HeroClix Masterminds! It’s no secret to HeroClix players that there are huge advantages to acting from a distance instead of up close. This isn’t just talking about range combat, it also means utilizing Hypersonic Speed (maybe even with Barrier to keep your opponents away after) or even utilizing buffs like Perplex and Krakoan Revival while out of range of opposing threats.

One of our goals in this set of rules updates is to help level the playing field between close and range attackers. We tried to do this by strengthening close attackers and removing some obstacles they face. We’re going to start off with a quick summary of the changes, followed by some details on our thought process.

  • Characters with multiple bolts will be able to multi-target even when making close attacks.
  • Hindering terrain will no longer impact movement, but will continue to impact targeting.
  • Knockback will do less damage, and default to moving a character 3 squares.

Bolts and Targeting

Ever since the introduction of characters who had multiple bolts on their dial (therefore, multiple targets) it was reserved for ranged attackers. While we don’t have a perfect insight into the minds of the designers at the time, something we uncovered in our research was that many players believed the fact close combat attackers could still attack while in base combat with opposing characters meant they had a way to “shut off” the extra targeting capabilities of ranged attackers.

Additional bolts only working for range attacks is part of what divides the “haves” and “have nots” of HeroClix figures. From a thematic perspective, it’s easy to picture Batman knocking over multiple goons with a single leg sweep. It’s easy to picture Wonder Woman punching in one direction while kicking in another. The game balance makes sense, the theme makes sense. From the players we spoke with while considering these changes, most were happy to see this and felt it was overdue.

We realize, in the short term, many characters with multiple bolts will primarily be ranged attackers, they won’t be optimized to use multiple bolts at close like a character with Flurry and Close Combat Expert might be. So while the rules are implementing this change now, it might take some time for this to impact high level tournament games since multi-targeting close combat attackers are only beginning to debut in Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary. We know players will be eagerly looking over some older figures in search of new combos on the multi-targeting characters in their collection.

Hindering Terrain

While it might not feel like Hindering Terrain disproportionately helps ranged characters right now, it benefits them relative to close attackers in at least two ways:

  • It can be damaging to get near a ranged attacker in hindering terrain
  • It can be challenging to get near a character’s backup (Probability Control, Outwit, Perplex, etc) that hide in hindering terrain

Even though characters using range attacks would have a hard time landing a hit with Hindering Terrain, their ability to have a chance meant a lot compared to close combat attackers potentially losing tempo and never even making it to the die roll. By helping level the playing field between range and close attackers in this way, we believe the strategic depth of HeroClix improves.

From a theme perspective, when considering the description of Hindering Terrain from the 2017 rules – terrain that is hard to traverse, like a park bench, it doesn’t seem like something that would slow down most heroes, even ones that we wouldn’t have always given Improved Movement: Hindering to like Batman, the Flash, or Wonder Woman. It wouldn’t even slow down most athletic civilians like Jimmy Olsen in a tense situation.

Removing the movement penalty of Hindering Terrain but keeping the hindrance on targeting had a few benefits:

  • Stealth continues to be meaningful
  • Characters won’t need a way around Hindering Terrain like Improved Movement Hindering or Flight to be great move-and-attack pieces or Stealth pieces
  • Future figure designs can have more interesting gameplay relating to Hindering Terrain without being oppressive

New Rules Text for Hindering Terrain, as it appears in the rulebook:

Hindering

Line of Fire: When a character makes a range attack, and a hindered line of fire is drawn between the attacker and its target, modify the target’s defense +1 for the attack.

Knockback

Knockback is fun and flavorful, but also had a lot of variability. How far will a character get knocked back? How much damage will they take?

The Core Rulebook lets people know that Knockback pushes the character away by 3 squares. They stop if they’d hit something. For casual, kitchen table play, that’s enough.

Step 5: KNOCKBACK Sequence

Characters are sometimes knocked back by an especially hard-hitting attack.

When a character is knocked back, the attacking player places them up to 3 squares away from the character that hit them.

If something would block a knocked back character they aren’t knocked back any further.

Knock back a character when:

  • Your character has the KNOCKBACK keyphrase as part of a power.
  • You roll doubles on your 2d6 attack roll.

The Comprehensive Rulebook will go further to explain the nuance of “away” that the rules currently have. From a directional standpoint, knockback is the same.

You’ll notice there are some differences here: knocked back characters don’t incur additional damage, and there’s not a calculation to determine how far back they go.

We believe these changes lessen the gap between ranged and close combat figures. While technically, sometimes a close attacker may gain an advantage by knocking back someone they’re grappling with, we’ve found it far more likely that ranged attackers are capitalizing on knock back by sending hit characters into unfavorable positions. Perhaps worst of all – it’s the player who is losing usually most harmed by knock back. While you’re ahead in HeroClix you already have plenty of advantages ranging from Clix of life remaining to characters left on the map, you rarely need to reposition AND deal bonus damage to opposing characters.

We suspect the talented players that are innovating on teams and tactics will continue to do so, just in a new environment that nudges the balance between close and range attacks. In the past 2 years we’ve seen some characters with close attacks impact the metagame, but across the long arc of HeroClix history those figures and metagames are more the exception than the rule.

We know you’re probably taking a look at some of the figures in your collection, but we wanted to share some of the figures that we’re more excited to play.

We’re going to focus on Batman Beyond’s 75 point starting line. He starts with Charge, and could select Incapacitate or Close Combat Expert through his special powers – both of which make the most of his multi-targeting at close range. Whether you’re trying to deal damage or Incapacitate opposing figures, he’s a more effective crowd control option than he was previously.

The Question has 4 clicks of Stealth, but had no good way to get into hiding via Hindering terrain without delaying his movement. While it was true that he could use Asking Questions to generate a Smoke Cloud marker, he’ll now be able to use that marker to greater effect since he won’t need it for defending himself as often.

Starfire gets a big boost on her STOP Click. Her Earthbound/Neutralized no longer impacts moving through Hindering terrain, she can Flurry two characters at once with her 2 bolts, and her Force Blast means she can knock them back further while doing so. After taking damage, Starfire does a great job of pivoting from ranged combat to close combat – a feat that few can manage.

If you’d like to send in a character you think will be more fun or competitive based on the above changes, we’d love to hear about it – we might even feature that character or team idea in a future article! You can submit your ideas to GameFeedback@wizkids.com with the subject line “From a Distance – Characters to Try.”

To see everything we’ve revealed so far for the 2021 rules update and Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary, check here.