HeroClix 2017 Rules 10: Invincible, Precision Strike, and Energy Explosion

For earlier articles in this series please click here.

Reminder: These rules are not finalized yet and will not replace the current rules until sometime after the  2017 HeroClix World Championship at Origins Game Fair. Email gamefeedback@wizkids.com with feedback on this topic. We will try and read everything on topic but can only respond via articles we write addressing shared concerns.

Hey HeroClix fans,

We are nearing the end of the major changes for 2017 HeroClix Rules! We did a complete overhaul and cleaned up lots of other dark corners, but only this article and the next one (#11) contain changes that playtesters rated as “sweeping”. We have been actively reading your thoughtful and considerate feedback and will have an article responding to it soon. We’ve talked to retailers and judges at the GAMA tradeshow and we are very excited with the support and enthusiasm these articles have received. Thank you!

Today we’re going to talk about what we call the “2013” powers. That year was the last time we did a major revision of the rulebook, and we added pink powers to the game which have generally been well received. Most powers in the game needed tweaking after their introduction and pink powers are no different. Their power levels are now much better understood after 3+ years of play, and now is finally the time to do the “first tweaking” for them. Additionally, Energy Explosion got a huge revision in 2013 and we needed to re-examine some specifics of that.

To begin with, two of the pink powers landed exactly where we wanted.

FREE: Move up to 2 squares.

Adjacent friendly characters modify damage +1 while making a close attack.

Sidestep ranks pretty highly when we ask players about their favorite powers to use. It adds a lot of strategic depth to the game without adding rules complication. We tweaked the wording to not use “locked”, a term that isn’t being used anymore. If we want you to move 2 squares, we’ll say that. It doesn’t need to use your speed value at all, just tell you how far to move as a number.

Empower works exactly as intended and just needs a bit of new language and templating.

It probably won’t shock you to learn that Precision Strike ended up a bit too powerful. By completely shutting down Super Senses, it could potentially negate a large swath of an opponent’s defenses all by itself. It was one of those powers that players said felt particularly unfun to play against, because you couldn’t roll your way out of it. Everybody wanted a standard power that could get around Super Senses, but it did its job just a little too well and players agreed that it needed some scaling back.

Precision Strike
When this character attacks a single target, rolls to Evade are decreased by 1 and damage taken can’t be reduced below 1.

The core of it is there, but the penalty to Evade is now -1 instead of “you don’t get to roll at all”. So now your opponent can use Super Senses, but still has a chance (50% of the normal chance, 17% chance overall) to roll a 6 and still succeed.

The ability to break through defense powers and “ping” high defense guys has proven to be very valuable in the metagame, and players thought it was core to what Precision Strike did and didn’t want that touched. It’s powerful, but generally fair, and it’s unchanged.

As other ways were added to get through Mastermind (attacking and hitting the Masterminder and minions in same attack, using Poison or other non-attack damage), it didn’t need a specific answer anymore. Precision Strike wanted to focus a bit more.

The last tweak is that it became single target only. When we asked, players agreed it was odd that you could target 3 characters at once “precisely”, and it was a key reason that Precision Strike felt overpowered. In general, we’ve been cautious with giving Precision Strike to characters with 3 bolts (though probably less cautious than ideal with 2 bolt characters), and making single target the default will allow us to give Precision Strike to a wider range of appropriate characters. When there’s actually a character who’s so good at targeting (and each comic universe has a few) that he or she can precisely shoot three opponents simultaneously, we can add it back in as a special power tweak.

Invincible, power-wise, landed more or less right where it was intended. Its problem is that it’s one of those powers written simply, but tricky to actually calculate. We asked for a calculation in Invincible unlike any other in HeroClix (Halve damage, round up, then subtract it from itself). It also used “ignore”, one of the words we’re trying to move away from in HeroClix that is often unclear and that the game no longer needs.

Players liked it, but were for finding a better way to express the intent of Invincible, which was “a defense power good against penetrating damage”. Note how its current wording does not mention penetrating damage, and you have to be pretty deep into the rules to realize that penetrating damage is “the reason why” it’s written the way it is. We also really wanted it to use “reduce” so we could write a clean rule of “you can only apply one reducer each time you take damage”.

Here’s where it ended up after playtesting.

Reduce damage taken by 2. Can reduce penetrating damage. Takes a maximum of 3 damage (at once).

Compare this new version to the current wording in terms of preventing damage (penetrating or normal).

So it’s better against 2 damage dealt, but worse against 5 damage dealt, but equal or better above that. It’s very close in power level to where it was before. It depends on your local metagame being filled with 2 damage guys or 5 damage guys, but overall players probably have more 2 damage guys, so it’s a slight upgrade. It’s also a lot easier to figure out in the midst of a heated game, and should save some time and mental energy here and there.

Ah, Energy Explosion. In 2013, everyone knew how weak it was. Really, really weak. Mocked and rarely used. Back then we wanted a big push to get players to at least consider it. We didn’t put it on dials just for the pretty color, we wanted it to be used for its intended purpose, which was to put tightly grouped teams at risk and make opponents reconsider their formation.

Two decisions on Energy Explosion were made in 2013 with the intention of making it more balanced with the rest of the powers, and they at least partially succeeded. But with hindsight and feedback from players, those decisions are a bit arbitrary and conflict with the goals of making the rules and interactions easier and simpler which we’re striving for in this iteration.

