Why I play Heroclix
I already went on a bit of a rant for this subject at HCRealms, a very good resource for the Heroclix community. First, for those who might not understand, what even is Heroclix in the first place? Essentially, Heroclix is a miniatures game using characters mostly from Marvel & DC Comics, though it's been known to branch out to other licenses (most recently, TMNT & Yu-Gi-Oh). It has a lot of elements you might recognize from other miniatures games like Warhammer & X-Wing: it's played on a map, you use dice for combat resolution, stronger pieces take up a bigger chunk of your team than weaker pieces, and each figure has very different abilities associated with them. After all, just think about the X-Men & Justice League. The characters from those series have wildly different abilities, not to mention the various villains they face, and there are reasonably good representations for most of those characters.
So, that's essentially Heroclix. The game is unfortunately very complicated, but what collectible game isn't? When you're trying to represent all the talents of superhuman (or alien or beast) characters, that's going to take some effort. Now, why do I choose this particular game over something more popular like X-Wing, where you're piloting Star Wars ships in a space dogfight?
Basically, if you're a fan of any superhero, Heroclix has characters for you. As I said, the licenses are surprisingly well spread. TMNT is pretty well-represented throughout all its ages. Lord of the Rings brings a very fantasy-themed spread. Even video games have made their way in, such as Assassin's Creed, Halo, Gears of War, & Street Fighter. The multimedia success has also prompted special sets to come out actually themed more on the movies than on the comics (Age of Ultron easily has the best version of Hulk). The most recent Avengers/Defenders War includes a bunch of characters that are clearly trying to cash in on the Netflix Defenders shows. There's a Guardians of the Galaxy set for each of its movies. Joker's Wild has a lot of Batman enemies that are clearly based on their animated series counterparts, along with a couple themed on the Killing Joke movie that just came out around that time. If your favorite character happens to be a bit more obscure, such as Black Panther, Moon Knight, Raven, or Plastic Man, this game's got you covered, too.
Compare this to a card game like Magic, where you're instead given X slots for cards in your deck, and each card's power can vary wildly. Yes, each card has a particular cost associated with it, but there's ways to cheat through that. Granted, power creep inevitably happens. Most characters from the game's origin just don't stand up to the way they are today. However, that power creep really is pretty gradual. Figures from several years ago can still find their use. Lately, there's also a trend to reduce the point value of characters so you end up with larger armies. Wolverine might be the ultimate badass (he's gone one-on-one with the Hulk, after all), but he's brought down to a highly condensed, 50-point version so you can run a squad of several X-Men together. If you run a full X-Men team, none of them are going to have their truly full capabilities, but they'll all have their role. The Justice League, or more accurately, its predecessor the Justice Society was also recently represented, with most of its characters focused down to under 50 points, representing "a simpler time."
However, what if instead of getting a lot of different games, there can be one game that works in all sorts of great licenses? In this one system, I have a game for Batman, X-Men, Yu-Gi-Oh, TMNT, Lord of the Rings, Street Fighter, Gears of War, and more. This same game involves vampires, aliens, robots, gods, gangsters, soldiers, ninjas, zombies, and so much more. All of these use the same system and they all work together! Smash Up's greatest draw is that you can take a couple things, like dinosaurs & pirates, merge them together to make dinosaur pirates, and you're ready to play! This game does exactly that, but I can make this game into whatever game I want, whatever scale I want! I can recreate Batman: Arkham Origins if I want. I can have a completely nonsensical mashup of Michelangelo teaming up with Deadpool and Joker if I want. I can fight low-level street crime or make an epic battle of the ages! We can fight in the Nile River, Gotham City, Atlantis, or even literal asteroids in space. I can, and have, give the power of the Phoenix to the TMNT fighting outside Comic Con! The Gate Guardian made short work of Superman & his friends. There are just so many scenarios of games I can design. This is not simply one game, this is thousands!
I can already hear the protests. "You're bashing Magic so hard, but what you're describing can still happen there. The combinations are endless!" Sure, and there is definitely some lore to Magic. I ask though, how often does that lore truly come up in each game you play? When's the last time you ever actually felt like a wizard when playing it? Can you really describe what kind of relationships your various characters & creatures have with each other? Yes, there are lots of Magic books, but for most people who read them, the interest goes the opposite way. You read Magic books because you like the game Magic. I play Heroclix because I already like the characters it depicts. I can conceive of special circumstances that would bring these people together. Why are Batman, Two-Face, Penguin, & Jim Gordon all working together? Because the one thing that unifies them is their love for Gotham City, and NOBODY MESSES WITH GOTHAM BUT GOTHAM! The ability to cross over should never be underestimated either, as we can see with the many Marvel Vs. Capcom games that have come out over time. There are just too many good things that all come together here.
I love the characters. I feel invested in them as I play. I can position figures in just the right ways for careful precision strikes. I can witness the action playing out in front of me as characters maneuver around bushes, blast through walls, bash their enemies with a freaking ship anchor, knock their enemies off rooftops, and witness the power of the Phoenix Force flow from one defeated member into all the others. I said it before, this game is all things to all people. The game is overwhelmingly complicated, but my love for these characters, these icons, is strong enough to see me through. Magic has some great art, but the cards themselves are very difficult to display outside of playing the game. Dragon Ball Z is a great system, but it's just Dragon Ball Z. Yu-Gi-Oh has a lot of creative monsters, but I hate the game's general design. Heroclix just gets so many things right, it has become the perfect game for me. There will eventually come a time when I have collected all the characters I like, and then it will be a question of whether I prefer the new versions they introduce (there have been so many Batman representations over the ages). Maybe my investment will stop there, but there are so many stories yet untold through this game, I'm optimistic for the long-term.
FROM SEA TO SHINING SEEEEEEEEEEEAAAA!!!!!