Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keywords and their impact

I don't know about you, but when I read the keywords on a figure's card, I feel like I'm sometimes seeing a preview of things to come. For example, Technet: we only have one character for the Technet so far, but seeing a keyword almost seems like an unspoken promise that you are going to see more of these guys.

Now, the company has gotten better about this, but they really should reign in that keyword use and consider what they are saying when that word is printed. As it is, there is an armada of keywords out there. I know there pretty much has to be that many in order for there to be a good range of themed teams to build. But how do they decide on what the keywords will be? Sometimes it's hard to follow.

Sometimes, it looks like keywords on done on a character by character basis without much thought to the future. Well, it used to really look like that, I admit it's a little less that way now. And just to show I'm not talking out my ear, check these out:

(Remember: in order to have a themed team ALL of the characters on your force must share the keyword AND there must be the acceptable number of figures on your team. For a 300 point team that's 3 figures for generic and two for non-generic. Remember those numbers)

NG means Non-Generic and I'm pretty much just doing those because that's as much as I could fit here, ha ha.

Agency X (NG): Two characters have been given this keyword. In current format they come to 298. They are Taskmaster and Deadpool. Problem: While you can make a team now (that will die a horrible death), this keyword needs more figures to make it viable in games. From Avengers to Web of Spiderman (from when Keywords officially started) only two people is just not enough. If you use older pieces or dupes (that most venues make rules against now to avoid over cheesiness) you can go to back to Xplosion and use extras. Yes, I have the fifty page printout with keywords given all the way back to the very first set.

Badoon (NG): The only saving grace for this group (having the Skrull team ability) is that they are a "minion type" generic figure that you can use as many of that you want to. I've seen a few Skrull teams with them, but now they lose the theme. Why? Because they DON'T get the Skrull keyword. And I sorely doubt anyone wants to make a Badoon army. The enhancement is cute, but the team will likely die. So, Badoon is pretty much useless. Especially to the Skrulls. Look it up.

Beast (NG): Why??? Why is this listed as a non-generic for one? And why oh why is there only ONE character? Yep, just one. Marrina from Armor Wars. Look, this one was redundant. Give her the animal keyword and have done with it. Or monster if you really want, that's another type of beast isn't it? Better yet, if they are going to go back and assign keywords to figures that didn't have any at first... omit the useless keywords. This one is a prime example.

Beta Flight (NG): Marrina and Vindicator only. Two people and not even two hundred points. 143 to be exact. There hasn't been another since Supernova. Sorry Beta Flight fans (if there are any).

Big Hero 6 (NG): Another that got slapped in there with just two guys, Silver Samurai and LE Shiro Yoshida. Did the person making this list use wishful thinking? And why not Vet Sunfire? I realize this list may not have been made entirely by the company, but...

Black Hole Sons (NG): Currently only the Mindless Ones from Giant Sized Xmen have this keyword. Okay, so, are Starstalker and characters from his storyline coming? If not, why even have this keyword? Aren't brute, monster and mystical enough? Is it just to look cool? How about the Mind? Well, this is a point I'm trying to make. When I see a new keyword (since the purpose of a keyword is to build a team around it) it suggests to me that, in upcoming sets, I'm going to see more of them. If I don't, it will be a disappointment and poor planning in my opinion.

Captain Britain Corps (NG): There are only two for this one since Avengers. They can reach 300 points if you pile some cards on. If you don't and you play them in a 300 (and they have to be the only ones you play for that in order to be themed), you will be squashed. I actually don't know of that many of the Capt. Britain Corps that are even viable. I personally find the group redundant. Still, if you are going to give out the keyword, let's use some proper planning and make it usable.

And it goes on and on: Circus of Crime, Coast City, Conglomerate, Deadpool Corps (JUST ONE GUY!), Emissaries of Evil, Enforcers, External, European Defense Initiative (WHAT?), Excelsior (oh brother), Exemplars, Eternals, Factor Three, Fawcett City (look, it worked for Gotham but that was about it okay?), Gene Nation, Great Lakes Avengers, H.A.M.M.E.R. (Why?), Heavy Metal (I better see more of this one ha ha), Hive, Intergang, and don't even get me started on all the Justice League craziness and confusion. Seriously, isn't JLA the same as Justice League America? I realize there's competition with having as many or more than Avengers, but aren't we trying just a little too hard? Oh and there are still more, but I'm stopping now (aren't you grateful?).

