It’s been a while since we had one of these. The reason is simple. I don’t play the game anymore. However I recently saw an excellent post up on HC Relms that I thought bore some discussion. I’ll reprint it here in it’s entirety.
A Tale of Two ‘Clixers
The announcement of the 2014 convention exclusives brought along with it the resurgence of talks about the vast difference in play styles among the two major camps in HeroClix.
Just like the Bulls and Bears of Wall Street, or the Rep’s and Dem’s of Capitol Hill, most HeroClix players (or ‘Clixers) seem to fall in between two distinct categories – what we’ll call “Heroes” and “Dials.”
“Heroes” are those players that champion the characters of the game, regardless of how effective the dial, statistics, or power combinations are. Hero ‘Clixers will play a comic accurate Justice League Dark theme team, not because they expect it will win, but because they want to see the mystical Leaguers on the map, and perhaps challenge themselves to see if they can do anything noteworthy in a 50 minute round. First and foremost, Hero ‘Clixers are in love with the iconic personalities that the game system uses to market itself with dials and powers often a secondary consideration.
“Dials” are those players that champion the dials of the game, promoting a min/max play style looking to exploit or otherwise capitalize on combat values and special powers. A Dial ‘Clixer will build a theme team, and while it may be a character they like, they often build a force to get the biggest bang for their buck on the map dismissing some figures outright for average stats. Dial ‘Clixers are enamored with the game mechanics more than they care about the colorful costume on top of the dial.
Just let me play with MY TOYS!
Now by no means are the two groups mutually exclusive – players can be a bit of both Hero and Dial ‘Clixer, and there’s no shame associated with whichever category a person falls into. There’s no “right” side as the game caters to both play styles… to an extent.
Since it’s inception HeroClix has almost always favored Dial ‘Clixers – from the Infinity Challenge release “Pit Crew” players would often resort to non-comic accurate force builds to maximize winning potential (for example teaming up the Avenger’s Black Panther with a couple of civilian Con Artists, a Paramedic and Destiny from the Brotherhood).
5 range? Who saw that coming?
Keyword theme teams attempted to reduce such oddball pairings and whether the theme team mechanic succeeded or failed, it was a recognition of game design to steer towards some kind of bonus for using certain combinations of characters. It’s only been recently that the game balance has drastically swung to favor Dial ‘Clixers with the addition of resources in 2011.
While the game is called HeroClix, more recently it resembles DialClix.
Once upon a time when building a team, a player would start by looking at which characters (heroes) they wanted to field. Today many players look to which resource dial they want to build around which is often evidenced when a new figure is previewed and the comments that follow are “He’d be really good with THIS Hammer or THAT ring.”
We could argue that resource dials give Hero ‘Clixers the ability to make their beloved characters competitive, from Ambush Bug to (Arnim) Zola. Resources give these lovable losers a fighting chance but the truth is that…
So any advantage to be gained by a Hero ‘Clixer equipping Element Woman with Skaadi’s Hammer is offset by those Dial ‘Clixers fielding Bullseye with an Electro Blast ring.
No really, Lester is my favorite character evar!
The other main shift in gaming since the resource floodgates were opened is the rise of restrictive house rules at venues across the country*. Rules restricting or banning game elements when looking for places to play are often commonplace now – it might be for one event or all, but the message is the same – some of these pieces cannot be used on a regular basis.
Aside from Golden/Modern Age, and Highlander variations the biggest offenders appear to be (in no order) Colossi, Vehicles, Team Bases and Resources. It’s worth noting that of these fab four “taboo” items, the latter three are recent conceptions that have barely had two years of game life under the NECA design team.
It’s especially strange when you consider that Team Bases and Vehicle hate seems to stem from individual cases (The Beetle’s Bug, PD squad Cars, JLA TB) all of which would be better served with a Watch List revised ruling than blanket banning.
