Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marvel: Heroic Roleplaying...a review of sorts

By popular demand (someone asking me to post this last night after a G+ game) I will review the new Marvel: Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, or whatever it's called. To preface, I got it last night; it was sitting on my doorstep as I remembered the possible delivery in a moderate whiskey stupor. This should in no way reflect my actual intellect (hopefully), because some of my comments could be taken as the ramblings of an idiot. Generally that is the case, but not this time.

First of all, what the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? Let's start there: What. The. Actual. Fuck. Okay, I shall explain, if I can. You know what, no, how about this...think of all the heroes you'd imagine would be in a basic entry-level game dealing with the Marvel universe. Got a fairly decent image in your mind? Is one of those heroes Emma Frost? No? What about Ms. Marvel? Luke Cage and Iron Fist? They're all in there, 100% serious. That's FINE with me, but you don't include the stats for Dr. Doom or Venom? Instead stats for a gigantic T-Rex. A fucking dinosaur. The Fantastic Four and Spiderman are statted out, but their major nemeses are not. Captain America is there (thank Jesus), but no Red Skull. What. No Hulk, either, for some reason. Hmmm...yeah, you're actually supposed to play though an Avengers scenario with, not even making this up, Cap, Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine and Spider-Woman. I am not making this shit up. I repeated that to stress that I wasn't making it up. Have the writers of this game ever read an actual fucking comic? No, see, the Avengers are Cap, Thor, Hawkeye and Namor, sometimes Hulk. Get that new age crap the fuck out. This is pathetic. After flipping through the book and seeing what constituted the hero write-ups, I almost couldn't read another page due to outright apathy.

But I did, and unfortunately (this is where the argument that I might be stupid has more weight) I couldn't understand the die mechanic at all. It's some form of die pool that allows you to roll a bunch of dice and use them in ways that drive the plot. You can also spend meta-points to drive the plot (called Plot Points, oddly enough), all well and good. There's also a die pool called the Doom Pool, which (not making this up) is the GM's die pool. Apparently, it is directly affected by the distribution of Plot Points to players and all sorts of other shit. Yes, the GM is basically playing against the players and has to keep their die pool transparent. If you read the rules, though, it almost seems like there doesn't need to be a GM at all; it reminds me of some collaborative story telling bullshit. This isn't a fucking game, it's a die-rolling activity that allows sociopaths a way to generate their own comic book adventures. Hey, why not just write the shit out in narrative form and be done with it? No need to interact with anyone else at all.

The powers section is actually cool, even if it's sparse as hell. You get a die value (d8, d12, etc.) assigned to a power, and the bigger the die the more crap you can do. That's fine, it's objectively measurable, and whatever, it's the comics, heroes never really have rigidly defined powers. Shapeshifting d6 means you can alter your face in minor ways, d10 indicates the ability to shift form completely. But you don't actually roll the die to Shapeshift; it's part of your die pool and it allows you to do plot crap. At least from what I can tell (I told you...I didn't understand it one fucking bit). So it's entirely possible the ability to Shapeshift will result in exactly the same result per the die rolls as something like Fire Control. Okay. The abstraction is either stupid, or I am for not "getting it". Either way, I don't care.

Fuck, Thor is RIGHT THERE on page 75, about to open a can of whoopass on Storm. Why no stats? Why oh why? No matter, I can play Sentry instead, the "greatest hero nobody knows". You got that right. Christ in heaven, how the hell can you play Spiderman without the Green Goblin or Venom? Don't come at me with some rubbish about how Carnage is in the book; that's asinine. I'd rather fight fucking dinosaurs as Kitty Pride, no joke. At least Colossus in in here, too, so we can act out some pedo-sex scenes or something...

Also, and I don't want to harp on this but I shall, Wolverine and Cap have the same fighting ability. The very same. Sorry, you know what, fuck you Wolverine fan boys. Cap is the best, The End. This game can suck my fucking dick.

The art is pretty good, I'll admit that at least. Nice, glossy pages. High production values throughout, obviously well edited. You know, they could have at least included Black Cat as a foil for Spiderman. Okay, I'll stop...but just look at the cover. Spiderman, okay. Cap, yes. Wolverine, well I hate Wolverine, but iconic Marvel character. Iron Man, fine. Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel. Seriously, what in the ever living fuck is that? No Hulk? What about Thing? I'd be happy with Jean Grey or Invisible Woman if you need a female character to please all the PC people out there, but why choose two characters no one cares about? What message are you sending me with this shit cover? Storm, stats in the book, not on the cover. No, this is idiotic as fuck. You know what, Wasp would have been fine. Seriously. At least I know something about her. I want to punch my monitor very badly.

Emma Frost? What the fuck were you thinking? Fuck this game.


  1. I haven't read any Marvel comics in I don't know how long. One of the reasons seems to be stuff like Emma Frost having replaced Professor X, and Wolverine being an Avenger. Sure, the Avengers line-up is always changing, but seriously, Wolverine was a terrible team player as an X-Man. It's just dumb to stick him on the Avengers. (I don't hate him the way you do, but seriously, that's completely out in left field IMO).

    Thanks for this review. It confirms to me that I don't want to buy or play this game. I'll go find a copy of the old Marvel TSR game with the stupid color chart if I want to play a Marvel Supers game.

  2. This might be the worst product review I've ever read. This game does an excellent job of capturing the essence of comic book without the complexity and laborious combats of Mutants & Masterminds or Champions. There's an excellent one-page cheat sheet that clearly explains the die mechanic. I've seen the game run for kids who'd never played an RPG before, and they had no issues figuring it out.

    If you'd actually read the included adventure, you'd see that the whole point was to emulate the New Avengers arc. And, aside from Sentinel who's an NPC, it specifically states you can play whatever heroes you want.

    Most of all, this game is fun. Combats move swiftly, there's lots of back-and-forth as one side gains the upper hand and then loses it, and the 'opportunities' mechanic is great for giving the players and DM some narrative flexibility in describing things you don't need rules for.

    It's not perfect; the included villains are good, but it does suffer from leaving out some of the iconics (presumably for a supplement). And the character generation chapter isn't terribly clear or useful. But overall it's a pretty good game.