There are plenty of great keyword teams to build. I'm just saying that there are places some better planning could be considered. It will make for less questions and confusion. It also makes for less spoiled expectations. Just my thoughts.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Great ways to play Juggernaut

Juggernaut is by far one of my favorite X-men villains and I've been waiting a long time for a good accurate rendition of him to play in my favorite game. Giant Size X-men delivered on that I sat down and checked out his keywords. Good ol Juggs is playable in several formats and I hope you enjoy these remarkable ideas. These are only from the new set. Naturally you can reach back and make a really cool team that way too.

Excalibur: Juggernaut, Cypher, Lockheed, and Psylocke for 352 points. For the 400 point format this little team can pack a punch. Cypher gives them your opponent's team ability (if any) and Lockheed makes for some versatile combat support. Use him to bodyguard Cypher, or have him follow Juggs on his path of destruction. I like having him back up Psylocke who's telekinesis can also come in handy. You want to go ahead and push Cypher to his perplex too.

Exiles: You take your chances anytime you use only two people, but in a 300 point match, Juggs and Psylocke could possibly pull it off. Probably best to pull in Morph or Mimic from past sets to get your Exiles going.

Mystical: Pair Juggs up with Elsa Bloodstone and a Mindless one for 366. Mindless ones are getting underestimated, but hey, 100 points for Mystics, psychic blast, range of 8, and impervious? I think that's a great deal myself, but that could just be me. Juggs and Elsa pretty much need to be in someone's face, but having that Mindless one go point with range and Mystics damage is a great way to start opening wounds that Juggs and Elsa will definitely make worse.

Brutes: Now this is expensive, but you play Juggs in a minion style combat with two ore more Mindless ones moving ahead of him for 393 points on up. Once again, the idea is to use Mystics as a front shield, opening the way for Juggernaut to come in and do some finishing pounding. Interesting, but probably not a big tournament winner. Could be fun though.


Here are some ideas for playing Juggernaut with the Xmen keyword:

"Half Brothers": Juggernaut, Prof. X and Lockheed for 363. This has a really mean edge to it with the Prof. since he can reach through others with his powers. That makes everyone on the team with him a double threat. Juggernauts smash through power with the reach of the Prof.... yikes. Even if they are outnumbered, they could definitely do some serious damage.

"Brutality": Put him with Archangel in a duo team for 292 and add Wolverine for 395 total points. Archangel can make for some vicious air support and Wolverine still having that heal a click trick makes for a nice edge too (pun intended). As Wolverine once said "We're about to go the throw down city for the stomping marathon."

"Repentant": Put him with Cyclops and Emma Frost for 384. This is based on his first work with the X-men when he tried to learn what being a "hero" was about. There's some good damage capability with this team up. Cyclops ability to deliver psychic blast in the face is a fine addition too.

"Dual Allegiances": Since both Juggernaut and Rogue have connections with Brotherhood, why not team them up for 321? Again, a risky prospect since most good teams have three or more people for such high points, but could be interesting.

"Rivals": Iceman was about the most against Juggernaut of the whole team, constantly challenging him on missions. So put them together in a risky duo for 297 or add Storm (who also didn't like him much better) for 383. Storm is a power house in her own right so added with Juggernaut, I could see a bad forecast for your opponent.

For 500 play: Put him with Archangel, Storm, Psylocke and Lockheed for 499 points. This matching just looks like tabletop murder to me and I like it! This team has great range, great damage capability, and awesome powers. It's flexible and dangerous. Give it a try!

BROTHERHOOD: This is a bit more difficult. In a 300 point format you will ONLY get two players on the table. Your best bet for that is to go with Sabretooth since they're both indomitable. You can make an interesting paring with Mystique too. Blob is just too outwitable but would make a good forward meat shield, I guess. In four hundred you can add another member easily or go with another duo with Magneto. All six of the Brotherhood will cost 765 points. To me, that says Juggernaut plays better with the X-men for this set, naturally you can make plenty of good plays by reaching back too.

For reaching back I say go Mystical or Excalibur. Put him with Nightcrawler for some annoying fun! Great possibilities for a great game figure. Way to go Juggernaut!

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Giant Sized X-men Review!

I have a lot to say about this set. You know, what makes a set truly great is when the good so outweighs anything remotely “bad” that you just don’t care. Giant Sized Xmen brings that point home very well. This set is truly great. As we usually do, my son and I had a nice pack party with a case + a brick and one extra super booster. Sheboygan area sold out in less than 24 hours.

