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New Season, New Rulebook

The Rulebook 2011 Project has been one of those projects that make my day to day HeroClix work difficult. If you think remembering the rules of HeroClix is challenging today, imagine if you needed to keep track of what the rules are today and not get confused with how you know it will be in a few weeks/months.

So I can tell you that releasing the new rulebook is something that comes as a great relief to me. Not because of all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into generating it – though that alone is reason to be happy – but now, when someone asks me about Colossal characters needing to roll for break away, I have an easy answer for them (Colossal Stamina allows them to automatically break away) instead of being coy and saying “That’s something that WizKids is looking into.”

The fact that the rulebook changes almost annually is something that frustrates many players, and with good reason. Too many times a player will get annoyed at a tournament when they discover that something they thought worked one way – and indeed, once upon a time, it had – now works in a completely different way. As someone who tries to grow the player base at a venue, I’ll often hear “that doesn’t help.”

So there was a lot of sensitivity to the changes that got made to this rulebook. Powers got tweaked, core rules have changed. There’s no getting past that many rules have changed. What we hope that you find is that these changes have led to a set of rules in which the answer to the question “Can I do this?” is much more intuitive to get correct. To be fair, some changes don’t fall just along that line. Some powers got tweaked in an effort to bring the mechanic it provides more in line with its effectiveness in the game.

I want to be able to say “this is it – WizKids is never going to change the rules again.” But if I did, I think we’d all know that isn’t true. What’s more, it’s not something we really want. The ability to introduce new mechanics into the game (see Double Power Actions below) keeps the game fresh and exciting and allows the designers to go to places that have never gone before. So it would be a bad thing for the rulebook to be unchanging. That said, for core mechanics, for powers, for abilities, the changes you see in this new rulebook should be able to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Emphasis: “should.”

As with every revision of the rulebook, there are some changes that may be subtle, but the major changes are going to be highlighted this week through a series of articles. At the end of the week, you’ll be able to sift through everything for yourself as we unveil the 2011 HeroClix Core Rules.

This rulebook will be the rules in use at this year’s GenCon for our Worlds event (that series of articles is coming soon, don’t you worry). We are calling May 1st the date that we recommend HeroClix players around the world shift from the old rules to these shiny new ones. That should give us plenty of time to get everyone up to speed, address whatever immediate questions come up (you do know to send rules questions to HeroClixRules@gmail.com, don’t you), and get everyone n the same page.

I want to be clear about this week’s series of articles. It is unlikely that I’m going to hit every single change that the rulebooks cover. I asked the team of folks that worked with on this project to give me their “top 5” rules changes that they felt were important to be spotlighted. These articles encompass those changes.

For today, we’re going to talk about Actions. Actions get top billing from me because I’m a big believer that HeroClix is a game that’s all about actions.

Canceling

One of the biggest changes to the game with the 2011 rulebook is that the concept of canceling is gone. Let’s take a look at what the rulebook has to say about activating powers and abilities:

Powers and abilities activate in a number of ways:

  • Some game effects require that a character be given an action. These effects only activate when the character has been given the action specifically to activate the game effect. The game effect then overrides the normal activity of that move, close combat or range combat action.
  • Some game effects activate as a result of something specific happening. The game effect will use the words “when” or “if” to describe the scenario required to activate the power or ability.
  • Other game effects are always active or otherwise specify when they can be activated.

If you are familiar with the various ways in which HeroClix powers and abilities are worded, this isn’t all that far away from what we’ve normally had. Each mechanic is either “always around” (like Toughness or Battle Fury), or it’s something that only happens when I do something else (like Blades/Claws/Fangs), or it’s something that I need to declare an action to activate (like Energy Explosion).

Without the ability to cancel something, powers like Toughness no longer need to be indicated as “Non-Optional” while powers like Stealth needed to have some tweaks made to them (Stealth is now a power that only prevents hindered lines of fire on your opponent’s turns, not on your own turn).

Repeating Free Actions

Since the idea of free actions were first introduced to HeroClix, they were saddled with the need to constantly use phrases like “Once per turn” to let folks know that it isn’t ok to use Perplex 15 times on a single character during your turn. This rule actually got “promoted” into the latest Player’s Guide, so it’s already how things play, but it’s worth pointing it out for this series.

A character may not activate the same game effect twice in one turn with free actions, unless the game effect indicates otherwise

This means that a feat card like Nanobots can only be used by a character once per turn. It is important to understand that it is each specific game effect that is impacted by this. If a character had 2 game effects that each allowed them to use the same power or ability, they would still be able to use it more than once. For example, Ozymandias has a special power that allows him to use Ouwit twice in a turn, though the second time is as a power action. Let’s say Ozy started the turn with no action tokens. First, he uses Outwit as a free action. Then, he uses it again as a power action. Later in the turn, he is assigned a token because he is using a Themed Team Probability Control and, at the end of that action, he pushes. If Ozy was on his second click (and now, his third), he will lose the special power “Smartest Man in the World” and be on a click with the standard power, Outwit. Any power or combat ability that he has countered with his special power would now be returned and Ozy can use Outwit again – a THIRD time! – to counter something else.

Double Power Actions

The double power action is a new types of action that you can give to your characters. Really, we’ve actually had this mechanic for a while, we just didn’t know it. Iron Man/War Machine will be errata’d to reflect this new type of action.

Actually, I should be clear – a double power action is not actually a new type of action. There are still only 5 types of actions – free, move, power, close combat, and ranged combat. Double power actions are a special type of power action. This becomes important for characters like Leech who can prevent any character in range from being given a power action. What works for power actions works on double power actions as well.

To use a double power action, your character would need to be cleared (no tokens assigned). As you resolve a double power action, instead of giving the character one action token, you’d give it two, instead. These tokens would deal pushing damage normally. While the mechanic is simple, this allows designers to create effects that are slightly higher powered for certain characters.

Super Splash Give Gidget a double power action when she occupies water terrain. She can use Quake as a free action and deals penetrating damage.

Kind of exciting to think about what possibilities are open to your favorite characters now, isn’t it?

That’s our intro for today. Over the coming days, we’ll take a look at a few other areas on the new rulebook, with the PDF of it and the new Powers and Abilities card available for download at the end of the series.

Next time – Wild Cards and Themed Teams.

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