Good vs Evil–With the Fate of Your Gaming Table at Stake!

Marvel HeroClix Battlegrounds: Avengers vs Masters of Evil is both a mouthful and the newest starter set. Like the last two starters, Fantastic Four Cosmic Clash and Justice League Unlimited, this is a boxed set that includes figures, two two-sided maps, a playable campaign to use with the set, and all of the usual things needed to play a game of HeroClix. There’s a pair of six-sided dice (recolored from the Captain America and the Avengers set), six double-sided bystanders, six double-sided objects, the usual twelve double-sided tokens with character created game effects on one side & terrain on the other, twenty action tokens, the Core Rule Book, and the Powers and Abilities (PAC) card. Game elements specific to this set have the designation BGAME.

Unlike those previous two starters, this one includes ten HeroClix figures. The figures for this starter are evenly divided between Avengers and their counterparts the Masters of Evil. All the sculpts are reuses from previous sets but WizKids chose some of the best sculpts for each of those characters. These are SwitchClix characters, meaning that the figures are easily removable from their bases. The dials are not only new but have two point values. The lower point value for each character has only standard powers. The higher point value includes specials powers, some different standard powers & combat values, and may even have more clicks of health before being KO’d. To keep things simple for new players, none of the figures have traits, improved targeting, or improved movement. All of the characters and most of the bystanders have Indomitable. Both point values are played off of the same dial with the easier version starting on click 1 and the advanced version starting on click 6.

 

BGAME101 is Captain America. Captain America is playable at 25 points and 50 points. Both versions have five range, the Avengers team ability, five clicks of health, and the keywords Avengers, SHIELD, martial artist, past, and soldier. 101b has all of the same powers as the 25 point 101a. The basic version’s Energy Shield/Deflection is included in the advanced dial’s defense special, The Shield. The Shield reads, “Energy Shield/Deflection, Toughness. UNIQUE MODIFIER: Adjacent friendly characters modify defense +1.” The advanced dial also adds two clicks of Running Shot, Two Clicks of Precision Strike, and three clicks of Sidestep. This figure is very playable at both point values. If you have 50 points on your build for the advanced version, go for it, but even the 25 point version is a great value if you just need to a point filler.

BGAME102 is Iron Man. Iron Man is playable at 50 points and 75 points. Iron Man has five clicks of health, Flight, six range, the Avengers team ability, and the Avengers, Stark Industries, armor, and scientist keywords. The two versions do share some powers but mostly on different clicks. The advanced version starts with two clicks of a special speed power, Gotta Make This One Count, that provides Force Blast and Running shot. The card for 102b shows a special defense power but, sadly, it’s not on the dial and the official word is that Iron Man doesn’t have it. Even with that error, the advanced version is a great piece for its points. Given a choice, I wouldn’t ever play the 102a version. It’s just not worth it.

Black Widow is BGAME103 with 103a costing 25 points and 103b 50 points. Black Widow has the Avengers team ability, four range with dual targets, and the Avengers, martial artist, soldier, and spy keywords. 103a has four clicks of health and three standard powers. Two of those three are Super Senses and Shape Change making her very, very hard to hit. 103b adds a click of health and a variety of powers including two special powers, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider and Super Spycraft. The first one is a movement power granting Sidestep and Stealth. Super Spycraft is an attack power with Close Combat Expert and Shape Change. Like with the Captain America figure, I’d prefer to use the advanced version but the 25 point dial is still great as a point filler.

 

Hulk goes from angry to angrier with BGAME104a at 50 points and 104b at 75 points. He has the Avengers team ability, no range, and just the Avengers, brute, and monster keywords. Both versions have a nod to the traditional “Hulk dials” with attack and damage values going up as they take damage. The basic version is four clicks with three standard powers. The advanced dial has five clicks with all of the powers of the basic but adding onto them. His special attack incorporates the Super Strength of 104a’s dial but adds to it. Strongest One There Is reads, “Super Strength. When Hulk makes a close object attack, modify damage by an additional +1.” 104a is playable but I think I can find a better use of 50 points. 104b still isn’t great but it’s pretty good.

