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2011 Rulebook – Of Wild Cards and Themed Teams

We’re previewing the new 2011 Core Rulebook for HeroClix this week, spotlighting some of the changes and new rules. Last time, we talked about a new type of power action, canceling, and free actions. In particular we pointed out the new rule that you cannot give a character a free action for the same effect twice in one turn. As with many rules, there are some rare exceptions. We start today with the exception that you are most likely to see in your games.

Wild Cards

Changing team abilities is now a matter of giving the character a free action. As with nearly all actions, that’s something you can only do on your own turn – not on your opponent’s turn. Wild Card teams take a little bit of a hit in terms of their flexibility, but their rules become much easier to explain to a new player.

Once the free action has been given, the wild card continues to use that team ability (as long as there is a friendly character with the natural team ability to copy from). A wild card team designed around only one “primary” team ability will work pretty much the same – give that character a free action, choose the team ability you want, and they can continue to use that team ability as long they have a friendly character to copy it from.

For teams with multiple team abilities to copy, if you need your wild card to copy the SHIELD team ability to boost a ranged attacker, go ahead. They can also change to Sinister Syndicate on that same turn in order to share their attack value with someone because the free action for changing wild cards is a rare, specific exception to the “no doubling up free actions” rule. However, when the end of the turn comes, you better view the board and figure out which team ability you want them to have on your opponent’s turn. Because once your turn is over, you won’t be able to change team abilities again until your next turn, since you can only give your characters actions on your own turn. So what will it be? The cover of terrain by copying Batman Ally or retaliation damage through copying Mystics? Maybe you want to increase your defensive capabilities with Defenders? Each wild card can be given a free action and choose something different from the other wild cards on your team, but they won’t be changing unless you can give them a free action to do so.

With his simplification, an entire paragraph dedicated to the weird interaction of changing a team ability mid-action can be removed, making the wild card rules much easier for a new player to comprehend.

Themed Teams

The structure and benefits of themed teams went through a bit of an overhaul as well. As always, it’s useful to read the rulebook directly, but we’ll cover the various aspects here:

Building a Themed Team – The change for build requirements is subtle. Instead of being based on every 100 or 150 points of the build total, it is based around multiples of 300. If you are using a generic keyword, then you’ll need 3 characters on your team. If you are using a named keyword, then you’ll only need 2. (Wait a sec – what’s a named keyword? It’s a keyword that is not a generic keyword!). For build totals of 400 through 600, that number doubles (6 characters for a generic themed team, 4 characters for a named themed team). And so on.

Themed Team Bonuses

  1. As before, the player with a themed team gets +1 per character (not bystanders) to the roll to see who goes first. But note that the rules for this roll-off have changed too, and not just for themed teams. Now, the person who wins the roll chooses – do they want to pick the map and go first or would they prefer to let their opponent be the one who picks the map and goes first. And the player of a themed team will have a better chance at making this important decision.
  2. Canceling a battlefield condition once per tournament (this is the same as it is now).
  3. Probability Control. Ah, Probability Control. What an incredibly awesome power you are. Certainly, this capability is a tremendous way of rewarding the player who chooses to limit his character choices based around a single keyword. With the 2011 Rulebook, we’ve made calculation of the number of Probability Controls a team has a bit easier and we’ve also brought the capability more in line with its original intention – to be a boost for the team, not a dominating aspect for rerolls in a game.

Themed Team Probability Control

Like the rules for building a force, the number of uses of Probability Control a themed team gets depends on the build total. Build totals of 300 points or less grant generic themed teams 1 use of Probability Control and named themed teams 2 uses. Again, like the build requirements, this would double for build totals 400 through 600, triple for 700 through 900, and so on.

How Probability Control can be used through this mechanic has a number of changes.

  1. The character using Themed Team Probability Control (TTPC) must possess the keyword that makes up the team. So Bystander Tokens will not be able to use it, as they don’t have keywords. Also, if your force was built to a keyword (say, Doom Patrol) and a character changes so that they no longer have the keyword (say, Beast Boy changes to his non-human form), while the team is still a themed team and can use TTPC, Beast Boy in his animal form would not be able to help out with TTPC.
  2. The character using TTPC cannot have been given a non-free action (free actions will no longer prevent the use of TTPC). This makes the use of the TTPC a bit more flexible than it used to be. It will still prevent a character given a non-free action with, say, an attack roll from using it, but if a character is being given a free action (like Leadership) they would be able to use TTPC on their own roll. New players especially had a lot of trouble distinguishing between using Outwit and a Close Combat Action as both being “actions”, so we’ve decided to “go with it” for simplicity. If you’ve been given a tokenable action, you can’t use TTPC. If you’ve done free actions, you’re still ok.
  3. A character that can use Probability Control already cannot use TTPC. The idea of a single character having access to multiple uses of Probability Control each turn was never the intended purposes for Themed Teams. The occasional reroll? Sure. But some teams were able to set themselves up for 5 rerolls for one attack roll (or more). If you want that much PC, by all means, put the appropriate characters with that power onto your force. But keywords alone are not going to get you there. As a corollary to this rule, there’s also a rule stating that a character that has already used Probability Control this turn can’t use TTPC. This covers some additional corner cases involving Edward Nigma/Warbound, damage from Krakoa, and prevents the same character from using TTPC twice in one turn. To be clear on this, a force is allowed to use TTPC more than once for a given attack, but you are going to have to use different characters and none of them can be ones that can use PC on their own.

As with everything you are seeing this week, all of these changes were debated and playtested for many months. We went through many iterations before arriving at these rules, and we feel that they accomplish our twin goals of simplifying and balancing the basic game play of HeroClix.

UPDATE: I made a terrible game error in the last article talking about Ozymandias and how he gets assigned 2 tokens to move from his special power Outwit to a standard power Outwit. While the core lesson of the example remains accurate (if Ozy moves from one power to another, he can use both on the same turn), the specifics of the example – being allowed to use TTPC after being given a power action – was in error. I apologize for missing this interaction.

Next time: Climbing the mountain

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