Rather than make any other judgements or point blame, I’d prefer to offer solutions, specifically an option that presents a win for everyone involved – a more structured organized play system that both Hero ‘Clixers and Dial ‘Clixers can enjoy and it involves updating the use and definition of Tactics.
Let me check the definition!
Currently the term Tactics refers to:
|Quote : Originally Posted by Page 20, Section 4, 2013 HeroClix Rulebook|
|“optional elements that you can choose to play in HeroClix games.”|
Tactics include Special Objects, Resources, Feats, Battlefield Conditions, Event Dials, Bystander Tokens and Themed Teams. It may serve the game well to update Tactics to include some of the more “questionably balanced” Tactical Elements of the game like Resources, Epic Actions, Primes, Multiple Based figures, figures with certain combat symbols and so on (possibly adding figures that are temporarily on the Watch List and waiting for resolution).
At that point game design could break up Tactics into two or three levels to allow for a tiered level of organized play and venues could more easily filter out “questionably balanced” elements that they perceive is harming their venue’s attendance.
- At level 1 play you would have your basic game.
- Level 2 (Tactics) would provide players the basic game plus the basic Tactics.
- Level 3 would be Level 2 plus the added Tactical Elements – basically a no holds barred, Team Base, Resource Colossi-Palooza.
Once established the Tactic Levels act like the Golden/Modern Age distinction, providing universally shared terminology that lets players know what to expect when they show up at a new venue, while letting other players plan on which events they should attend based on their own play style.
Seriously, I just wanna play with MY TOYS!
This also helps recruit newer players by compartmentalizing the rules to an extent, addressing complexity issues by restricting the newer, more complicated elements to higher levels of play. A player can be free to learn the basics at a Level 1 game without getting overwhelmed by facing elements found at level’s 2 & 3.
So long as a venue caters to both camps, everyone wins getting to use the toys and characters they love in a format they are comfortable with. WizKids wins because they can keep selling the dynamic looking team bases, Colossi and vehicles which have been marginalized by many venues as imbalanced and have taken a backseat to blanket banning.
As mentioned before, keyword theme teams were initially added to the game when Game Design recognized a need to cater to the Hero ‘Clixers. It’s high time that Game Design admits they have a problem of “questionably balanced” mechanics and offers more structure to the OP system to help control the issue.
If a Watch List won’t fix or can’t fix some of the problems, and a ban list is not an option, then at least explore updating Tactics to include a multi-tiered system that provides tools for venues to use to shape the organized play scene into something everyone can enjoy.
A few of my own thoughts on this excellent article. Was always a Hero Clixer, which is one of the reasons I’m not very good. But really, where’s the fun in being a dial clixer? At that point it’s just …. math. Part of why I played was to have a reason to collect the cool looking pieces. But a bigger part was to hang out. TO make fun of what was going on the board – Coleson screams “This is not what I had in mind when I took the Civil Service Exam!!!” as Preadator X rips him to pieces. To hang out at the comic shop and talk Marvel vs DC. I drifted away because I honestly was getting tired of paying a five dollar entry fee to get beaten down in ten minuets by numbers not pieces. Prize support was nice, but was never that important to me.
That sounds kind of bitter. It’s not meant to be really. I still have really fond memories of playing; that great night where we were all trying to beat Galactus and it was down to me and Jesse and whoever hit their next role would take him down and win the game! The evening of Star Trek clix vs. Galactus with Jim and Mike. That first time Trinity of Sin got pulled out and nothing Eric or I could do would take that stinking thing down (although my tactic with Blackheart worked…just no quick enough). My girls still ask to play from time to time and those were good times.
At the end of the day though, I don’t have the proper temperament for competitive tournament play. Just ask the Same and Jesse and Aaron about how long it took to finally convince me to get an Infinity Gauntlet! But I’m really just playing for fun…and competitive play isn’t fun for me. It’s the same reason that in High School I enjoyed being on the Church basketball team WAY more than I enjoyed being on the Jr. Varsity team.
In the end, I really would just rather have casual games built around themes and scenarios, and wish the rest of you guys well.