Game Night: 15 May 2007 – Marvel Heroes (Part 1)

Marvel Heroes
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I think I’m going to build a Gamesignal and install it on the roof above the garage, with a switch downstairs in my office. Then when I want the Game Night crew to assemble I’ll just flip the switch, a powerful beam of light will bisect the sky and our emblem ((Note to self: we need an emblem; and a theme song.)) will shine brightly in the darkness for all to see, ((Projected on the … uh… stratosphere, I guess; or perhaps a giant screen in geosynchronous orbit.)) signaling Chris, Gus, Jeff and Miscellaneous G™ that the time of the gaming is upon us.

Yeah, that’s definitely the way to go.

As it stands, Game Night is coordinated via e-mail, which seems pretty mundane by comparison. Unfortunately, due to some manner of SMTP wormhole or IMAP confuddlement, Jeff didn’t receive confirmation that Game Night was go for launch on Tuesday and he was understandably absent. I’ve got to believe the Gamesignal would be far more reliable.

Miscellaneous G™ and Chris arrived at the International House of Johnson shortly after 7:00 and gaming commenced around 8:00, following consumption of various snacks and chitting of various chats. We decided upon Marvel Heroes, foolishly thinking that we could complete an entire game before Gus’ scheduled 9:00 arrival time. As it was, we hadn’t quite managed to finish an entire game round before Gus arrived. We briefly considered switching to something else, but then decided to simply deal Gus into the game already in progress.

The idea behind Marvel Heroes is fairly simple: each player commands a team of heroes who troubleshoot mysterious occurrences (called Headlines) in and around Manhattan. Successfully troubleshooting a Headline means collecting Victory Points; failing means the heroes get sent home with their web-shooters or adamantium claws between their legs (embarrassing and uncomfortable).

Unlike Arkham Horror, another Fantasy Flight title we’ve played at Game Night, players in Marvel Heroes aren’t cooperating with one another to overcome a common foe, they’re competing against each other for Victory Points. It wouldn’t do to have the heroes battling one another, though, so to aid in foiling their opponents each player controls a Master Villain — the nemesis of the team to his or her right.

We began by assigning Hero teams and Master Villains as follows:

  • Miscellaneous G™: The Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk). The Avengers’ nemesis,The Red Skull, was controlled by Chris.
  • Chris: The Marvel Knights (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Daredevil and Elektra). The Marvel Knights’ nemesis, Kingpin, was controlled by KJToo.
  • KJToo: The Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Thing and Human Torch). The Fantastic Four’s nemesis, Dr. Doom, was controlled by Miscellaneous G™.

Teams assigned, it was time to get cracking. The basic unit of the game is the Game Round, which is broken into three phases: Setup, Planning and Mission.

During the Setup phase, the game board is prepared. In the first round, six new Headlines are placed on the board (one for each area of Manhattan), four Story cards are dealt onto the Story track, and various tokens — indicating such things as the current Game Round, Victory Points for each team and Trouble Level — are placed on their appropriate tracks. In subsequent rounds, the Story track is advanced, the Game Round advances, and Headline cards are dealt into locations that were investigated in the previous round.

The planning phase is where all the strategy takes place; well, in theory, anyway. Team receive Plot Points based on a number of factors and spend those points to activate heroes and play Ally cards. The idea is to activate heroes whose skills and troubleshooting levels best suit one or more of the available Headlines.

Right. Boring. Where are the epic battles? Where are all the shield-throwing, web-slinging, Hulk smashing, eyebeam-shooting beatdowns?

Fear not, true believer! Once we get past all the setup and strategery…it’s clobberin’ time!

The Mission phase is all about applying boots to the posterior and taking note of monikers. Okay, there’s some other stuff going on (like moving heroes, healing heroes and such), but it really boils down to action. In fact, each Mission phase is broken into five Action Rounds. Typically, the first action is to move your team to a location and the second action is to introduce your heroes’ fists to some villains’ faces.

In the first round, Miscellaneous G™ sent Thor and Iron Man to Lower Manhattan, Chris sent Elektra and Spidey to Brooklyn, and I sent Mr. and Mrs. Reed Richards to The Village. Instead of troubleshooting in the second round, Miscellaneous G™ chose to take a Story Action and build up his hand. The real action started with Chris’ turn when Elektra investigated rumors of mutant monsters prowling the sewers beneath Brooklyn.

Any time a player troubleshoots a headline, all the other players have an opportunity to play cards (Villains and Agents) that make it more difficult for the hero to triumph. When Elektra descended into the sewers, she didn’t find mutants waiting for her there; she found The Vulture, a Villain card that I played from my hand. Once a Villain has been played, he or she becomes the Lead Villain for that encounter, and the other players can play additional cards as backup effects — cards that allow the Lead Villain to use sneaky tricks during combat to gain an advantage or otherwise inhibit the hero.

Unfortunately, The Vulture is an old man, and apparently senile to boot. Why he chose to confront Elektra in the confines of the sewer rather than engaging in an aerial battle amidst the towering skyscrapers high above is anyone’s guess, but the end result was a trip back to Codgerville Prison and Chris picking up several Victory Points.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, the ever-elastic Mr. Fantastic investigated the origins of a mysterious column of energy, only to find that it was yet another fiendish plot by Latverian dictator and Darth Vader wannabe, Dr. Doom.Never mind that Dr. Doom made his first appearance fifteen years before Darth Vader. Though the bad doctor wasn’t actually present, his machinations were felt in the form of an increased Trouble Level — one of several ways in which a Master Villain can attempt to alter the outcome of a Mastermind Headline. Miscellaneous G™ (controlling Dr. Doom) could also have opted to arrange a direct encounter between Mr. Fantastic and the Master Villain, but chose not to; instead, Chris played Avalanche as the Lead Villain and Miscellaneous G™ threw the Crimson Dynamo into the mix as a backup effect.

