Welcome to article number six in our HeroClix week! As a re-cap you can read our introduction post here. In short: all this week we’re going to be checking out Marvel HeroClix, with a different article every week as we get further into the game.
If you’ve stumbled across this review out of context, I want to first state that this is a review based on my week with Marvel HeroClix, specifically the Avengers Assemble set pieces and boosters which I was sent. I’m a newbie to HeroClix but a longtime comic book fan and Marvel junkie. My hope with this review is to give people like me a look at HeroClix and whether it’s something they want to get into.
Essentially: This is a “review” from a comic book fan and HeroClix beginner, aimed at those interested in trying out the game for themselves, using the small slice of the game that I have. By a newbie, for fellow newbies. This isn’t a review of the entire game in general, as that would take a lot more time and money! Everyone on board? Okay, let’s get started.
So what is HeroClix? It’s a turn based tabletop game played between two or more players, using teams of miniatures. The miniatures themselves contain a dial with their stats on. You turn the dial as the game progresses, which reveal evolving stats, affecting what that character can do and how well they can do it. Each miniature comes with a card listing their abilities, which change based on stats. That’s the game in a nutshell. It may sound simple, but there’s actually much more to it.
There’s a lot of depth to the rules beyond just the basics, such as terrain effects, critical misses, team bonuses etc. Both myself and Loretta, who was playing the game for the first time too, found the full rules to be a little overwhelming at first, but by introducing them slowly we were able to get our head around them.
There’s just the right amount of tactics vs. randomness in the game. As it’s played with dice it’s obviously not a purely tactics based game, but your playing style, choice of characters and chosen strategy do heavily impact the battle. The player that’s better prepared and more thoughtful is very likely going to be the one that’s going to come out on top, regardless of some unlucky dice.
Building a team is done based on points, as characters have a set point value (or sometimes a set choice between levels). This ensures that opposing teams are balanced, regardless of what can be a wildly different composition. In my experience, with the battles I played this week, the game balances really well even with asymmetrical teams.
One of the gameplay elements I enjoyed the most was how much thought has clearly gone into how abilities are handled. Since characters change what they can do as they take more damage, it keeps the game dynamic. Both players have to then adapt and it stops things getting too repetitive or simple. Furthermore abilities are pulled from the source material, with attacks and powers mimicking the names and aesthetics of the comic character.
Assemble your heroes (or villains…)
The attention to detail in the mechanics bleeds over into every aspect of the game, especially in the selection of characters. HeroClix altogether is huge, and as I said this review is just based on my time with the Avengers Assemble set, but the amount of variety we saw across the characters was fantastic. Both heroes and villains were represented from various eras in their career. As a comic book fan I had an absolute blast coming across surprises like Jarvis and Triathlon. It means you can build a team that’s not just about stats, but actually means something to you as a fan.
I have to admit I had a lot of fun building teams from similar characters and playfully imagining how and why they’re matched up for this battle. It’s something that’s undeniably silly but I found this little extra activity added to my enjoyment. It also represents why HeroClix is so fun for me as a comic book fan. Anyone who has been a part of super hero comic book fandom for some time has undeniably seen the question of “Who would win between these two characters?” Well with HeroClix you can actually play out these fights. Is Loki or Red Skull the better mastermind? Well we played out that battle and it turned out Loki met his match against Red Skull’s forces, but I’m already looking forward to giving the Trickster God a chance at a rematch. Meanwhile letting Hulk and Thor smash the crap out of each other was another moment of fannish fun.
Of course, all this fan service would be meaningless if the game was boring. But it’s not. The whole week I had a ton of fun and intend to keep playing the game from here on out. I’ve already been eying up DC sets and Justice League characters for my dream Marvel vs. DC match-ups.
It’s so fast to set up a HeroClix match that it makes it a very tempting choice when we’ve got an hour to kill. Turns are likewise stress-free and handled quickly meaning the game moves at a nice punchy pace. There are no charts to consult to calculate damage or careful measurements to make. As a grid system handles movement, and the miniatures have their own stats on hand, each turn is a breeze.
“It will be absolutely safe, here in my collection…”
Collecting is a big part of comic book fandom for some, how collecting miniatures is handled in HeroClix is perhaps one of the only features of the game which could be divisive for new players. Just like collectable card games, the game relies on the purchase of booster sets with an element of random chance on what’s inside. However, that’s not as potentially frustrating as it sounds. The game is heavily supported with new sets releasing every year, which is of course a great thing for would-be collectors. I understand that potential players might get nervous hearing about the constant release schedule, but from my own research, it seems sets are well balanced and new miniatures will offer new ways to play, but not necessarily better ways to play. For instance, the latest Marvel HeroClix set at the time of writing is Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD, which seemingly contains a focus on figures with a SHIELD slant to them from what I’ve seen, so think Secret Warriors and even Agents of SHIELD. This means if you’re a big SHIELD fan, you can build your team from these characters and use them forevermore, against teams old and new. Alternatively you could pick up the newest Fast Forces pack, the equivalent of the Classic Avengers set I used this week, and have a team ready to go with just a single purchase.
So does Heroclix force you to consistently purchase miniatures to fully enjoy it? Absolutely not, in my understanding if you want to just play some games and have some fun with it you could even just grab a couple booster sets and go. This isn’t like a card game in that you have to build a whole deck of 40+ cards, the flexible point system means a match between friends is incredibly simple to set up. Building competitive teams will of course require some more investment, but in my experience I actually greatly enjoyed the random element. Because there were so many characters in the set, coming across surprise additions made me excited to think how I would incorporate them into teams. And let’s be honest, if you’re a comic book fan you’re probably more interested in putting together cool themed teams and having fun than selectively purchasing the most cold and tactically solid set up.
I like HeroClix, that’s probably pretty obvious. I’ve had a blast playing it for a whole week and I’m looking forward to still playing it. Is it worth trying out for super hero comic book fans? Yes. Us comic book fans are often pretty attached to our favourite characters and being able to battle as them, against other similar characters, is just plain fun on a fundamental level. On top of that, HeroClix as a game system is great, not too complicated but not too easy, it’s simple to jump into but still leaves plenty of depth to master.