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Weekly Trash: Marvel Heroes

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12 May 2008 01:02 #6276 by metalface13
For this edition's Weekly Trash, I decided to break out of the adventure/dungeon crawl genre and go with a game I rather enjoy - Marvel Heroes.

Marvel Heroes comes to us via Nexus, the Italian equivalent of Fantasy Flight Games. They've come up with quite a few games enjoyed by Ameritrashers, namely War of the Ring and the Wings of War series. They are working on the upcoming Conan game.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Marvel Heroes. It's designed by the same team as War of the Ring, and like WotR it features a geek-favorite theme - this time with superheroes instead of hobbits. My brother and his friend went to GenCon two years ago shortly before Marvel Heroes' release. FFG had a couple of demo copies they were teaching people with and then they raffled them off. This was one of the key reasons my bro and his buddy wanted to go to GenCon that year. At the raffle my brother's friend won a copy. They felt like they had won the lottery. I mention this just to emphasize that this game had a lot of hype.

My brother got his own copy that year for Christmas, after a delayed FFG release. We've played numerous 2-player games, a couple of 3-player games, but I've yet to play a full 4-player game. We've always enjoyed it.

I like the distinct feel each of the four teams have. The Avengers have real powerhouses like Thor and Hulk so they can take on the toughest missions. The Marvel Knights are really good at troubleshooting so they can bring down the threat considerably. The X-Men need to work well as a team. And the Fantastic Four are well balanced with powerful heroes and good troubleshooting skills.

I also really like the rock, papper, scissors style combat. I also enjoy playing the mastermind villain to the other players. It also does great fan service with the plethora of villains and allies cards. And it plays in under two hours.

Some people were really disappointed with MH upon release. They said the rules didn't make sense. That it was impossible to win. The F4 are broken and way too power. Other's didn't think it accurately portrayed the super hero theme, they were looking for something more like Marvel Heroscape.

What do you think? Are the teams fairly balanced? Was the game overhyped? Are the F4 broken? Do the mechanics fit the theme? Will there be an expansion or a DC Heroes?

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12 May 2008 03:56 #6278 by Octavian
It's just innovative enough, just thematic enough, and just chaotic enough to keep from being a completely missed opportunity. Instead it's just a regular missed opportunity. In particular I am disappointed in just how not at all superheroic the combat feels in the game.

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12 May 2008 08:17 #6282 by Stephen Avery
I enjoy the game quite a bit but its biggest flaw is how clunky it is. A superhero game needs to be fast. Also I hate rationing out my influence to pay for heroes. I understand why they did it but it undercuts the action. It does have a lot of good things going for it though. I like how the skills alter the difficulty of the missions and the use of heroes to support others.

Steve"ActionAvery"Avery

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12 May 2008 11:44 #6285 by ironcates
I really wanted to like this game. I love Marvel and the superhero genre is seriously lacking good games. But, I agree it just feels clunky. With Mr. Skeletor's flow chart it helps (makes it even playable for most) but I just feel like it needs some expansion fix to make it more exciting but I don't think it's in the works at FFG because I've heard next to nothing about it since the release.

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12 May 2008 12:25 #6288 by maka
Replied by maka on topic Re:Weekly Trash: Marvel Heroes
I got this game on Christmas 2006 because of the theme and because I remember reading some good things about it on BGG.

In my opinion it totally delivers on its promises. It has become our most played game through 2007 and it's quickly becoming one of our favorite 2 player games.

To me the game mixes perfectly the strategic aspect of planning the turn ahead (deciding which heroes will go out and how and what other allies to use, etc...) and the tactical aspect of fighting the villains. Both aspects are as important to win the game and are fun to play. Combat is especially entertaining and tense, with randomness playing a role, but not a dominating one. The rock-paper-scissors mechanic is great and adds an interesting element of bluffing and outguessing your opponent and raises the combat from the simple add a stat to a die roll typical RPG like mechanic to something much more strategic and involving.

I also love how each fight is different and you have to plan how to approach it depending on your hero/support combination and the stats and powers available to the opponent. Then, after a round, you might have to adapt to the unexpected when things don't happen as you planned.

The only "problem" this game has is that its rules are not intuitive, especially how the gameplay is structured. Its originality means you have to take more time learning it because experience with other games doesn't help that much. I especially can imagine many groups hating the game after their first time playing a 4 player game for 5h. You really have to learn this game with 2 players at the most (try solo a few turns), and only then when all the players are confident with the rules try a 4 player game.

For us the game plays really fast (2 players, 3 turn games in 1h or less) and we usually play it on weeknights, so I wouldn't say it's clunky once you know how to play.

