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Subject: With great theme, there must also come great responsibility: A game that fails to deliver rss

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I want to like this game. I want to love this game. I can’t, though. It just isn’t good. On theme, this game has it made, as other reviews will plainly concur. Huge swaths of the cast and crew of Marvel is here, with more than enough villains to go around. The intent is obvious - to create a dynamic storyline within each game, which can vary by scenario, with headlines for all occasions and seasons. On component quality, it’s pretty solid. The miniatures are quite high quality - not the best they could possibly be, but they’re the most I could ask for in a mass market game. The board leaves something to be desired, but it’s more about how the board is used which is important, so it’s excusable.

That, however, is where the goodness basically stops. What follows from there is a minefield of fiddly components, an exhausting laundry list of easy to forget rules, a manual which actually makes the game much more complicated than it need be, a combat system which leaves a lot to be desired, and an overall group interaction which boils down to an abstracted form of ‘go fish’ - more on all that in just a bit. As a testament to how confusing this game can be, I will attempt to explain the rules of this game, in their entirety. I apologize in advance for the length, but that length in itself is the point.

1) The fiddly components.

I like the miniatures; they’re wonderful. But what do they do, and what are they there for? In Heroscape, miniatures act as place holders for relative distance and location, reminders of size, and determinants of line of sight - all good reasons to have miniatures. In Marvel Heroes, they let you know what district your hero happens to be troubleshooting. That’s it. I’m left scratching my head and wondering why these miniatures are doing absolutely nothing for the game, and I look to the rest of the components.

You also have a ton of wound tokens, when I’ve never actually seen more than about 4 in use at one time. Why so many are included escapes me.
You also have a ton of plot point tokens - way more than one should consider to be necessary.

Between the board not really being utilized, the miniatures barely being used, and there being a thousand wound and plot point tokens... It seems as though little thought was actually put into the construction of this game, and it shows that much more when you take a closer look.

2) The fiddly game.

The turn structure is disjointed and silly. Each ‘turn’ is split into five ‘rounds’. Before the first round on a given turn is the planning phase, where you essentially get one ‘plot point’ per hero, and you then spend those points to ‘activate’ heroes. Only active heroes get to act in the rounds to come, but keep in mind, there are two different ways you can activate your heroes. You can either have them in actual active mode, where they actually do things, or in support mode, where they just back up your active heroes. I get what they were going for: your heroes are limited resources, some are stronger than others, and in order to tackle the tough headlines, you might need to save up for a big punch. It just doesn’t do it that well at all.

To understand what support heroes actually do, you have to understand the troubleshooting process. You send a hero to a part of the city that needs saving, the extent of the horrors is given a number, which represents the number of dice you roll to determine the ‘trouble level’, which generally ranges from zero to ten, based on that roll of the dice. That then sets the bar in terms of resources your opponents use to send out a villain (only one) that you have to fight - the theme being, that was the villain causing the aforementioned trouble within that district.

So now we look at the dice. You’ll see some sides with one ‘punchy cloud’ symbol, sides with two of those symbols, sides with a punchy cloud symbol and a plus sign, and an exclamation point. Exclamation points only count toward establishing the ‘trouble level’ in a district. Punchy cloud symbols always count for everything. The ‘plus sign’ is a bonus symbol, meaning you roll an extra die and add that result too (but no infinite loops of that). But wait! It’s only a bonus some of the time. When troubleshooting, you have to roll extra dice if the bonus symbol comes up if your hero (or supporting hero) isn’t explicitly suited to handle the task at hand, be it a rescue, a fight, or a ‘mystery’. When fighting, villains don’t get the benefit of bonus dice UNLESS there’s a nemesis scheming is evil schemes in that particular manner. Heroes don’t get the benefit of bonus dice unless there’s a supporting hero around. If it sounds like you’ll have trouble remembering all of this, you’re right - you will.

Determining the villain you fight is, as I said earlier, like a game of ‘go fish’. Your enemies will obviously need to toss the best villain at you, given the trouble level, so it really devolves into a process of ‘if anyone else has a 4, play it’. Headlines with trouble levels down into the 3 and under range are generally guaranteed to go to the heroes, as villains in that range are nothing short of pathetic. I understand the design need for this, given the huge variance in hero powers (weaker heroes are generally better troubleshooters, thereby able to fight generally weaker villains at a lower cost), but the game result is fight after fight of ‘oh look, Spiderman wins again in one round.

