maps. The maps are slightly smaller now then they were when the game first came out (an improvement) and the features on the maps are very well marked now (color coded, also a vast improvement). These maps are marked with a square grid which is used to measure movement and range. If you look at many of the pictures posted here on BGG you'll get an idea of what I mean. Bear in mind though that most of these pics are of the older maps and figures.

OK, but how do the rules work? Well, this is where it gets fun. Each figure has 'stats' listed on its base that change as it takes damage. When a figure takes damage it is 'clicked' and a new set of stats appear on its base. Is this a good mechanic? Yes. It means that a character adapts and changes throughout its base to add more depth the the character. It may not be easy to understand what I mean but it really adds depth to gameplay and strategy.

As far as the actual rules, the game in played in turns and in each turn several actions can be taken. For instance, in a 300 point game each player is given 3 actions (1 per 100 points), after which that players turn is over and the other player gets 3 actions. These actions can be 'move' actions, 'combat' actions, or 'power' actions. To try to explain all of this would only confuse you so suffice to say, you can only do so much in a turn which makes choices more important. Also, whenever giving a figure an action, you place a token next to that figure. If you want to give a figure an action and it already has a token, the second token causes it to take a click of damage. If it has 2 tokens it cannot take an action and must 'pass'. Passing clears any token on the figure. This token mechanic gives the 'tempo' of a game a great strategic influence. Again, it's something difficult to explain, but certainly adds to gameplay.

What about the powers? Well, in addition to changing numbered stats listed on the figures base (movement, attack, defense, and damage) there are also powers that are represented by colors on each stat. For instance, gray in the movement section means Running Shot which allows characters to move AND shoot in a turn, while gray in the attack section means Telekinsis. Is this confusing? At first yes. It's almost a little overwhelming to see colors and associate them with the appropriate power. But the game comes with a very handy and very helpful powers card. And after you play a while, you'll memorize the chart and won't need to use it anyway. OK, so what do you do with all those numbers and powers? Well, it's very simple. You move up to as many spaces as your movement number. When you want to attack, you compare your attack to your targets defense and try to roll the difference. If you succeed, your targets takes a number of clicks equal to your damage. And all the powers just add effects to those basic rules.

Is this game easy to learn? Yes and no. The basic mechanics aren't hard. My 7 year old son picked it up right away. But the strategy and depth takes much longer to develop. So what's changed in the recent rules that make it better than the older rules? More balanced powers, feat cards to add greater depth and the ability to 'tailor' characters, battlefield conditions to balance battles, better miniatures, clearer maps, more well-rounded characters, etc.

HeroClix might not be for you. Or maybe you'll love it. Unfortunately, it's one of those games that takes time to prove itself. It took me a while to grasp and really see all the nuances. But in the end I've found it to be a wonderful game. If you're interested in giving it a try, I'd recommend the newest starter set (which at the time of this review is Danger Room, featuring the X-men) and after you've learned to play it a while, check out Wizards.com to look at all the HeroClix figures that are made. Then, find the ones you really want and buy them individually online. Don't waste time and money with the collectible aspect of the game by buying boosters (unless you like the collectible nature of it). Then you'll be able to play it more as a game (which I think is worth checking out) than getting frustrated with all the money it's costing you. HeroClix is also well supported online at sites like HCrealms.com.

Oh yea, it helps if you love comic books too, but I guess you figured that out.
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I'm glad you like Heroclix. I played it in all it's versions (Marvel, DC and Indy) up through the DC Legacy release. I recently got rid of almost all my Heroclix, though. I thought they were making a bunch of great improvements to the game, but felt it would take a complete redesign to fix the things I don't like about it. You can read my review if you are interested in the details of my qualms with the game.

Also, this game isn't really a "miniatures" game as the figure on the base is there solely for eye-candy and the game can be played just as well if it were removed from the base.

