AAR/Impressions- Marvel Crisis Protocol
Last night, I joined a group of regulars at Oak Lawn Comics for their inaugural weekly Marvel Crisis Protocol night.
The game is usually played on a 3x3 board, so we set up a sprawling abandoned military installation on a 6x4 table, and played 2 separate games on each half. Brian and I played the "starter scenario" from the rule-book. This scenario defines the opposing forces, and objectives, but in a normal game, it is all selected dynamically. Each player brings 10 models with them. 2 Crisis (objective) cards are selected, and based on these, the threat level or points value is specified. At this point, players build their forces from the 10 models they brought, up to the chosen point value. Usually the player will have 4-5 models. These can be a mix of heroes or villains. A number of power cards are also selected at this time. These cards can be played at various times and represent super-heroic actions, and team-ups. One example is a card that allows Iron-man to shoot a powerful beam towards Captain America, reflecting it off his shield into an enemy within range of Cap.
I'm not going to give a blow by blow re-enactment of the game, but I will mention some highlights, and interesting mechanics. Beginning with the player who has initiative, players alternate activating single models. The models can move, do an action as listed on their cards, and a few other actions. During the first turn Iron-Man and Captain America advanced. For the first attack of the game, Captain America threw his shield at Spider-Man. This is a neat ability that ignores line of sight... Each attack specifies a range, attack type, and the number of dice you roll to hit. Your opponent rolls their defensive dice; Defensive successes cancel out attack successes. The attack dice that are not cancelled out, are given as damage. There are other dice results that can trigger additional effects. These also count as successes. Various powers have additional abilities that happen during the attack, sometimes before or after damage is assigned. In this case, after damaging Spider-Man for 1 point, the Ricochet ability triggered, and I got to roll a 2nd attack against Red Skull. This was a better attack that caused 3 damage. It felt very flavorful.
There is risk to causing damage. For every point of attack damage you cause, the defending model gains 1 power, which can then be spent on more powerful abilities. Sometimes it's best to ignore the opponent in favor of the objectives. During our game, we had the following 2 objectives:
- Collect fragments of Cosmic Cube- These macguffins were scattered around the board, and gave a victory point at the end of each round. Once you pick one up, you can't drop it unless you are downed. However, there is a risk- At the start of each round, any model took a damage point for each piece they were carrying.
- Hold the Extremis Console- These were 4 locations on the map that you had to stand and hold. The player with the most healthy models within a 1 inch radius received a victory point at the end of each round. These devices could be activated to heal a single point of damage to a nearby model.
- You could also receive a victory point for taking out an opposing model.
The characters in this game are very resilient, and this is represented in their stat cards. Each model has a certain number of health points. If they take enough damage, they become dazed are are effectively out of action until the end of that round. At the start of the next round, you flip the character card over to the "injured" side. Stats and powers can change in this form, and some characters gain additional abilities, such as Captain America's "I can do this all day", which allows him to count blank sides as successes for all defensive dice rolls for the rest of the game.
Baron Zemo seemed to have quick movement and some powerful attacks, but he has very soft skin and was the first casualty in our game. One thing I really liked about MCP is that each character felt very distinct. They all have interesting abilities that can play off of others, and while there are very few available models right now, there are a lot of possibilities to build a force to fit your play style. I was not excited about Crossbones for example; He has a very short movement, and looks underwhelming. However once I started using him I found he has some fantastic melee abilities that allow him to punch his way quickly across the board.
Black Widow seemed similarly underwhelming to me, but Brian played her abilities well, and she caused a lot of damage. Getting too close to her is dangerous!
One of the best things about this game is that a character can pick up and throw almost anything. Spider-man can throw a car at Ironman, or The Hulk can throw Red Skull into a building. It's very flavorful. Thrown objects are destroyed and removed from the board. Characters have a chance to dodge, but it is a very viable attack strategy.
Line of sight is simplified in the game. If any part of your base can draw a straight line to any part of your opponent's base, you can see them. There is a size stat in the game- most humans are size 2, and terrain needs to be assigned size values as well. If there is a piece of terrain that is the same size or smaller than the opponent, it does not block line of sight. Height is not relevant when determining line of sight. If the attacker is on the ground, and then defender is on the roof of a building, they are still visible. When I read this section of the rulebook, it bothered me, but in practice, it was simple and worked fine.
The game ends immediately after a player reaches 16 victory points, or the end of turn 6, which adds a nice bit of tension, and keeps the game from running too long.
Our game ended mid turn 5, when I took out Black Widow to nab my sixteenth victory point. I had a lot of fun with this game. It feels like it is designed for scenario based play and storytelling. The powers are big and crazy, and since most of the characters are so well known, it's very easy to imagine Cap's shield bouncing from opponent to opponent, or Spidey webbing an opponent and swinging him into Hulk's path for easier smashing.
I did have some concerns- There are only 12 models right now, which seems a bit limiting. Additionally, the text on the cards is small, and there is a lot of synergy, so you really need to understand how your characters can play off each other. It's equally important to understand how your opponent's characters work. We spent much of our game reading the power descriptions and stats to each other. Unlike most games that CSW plays, this game requires cards, and since the base sizes are so important (and they are weird sizes), proxy models won't really work. There are a lot of tokens. We kept most of them on the character cards instead of scattering them around the board, but it still felt a little messy. I may use dice to track health and power levels for my next game.
After months of hype and excitement I was finally able to get the new Marvel Crisis Protocol miniature game to the table. I played the standard learn to play game against Josh. There is no character drafting and building a list in this version, just 5 characters per side. I did like that we both had a mixture of good and bad guys. That adds a lot to flavor to the game, not being locked in to only having Avengers on your squad. The teams were fairly balanced, and it played out that way. The movement and attack mechanics are simple to understand and easy to learn. The turn based style where you activate one character at a time adds a nice level of strategy to the game, not just a hack and slash. I really enjoyed the throw a character or terrain object mechanic. That really adds to the feel of the game, you believe that the Hulk could pick up that mailbox and throw it at Ultron. The superpowers are really overpowered, which I like. They are super, after all. This really strikes me as a game where objectives matter, and completely change your strategy from game to game. I'm definitely looking forward to all the upcoming expansions to add to my roster. Overall I enjoyed playing and would recommend it.
The system in MCP seeks to recreate the big, bombastic, panel filling battles you’d see in the comics and does so with gusto thanks to its objective system that has both players involved in the selection process. With one player choosing the “secure” objective and the other choosing the “extraction” objective from a deck they make themselves, it allows for strategy to come into play before the battle even begins. My first match saw my opponent and I scrambling to secure points on the map to guard precious vials of the infinity serum while the second objective was to secure and capture a Skrull agent hiding among 3 civilians on the battlefield. The two objectives in a game helps not only gives players more opportunities to mix it up but also leads to some great thematic set ups that really give the game that extra bit of flavor.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game, and am looking forward to another game this week!