The fights themselves generally don’t seem that strategic. It’s a game of rock/paper/scissors, substituted with high-attack/high-defense/balanced. There are three different characteristics in each attack - the offensive value, the defensive value, and the ‘outwit’ value. Hero and villain simultaneously reveal their attack type. Whoever has the initiative (heroes always start with the initiative) rolls his attack first, and the attacked must roll his dice in defense - hits cancel each other out, spillover symbols from the attack constitute hits. If that attack is survived, the defender gets his chance to attack. If both are still alive, an ‘outwit’ round ensues - whoever gets the most ‘hits’ from his dice wins that contest, giving the loser one hit (potentially knocking him out), and the winner gets initiative for the next round. Combat here is relatively straightforward and predictable. For the most part, if a hero is attacking first, and there is only one wound left to go before he gets the KO, he should go for his most powerful attack. If not, he’ll go for the attack which maximizes defense and the ‘outwit’ trait. That’s basically the whole deal. Well, it would be nice if that were the case.

Active and supporting heroes have ‘active’ and ‘supporting’ abilities, some of which can be used in combat. Excess points from the troubleshooting process that weren’t used to pay for a villain can be used to purchase ‘backup effects’. Players can acquire resource cards, some of which are additional supporting heroes, which can be activated on a limited basis to buff certain rolls. Some headlines are subject to various players’ nemesis, which can add boosted dice to the villains, or step in after the fight is over to attempt another challenge to the heroes at the risk of completing another part of his ‘evil plan’. All of it just seems like so many layers of inconsequential book-keeping, and sometimes it’s just plain agonizing to get through all of it.

I still haven’t gotten to the whole nemesis part. Each player has his own team of heroes, and those heroes have their own nemesis, which is controlled by an opponent. About half of the headlines are marked with a couple lightning bolts, signifying that a nemesis is involved. A nemesis can scheme, adding to the trouble level in the headline (NOT the number of dice rolled), or drawing additional villain cards. As stated earlier, he can attempt to advance his super evil master plan, which progressively makes the nemesis stronger, and ultimately coalesces into the SUPER EVIL PLAN of - deducting points from the heroes score? Really?

Let’s not forget resource cards and story actions! This was yet another place which tried so hard to be interesting, but just got hamstrung as a silly and mundane mechanic. Two of your main actions in a given turn are moving heroes around and fighting crime. The third, less talked about action, is the ‘story action’. There are a certain number of story cards for each team, and on them is some simple, meaningless flavor text, having to do with a hero on that team. Four of those cards are left face up on the ‘story track’. You can take a story action which either bumps the bottom story card off, giving it to the team for which that card was written, or allows you to rearrange the story track as you see fit - after that, you draw a resource card, which is normally another hero which is essentially a backup effect for when you’re fighting things. To get those new heroes on the table, you need to pay for them with plot points in the planning phase before round one on a given turn. You can pay one plot point to get the hero as a one-time-use, or two plot points for a two-time-use. Each of these backup heroes has a team distinction, be it fantastic four, marvel knights, etc - if you play a backup hero that’s assigned to the team you’re playing, you get it as a two-time-use for the cost of one plot point. Details, details, details.

Has anyone recognized how long it takes to summarize the rules of this game? The review is already up to four pages.

3) Summing up

I didn’t have to summarize the whole set of rules (and to be honest, I left a lot out), but doing so makes the point of this review: there is no quick way to learn this game, and there is no quick way to play it. Perhaps if it is played by only two players who have played many, many times, this game can be played in a bit over an hour. Personally, I’ve only played this game with 3 or 4, and it’s never taken less than 2 hours - generally in the 2 and a half range. There is so much to remember, so much bookkeeping, that there is no real time left to actually sit back and enjoy the theme. I like the concept of setting up these completely improbable headline/hero/villain combinations, but it just gets buried under this god-awful mess of rules and garbage mechanics. If it had a more interesting combat system, a more interesting use for the nemesis, a more interesting ANYTHING, I would consider this game to be anything other than what it really is: an overdone, poorly designed game.

I suppose that, in the end, it's just like the your average comic book-based film - you have this great pool of theme and interest, and even with that base, it just sputters on for a couple of agonizing hours until it finally ends, leaving you wishing for your time and money back.

This is the Batman & Robin of boardgames. Hold on, that's DC...

