Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Marvel Heroes

MARVEL HEROES

by Fantasy Flight Games

Published in 2006

Marvel Heroes is exactly the kind of game its name suggests: A team of Marvel Heroes go toe to toe against some of the most famous Marvel villains.

The game sets in Manhattan, but that's not important; the game board is there mainly just for flavor. What is important, are the fights, where players get to use all their favorite Marvel Heroes and Hero-abilities to overcome some nasty villains.

I've had this game since the year it was published, (actually, I think that no new prints have been made, so purchasing it now may be difficult) but it was not until recently that I began to explore its solo-play capabilities. Short version: They are not good...

The real rules of Marvel Heroes make up a very competitive game, and my best efforts to create a solo variant have been adequate, at best. In fact, I'm not about to post my so-called solo variant anywhere... If someone is interested, please ask me for it and I'll mail the files to you.


The scenario for this game is the following: Red Skull is up to something bad, and the Avengers are determined to stop the evil Mastermind. Red Skull has a "Master Plan" that he is trying to complete, and if he does, then Heroes lose the game.
Now, every Mastermind has their weakness, and the Heroes must first do some field research to discover the Red Skull's weakness. Luckily there is a lot of missions - or "Headlines" - for the Heroes to resolve.

After enough Victory Points (info about the Mastermind's plans, in this case) have been gathered, the Heroes may initiate a "Showdown" against the Mastermind. To defeat the Mastermind in this showdown means a victory for the Heroes.

But all this must be done within a very limited amount of time...





THE GAME BEGINS:


At first, some information must be gathered to uncover Red Skull's plan. Iron Man and Captain America set out to investigate Central Park - people claim to have sighted zombies in there!


Abomination seems to be behind this headline! Also some Hydra agents are present to distract the Avengers.
Iron Man gets airborne and tries to outwit the dangerous villain. Neither one of the combatants manage to hurt each other, until Captain America uses his leadership abilities to help Tony to outwith the beast; the first round is for the Heroes!
The injured Abomination changes tactics, and tries to leap away, but Iron Man is faster and blasts the monster down with his Repulsor Rays.


Just as the fight ends, Red Skull himself suddenly appears! Upon learning how his associate failed to stop the Heroes, he decides to get his hands dirty and engage Iron Man in battle.


A brutal fight ensues: Iron Man uses his Uni-Beam to damage Red Skull, but this attack is not enough to defeat him. After surviving the blast, Red Skull manages to best Iron Man with his superhumanly fast reflexes, forcing the Heroes to retreat back to the base!

Red Skull also completes the first phase of his Master Plan; he now has the terrifying Dust of Death at his disposal!


The Heroes regroup and scan Manhattan for other headlines to resolve. After gathering some resources, Thor and Iron Man go to Morningside Heights to take a closer look at the mysterious energy column that is towering over the city...

Other mysterious events are also taking place, for example the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier seems to have vanished!


Upon arriving at the energy column, the Heroes meet Molecule Man! He has some innocent bystanders stationed around the area, and so the Heroes need to be extra careful when dealing with this villain.
Again, Hydra agents are also there to cause havoc.


It also seems clear that Red Skull is somewhere nearby...


Thor and Molecule Man engage in combat, Thor using a Mjolnir Whirl and Molecule Man manipulating matter to avoid taking damage. The two combatants seem evenly matched.
Thor suddenly sends mystical blasts towards his enemy. The Molecule Man is not fast enough to react, and takes damage from the attack. However, Thor's straight-forward attack allows Molecule Man to outwit him... Both of the fighters are now injured.
Molecule man begins manipulating energy instead of matter, and catches Thor off-guard. Spider-woman stops by and tries to calm the villain down with her Attraction Pheromones, but fails - Thor is injured by Molecule Man's attacks for the second time.
However, another set of mystical blasts is finally enough to defeat Molecule Man...


But as suspected, Red Skull appears again. This time he brings Maggia Enforcers and Hand Ninja with him - Red Skull seems to have control over all the major evil organizations in this city...


The badly injured Thor has no choice but to enter combat with Red Skull.


Thor taps into his godly powers, and calls a thunder bolt to strike Red Skull. One strike is not enough, but after skillfully avoiding Red Skull's counterattack, another bolt hits Red Skull and the Mastermind is forced to retreat!
The Heroes win this time, and Red Skull's Master Plan cannot advance to its next step.


The evil is constantly on the move, and there is no time to rest for the Heroes. Luckily, Thor is able to recuperate very rapidly!

