Errata: Themed Play vs. Ultimate Mechanics
This week’s question comes from none other than GFBR contributor Big Tim, King of Comics. Seriously, if you have any interest in comics, it is worth checking out Tim’s stellar coverage of the subject.
Big Tim asked, “I’d love to hear your thoughts on themed play against min-max building. In HeroClix I can’t bring myself to play a team that isn’t at least plausible in the comics. Where as friends have no qualms teaming Green Lantern with Bullseye, this takes away from my enjoyment of the game. Is HeroClix the only game that suffers from this?”
HeroClix is definitely not the only game where this is an issue. In fact, thematic play can be injected into unexpected games. For example, I have a friend who refuses to attack the Lost Tribes, the initial starting race in Small World. She views them as an “indigenous people” to be preserved. It definitely makes for interesting play.
Part of the issue stems from the source of your enjoyment. If you play HeroClix because you want to team up your favorite characters together and relive – or invent – some epic battles from comics, then you’re going to want plausible teams. The fun is in seeing those teams you love duke it out. But, if you want to win most of all, it’s time to team up Wolverine, the Flash, and Spawn.
It goes to what you want to get out of your game. Some games are capable of creating a narrative. HeroClix is a good example. So is Sentinels of the Multiverse. And role-playing games are almost entirely narrative driven. On the other hand, you have games that are wholly mechanically driven. The ancient game of Go or even Chess would fall into this abstract category. Heck, even Tic-Tac-Toe, to choose something less arcane. (Admitting my own bias: while I enjoy a narrative in my games, I’m perfectly comfortable as a min/maxer).
Games like HeroClix – especially because it’s based on established properties – are the most prone to this. The system of the game allows for both thematic driven, narrative play and completely mechanics driven play where “the Hulk” is just a name attached to a piece like “Pawn” or “Bishop” in chess. And, even though teaming Green Lantern and Bullseye might be far-fetched for you, some people might want to create a team of their favorites: almost like a fantasy football league. Like the endless conversations about who wins in a fight – Spiderman vs. Mr. Fantastic – HeroClix lets you see who would win in the imaginary fan mash-ups. (For all I know, Tim will correct me here and say that they did, in fact, fight and also who won).
Basically, the system of HeroClix caters to both types of play, and you and your friends are looking for different things from the system. My recommendation would be to alternate play styles. Have a “theme” night with teams who have worked or would work together in the comics. This would allow you to fully explore the narrative. Then, follow that up with a “fantasy league” where anything goes. And, if you need a narrative, a super-powerful being has gathered an array of remarkable individuals to battle for his amusement. They must work together, or fall to the other team!
Got questions about strategy, specific games, or the hobby in general? Post them in the comments here, email me at geekinsight at gfbrobot dot com, or send them to @GeekInsight on Twitter and check back next week for answers!