This is the Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer of boardgames. There, that's better.
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Jeffrey D Myers
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"Always rely upon a happy mind alone." Geshe Chekhawa.
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Great thread title!
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Very well written. I don't necessarily agree with it, but you presented your view clearly and intelligently.
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Ethan Van Vorst
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Quick question...does this game include the Punisher? I don't need no stinkin' superpowers...just a GE Minigun and a box of hand grenades. ninja
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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StealthDonut wrote:
Quick question...does this game include the Punisher?


No.
 
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Andrew Miller
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Not as a playable character, but I'm pretty sure he's a supporter.

--ElSoy
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potomak wrote:
You also have a ton of wound tokens, when I’ve never actually seen more than about 4 in use at one time. Why so many are included escapes me.
You also have a ton of plot point tokens - way more than one should consider to be necessary.


Never heard people complain about extra tokens before. Which is better, bare minimum or a few extra in case you lose some? I set up the Plot Points in a shallow "cup" and fish out 6-7 KO/Wound token from the ziplock containing those tokens (PPs are in another and Threat tokens in a third zippy).

Quote:
If it sounds like you’ll have trouble remembering all of this, you’re right - you will.


Weird, never had any trouble with any of that.

Quote:
Headlines with trouble levels down into the 3 and under range are generally guaranteed to go to the heroes, as villains in that range are nothing short of pathetic. I understand the design need for this, given the huge variance in hero powers (weaker heroes are generally better troubleshooters, thereby able to fight generally weaker villains at a lower cost), but the game result is fight after fight of ‘oh look, Spiderman wins again in one round.


Or you could play a cheaper Lead Villain and give him some extra Backup Effects.

Quote:
A nemesis can scheme, adding to the trouble level in the headline (NOT the number of dice rolled)


Might want to recheck the rules, page 11 clearly states you "Increase Threat", that is the # of dice rolled.

As for Threat vs Trouble, that's two terms to keep track of, two.

Quote:
As stated earlier, he can attempt to advance his super evil master plan, which progressively makes the nemesis stronger, and ultimately coalesces into the SUPER EVIL PLAN of - deducting points from the heroes score? Really?


It's a VP game, what would you have had Master Plan completion do?

Quote:
or allows you to rearrange the story track as you see fit


Wrong. You can either move the whole thing along the arrows OR rearrange by moving a Story card of your team to the first-to-drop spot. Again, clearly stated in the rules.

There are Resource cards that allow you to rearrange the Story track as you see fit, but can't do that with the regular Story action.

Quote:
- after that, you draw a resource card, which is normally another hero which is essentially a backup effect for when you’re fighting things.


Or used to pay for the Hero's combat special ability.

Quote:
Each of these backup heroes has a team distinction, be it fantastic four, marvel knights, etc - if you play a backup hero that’s assigned to the team you’re playing, you get it as a two-time-use for the cost of one plot point. Details, details, details.


So there should be no allegiance in the Allies?

Quote:
there is no quick way to learn this game


Maybe read the rules carefully? That's how I learned the game. I make sure I'm learn the rules right the first time, that way won't have to re-learn stuff for following plays.

Quote:
, and there is no quick way to play it. Perhaps if it is played by only two players who have played many, many times, this game can be played in a bit over an hour. Personally, I’ve only played this game with 3 or 4, and it’s never taken less than 2 hours - generally in the 2 and a half range.


2-player games that take even 1 hour are mostly those scenarios that end on the 5th Game Round. Standard 3 Round game takes 35-45 minutes. AP can add time to any game.
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Mike Halkias
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A little prejudiced (and negative) in some parts but generally quite straight placed opinion.
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Doug Palmer
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Must agree with the majority of the review. The rules, as written, absolutely SUCK. And it does seem that the game makers spent more time on the minis than on the actual gameplay. Which is unfortunate.

I like the game better than my gaming pals, but I'm a comic geek. My son loves to play with the minis and from time to time, will ask to play the actual game.

But if I want to play a super heroes game, I'll break out some HeroClix.
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Was this your first and only time playing the game?

Did you have the Universal Head rules summary in hand?

http://www.headlesshollow.com/downloads/games/MarvelHeroes_v...