Busting a network of gambling dens in the Midtown area seems like an easy job, and Thor and Iron Man continue their mission over there. This headline doesn't seem like one with Red Skull behind it, so maybe this time the Heroes manage to solve the case without much trouble.


But then they run into Juggernaut! Thor and Juggernaut start fighting, while Iron Man does the best he can to assist Thor.
After a little while both of the fighters are hurt, but Thor more so than the practically undestructible Juggernaut.
Juggernaut bull rushes, and Thor gets knocked out! Another defeat for the Heroes - Avengers are not doing so hot right now...



Juggernaut becomes the "Most Wanted Villain" of the city...

It is likely that the Avengers haven't seen the last of him.






Ancient manuscript is stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Hulk is dispatched to investigate. Captain America tags along.
An adamantium-glad Ultron is found from the site; Hulk is in for a tough fight...
Hulk gets aggressive, and starts smashing the Ultron with all his might. Ultron remains quite passive, trying to outwit the rampaging Hulk. Eventually the Ultron is defeated, but even with Hulk's strength, it wasn't an easy task...

Satisfied with his work, Hulk returns back to the base.


There is not much time left anymore, and this forces the Heroes take some offensive actions against Red Skull.

Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America begin planning the final showdown.



Iron Man and the Captain follow a lead up to Carnegie Hill. Venom confronts them there. Iron Man manages to defeat Venom with his Repulsor blasts, but he is injured in the fight. As suspected, Red Skull is also present and now Iron Man has to fight him as well.

Red Skull wins the fight with the help of his numerous henchmen.


Iron Man is taken back to recovery, and Red Skull's Master Plan reaches its second phase; the "Army of Exiles"!

The situation is getting very dangerous - time is running out, and Red Skull's plan is almost finished!




An illegal hi-tech weapons facility is discovered, and Hulk goes to check it out. Captain America moves to back him up.
Red Skull is definitely behind this operation, but Hulk's attention is drawn to Juggernaut, who is guarding the entrance of the facility.
It seems that Juggernaut was also working for Red Skull all along...


Hulk respects the threat that Juggernaut poses, and so he decides to use a different kind of a plan: He smashes the ground, causing a small earthquake. Juggernaut's bull rush hits and damages Hulk, but the earthquake causes Juggernaut to fall down, allowing Hulk to give the villain such a smash, that even the mighty Juggernaut is forced to leave the fight.

Having defeated Juggernaut, Hulk rushes into the facility. Red Skull is waiting for him there.


After a quick fight, in which both fighters avoid each other's attacks, Red Skull blows some of the dreaded Dust of Death at Hulk.
Hulk gets momentarily incapacitated, giving the Mastermind enough time to complete his Master Plan: A Cosmic Cube!

Red Skull's researches are now complete, and he is free and able to use a Cosmic Cube to enslave the whole world under his rule!


Game over! The Heroes fail in their mission.


CONCLUSION:

Wow, I lost! To be honest, I've really had hard time balancing my solo variant - up until now I had won all my test games.
But I lost this time and I think I got a pretty nice story out of it. Marvel Heroes has a fair share of luck involved - especially without another player to make decisions against me - and probably there is no other reason for my failure than a poor luck with my dice rolls. Or maybe I tuned the difficulty too high :)

Marvel Heroes is not a perfect game, it's not even a particularly memorable game, but it does have some nice ideas. The combat system (which is 90% of the whole game - naturally) is well done, and somehow seems to capture the essence of Super Hero vs. Super Villain fights...

Basically a fight goes like this:
Fight comprises of fight rounds, and each fight round has three steps. At the beginning of a fight round, each side picks one of their combat powers simultaneously, and these powers allow the fighters to roll a certain number of dice on each of the three steps.
The steps are: 1) The fighter with initiative attacks, 2) the other guy attacks, 3) the fighters go through an "outwit contest". The winner of the outwit contest damages the other fighter, but also (and sometimes more importantly) takes the initiative for the next fight round.
Add some special abilities, and we got a combat system that works really quite well.

The game components are of reasonably good quality, except for the game board: At least my board seems to have had bad gluing or something, as when I opened the game after some years of storage, the board barely held together anymore. All the other games that had been lying right next to this one in the same room were in as good of a condition as when I left them there.

RATING:  8 /10

SOLO RATING:  6 /10

A fun game, but requires some very extensive rule modifications to be playable alone.

Marvel Heroes (English version) is no longer available - apparently only one print was ever made (perhaps due to some licence-related problems). As such, purchasing this game now will probably be quite difficult and pricey.
But if the opportunity arises, Marvel Heroes might not be a bad trade. Especially for Marvel fans, this game will probably hit the spot - at least with 2+ players.


















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