Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

By Alex Headley

This is what the game board looks like. It’s pretty big so make sure you have room to play.

Much like Cryptozoic’s DC Deckbuilding Game, the goal of Upper Deck’s Legendary is to hoard points and defeat villains. The two games play fairly different from one another though. For starters, Legendary has two kinds of points to spend: Recruit and Power. Recruit points help you buy heroes from the hero deck while power helps you defeat villains to gain victory points. But more than that, the game fights back. Legendary sets you against a Marvel villain Mastermind and a scheme. When the scheme goes off, you lose the game. It affects the game in other ways too, hurting the players or empowering the villains. The small time villains can attack as well, handing out wounds when they appear or escape across the board. You can face off against Red Skull, Magneto, Dr. Doom or Loki. Each plays a little different and can be paired with any scheme to keep things interesting. Furthermore, you create a custom villain deck to support the mastermind. This includes henchmen like Hand Ninjas but also bigger foes like Skrulls or The Masters of Evil. Each turn a nee villain appears on the table and makes its way across the city tiles. If they aren’t defeated before reaching the end of the board, they escape and harm the players in some way. They can also capture bystanders or empower the mastermind in some way. The masterminds attack with scheme twists and master strikes, the affects of which depend on the villain and the scheme. The hero deck will be a little different each game too. Before you start, you select 5 heroes, each of which comes with their own cards and affects. There’s Hulk, Hawkeye, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Deadpool, Storm, Emma Frost, Rogue, Gambit, Iron Man, Black Widow and Thor. Each card has a different rarity and the more rare the card the better the effect and higher the cost. This adds a lot of variance and chance to the game keeping the replay value very high. This is Legendary’s greatest strength, every single game will feel a little different even when facing off with the same mastermind.

The cards progress from common to rare. You can tell by the border. An open frame is the rare.

Because the game fights back it feels a bit more cooperative than DC and so gives it a separate niche to fill. DC is much simpler though so if I have some non gaming friends around I think it will be first pick. But for more experienced gamers I think Legendary offers a bit more. The replay value makes this an easy buy for me. It’s a good looking game too, with original art created just for the game on each card. The board is great too, it’s easy to read and thankfully labeled in a way that isn’t obnoxious or hard to decipher. Using a city as the backdrop for the invading villains is a nice touch that creates some cool game moments  in addition to looking cool. For instance, one of Storm’s cards gets stronger if the targeted villain is on the rooftop. Likewise, The Lizard wounds each player if fought in the sewers.

But for all it does right, its not perfect. For starters, setting up and breaking down the game is a bit of a chore. Especially the first time, once you get it organized its not so bad but the packaging of the cards is not the best if you want to play quickly. At least Upper Deck provides dividers to keep everything separated but mess that up it drop the box and you are in for a good -5 minutes of sorting to fix it. Another gripe for me is that all the card art is the same. It gets a little boring looking at the same picture of each hero very time they come up. It makes it harder to differentiate the various rarities and abilities and just feels like a lazy choice by the developers. One image for each rarity would have been greatly appreciated and helped to identify cards at a glance.

Comic Gaming: DC Deckbuilding

Posted: December 26, 2012 in DC, Games, Reviews
Tags: , ,

By Alex Headley

A look at the contents of the box. Property of Cryptozoic.

Having played about a dozen games over the holidays, I have to say that while Cryptozoic’s DC Deck-building game is a little too simple it’s still great fun. It supports 2 to 6 players, each of whom control one of the current members of the Justice League: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Cyborg. Each hero has an ability built in that helps them synergise with certain types of card.

Cyborg, who draws cards from equipment and gets +1 power for super powers is probably my favorite to play because of the versatility he brings to the table. Superman get +1 power for each different super power played in a turn, letting him really snowball if he gets a lot of kicks. Batman does the same, only with equipment which makes it much harder to get out of hand because equipment is much more rare. Aquaman can put cards he purchases on top of his deck so he can draw them next turn, a very powerful affect. Green Lantern gets +3 power if you play three cards with different names during your turn, making him a great hero to start with as it encourages you to buy lots of different stuff and experiment a bit. The Flash gets to go first and draws an extra card whenever a game effect makes him draw. It’s a good power but if you can’t buy card draw stuff it can be underwhelming. Wonder Woman keys off of villains, using her lasso to arrest them and draw extra cards for her next turn.
The goal of the game is to build a deck of cards that will help build power and defeat Super Villains. Each card is worth victory points, once all the super villains are defeated, the players total up their points and a winner is chosen. It’s a simple concept used to great affect in other games like Dominion or Ascension. The kicker here is the aforementioned synergies heroes have with certain cards.