Maybe the problem in this day and age is the unwillingness to make an effort to get familiar with a complex game to really be able to appreciate it. This game deserves the effort. This game is very thematic, has lots of interesting decisions, a great RPG-like combat system (I'd say the best I've seen in any game recently after the disappointment that was WoW:TBG for me) and plays fast with little downtime (no downtime with 2 players).

Overall, this is an excellent game.

-Jorge

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12 May 2008 12:38 #6291 by Michael Barnes
I haven't played it in a while...when it came out, I played it a lot but I just got really tired of the clunky mechanics, the sense that it just didn't really deliver as a sophomore release from the WotR folks, and a really strange feeling that the game was just over-designed.

I think that it's one of the most over-designed games I've ever played. It just feels so rigid...there's really very little room for creativity and narrative and at the end of it all it feels too structured to me. It's not complex at all, it's just really clumsy.

Another thing is that I was disappointed that it falls into the JUDGE DREDD theory- I believe that the GW JUDGE DREDD card game is the template on which all other comic book superhero games are based. You move around a city to go to where crimes are happening, then you roll dice, and other players get a chance to wham on you. Now, that sounds like a basic recipe for a fun game to me...and JUDGE DREDD is pretty fun. But most Supers games follow that exact same principle. But JUDGE DREDD works where MARVEL HEROES fails because it's not made overly complex and it's short.

There's a lot to like in MARVEL HEROES though...I do like the game, even if it's not a great game. It looks cool, it's fun to play every once in a while, and the theme goes a long way but it's a missed opportunity for the "definitive" Marvel game.

That would be an unpublished prototype that Richard Launius has been tweaking over the last couple of years...

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12 May 2008 13:47 #6292 by southernman
We played a 4-player game last week - about 3 mths since we played it the first time. And no one could remember how it played or many of the rules - it took us 1.5 hours for the first turn. We evently got into the swing of it and finished the game with everyone having had a good bit of fun with it - and wanting to play it again before we forgot the rules again.

The rules are pretty all over the place and as I left I said we should make a flowchart for next time ... then I checked BGG the following day and found Mr S's chart.

I'm not sure about the plot points idea to get your heroes out - it takes so long to accumulate them that I (playing X-men) never got Jean Grey out ... didn't help that only one X-men character could earn PPs as their supporting action and then only 1 (why for fucks sake? - pay 1 to go supporting and then get it back to leave supporting???), and i never picked up any event cards to get them either (that was probably just bad luck as I never got any event cards period - all allies).

And once you get going and the Headline cards come out in your favour it can be pretty hard stopping someone once they have knocked the Threat level down low enough that your opponents can't get a decent villain to oppose. The leader, once reaching 10 VPs which give 2 extra PPs, can usually get the last headline (unless the cards turn against) to win without anyone really having a chance to stop them ... so I suppose I'm saying there probably isn't enough direct player interaction to change the leader in the last round.

It's a fun game but I sure wouldn't putting any of my favourites back into the bag to play it.

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12 May 2008 14:09 #6293 by Michael Barnes
That's just it though, the game is just "OK" which is more disappointing to me in the long run than if it just totally sucked.

Every time I look at my collection to think about weeding, I see that big MARVEL HEROES box and think "Yep...that's one to cut". But then, I look at it and it looks so damn cool and I love Marvel so much that I put it right back up there, knowing full well that I probably won't play it again any time soon.

It's just too much game and not enough game, really. It's much too kludgy rules-wise for the casual gamer or comics fan to pick it up and really enjoy and it's not interesting or detailed enough for the more gamerly to get much out of...the thing is, I'd rather it just be an extremely complex, AH-style simulation game with tons of detail and chrome than a sort of uneasy medium between that and something more abstract.

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12 May 2008 14:34 #6295 by maka
Replied by maka on topic Re:Weekly Trash: Marvel Heroes
I don't know. Once you've played 2-3 times (without a long pause in between) the flow of the game is second nature. The game itself is not that complex, it's just unusual enough for the first games to be confusing.

Playing the game without knowing it well with 4 players is just asking for trouble. I can understand people bashing the game after playing 1,5h for one turn, but that just shouldn't happen. As I said, a whole 20vp game (3 turns) usually takes about an hour for us (2 players) or less. So the game plays fast once you are used to the system.

And for the record, I've never used Mr. Skeletor's flow chart (or any other playaid except those included in the game). It's just not worth it because after a few plays you won't need it.

I think the game is thematic enough that you get immersed in the marvel universe, but abstract enough that it plays fast. It's true it sits in the middle, but I've got no problem with that.