I have to say that we completed the commons almost twice over which is very good for distribution. It was interesting to get two Elixirs in the same booster and one booster had some broken pieces that I glued. Right now, I’m only missing the Captain, Phoenix, Cable/Deadpool, Pyro, Hulk, Apocalypse and the Mark V. I may have been very lucky, but I think they really are trying to make sure your chances are better by the brick. We were very happy and a great time opening packs. So I have to give prompts on distribution from what I’ve seen and heard from other local players. Hey, out of four super boosters, we got four different figures. That’s awesome.

The figure quality is also very good. They are certainly pushing the envelope to create more dynamic poses and appearances. Storm, Magneto and Juggernaut really show how much work they are putting into it. Yes, there are some cookie cutter figures (the Hellions), but that may have been necessary to get you the super cool poses molded for the rest. Some finer details are lost, but again, there’s plenty of way cool to appreciate. I really like them. Juggernaut’s new look really shows his imposing size compared to his last incarnation from Fantastic Forces. Of course, there are sharper small details on the previous sculpt, but it makes up for the difference.

Sculpt/manufacturing drawbacks: The new pioneering on figure poses and energy bolts have one flaw that I noted, Storm. She’s rather fragile and the way she sits makes turning her dial a little troublesome. It’s not easy to get a grip on the sloped base. My fingers just slide up to the feet and I worry that I’ll break her. Her hand came loose as I got her out of the package. I glued that, but still, worth noting guys. Bases are pretty good but I still had to do some doctoring to turn about 30% of them. There are two things making it hard to turn these dials. One that was more prevalent in Hammer of Thor and Web of Spiderman, was the notch that stands up inside the dial (the cause of the clicking noise) being too high, making the dial stick. A pair of fingernail clippers fixes that easily. The second and more of a problem for this set is a bit of plastic sticking out from the edge (side) of the inner dial that catches and stops turning. I used a pair of reverse curve toenail clippers to correct that problem. Most of the dials came apart easily enough to let me fix them. This isn’t a show stopping problem and I must also note that it is impossible to correct completely. It’s a problem of manufacturing. Sculpts are a lot more solid on their bases, but jamming is a big threat to the pieces that are on skinny little feet or small centers to grasp with the fingers. That brings me to the one thing that I am going to have to make mention of and I hope it’s considered with seriousness.

I have shed blood for heroclix.

The culprit: Horseman Wolverine. There are some small pointed plastic bits that stick up right at his feet (where players will put their fingers) and it’s all black. I went to turn the dial and one of the little pieces stabbed into my thumb. Yes, they came out very sharp and I corrected this with the trusty toe nail clippers. I got two of that Wolverine and both needed the adjustment, especially since one goes to my nine year old son. Wolvie isn’t the only culprit for being too sharp either. Vulcan’s flame job is also sharp and could cut through a piece of paper. This is not an alarm issue, but one that the company should take into careful consideration. I love the sculpting that they are doing, but they need to keep in mind two things; one is where peoples fingers are going to go in order to turn the dial and two is that small children will be touching these. I looked through my significant collection and found pieces that flirted with this, but these are the first I’ve ever seen that warrant a mention. Please, guys, correct this for future sets.

As for the colossal’s, AWESOME. Need I say more?

Game mechanics: I have to say that the point values are much much better than in DC 75th. The keywords cross and allow for some great team building. The set really goes over the top with the traits and special powers. They rule the set but some may be tricky in supporting on your team. Leech and Leland could be devastation on table control (especially together) but they are huge bullseyes and range will ace them if you aren’t careful. Half of the Hellions have the same problem, especially Tarot. Sure, she might do something really cool, but it’s a big ol toss up on if it will be when you really need it. That takes a major area of control out of your hands. Points though, love the points. Very few pieces in this set go over 200 in the standard size dials. I found 300 point possibilities for about every keyword in there.

Selection: I’ve knocked on this before and I’m going to do it again. There are some pieces that were more iconic to this area of the Xmen storylines that we are missing. So, I will take off my hat and give a moment of silence to: Mr. Sinister, Havok (why not have all three brothers?), Lady Deathstrike, Shadowcat (though Lockheed is awesome), Donald Pierce, Sebastian Shaw (though you can make a Hellfire club team still), Banshee and maybe Mastermind. While I realize there are only so many slots, I can’t help but think there are some characters here who could have stepped aside for one or two of them to step in. Who? Gatecrasher (who rocks by the way, but still), Ch’od (most of the other Starjammers were a long time ago), and certainly Gideon who is the loneliest figure of the whole set.