For example, Superman gets an additional power point each time he plays a super power card. Batman does the same with equipment and the Flash gets to draw extra cards. Each one has a unique feel and adds a lot of replay value to the game. The Super Villains are interesting as well, each one gets to attack on their first appearance, harming each player if they can’t defend with a card in their hand. Players can choose to buy super powers, equipment, heroes and villains. Each card type interacts with others in various ways and some villains even let you attack other players by handing out weakness cards that reduce the player’s victory points, unless you have Bizarro, then your weakness becomes strength. There’s just enough nuance to keep each game interesting but learning the game and even getting good at it is quite simple. I had a lot of fun playing it with the family. That said, its far from perfect and I think he final product could have and should have been just a little bit better. More interaction between the players would have sealed the deal for me. I want to feel like a part of the Justice League, working together to take on Darksied. Instead, I feel like I’m racing the other players to be top hero, stealing cards that would be beneficial for my opponents to keep them from winning, or stacking weaknesses to push them down. It’s fun but its just not very heroic. Even just mimicking Munchkin in that regard would have been nice.

You’ll be seeing this guy a lot. He is always the first villain in play. Property of Cryptozoic.

“I’ll split the victory points with you if you help me take down the Anti-Monitor.” Trading between players would have made for a good time as well. Bartering adds a lot to a game like this, making it more than shuffling cards and hoarding points. It adds a social element that makes the game a unique experience, something you want to tell stories about for years to come. DC is just missing that wow factor for me. Still, the art is beautiful and the cards are bursting with flavor and charisma. Of course Arkham lets you draw extra cards for playing villains. Robin helps you fetch equipment and Flash gets to go first. It’s those little touches that give the game it’s value and make it a great experience for comic fans. Despite its flaws, its still a fun game that is easy to pick up, play well and enjoy with friends. I recommend it to anyone wanting to punch, kick and throw Gorilla Grodd at Lex Luthor.

Rotworld is a big event bringing Animal Man and Swamp Thing together in an epic alternate reality tale. Property of DC Comics.

By Alex Headley
As I’ve said before, Heroclix is great for recreating comic book battles. There are enough characters and pieces in the game to do just about anything. Rotworld  is an ongoing event centered on the conflict between the Green (plant life) the Red (animal life) and the Rot( decay). The Rot has won and Earth’s heroes have fallen and become twisted zombies of rotting flesh. Only a few people remain, protected by the Green and the Red. Swamp Thing and Animal Man each lead a small group of heroes to war against the all powerful Anton Arcane, the avatar of the Rot. I thought this was a fun scenario and set out to recreate it in Clix. Some were more difficult than others. For the Green I made a 400 point team of Swamp Thing, Poison Ivy, Alan Scott Green Lantern and John Constantine. Swampy and Ivy are very accurate, as they are the Green’s top representatives. I cheated a bit with Constantine, while he does appear in the event it’s as part of Animal Man’s team. Alan Scott is the Green’s avatar on Earth Two so he fits thematically even if he doesn’t appear in the series itself. The Green is probably the best of the three teams in a standard game. There is a clear tentpole in Swamp Thing and lots of support to keep him going.  Constantine’s ability to shut down probability control while using his own is huge and GL serves as a more than adequate second attacker. Ivy provides support with barrier and smoke cloud/poison to the team.

Next up is the Rot. This was an easy team to build. DC 10th Anniversary provided us with some excellent zombified heroes in the form of Black Lanterns. Sadly, i don’t have the BL Superman to pair with Batman and Wonder Woman but I do have Bizarro, a suitable stand in the still provides a zombie feel and has the monster keyword, important to avoid any ill affects from Batman’s pulse wave. While the trinity of DC heroes have yet to appear in Rotworld I think it’s certain that they will and in the absence of an Anton Arcane clix this is the best I can do. The Black Lantern Alternate Team Ability helps keep Bats and WW alive and kicking.

