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Checkmate!

Welcome back to part two of a preview-filled week of DC HeroClix: Brave & The Bold!

Today, we have a couple more sneak peaks for you, as well as a special update on our exciting, new Brave & The Bold Organized Play kits (featured in separate post for easy reading).  Our primary preview explores some uncharted game design space that I have touched on in previous articles.  With Brave & The Bold, I wanted the R&D team to try their hand at coming up with Special Powers that encouraged players to think about their collections in new and interesting ways.  Let’s talk about why I made this a priority.

Thinking critically about HeroClix (or most CMGs for that matter), you can deduce certain advantages and disadvantages to the platform.  One advantage of HeroClix is that when you’re not playing the game, you still have awesome sculpted figures that show off your favorite comic book characters.  The product works whether you’re gaming or not.  Batman can sling batarangs across a HeroClix map, or he can bring joy to me by hanging out on my office desk.

When I’m not playing a board game, it just sits in its box.  The magic is confined until I open up and play the game.  How many times have you seen someone display parts to a board game or a screen shot to a video game?  Our game is fun to play, and you have awesome little totems that show off your love of comics.  My Crisis Black Adam is a beast both in terms of game play and sheer cool factor.  When I look over to my bookshelf and see Black Adam smugly staring back at me, arms folded, I get additional joy outside of any game played.   This is a giant advantage over many other game platforms.

One advantage and disadvantage of HeroClix is that when I’m playing a standard-length game, I only use a small percentage of my collection.  I may own a hundred figures, but if I’m playing a 300-point game, I may only need two.  Conveniently, Black Adam and DC HeroClix: Origin Booster Gold add up to a clean 300 points…win!

This is great for a starting player.  The number of pieces that I need to start playing is pretty manageable.  Additionally, I could give my brother/nephew/neighbor a handful of extra commons and have him start clicking away in no time.  For someone tasked with Brand Development, this is a windfall.  I have heard horror stories of other people trying to get their friends into minis games, and two years later they’ve acquired, assembled, painted, re-painted, and amassed hundreds of dollars of figures.  After all of this, they’re just ready to dip their toe into the water.  Could you imagine years of preparation to play a game?  With HeroClix, you can have fun and learn the game with a Starter and a few boosters.  We’ll even paint the minis for you.  What a deal!

The disadvantage of this low set-up requirement for the game is that while you’re playing, a good amount of your collection remains dormant.  While Black Adam is cracking heads and Booster Gold is cracking wise, I have an “Out of the Shadows” Batman and a Bizarro waiting patiently on the sidelines for their chance to play, too.  By having R&D develop a handful of Special Powers that shake up traditional force-building, we can make larger parts of your collection more relevant.  The Alter Ego characters that we previewed last week give players an option to transform one piece into another.  This is relevant and flavorful in terms of comic books, and feels like a great mechanic for a small subset of iconic characters.  You have the ability to use multiple pieces from your collection, even though the build requirements may remain limiting.

Are Special Powers the only tool we have to achieve this goal?  No.  By including characters that complete or add to existing teams we also can provide more reasons for you to dig through your collection for more gaming options.

Today’s previews use both of these concepts, and they also earn extra credit for being interesting non-unique pieces that foster army building as a gameplay option.

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The “Battlefield Promotion” Special Power featured on the Checkmate Pawns began in design as “Level-Up.”  I’ll be the first to admit that Checkers is not a great game, but it features one of the best game mechanics of all-time.  By navigating through the enemy’s defenses and eliminating their pieces, my brave little checker can become, yes, a KING!  Saying “King me!” as a young checker-playing lad was a great feeling.  Any RPG player or MMO player can attest to the excitement and feelings of achievement gained from reaching a new level.

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We knew early on that the Alter Ego mechanic had quite a bit of upside, but do to the strong flavor association to the power, we only wanted to use it in very small doses.  A leveling mechanic could provide players with options that would allow them to use larger portions of their collection, but could be used on simpler “army level” characters.  Both mechanics involve transformation, but in two strikingly different ways.

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When we knew “Level-Up” would be interesting in terms of playability, R&D was tasked with providing character options to sync up to the mechanic.  Checkmate Pawns were submitted as an early option, and thematically, they seemed a great choice.  If you don’t know a great deal about Checkmate, you can click here to level up your knowledge on them.  While there’s a bit of mixing of metaphors with Checkers and Chess here, it remains appropriate comic-wise (and metaphor-wise) for a Pawn to rise through the ranks of Checkmate and become a higher-level agent (or Knight, in this case).  Just think about a plucky pawn making its way to a promotion in the back row of a chessboard.

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Additionally, I mentioned that team-building provided a great resource for those wanting to use larger portions of their collection.  With Amanda Waller, Count Vertigo, and Thinker all in Arkham Asylum, building out the Checkmate team seemed like a natural extension.  Like the Parademons, Checkmate Agents were featured near HeroClix’s beginning (Hypertime), and these new exciting executions breathe second-life into one of my favorite clandestine operations.

Until next time,

Jake “King Me!” Theis

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