Norm here, with the first Normal Distribution of 2010! Today, I want to talk about combos. Not the way you get fries and a drink with your sandwich at some fast food restaurant – I’m talking about the various powers and abilities in Heroclix and how they are allowed to combine. If I had to nominate a single question type to be the most common question asked of me at HeroclixRules@gmail.com, it would be a question about whether or not one power can be used with another. I’ve often been asked to publish a compatibility chart to make this information easier to look up – but I always resist. I’d much rather a player learn why some combos work while others do not.
Sure, the standard powers have been stable for years now, but special powers always turn these things on their ear. That’s part of the fun of special powers. So I wouldn’t want a chart out there that says Hypersonic Speed and Pulse Wave don’t work together when a special power could easily come along and allow it. So let’s talk about combos.
When you are giving your character an action, you have to give it a certain type of action. It can be a power, close combat, ranged combat, move, or free action. Powers and abilities indicate if a certain type of action is required to activate it. Let’s use Charge as a good example. From the Powers and Abilities Card, Charge says:
Give this character a power action; halve its speed value for the action. Move this character up to its replacement speed value and then give it a close combat action as a free action. A character with this power ignores knock back.
In order to activate this power, we need to specifically give this character a power action. If some game effect were in play that said “you may only give characters close combat or ranged combat actions” then you would not be able to activate Charge since it needs a power action. With the power action, 2 things are going to happen:
1. The character gets to move half its speed value and
2. The character gets a close combat action as a free action.
The wording of Charge is important to understanding both of these things. For moving, notice that Charge does not say that you get to move half your speed as a move action. It only says you get to move the character. What this means is that the movement of Charge is not a “move action”. Any power that relies on a move action would not activate during the movement part of Charge.
For the attack part notice that Charge specifically says that you are given a close combat action as a free action. The free action is important – a character is only allowed to be given one non-free action per turn. If the close combat action was not treated as a free action, you wouldn’t be allowed to actually make the attack.
Since the character using Charge gets to be given a close combat action, it can be used to activate any effect that requires a close combat action. Flurry, for example, starts with “Give this character a close combat action.” Therefore, if your character has both Charge and Flurry, it would be able to move and then use Flurry as the close combat action. On the other hand, Close Combat Expert starts with “Give this character a power action.” Since a power action is not a close combat action, you cannot use Close Combat Expert to attack with as a part of the Charge action.
Two concepts that often get confused are “actions” and “attacks”. An action is what you give the character in order to activate an effect. An attack is simply what is happening when combat is taking place. You would never “give” your character an attack – you give characters actions. Some actions lead to making attacks.
Let’s look at Hypersonic Speed to see how another power is worded:
Give this character a power action. … During its move, this character can as a free action make one close combat or ranged combat attack with its range value halved for the attack.
Once again, the power begins by describing what kind of action type is needed to activate it (a power action – so no starting Hypersonic Speed after moving with Charge). Also, again, the power describes what can be done as a free action as a part of using this power. Instead of a close combat action like Charge, Hypersonic Speed only allows the character to make an attack (either close or ranged) as a free action. The character cannot use a close or ranged combat action, it can only make an attack. Therefore, any powers or abilities that require a close/ranged combat action would not activate, though anything that required a close/ranged attack would.
Let’s look at some powers that activate off of other kinds of actions to see how all of this plays out. We’ll start with the main candidate for why a compatibility chart can never be perfect – Leap/Climb. This power has 2 components to it:
(1) When you give this character a move action, it automatically breaks away and ignores the effects of characters, hindering terrain, elevated terrain, and outdoor blocking terrain on movement (but it can’t end its movement on blocking terrain). (2) When you give this character a close combat action, it can target a character regardless of the target’s elevation.
The power has 2 sentences (that I’ve numbered) giving the character 2 different capabilities. The first only activates during a move action while the other only activates during a close combat action. So when I’m asked “Can I use Leap/Climb with Charge?”, the answer is “Yes and No”.
THE NO PART: The movement part of Charge is not a move action. It’s a power action that instructs you to move, but it is not a move action. If a character has Leap/Climb and uses Charge, it would not be allowed to ignore terrain because of the Leap/Climb power. Compare this to the Flight ability which begins:
This character ignores the effects of hindering terrain on movement…
A flier using Charge would be able to ignore terrain, because Flight does not specify that it only activates during move actions. But the first part of Leap/Climb is specific – it only activates during a move action.
THE YES PART: After the character has moved with Charge, it gets a close combat action as a free action. As discussed above, that can be used to activate any power requiring a close combat action. The second part of Leap/Climb – allowing the character to target a character on a different elevation – activates when the character is making a close combat action. So this part would be usable during a Charge.
Take a look at the picture below. Spider-Girl’s special power Weblines says “Spider-Girl can use Charge, Leap/Climb, and Running Shot.” She’s on her first click, so she has a speed of 10. Assuming all of the other characters on the map are opposing characters, which ones can she attack using Charge?
Come back next time for the answer and a new challenge!