Finally, I’m going to pick on just two areas of comic book accuracy. 1) Cannonball: He should have the Xmen team ability as well as the Brotherhood. He was part of at least three X groups (New Mutants, X-Force, and even X-men for a while). Also, he could have the Externals keyword and then Gideon wouldn’t be so lonely. Cannonball is an immortal. In the Xforce story that this was discovered, Sauron killed him and he regenerated (albeit slowly- Feral also ripped out his intestines once and he grew them back). Go check it out at Marvel under his powers HERE. 2) Nemesis: Will someone please, please show me the storyline that he was colossal sized in? I can’t find it. lists him as only six foot, eight. Yeah, his armor has shapeshifting abilities, but so does Mystique and she’s not colossal (and she’s turned into monsters thank you). If someone can show me where he went giganto, I’ll happily stand corrected.

All that being said, I love this set… love it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Giant sized release day!

So, in a few short (or long) hours I will be boarding a bus (my car is dead) and heading to the Gameboard to get my case of Giant Sized Xmen. The Gameboard is the name of a local game and hobby store here in Sheboygan. You can check them out HERE.

I not only have to wait to pick up my prize but I will also be waiting for my nine year old son to get home so we can have a little pack party. It's how we roll, ha ha. But it won't be easy to wait, there's a lot of anticipation for this set.

Even the dislikes from my last posting are going to be well worth adding to my collection. But what can I say, I picked my "dislikes" in comparison to what I liked best. Maybe "liked least" was better than "dislike"? Oh well. It's all terminology and should be taken loosely and lightly.

Filling two collections isn't easy and now I pass on my extras one step further depending on those needs. Passing on pieces is a way I help keep players in the game. It's something I picked up from a good friend of mine back in Nebraska. We had a great gaming crew and we passed on figures that were extra to help fill out each others collections. The rarity didn't matter so much and that helped players who had less chance of getting good pieces actually land a few.

I know we're going to have an awesome time and I will have to restrain myself greatly against ripping that box open right at the bus stop or on the bus itself. So happy release day, I'll be doing a review of my pulls and the set soon!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Giant X-men: Likes and Dislikes

Are you fired up and ready for your X-men? I know I am. I do plan to write a review after I get my case of X-men goodness (which may be all I can get my hands on) but before that, I thought I would toss out some of my likes and dislikes so far. You may be surprised and I'm sure opinions will vary.

Likes are fun, let's do those first.

-HORSEMEN keywords: For that matter, I like how most of the keywords are playing out in this set. You can actually play a full 300 point Horsemen set and be fully themed with two, also totally possible to play. I don't know how easy it will be to get my hands on them, but I really like they way they are working out.

-Reavers: What can I say? I like the Reavers and they are classic to X-men being over 20 years old. I like the mechanics with them and can't wait to annoy an opponent with some of the Reaver's skills.

-Collosals: Not just giants, but colossal figures, six of them is my understanding. I just hope it's easier to get all of them than it looks. I don't like the looming supply problem. It's an interesting marketing strategy and I like that you can at least get one with a brick, giving you a chance of some kind.

-Cool new power mechanics: Full length charge isn't really anything new, but it's nice to see and so are a lot of the new and cool white powers that I've seen so far. Angel looks particularly good. It's really nice to take the carry penalty away from him but it would be easier if being a transporter did that anyhow. Sorry, it just makes more sense to me that someone who is supposed to be good at "TRANSPORTING" people would have that kind of bonus regardless of what they do with the watered down hypersonic thing. I've said that before and will again.

Okay, now the dislikes:

-Chase figures: Ugh. Well, I do have to say that the distribution has gotten better so long as they at least do it like they did with the White Lantern chases. They're too hard to get and that makes them cost way too much money. Honestly, most of them cost more than what their power scale makes them worth. I've only seen a handful of chase figures that really and honestly do anything that most uncommon pieces can't do. So you wind up being gouged in the secondary market for nothing more than "rarity" and a name. I'd rather spend my hundred bucks on booster packs and get a whole bunch of things I or my players could use than just one single figure. Then I would have a wafer thin chance of getting the figure anyway. Sorry, but I find their "value" highly inflated too quickly to make them financially viable.

-Shadowcat: What's that you say, there is no Shadowcat? Well, that's the problem. I love that Lockheed is in the set, but he loses some of the spirit of being from Giant sized X-men days without the first X-man he ever bonded with. I'll take him, of course, but missing Shadowcat is a disappointment. It's like selling Robin without Batman. Think about it.

