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Subject: CCG Journey Week 13 - City of Heroes rss

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Mike Haverty
United States
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This is the thirteenth week in my ongoing journey back in time to the CCGs I own and used to play (or never actually played, as was often the case), chronicled in this meta geeklist: My Journey Back to CCGs.

Actually, I'm a week behind, but anyway. Also, the pocket rule summary for CoH should be up shortly.

The Game
My gang was actually actively playing the City of Heroes MMOG when the card game came out, and it was designed by Dave Williams, so it was an easy sell for us. The MMOG was (is) a lot of fun and the CCG actually does a good job with the theme and mechanics. It also has what I think is one of the most unusual -- innovative, even -- core mechanics in a CCG: the single-action turn.

In every other CCG I can think of, each turn is divided into multiple phases with very specific things happening in each. Cards untap/ready/straighten in the untap/ready/start phase. Draw cards in the draw phase. Play cards or attack in the main phase or attack phase. Games can also mix this up by using combined action phases in which every player can take certain actions, or in a limited fashion where anybody can take "open" actions and only the active player can play permanents or use "limited" actions.

In the City of Heroes CCG, players alternate turns taking ONE action. That's it. No phases - untapping, drawing, playing cards, etc. are each an action that a player must choose to do on his turn. None of it is automatic, and each one consumes a player's single action. And... it works wonderfully in this game.

I don't want to digress into a review of gameplay, so I'll just refer to Zambo's excellent little review here: Review Grill. I will just observe that CoH has some great resource management features, despite having no traditional CCG resources -- the only thing to manage is your hand and the state of your powers.

The Decks
I was actually a week behind by the time I got to play this, so I did not construct a new deck. I still had a sleeved deck built around one of my main MMOG characters, Solitude, a Dark Melee / Regeneration scrapper. I wish I had a screenshot to post, but I've misplaced a lot of my old game pics. Anyway, she plays pretty much like her computer alter ego -- once she gets some core Regen powers into play she is very hard to beat down. Johnny B. had a new deck built around one of the premade heroes, Polar Star, an Ice Control / Radiation Emission controller, who actually has identical powersets to his main MMOG toon, Nisral.

In the past, it seemed like the Regen scrapper was possibly overpowered, so I had originally wanted to make a new deck for the CCG Journey. Two or three years ago I had bought some Secret Origins boosters off Ebay, but never gotten around to opening them, so I did so this last weekend. But, time conspired against me and I never got to make a new deck. I will probably do that in the next few days and get in a few more CoH plays.

The Play
We flopped our heroes down using Toe-to-Toe tactics (basically one of two states that define the range between you). Polar Star has a built-in ability that makes me pay (discard from hand) 1 extra card any time I want to use a Power, which sucks. I was using the Paragon Scrapper hero card, which basically lets you make up any legal CoH type hero (pick an archetype, two powersets and a travel power), which is how I was using my MMOG toon Solitude. You don't have a signature power card or built-in special ability like the regular heroes, instead starting with 2 primary and 1 secondary power cards in play. I revealed Dark Punch (a basic melee attack), Shadow Maul (a melee attack that can hit 2 targets), and Reconstruction (the standard Regen healing power).

In general I tried to attack early and often before the inevitable control powers starting hitting the table. I got some licks in and knocked him down from 22 to 13 or so health, but he started laying ice effects on me that caused me to discard 2 cards each time I wanted to melee him, which really slowed me down, forcing me to Rest (draw 2 cards) frequently as my action. I wasn't drawing any Luck (+Def inspirations) and he actually whittled me down to under 6 health or so numerous times, before my Regen machine started setting up. I also started drawing my Active Dodge cards, which is a Superjump reaction that provides a huge defense bonus against one attack.

I got Reduce Recharge on my Reconstruction; this is a 2-click power, meaning I have to use the Recharge action twice before it is ready again, but the enhancement basically cut that in half. I got out Integration, which makes me immune to stun and increases my healing, and Instant Healing, a small heal-over-time power that is even more effective with the Integration bonus. He kept hitting me with ice powers for 2-4 damage each, while I had to build up cards for bursts of attacks due to the high cost effects he kept putting on me, but the Regen engine kept me alive long enough to prevail.

The Verdict
Johnny B. actually got a couple plays in earlier in the week against MrChucho, so he was already in the mood. I enjoyed playing CoH again. It is a really solid game. The "stun immunity" powers in the Scrapper/Tanker defensive powersets seem really powerful, and the massive healing potential of the Regen powerset can be very frustrating to an opponent, although honestly, this fight was very close, with Solitude being knocked down to 2 health more than once. The +cost controller effects being laid on me really, really slowed down my ability to attack.

Oh my god. I think we might have done something wrong. Johnny B. will have to read this but... I'm not sure I was discarding cards to activate my healing powers each time. I'm pretty sure Polar Star's inherent +cost ability affects all power activation, not just attacking... thinking about it now, two days later, I'm not sure I was discarding every time I triggered Reconstruction or Instant Healing. I think he would have definitely won the game, in that case...

Anyway, I enjoyed playing it again. I may even bump my rating up from 7 to 7.5. Oh, somewhat off topic, if anyone has never played CoH or the new Champions Online MMOG, but like supers, I think you owe it to yourself to download the Character Creator contest client and play around with it. Aside from a contest, you can make (visually) superheroes and take screenshots of them. I might recreate my old CoH toons and take screenshots to use on homemade Hero cards. (Note: I am not affiliated with Cryptic, Scion, or IGN - I just think it's a neat contest, and you can check out the character creator portion of the game client for free.)

Notes on the Journey
It's been a slow couple of weeks for CCGs - not much lunchtime gaming. As usual, the first number is total plays since the CCG Journey started, and the numbers in parentheses is the number of plays since the Week 12 SR.

WoW = 30 (+1)
Magic = 15
AGOT = 10
VS = 8
Doomtown = 6
Epic = 4
BattleTech = 3
L5R = 2
Shadowrun = 2
CoH = 1 (+1)
Arcadia = 1
Fantasy Adventures = 1
On the Edge = 1
Shadowfist = 1

Edit: linked the rule summary file.
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Peter Hall
United States
SC - South Carolina
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CoH was at its best when you had a dozen packs of cards or so to work with. It didn't really work as a limited game since there were so many different power sets and so many bad cards, and it didn't really work in a full constructed environment, but it was pretty fun with a mid-sized pool of cards. The recharge mechanic was a really good idea, and the single-action structure did make for a lot of tough decisions. I think if it had had a full development team behind it, it could have been great.
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