As others have pointed out the official rules just plain SUCK. This guide makes all the difference in the world.
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John Scherer
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I tried to play this game with my family and it just didn't work. I read a few pages of rules..then I backtracked..then I went back to where I was..then I jumped forward to figure out what the rules were talking about..then back. Yikes!! I started to explain the game to the family and one by one their eyes glazed over. After a turn we gave up.
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Marc Mistiaen
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I won't be engaging in a quote war; these are usually annoying and painful to read. I'd say a couple of things, though.
I'm not a comics fan. I enjoy the movies, but that's basically it. Heck some of the heroes in the game I don't even know (and I mean the playable heroes, I'm not even mentioning the support cards). That being said, I enjoy the game.
In fact, I pretty mich had the reverse experience as many people here: I had read a fair amount of negative comments and reviews before finally getting the game (a couple of years after release, I think), and I was pleasantly surprised. It is not a masterpiece but, as I said, I enjoy it.
As often, you may have been disappointed with the game because of misplaced expectations. I don't know your background so it's just ideas, but they may apply to other people as well. If you're a comics fan but not into Ameristrash or heavy games, I may see this failing to suit you. For example, complaining that the game may take 2 hours strikes me as strange: barely no game I play takes less than that. That's just the type of games I play and enjoy. This also means I'm used to heavy rulesets and I like the complexity they bring to a game.
As for the review itself, I could sum up what I think by saying that I agree with how you describe the game, more or less, but where we differ is that I actually see that as a good thing and you don't.
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Excellent review - totally agree with the original poster's review.

For me, the big issue was just clunky, poorly written rules that, for whatever reason, just weren't easy to learn or remember. The game didn't seem to focus on the things that it should have.
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Jorge Arroyo
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I'd write a long answer to this review, but I'd have to do it with one hand as I hurt my left hand. So, short answer: You're wrong

And a question: how many times have you played the game?

BTW, You say the combat system leaves a lot to be desired but you never explain why... it's my favorite part of the game and in my opinion, one of the best dice based combat systems. I explained why in my review.
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Jorge Arroyo
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Quote:
I played twice...


Some games need a few more plays to be appreciated. That's also the problem with the OP.

Every bad review has been from people that didn't bother learning to play well, which basically means this is no game for people that don't like complexity....
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potomak wrote:
I want to like this game. I want to love this game. I can’t, though. It just isn’t good.


Generally speaking, I’d have to agree. Only the fact that I’m a comics geek makes this game desirable to play. I don’t agree with all of your specific points though.

The fiddly components : Oddly, I have no problem with the components listed in the review. My grumbles are with other pieces. The headline tokens are just redundant and I don’t even use them when I play. The dice icons could have been chosen a bit better to make your results more clear. Oh, and the rulebook IS a mess. Not the worst one ever, but far below average.

The fiddly game : Turn structure is just fine. Remembering when to boost the die rolls or not is easy to remember. I agree about pathetic villains. Any villain with 1 KO needs some good backup effects to have any chance at all so most of the time they’re useless as you’d probably buy a better villain rather than buy a crummy one with backup. Combat is more strategic than the reviewer allows, but they aren’t a major brain drain. The story action is underdeveloped and feels pasted on and meaningless. Just something else to fiddle with when you want to draw resource cards. Allies don’t quite work as described. You can use them a few times based on how many plot points you spend. If they’re allied with your team, you get one more use. That seems simple enough.

Summing up : The only other problem that comes to mind is the use of the Master Villain. Being allowed to ignore him is ridiculous and unheroic. And he can meddle with your troubleshooting, but still opt to not appear himself? Sounds okay on paper, but in the game it really amounts to being afraid of getting beat up… which sounds more cowardly than clever. Oh, and the FAQ creates problems while trying to repair others. I think the rulings on how story actions work and how the FF’s powers work is absolutely CRAZY and refuse to play that way.

Scammer wrote:
Must agree with the majority of the review. The rules, as written, absolutely SUCK. And it does seem that the game makers spent more time on the minis than on the actual gameplay. Which is unfortunate.

But if I want to play a super heroes game, I'll break out some HeroClix.


Eh, Heroclix just has you trading one set of problems for another, but I know what you mean.

Marvel Heroes wanted to be the first good superhero team management game. Considering that these were the same designers as War of the Ring, you’d have thought they could pull it off. Instead we got a so-so game that I’m content to play maybe once or twice a year.
 
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marc lecours
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Like the original reviewer, I really wanted to like this game. The rules are not easy to learn but I don't mind that (I play war games so this game was a breeze).