And as I said, the combat system and the way each super power is embedded into it is excellent. Simple but with lots of possibilities and tension.

-Jorge

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13 May 2008 02:31 #6318 by metalface13
I hear what Barnes and others are saying. Marvel Heroes does fall into a middle place in gaming. It certainly isn't light but it's not way too complex either. But sometimes you just want to play something that fits right there in between.

The rules are kind of weird at first, which understandably is a big turn off for a lot of players. If you can't figure out how to play in a timely fashion, why bother? But the rules do become clear once you pick them up.

Yes, I can see where Barnes said it is overdesigned. There's a lot going on with trouble levels and threat levels and trouble shooting and headlines and plot points, etc. It could be a lot simpler, but its complexities don't bother me.

For me, Marvel Heroes really shines in combat. There are lots of combat possibilities with 16 unique heroes and a whole deck of villains that's a lot of match ups. Again, I really like the rock, paper, scissors combat. I like trying to outguess my opponent. Is he going to try and knock me out in one punch? Should I try and just use defense until I get the intiative? Can I survive the first two rounds in order to outwit him? To me that represents action scenes in comics. How would Spider-Man really handle the Juggernaut? He probably wouldn't just try to take him head on, he'd use his spidey sense to avoid him, then outwit him with some sneaky webbery. I don't think you could simulate that with your traditionally "I roll my stat and you roll your stat and we see who has the bigger number" gameplay.

It's got super heroes, it's got fun combat and it plays in under 2 hours. That ain't bad. It's not the world's best game, but I think it's a worthwhile addition to any collection. No other game plays like Marvel Heroes.

PS I'm also REALLY offended that this post hasn't been stickied like the previous weekly trashes!

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13 May 2008 07:21 #6323 by maka
Replied by maka on topic Re:Weekly Trash: Marvel Heroes
Totally agree with metalface. To me it's one of the most fun games I can play right now. It's not the best design, but I don't care. I give it a 10 just because there's very few games I will play anytime no matter when I played it last.

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13 May 2008 09:08 #6326 by ChristopherMD
When I first heard about this game it sounded interesting based mainly on the designers of War of the Ring. I'm not really into the superheroes and prefer DC stuff over Marvel stuff. A friend brought it over once, but we ended up playing End of Triumvirate instead. From reading this thread I'm guessing I won't enjoy it although I probably will try it out sometime.


metalface13 wrote:

PS I'm also REALLY offended that this post hasn't been stickied like the previous weekly trashes!


I would be too, if I were you. For what its worth, I don't know why the first one wasn't unstuck the second week or why both aren't unstuck and replaced with this one.

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13 May 2008 09:38 #6329 by Ken B.
Sorry guys, that was us being lazy. I've fixed both issues (this one's sticky, the others no longer.)

I will try to remember to do this every week, for as long as you guys keep these running.

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13 May 2008 10:07 #6334 by Michael Barnes
It's not the best design, but I don't care.

This comment right here shows one of the things that I think has really fucked up board gaming, and it calls out something everybody does now including me...if a game is fun, and you dig it, who the hell cares about "the design"? When I was growing up gaming, I never scratched my chin and said "Hmm...I don't know about this design". I either had fun or I didn't, and if I didn't then the game sucked. Now people are so caught up on mechanics and all that many times (particularly in reviews) folks never bother to say if they had fun with a game or not. You'll get the bullet list rules precis, but not "Hey, I think this game is really fun". At the end of the, it's the fun that matters, not the design.

That being said, I don't think MARVEL HEROES is much fun as it should be specifically because of the design...I think the clunkiness of it all gets in the way of the game really bringing out the theme and "Clobberin' Time" seems not so cool as it does in the comics.

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13 May 2008 10:26 - 14 May 2008 16:12 #6336 by Ken B.
And for us, it has been "fun". The mechanics have honestly never gotten in the way for us, we learned straight from the rulebook, and never used any of the player aids. When people say the rules to this are confusing I'm left scratching my head. You might have to hunt for a rule based on how the book is laid out, but none of these rules are confusing.

I like managing the team to troubleshoot crime all over the city and dealing with whatever villains get in our way. The whole Mad Lib thing can get crazy if you think about it too long ("Mr. Sinister is robbing the jewelry store, and Electro is helping him!") but that's all part of the fun.

I still rate the game a solid 8, possibly veering near 9 territory. I wish the story elements were a bit stronger and the combat a little more tactical, but that just isn't the kind of game it is.


But one thing's for sure--I've never tripped over the mechanics for the game. Initially we played trouble reduction wrong, but it's been smooth sailing ever since then.
Last edit: 14 May 2008 16:12 by Ken B..

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