Here are some of my concerns. Have the new sets fixed these issues?
1. I grew to dislike the clicky base thing and thought the game would have been much better with static statistics. It seemed like with few exceptions if a hero got hit he was rendered largely useless. Obviously this could be fixed by designing dials that didn't change that much as the hero took damage.

2. Because of number one above, a game consists mostly of playing defensive in order to get into position with only a little bit of action at the end. It annoyed me that a superhero game had so little action.

3. Not being able to move and attack on the same turn combined with the pushing mechanism really became annoying. This contributed to problem number 2 above. Just as I was getting out of the game it seemed like they started designing all the strong characters with move and attack super powers. But after looking at the rules to Star Wars minatures and playing Heroscape I realized there were much better ways to make the game flow better and be more action packed. Have they made any changes in this regard?
 
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rayito2702 wrote:

1. I grew to dislike the clicky base thing and thought the game would have been much better with static statistics. It seemed like with few exceptions if a hero got hit he was rendered largely useless. Obviously this could be fixed by designing dials that didn't change that much as the hero took damage.


A couple things I've noticed have been done here. For one thing, back in the day it seemed that a character's best click was the first click (unless it had an 'activation' click like the Hulk). But lately a lot of Clix seem to have an ebb and flow. Many peak out at mid range and some ever do amazing things on their final click. In fact, it becomes very useful to know a character's dial because their 'role' can change mid-game. For instance, a character that starts off as a main attacker picks up supporting powers later on. I think the days of the 'one trick pony' characters are going away.


rayito2702 wrote:

2. Because of number one above, a game consists mostly of playing defensive in order to get into position with only a little bit of action at the end. It annoyed me that a superhero game had so little action.

3. Not being able to move and attack on the same turn combined with the pushing mechanism really became annoying. This contributed to problem number 2 above. Just as I was getting out of the game it seemed like they started designing all the strong characters with move and attack super powers. But after looking at the rules to Star Wars minatures and playing Heroscape I realized there were much better ways to make the game flow better and be more action packed. Have they made any changes in this regard?



This may be an issue of how a player plays. One thing I've noticed more and more of lately are characters with 'move and attack' powers (Charge, Running Shot, Hypersonic Speed). Also introduced in Fantastic Forces were 'transporter' which can carry characters like fliers can, but also have a special 'move and attack' power. These things allow for more aggressive attacking. Granted some players still play the 'slow game' but I've noticed in competitive play that taking advantage of 'move and attack' and Telekinesis is where it's at.

As far as the pushing mechanism goes, it really sets the stage for what's referred to as 'tempo'. It raises the questions "Can I afford to take a click of damage to make another action? If I pass will I be hurt even more? Can I afford to have two tokens and no options but passing next turn?" Often times if you can stay ahead of the tempo and be able to act when your opponent is forced to pass you can stay on the offensive and make your opponent react to you. (There really is a meta-game here.)

A little while back there was some talk about changing the rules on Charge and allowing all characters to move and attack (to make ranged attacks less commonplace). Not much came out of that really. In my opinion it would have been a little too late to make such a rules overhaul. I see your point about other systems having better ways to deal with this kind of things. I guess they just couldn't go back and re-do too much to make the game function drastically different.

Another change that's significant is that there are very few characters with Support. In other words, no cheap medics to heal Superman after Darkseid blasts him in the face. So fewer heals means more realistic games. (Also, Support now heals D6-2 clicks instead of D6.) Other power changes include Shape Change, Combat Reflexes, Hypersonic Speed, Force Blast, and Mind Control. The overpowered powers are toned down and the weak powers are better.

Another big impact has been made by a feat card called 'Protected'. If a character with Protected is about to take damage, the character can add a token (if it doesn't already have two) and discard Protected to ignore that damage. This just allows you to avoid a massive 'first strike' and makes your opponent think twice about making a move and wasting an attack.

It's almost funny to hear myself defending HeroClix. I didn't used to like it myself. I suppose it just took a lot of playing (and friends who play) to change my mind.
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