The Red gives us a couple of options. One is to try to match the lineup from the book. That would be Animal Man, Steel, Beast Boy (in his new red color), Constantine and Black Orchid ( a new, unclixed character) and Frankenstein. With Orchid unavailable, the team is incomplete so I prefer an all animal theme team focused on making Animal Mad a complete badass. Animal Man leads Beast Boy( starting in his pterodactyl form), Detective Chimp, Cosmo ( the Marvel U Russian telepathic dog), the Avenger’s Tigra and the Inhuman’s Lockjaw and Hairball. Lets just pretend that these are various servants of the Red sent to assist Buddy Baker in his quest. Animal Man’s trait lets him copy the combat abilities, speed powers and attack powers of any animal. This team gives him access to flight, telekinetic, stealth, indomitable, duo attack, incapacitate, mind control, pulse wave, teleport and so much more. It’s hard to resist that kind of power and versatility. And it just looks so damn fun. All of these teams are competent and powerful. They can be played one on one against each other or you can make your own three way battle. You could also double the points available to the Rot( up to 800) and play a two vs three battle. Add more heroes and pretend they are undead rotlings. Clix with steal energy, poison or regeneration are particularly thematic.
Play these teams and let me know what you think or make your own scenari and share them in the comments. Better yet, if you live in Alabama come join us on Saturdays at 2 at Kingdom Comics in Vestavia. Thanks for reading.

By Alex Headley
Robert Kirkman’s zombie epic, The Walking Dead may be the hottest comic property outside if Avengers at the moment. The comic has always been a critically acclaimed hit but AMC’s television drama has really put the series on the map. As a result, tie ins and cash grabs are coming fast. There are some duds to be sure but amidst it all are two excellent games worth your time. The first TellTale Games excellent adventure series bases in the Walking Dead universe. The 5 part episodic series is available to download on pretty much any platform imaginable. A retail version is coming soon for consoles. It puts you in the shoes of an original character making his way through the zombie wasteland. Lee can be roleplayed in several different ways depending on your personal preference, but ons thing is constant. You have to keep Clementine, a young girl you meet early on,safe. The games play like a classic adventure game with a heavy emphasis on exploration and Mass Effect style decision making and conversation. Your decisions have a huge impact in how the game plays out from episode to episode. You will decide who lives and dies on a regular basis. The story consists mostly of an original cast but there is some crossover with Kirkman’s cast like Herschel and Glenn. The storytelling on display here is second to none and does a fantastic job of translating the themes and ideas from the comic series. It really does feel like playing the comic and that probably makes it one of the best comic book games of all time. It just nails it.
Another game I’ve been enjoying is Walking Dead Assault. Its an IOS for $1.99 and is closely tied to the comic series. It’s an isometric view squad shooter in real time. You control up to four characters from the series and make your way through maps rescuing survivors, collecting supplies and killing lots and lots of Walkers. Each mission has a main objective and a bonus objective to complete so there is some definite replay value, a requirement in a iPhone game for me. Each character has their own stats, weapons, special abilities and passive abilities. For instance, Glenn can distract walkers to his position and let his squad flank them or you can use Andrea’s ability to sneak past a group. The game plays well, it’s fast paced and fun but like all touch screen games the controls can be a bit sluggish. It gets better as you play though. The best part for me though is that the entire game is rendered in the series class black and white look, and the menus borrow art from the comic meaning that the character portraits have a lot of personality.  It really helps drive home the atmosphere. My favorite bit is that a comic panel pops up briefly at key moments, like when a zombie herd approaches. In addition to earning stat points and skills for collecting supplies, you can also unlock bonus material. The trivia is the most interesting aspect of this but the concept art is cool too. The sound design is less impressive. It’s not bad really, I just don’t like the music and generic zombie moans don’t do much for me. The clicks and beeps in the menu are particularly annoying. I only call it out because the interface is just so well designed in every other aspect. If you’ve got a couple bucks lying around and are itching for some zombie action on the go, this game will definitely scratch that itch, treating you to some cool Walking Dead stuff along the way.

Comic Gaming will be a semi-regular feature on Comic Critique. In each post I’ll talk a little about my favorite video games starring comic characters or concepts and review any new games that come out.