 

The first villain in the set is Captain America’s oldest friend, Winter Soldier. Both versions of BGAME105 represent Bucky while he was still mentally programmed to be one of the most effective assassins on the planet. Winter Soldier is playable at 50 or 75 points, has seven range, five clicks of health at both costs, and the keywords Hydra, Masters of Evil, assassin, soldier, and spy. The basic version is first hard to hit with Stealth and then hard to escape with Plasticity. The advanced version starts with three clicks of a special speed power, Who Is Bucky?, that grants him Plasticity and Stealth and Sidestep. This makes him hard to hit in the first place and he’s likely to escape even if you manage to base him. Winter Soldier is another case where I just can’t see ever wanting to play him at the lower value but the advanced version is terrific.

From Captain America’s oldest friend, we go to his oldest nemesis: BGAME106 Red Skull. Red Skull is playable at 50 or 75 points, both of which have five clicks of health, five range, and the Hydra, Masters of Evil, and soldier keywords. 106a is barely worth mentioning: Poison through the dial and two click of Outwit that gives way to Perplex. For only 25 more points—wow. 106b is dangerous. His defense is only Toughness for the first four clicks but at least he has a defense power. Click five is the special power You Cannon Defeat Me: “STOP. The first time each game Red Skull would be KO’d, instead roll a d6 and heal him equal to half the result. Protected: Pulse Wave.” Even though he only heals the first time, opponents will still have to go through that Stop click twice. This is the only Stop click in the set. He also has the attack special power Dust of Death on his first four clicks: “Poison, but damage dealt is penetrating.” The 50 version is garbage but the 75 is gold.

Not an out-and-out Nazi like the Red Skull but certainly the son of one is BGAME107 Baron Zemo. This is Helmut, the son of the original Baron Zemo, Heinrich. Zero is playable at 25 or 50 points, has five range, and the Masters of Evil, Thunderbolts, Martial Artist, and Soldier keywords. 107a is certainly a playable point filler with Toughness on all four clicks plus two clicks of Leadership that give way to Perplex. Really, 25 points just for the extra action his Leadership gives your team is pretty good. 107b is five clicks long. He doesn’t have a damage reducer until click four, preferring instead to just plain being hard to hit with Combat Reflexes adding +2 to an already decent defense value. A Better Plan, his special defense power, adds Perplex to his Leadership for three clicks before giving way to just Perplex. Since I just can’t brag about this one enough, he has either Sidestep or Flurry for speed powers and had Blades/Claws/Fangs on every click. For his point cost, 107b may be the second best villain in the set.

The next villain is another kind of odd choice for the bad guy side. BGAME108 is Mach-X (the X being the Roman numeral 10). While Abner Jenkins does have a history as a supervillain (the Beetle), I don’t think he’s ever been anything except a hero as Mach-X. That oddness aside, Mach-X is playable at 25 points or 75 points—another oddity in this set since his cost jumps 50 points instead of just 25. That extra 50 points? Worth it! Both versions have six range, flight, and the keywords Masters of Evil, Thunderbolts, armor, and scientist. 108a is another good point filler. His Flight avoids most terrain and let’s him carry a teammate. He’s hard to hit at range with a printed 17 accompanied by Energy Shield/ Deflection on all four clicks. While he doesn’t open with it, he does have Running Shot on clicks two and three. Then there’s 108b who has a move-and-attack power on all SIX clicks, Energy Explosion the first four, is just as hard to hit as the basic version, and has four clicks of Battle Armor Upgrade, his special damage power. It reads, “Enhancement. Perplex but only to target opposing characters.” Not a great power but far from bad, either. Overall, I’m quite impressed with both versions for their respective point costs.

For reasons known only to someone at WizKids, we take a break from villains to have our final hero with BGAME109, Captain Marvel. Her basic has a cost of 50 points with the advanced coming in at 75. Both versions have Flight, six range, the Avengers team ability, and the Avengers, Kree, and cosmic keywords. 109a may easily be the strongest basic character in the game. She only has four clicks but goes from 12 speed Charge to 11 speed Running Shot—one of the few basic characters to even have the ability to move and attack the same turn. She has a printed 11 attack the first three clicks and printed 18 defense on all four. The “basic” Captain Marvel is a beat stick for 50 points. She’s now five clicks long, has better damage reduction—even if her defense value does dip a bit—and two clicks of Pulse Wave mid-dial. What makes her extra devastating is her special speed power, Higher, Further, Faster! It reads: “Hypersonic Speed. When Captain Marvel uses it and hits, after resolutions she may use Charge at no cost.” So if she hits with the first attack—and the odds are in her favor—then she can attack either the same target or a different target depending on placement. Both versions are very playable and, frankly, 109b is way undervalued for what she can do and is easily the best hero in the set.