The first decision made in 2013 was to make it a “rider” on RANGE actions, sort of like Blades/Claws/Fangs is for CLOSE actions. The intent was that it could then “combo” with Penetrating/Psychic Blast to become penetrating. We knew its combo with Pulse Wave would be messy, and it is. We didn’t properly weigh or playtest (and certainly should have) its comboing with other kinds of RANGE actions. Since 2013, there have definitely been a lot more special powers that use RANGE actions, and the questions and interactions have grown immensely.

Energy Explosion was its own RANGE action for more than 10 years, up until 2013, and now it’s becoming its own RANGE action again. It’s no longer able to ride along with other RANGE actions.

Secondly, a decision in 2013 was made to tie the damage dealt by Energy Explosion to bolts (the number of characters you can target with a single range attack). It made some sense – characters with Energy Explosion often had multiple bolts, and we were looking for ways to make Energy Explosion deal more damage.

It didn’t work out as well as we hoped. Giving a character 3 bolts and Energy Explosion ended up so powerful that we couldn’t really give that to a low-point character, and on a high-point character, while useful, it often was a bit redundant with their other powerful effects.

The flavor behind using bolts was pretty much the opposite of what players expected as well, and that gave it less resonance in the game. If a character has “100%” power to shoot at 3 targets at the same time, players expected each target to get hit with 33%. If shot at 2 targets, players expected each target would get 50% of the full attack. But Energy Explosion in 2013 went in the opposite direction. The more thinly you divided out a character’s power, the more damage it dealt. Bolts in this instance became just a random number to tie to damage, and actually subtracted from the flavor of what was going on.

Those were the two issues that needed fixing. Let’s show Energy Explosion to you, and we can talk about what it does and some of the nuances.

Energy Explosion
RANGE: Make a range attack (targeting normally), and all other characters adjacent to an original target also become targets of the attack. Hit characters are dealt 2 damage instead of normal damage.

The whole “dividing of the damage and then only dealing splash damage to those adjacent to a target assigned at least 1 damage, etc.” is a complication this power just doesn’t need. Now it just deals 2 damage to everyone, no dividing necessary. This is not only much simpler, but also more flavorful. Dealing only 1 damage to the guy in the center of an explosion but dealing 3 damage to those around him was pretty odd and unintuitive.

Compared to the original Energy Explosion (before 2013), it’s better in the vast majority of circumstances. That version dealt 1 splash damage, and this deals 2. Compared to the 2013 version, it’s lost its combo with Penetrating/Psychic Blast (the intended one) and a bunch of other stuff (unintended).

Characters with 3 bolts will now deal less splash damage compared to the 2013 version. The rough breakdown in current Modern Age is that 30% have Energy Explosion with 1 bolt, 60% have it with 2 bolts, and less than 10% have it with 3 bolts. So less than 10% will deal less splash damage. For 2 bolt guys, it stays the same, and for 1 bolt guys, it’s doubling their current splash damage. So for more than 90% of Energy Explosion characters it’s either the same or a huge improvement in splash damage.

Also, it’s a bit subtle and will be more fully explained in the final rulebook, but the characters here “become targets”, similar to how Mastermind has a character “become a hit target”. In both cases, you don’t need to draw lines of fire to each individual character, the effect simply tells you which characters qualify and it uses the word “becomes”. For Mastermind, neither Shape Change or Super Senses will work on the minion, because he “becomes the hit target”. Here, the adjacent characters “become targets” (not hit ones) in a similar way and Shape Change will not trigger for them. They already are a target, it’s too late. They can still use Super Senses, and the original targets (that had lines of fire drawn to them) can use both Shape Change and Super Senses if they have it.

However, there’s a notable upgrade here as well. Because you no longer have to divide the damage, you now can deal 4 damage total to 2 targets, or 6 damage total to 3 targets. Very few Energy Explosion characters with two bolts have 4 printed damage, and almost none with 3 bolts have 6 printed damage. So you’ll be dealing a lot more damage to the original targets in almost all cases.

Additionally, there’s another subtle upgrade that players have long wanted for this power – the ability to do something if your opponent isn’t clumped together. Apart from Telekinesis and a few other ways to force opposing characters together, with all previous versions of Energy Explosion, your opponent largely has the choice about whether any “adjacent friendly” effects (like carrying or Enhancement) are worth the risk of being hit by Energy Explosion or not. He or she can easily “blank” the power by just not clumping his or her characters up. Now, no matter what your printed damage, or even if your opponent has Perplexed your damage value down, you can still deal 2 damage to every hit target, even if they are standing by themselves and there’s no one to catch the splash damage. This is a notable bump for Energy Explosion characters that deal 1 or 2 damage, and those with 3 damage and 2 bolts, and most characters with 3 bolts that aren’t tentpoles naturally dealing 5 or 6 damage.

We hope you agree that this “brings Energy Explosion back” to the style of power it had been for the first 10 years of HeroClix, with a substantial upgrade in power-level compared to what it was then. Compared to the 2013 version, it got an upgrade in rules to clean up interactions and it got power-level upgrades in some circumstances and downgrades in some others, but overall players generally felt it was a bit ahead.

Until next time, keep on Clixin’!

2017-03-22T17:51:39+00:00 March 22nd, 2017|2017, HeroClix Rules|