But the game just isn't fun. The combat system is too complicated so it leaves little time for special super powers. That's what the game needed, lots of super powers, not numbers on a card that vary depending on the hero. This should have been a card driven game with a story happening. The map is disappointing, it is almost pointless. There should have been competition between the heroes to have the most dramatic story (the hero who becomes the most desperate before winning would be the best). Where are the citizens to save. Where is the evil plot to take over the city?
 
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Ben Boersma
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I also wanted to like this game, but it was the biggest dissapointment in boardgames for that year - such potential squandered on a lackluster, uninteresting game.

 
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How many plays have those that gave negative impression about this game completed (with full understanding of the rules) ?

I agree with all with the story cards being non relevent but the other aspects are debatable

Your not playing heroclix here, its a Marvel-Eurogame
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I've played quite a few times. Heck, I was a "pioneer" with this game and was handling rules questions on the FFG boards all of the time.

No, it's not Heroclix and it's not supposed to be. I have no major problems with MH's combat system. I'd like to see 1 KO villains have some chance at winning. I'd like to see the Master Villain incorporated a little better.

The fact remains that I can't get any of the "general gamers" to play this any more and from their point of view, I totally understand. Without any interest in the source material, this is just a very sub-standard euro-game/ameritrash hybrid.
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Jorge Arroyo
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djay16 wrote:
Your not playing heroclix here, its a Marvel-Eurogame


arrgghhh!! down with the heretic!!!

Seriously, though... Even tough some aspects are quite abstracted, I still see a connection between most of the mechanics and the theme...

Trump wrote:
I'd like to see 1 KO villains have some chance at winning. I'd like to see the Master Villain incorporated a little better.


To me 1ko villiains are there for those times you need to inflict one ko before the fight with the nemesis, or for support powers and to fuel special powers. If all you have is a powerless villain and you know you're going to lose a fight without any gains, then it's better to just save the card for later...
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maka wrote:
Trump wrote:
I'd like to see 1 KO villains have some chance at winning. I'd like to see the Master Villain incorporated a little better.


To me 1ko villiains are there for those times you need to inflict one ko before the fight with the nemesis, or for support powers and to fuel special powers. If all you have is a powerless villain and you know you're going to lose a fight without any gains, then it's better to just save the card for later...


I don't follow you. You CAN'T hope to get in one KO before going down. I'd be happy with that. Usually, you're looking at the hero smacking down the villain down before he gets a chance. Maybe if your one KO villain had an option that gave him high Defense and Outwit he could hope to get a hit in.

Support powers? Do you mean backup effects? Sure, you can do that, but ANY card can do that. It's no reason to be happy about holding a 1 KO villain in hand. Same thing with fueling special powers. Any card can do that. There are totally useless Resource cards that will usually be used as fuel for Hero powers as well.
 
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Jorge Arroyo
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Sometimes it is possible to inflict 1 hit with a 1KO villain, sometimes it's not. It also depends on what hero your opponent is using...

BTW, yeah I did mean backup effects. I have a Spanish copy, so I'm never sure about the English terms
 
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Ben Boersma
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I have played it about 10 times before I completely gave up on it.
 
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Quote:
I don't follow you. You CAN'T hope to get in one KO before going down. I'd be happy with that. Usually, you're looking at the hero smacking down the villain down before he gets a chance. Maybe if your one KO villain had an option that gave him high Defense and Outwit he could hope to get a hit in.

Support powers? Do you mean backup effects? Sure, you can do that, but ANY card can do that. It's no reason to be happy about holding a 1 KO villain in hand. Same thing with fueling special powers. Any card can do that. There are totally useless Resource cards that will usually be used as fuel for Hero powers as well.


Ever fought the Marvel Knight holding only Juggernaut. Dormamu, Echantress, Super Skrull, Sentinels, Green Goblin ? You've be constantly hoping for those dice to hit 8 as boosting won't be happening and Spidey or Daredevil Knocks of 3 trouble thats even considering the Marvel Knight on for treat level 5 headlines. Now if only you had Toad or even better Avalanche, pair up with a FURY, PROTECTED,or even SURPRISE ATTACK to gain the iniative and hit a KO for the win.

What i'm sayin is that it is not impossible to win with a 1 KO villian. Even so there always good to give IRON MAN or SPIDERMAN a 1 KO before facing their MasterMind.

It is also very fun to watch when SPIDERMAN or the THING get their ass handed to them by HYDROMAN + Backups. It happen before. Very rare though. But still fun.
 
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