Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The mechanics of a set

While anticipating a new set, like DC 75 for this December, I often find myself musing about how sets are planned out. I've read before that there really is no set method of assigning points based on powers, team abilities, or anything else. I've read it's more of a rule of thumb or gut feeling that is applied to each figure. I think that practice has put out a lot of overpriced or under-priced figures.

I understand the need to keep things new and fresh in order to keep people interested. This is a business after all. I do think that a standard mechanic or two would make set planning easier and take some guesswork out of remaking characters in future sets.

You might argue, that with so many characters, such a feat is nearly impossible. I disagree, thanks to the age of the database. If they set up a DC database and apply some standards, they can change some subtle things as they go, but points would easier to apply and might even give people the why or how they are often looking for. Just how much is hypersonic speed worth anyway, right?

To get more in depth, here are some things they could apply for this idea:

Health: The number of clicks a figure has is pretty much it's health. I don't think Superman should ever drop below 9. Superboy could be 8 and some other worlds versions that are way powerful, well, they'd be maxed out likely. But Superman could set the bar on the higher side easily. Past that I think you could agree that a 6 click Superman would be pretty sad. I think Batman should hover around 7 with no higher than 8 for his other versions. That includes vampire batman.

Because of the variations, no format is perfect, but may help to keep that lower than low Superman from happening.

Point values: This is a big one. Establish a minimum and maximum cost for figures and stick to it. Take Cosmic Spiderman for example. I've played him and he's not infallible or unstoppable. He can be beaten by a 300 point force. I've seen it happen. The extra 19 points that basically make him unplayable in anything less than a 400 point game were just unnecessary. As it is, he can't even get good use of his extra team ability unless you go to 400. So he could have been valued at 300 and been just fine. Even out the points to make team building easier. That would be nice also. A database could help organize the average points that any character should cost. Looking at Superman again, I don't think he should ever be higher than 200. I think that's plenty of point cost and makes him rare enough for small games as is.

Numbers of the dial: Once again, using Superman, he should never be lower than an 18 defense to start out. He's a fair combatant so never below a 10 to start. A set of basic stats is another area that could be established to help with planning. Characters that are combat masters, like Wolverine, should never be less than an 11. He's a fighting animal after all. I remember the Superman figures that came out with 15 and 16 defenses and thought, "no way". Some characters should lose their numbers as fast as they do either. Consider Veteran Superman from Icons. His points were way out there and his defense drops to pitiful levels quickly. He starts out as a monster, but drops quickly to a whimpering kitten, then he's gone. No, I liked that Supes too, so don't kill me here. I'm just trying to make a point. It's just that it would and should be easy to give characters a numeric grade on the existing scale. On defense no one goes higher than a 20 (for most base characters) so you now have a scale of even 10 to 20 with most key figures scoring from 16-20.

Another argument against this idea could be that it takes some surprise out of what to expect in character development. That may be, but the power lineups are still pretty loose and with the new arrangements of white powers coming out left and right, I think you'll get plenty of cool surprises where you know that Superman starts with an 18 defense or not. Then there's the Rookie, Experience, and Veteran idea that's pretty much just colors on the cards now. Even those are pretty out of control and not that organized.

Well, just my thoughts. I'm still looking forward to DC 75th and a whole slew of cool figs to collect. I'm sure you are too.

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