By Alex Headley


I’m a sucker for a good fighting game. Probably because my dad worked in an arcade when I was young and I cut my gaming teeth on Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II.
But my favorite has always been the Marvel vs. Capcom series which pits Marvel heroes and villains against the likes of Mega Man, Ryu and Chun Li. Most of the games in the series let you create a team of three characters from either roster. You can tag characters in and out to string combos together or call in an assist to do a quick attack and then leave the screen. This 3v3 combat style makes the game unique and really lets you customize your playstyle. The  latest iteration in the series is Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It’s also the easiest to handle, which is good because despite my love for the genre, I am not a great fighter. I thought I was good because I usually come out on top when I play with family or friends. But UMVC3’s online component put me in my place awfully fast. I’ve won a couple of games but many more matches were complete blowouts. I really only stood a chance with Hulk thanks to his easy combos, high damage and armor. But he’s slow so a fighter like Zero (from Mega Man X) can tear him up pretty easy. To cover his approach i use two projectile assists like Dr. Doom and Iron Man. Both of which have some fun combos of their own.

The game has a huge roster to choose from.

Being a comic fan, most of my teams are all Marvel; Dr. Strange, Hawkey, Nova, Super-Skrull and Rocket Raccoon (yes, you can shoot people in the face with the coolest raccoon of all time) are some of my favorites. I like the Capcom roster too, namely Ryu (a classic), Haggar( Final Fight),  Arthur (Ghosts and Goblins), the aforementioned Zero and the Nemesis ( Resident Evil). Character combinations are the heart if the series and experimenting with the roster is the best part. Playing Arcade mode on varying difficulties is a great time but Ultimate really shines in Heroes and Heralds mode. This lets you expand on the base game with the addition of action cards that alter your abilities in some way. Some may take away your ability to block for a huge damage boost or let your health recharge faster at the cost of your special meter. Some of the effects get kind of crazy, letting you play three of the same character or enter a power up phase that pushes your character over the edge. The best ones let you siphon health from your enemies or have an endless special meter to perform lots of Hyper Combos. The mode adds a lot of playability when your friends aren’t around and you can’t hang with the professionals online. Capcom fighters have a huge community and tournaments often have cash prizes. Fighters are a regular part of the E-sports trend and all the big guys use the online mode to train. But even if you will never win a million dollars for a well times shoryuken, MVC has a lot to offer gamers and comic fans alike. Nothing beats having friends over for a friendly round robin tournament to see who comes out on top. The game is highly technical so I recommend you spend some time in the training mode and mission rooms for the characters you like.

Comics and fighting games will collide again in early 2013 when the creators of Mortal Kombat release Injustice: Gods among us. It pits all the biggest DC comics characters in epic one on one battles. It’s a must buy for me so ill review for you guys when it hits. I’ll do a write-up for the Marvel Heroes action MMO when it finally hits as well.

Batman Heroclix introduces Prime dials

Posted: November 17, 2012 in DC, Games
Tags: ,

By Alex Headley


The Batman Heroclix set adds a lot of new things to game. Vehicles are the most prominent addition but the possibly more impactful addition is that of prime dials. Prime dials are rarer than normal dials and as a result the pieces are more powerful. The trade off is that only one prime character can be on your force for a game. Prime characters are denoted by a green ring on the dial. Here’s the thing, prime pieces are numbered differently, instead of having their own number in the set, and each prime is just a rarer version of the normal piece. For instance, Catwoman is number 007 in the main set. Her prime counterpart is 007b. Both are common pieces but the chance of getting the prime Selina Kyle is much lower. Selina is also a much improved figure over regular ol’ Catwoman, sporting better powers and values for fewer points. This is a great way to add more valuable ‘chase’ pieces for collectors. However it also leads to the slippery slope known as power creep. Prime figures will dramatically outclass older pieces (or even pieces in the same set) thus making the less powerful figure irrelevant. This is already the case with super rare and chase figures that are in each set, but those typically come with a high point cost to off set the power. They are also different characters or takes on popular characters. Game designers can get around this hurdle with intelligent game design and giving popular pieces varied point values. keyword and special powers to break up the game. That’s the case in the Batman set.