-3 Angels: Huh? Why do we have three forms of Angel in the set? Isn't two enough? Couldn't we have put a missing character in to fill out other themes? Shadowcat? Donald Pierce? Sebastian Shaw? Why do we need a third Angel form? Is it because of a suit and a couple clicks of hypersonic? I'm sorry, but whoopty doo. And if this is a chase figure it's a perfect example of the problem with chase figs mentioned above. It's not that it's a bad fig, really. It's that it's redundant. That slot would have been far better used with some other character and this one could have been done later one where it would have fit better.

-Deadpool: Okay, this isn't as bad as having three Angel's taking up space, but hang on a sec. Didn't we just see Deadpool, a better version of him, in the last Marvel set? I know he's got the keywords, but once again, there are characters that should be here and aren't in my humble opinion. Yes, I know there's a Deadpool movie looming out there, but that's not enough of a reason for me. A new Soulsword Shadowcat would have fit the theme better and been just as cool. I just think that filling out the Hellfire club inner circle or another missing classic Xman, like Banshee to match up with his daughter would be better. Heck, even remaking Mastermind or Arcade would be better. Mastermind was instrumental in the Hellfire club for triggering Dark Phoenix! How would that not fit?

And for a couple things I'm not too sure about though they sound cool:

-Gatecrasher: This depends on her keywords. If she's the only one with them, she won't get much play time. Hey look! More missing characters that could have been better to use than and extra Angel or Deadpool!

-Removable pieces: Hmmm, that sounds cool and I like some of the sculpting with that. But what does it really mean for game play? How does it affect cost? Yeah, it sounds cool, but is it really necessary? I could see some cool homegame things to do with a removable shield or hammer, but past that, I really don't know. Take the removable burning Wolverine. What else am I going to do with that? Yeah, it's cool, but I guess I'll have to get in my hot little hands first to really see.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Captain America: A marketing strategy?

Part of Wizkids' blockbuster year is the Captain America set and it's going to be presented in an interesting way. The set will be in two parts. One will be the standard set with five piece boosters, just like any other set. The other will be a set of single piece boosters with figures that won't be available in the other part of the series.

Now, if this works for them, this could be one of the most ingenious marketing ploys ever. It could seriously rake in some extra revenue for the company. On one side you might think this spreads manufacturing a bit thin to make a two part set like this. But consider this; the standard booster with five figures in it is set for 11.99. This doesn't take into consideration the cost of packaging because I don't know how much that is, but (for sake of discussion) let's say you're paying about a 1.25 for each figure in the box. Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the single piece boosters will be at least 2.99 but I think more realistically they'll be 3.99 for just one figure. That's with less packaging than a large booster, no way it costs more than the larger booster. It would be a bad business move otherwise.

Is it a marketing experiment? Probably. If it comes out right, I wouldn't be surprised if you see sets like that again. But will you really want to put money into two sets of boosters to get your set of figures? Will you be able to afford it in the current economy? That's another angle that could hurt this idea, bad timing. With the current economy, trying to get people to pay for two sets of figures may not work out so well. At the very least, it may sell very slowly, putting a dampener on it's profits.

I'm not saying that people won't want to buy, I know they will and I'm only speculating on intentions from a marketing point of view. I have no statement of intentions from anyone. Just my thoughts on the matter. As for me, I don't know if I will be able to buy two sets of boosters or if I do, it will take me a lot longer, putting me out of the running compared to people who can buy it all out. That leaves me in the trade bracket and good luck there when I couldn't buy enough to trade with in the first place. But that's another story.

As promised, I now give you the answers to the last blog's picture puzzle. I know it was kind of hard to see, any done in the future will be on less space so easier to contain. I still hope someone enjoyed it, anyway:

-There are 10 custom figures (sorry if I listed that wrong): Doctor Who, The Unknown Soldier, the Beyonder, Super Skrull, Madcap, and Superskrull Sinister Six, Dr Strange and Clea, Yellow Jacket and Wasp, Colossus and Shadowcat, and Thor and Sif. Robin is altered, but not technically all "custom". Just altered.

-The four custom duos are all of dating couples (what they have in common).

-There are 8 tiny red dice

-3 Multiple mans

-the figure without a dial is Juggernaut.

-6 Assassin's league members

-2 Wolverines

-5 spider type characters: Spider Girl, Ghost Widow, Spider Woman, Arachne and Tarantula

-5 Archers: Green Arrow (with Batman), Red Arrow, Bullseye, Hawkeye, and the alternate Green Arrow.

-3 sentinel fists lying around

-Shadowcat is moving through a wall

-Robin is mopping the floor

Did I miss anything?