Much to Doom’s dismay—not to mention Miscellaneous G™’s, as his disdain for Mr. Fantastic is the stuff of legends—Avalanche proved to be no match for the leader of the Fantastic Four, and I collected the sweet, sweet Victory Points. It was a promising start for me, but little did I know how quickly my fortunes would take a turn for the worse.

When Thor arrived on the scene in Lower Manhattan to investigate reports of a UFO crash, instead of little green men he found a big green-and-yellow man: Electro. For those who may not know, Electro’s claim to infamy is his ability to manipulate electricity, while Thor is the Norse god of thunder who wields the enchanted Uru hammer, Mjolnir, and says “thee” a lot. Smart money was on Thor, and the son of Odin did not disappoint, leaving the only real question whether I should say that he hammered, nailed, or pounded Electro.

Chris, meanwhile, had moved Elektra to Queens, where she found several horribly mutilated bodies… and Hydro-Man. Now, Hydro-Man is essentially made of living liquid and can control nearby bodies of water. Even so, he’s still a second-rate villain in the Marvel Universe. Elektra, on the other hand, is a Greek ninja assassin ((No, seriously, Elektra is a Greek ninja. And an assassin. A Greek ninja assassin. Oh, and her last name is Natchios, which doesn’t sound at all like “nachos”.)) who was killed by Bullseye and then came back from the dead. That’s pretty badass. On the other other hand, Hydro-Man was being assisted by one Mortimer Toynbee, also known as The Toad. The combination of Hydro-Man and His Amphibious Friend proved too much for poor Elektra, and the villains (wait for it) mopped the floor with her.

Elektra’s ignominious defeat marked the end of Game Round One, as well as the arrival of Gus. Rather than abandoning the game in progress, we decided to give Gus the X-Men, shuffle the nemeses around a bit, and continue the ongoing battle for truth, justice, and a slogan that didn’t belong to a competing comic book company. Excelsior!

Gus sat to my left and took Dr. Doom’s green hoodie from Miscellaneous G™, who in turn donned the maroon-and-purple helmetAbsolutely not double entendre. of Magneto, the Master of Magnetism. Our musical chairs mini-game complete, we proceeded to Game Round Two.

To be continued…

Pseudopod 038: Hell’s Daycare by D. Richard Pearce

Pseudopod: the sound of horror

A couple of weeks ago I was tapped to read a story for Pseudopod, the short-form horror podcast. The story I read was posted on the site this morning. “Hell’s Daycare“, by D. Richard Pearce is a cautionary tale about the dangers of fraternizing with demons in the digital age. Caution: “Hell’s Daycare” is for mature audiences only, as are all stories featured on Pseudopod.

As long as you’re heading over to Pseudopod, I encourage you to check out “Bliss“, by James Michael White (read by Mur Lafferty). Laura and I listened to this one on a recent trip to Stow and we both found it incredibly disturbing, which I consider to be high praise for a horror story.

Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown

Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

  • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
  • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
  • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
  • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
  • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
  • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
  • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
  • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
    • 18 by Moby (CD)
    • Play by Moby (CD)
    • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
    • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
    • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
    • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
  • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

[EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

  • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
  • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
  • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

Moviestuff: Where’s the Spidey 3 Review?

I haven’t seen Spider-Man 3, yet. I could have gone on opening weekend, but I didn’t; I could probably find some time this weekend, but chances are I won’t. I’ll see it in the theater, but I’m clearly not rushing out, which — given my love of all things superheroic — is incredibly unusual.

So where’s the excitement about Spider-Man 3? I’m pretty sure it was snuffed out by Spider-Man 2.

See, I really enjoyed Spider-Man; it wasn’t perfect, but as superhero movies go it was pretty darn close. Then Spider-Man 2 was released. It had amazing action sequences and I loved the way Doctor Octopus was brought to the big screen, but — as I wrote in my 2004 review — the little annoying things I didn’t like about the first movie were amplified tenfold.

I own Spider-Man 2 on DVD, but I’ve never watched it. I watched a lot of the special features, but I haven’t sat down and watched the movie from beginning to end again. I know there’s a lot of really cool stuff in it, but I don’t want to sit through the syrupy melodrama to get to it. I suppose I could fast-forward through all the angst and preaching, but that feels like cheating somehow.

So I’m not in a big hurry to see Spider-Man 3, because somewhere along the line Sam Raimi decided that along with the proportional speed, strength and agility of a spider, Peter Parker also has the proportional melodrama of a daytime soap opera.

Podcast: The Round Table – Season 4, Episode 3

The Round Table

When you’re done celebrating the First of May, head on over to The House of the Harping Monkey and download the latest episode of The Round Table. Chris Miller is in Los Angeles working on a super-secret project, so it’s just Mick Bradley and me going back and forth across the table about the geeky things that have caught our interest in the last couple of months.

First of May (2007)

Has it really been a whole year since I first posted these lyrics? It has? Well, here they are again. Follow the link below for all the lyrics and to download the song. And, hey, watch out for those explicit lyrics.

I woke up this morning
I had a scone and a large house blend
Then a little conversation
with my squirrel and chipmunk friends

I said, “I’m sick and tired of winter,
and I wish that it was spring.”
Then a little fella named Robin Red Breast
began to sing.

And he sang,
Ooh-ooh, child
what you think the cold winter’s gonna last forever?
Ooh-ooh, child,
now’s the time for all the people to get together…
outside.

‘Cause it’s the first of May,
first of May…

— “First of May” by Jonathan Coulton

Now get out there and celebrate!