 

The aforementioned Catwoman and prime Selina Kyle are capable of different things. Kyle is the perfect thief, able to swipe special items and relics from opponents and staying in the shadows to keep safe. Catwoman played it stealthy too but is more of a team player with a fun support special power and picking up better defenses with a teammate nearby. The two are uncomfortably close in point values though, with Kyle clicking in at 69 and Catwoman coming in at 71. Kyle has significantly better combat numbers as well. There are prime figures at every rarity in this set. Catwoman/Selina Kyle at common, Sasha Bourdeax/Black Queen at uncommon, Hush/Bruce Wayne at rare and Batman/The Caped Crusader at super rare. The best part is that these are extra figures in the set. They don’t take up a slot that would otherwise be occupied by a new, possibly inclined character like Batwing or El Gaucho.

The batman set vehicles are no less complicated. Unfortunately, the cards for the vehicles include a lot of text and extra rules that makes playing them a bit of a chore. Still the fun of ramming your enemies with the Batmobile makes up for it in my book. The dials are very long and since the pieces are bigger can make great tie up pieces, and mobile blocking terrain to hide behind. They can fight too but take damage for doing so. Their ability to carry several figures across the battlefield at once is invaluable. Especially on teams without fliers, like Gotham City and Police themes. Plus, when they are destroyed, they become ultra heavy objects that super strength pieces can use in combat. Standouts include the Blue Beetle’s Bug for its hypersonic speed and ability to avoid or heal damage and the Batwing’s ability to drop its passengers in its flight path.

So, clixers, what do you think of prime dials? Are you happy with the Batman set? Will you be fielding the new vehicles? Let me know in the comments.

Bonus! Here are five of my favorite pieces from the set. Go check out their dials in the HCRealms units section. Here’s a link: http://www.hcrealms.com/index.php?page=units

Runner-Up

BM 207 The Joker

The counter top display Joker is my preferred clown in this set. Both Jokers in the set are good, but this one has indomitable, trait probability control on your turn and a fun trait that lets him get revenge on anyone dealing damage to a friendly Harley Quinn. Throwing a Harley around as bait is great fun when the Joker comes dashing in with a free close combat attack. Lots of keywords make him a versatile piece and I love to play theme teams.
5. BM 010 Blackbat
This is an obvious choice. Cassie Cain will be swing lots of competitive play. Charge in with an incapacitating quake to deal damage and knock back to multiple opponents then use a free smoke cloud to get back stealth. If that doesn’t work she is plenty capable if holding her own with combat reflexes and super senses, outwit, exploit weakness and close combat expert keep her useful. Batman Incorporated keyword cinches it.

4. BM 031 Alfred Pennyworth
This butler means business. Opening click perplex is nice but the second click onward is where Alfi shines. Super Support with a range of 4 and  perplex is a winning combo. Just like in the comics, Pennyworth keeps the Batman Family safe and healthy for cheap. And indomitable lets him keep it up and make sure he is in the best position to take care of your team. All that for just 42 points.

3. BM 019 & 005 Beast Boy
The morph mechanic returns! In DC75 Beast Boy could morph into several different animal forms. Batman adds two more options a dolphin and a pterodactyl. The pterodactyl is my favorite here because it can carry multiple pieces and still packs some offensive power with charge and exploit weakness. The dolphin has some fun water bonuses but water is too rare to really make use of it. The best part is that these animals are packing the teen titans keyword, meaning you can start with one on your force instead of the lackluster human form offered in DC75.

2. BM 032 R Big Barda
I’m a fan of the New Gods and especially Barda. Which is why I voted for her inclusion in the set in WizKids first big fan vote. I was very pleased that she won and even more pleased with her dial. She bring more to the table than the typical brick piece thanks to her Boom Tube trait. It allows her to incredibly mobile and position to where she can forge most damage. Her second trait gives her extra defense for each action token, encouraging pushing and constant offense. Very character accurate for the aggressive New God.

1. BM 048 SR Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze puts the often overlooked power Barrier to good use. Barrier shenanigans are fun and Freeze uses it well, making 9 range close combat incapacitate attacks against anyone adjacent to his barrier. His three targets are escape finally useful as he can target multiple character with his special engaged combat expert power and thanks to his trait gets a bonus to his attack for each character targeted. It’s a fun dial for one of my favorite batman villains.