Finally we finish the villains with BGAME110 Ultron. Like Mach-X, Ultron’s cost jumps 50 points from 110a to 110b. Ultron has six range and the Masters of Evil, future, robot, ruler, and scientist keywords. The basic 110a has a dial that’s four clicks. If it weren’t for Probability Control on clicks three and four, it might not even be worth the 50 points. Then there’s the 100 points 110b. Twice the points and eight times the playability. It starts with three clicks of Probability Control, has better damage reducing clicks and Regeneration on its final click. If the opposition has a damage reducer then that’s just too bad as his top three clicks have Penetrating/Psychic Blast and his last three have Precision Strike. That lack of Flight? No problem. He has Phasing/Teleport on all six clicks, the first four of which are a special speed power called Age of Ultron. It reads, “Phasing/Teleport. // FREE: Roll a d6. Phasing/Teleport at not cost, but only to move up to the result.” The advanced version is easily not only the most powerful villain in the set but the most powerful figure, period.

From full characters we move on to the set’s bystanders. There are six bystander tokens representing seven characters. Each token has a hero or villain on one side and an Ultron Drone on the other. These bystanders are only meant to be played with the Avengers vs Masters of Evil campaign. The don’t have a point value and do have the purple ring that signifies a promotional, not-for-tournament character.

Our first hero is Black Panther. Black Panther has 8/11/17/1 with no range, Indomitable, Stealth, and Close Combat Expert. Black Panther is best served by being carried up next to an enemy by one of the Avenger’s flying characters, hoping he survives until the next turn, and then using that Close Combat Expert to pound an enemy.

 

Hero number two is War Machine. War Machine brings to the table 9/11/18/2 and a range of five. He has Flight, Indomitable, Running Shot, and Toughness. I’d say he’s probably the most useful of the heroic bystanders since he can carry another character, is the only one with the ability to move and attack the same turn, and takes more than one damage to KO.

 

Our final hero is Nick Fury. Fury has an unimpressive 6/9/17/1 with a four range, Indomitable, and Energy Shield/Deflection. The best thing he has going for him is Probability Control. You won’t want him next to any opposing figures but you’ll certainly want him to have a view of the battle.

 

Bring on the bad guys and our first one is M.O.D.O.K., the Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing. M.O.D.O.K. is the only character in the set that does not have Indomitable. What he does have is 5/9/18/1, six range, and Flight. He makes up for his low speed value by having Sidestep—never underestimate the utility of Sidestep/Carry—and Range Combat Expert to help out his attack and/or damage.

 

Next is Taskmaster, the villain’s bystander with Probability Control. He’s better than the Nick Fury bystander in almost every way, only lacking a range. Taskmaster’s numbers are 8/11/17/3 with Indomitable and Flurry. While that 17 defense value isn’t great, you still want him up close and personal to Flurry for 3 damage.

 

The last of the unique villains is Wrecker. Wrecker is a beat stick with Charge and Super Strength. His numbers are 9/12/17/2. He has no range but does have the usual Indomitable. That 17 defense with no damage reducer gives him the metaphorical glass jaw but if he’s close enough to charge an opposing character, it’s gonna hurt.

Finally we have the Ultron Drone. As mentioned, these appear on the back of all of the other bystanders and all six are identical. They have four range, 6/10/17/2, Charge, and Toughness.

 

Standard objects received a big makeover in this set. Previously these cardboard pieces were 3.5cm (1.38”) in diameter and only represented one size of object. The new objects are only 2cm (0.79”) across. Each is a light object on one side and a heavy object on the other. Not that the art effects game play at all but the light/heavy options are toaster/crate, frying pan/jackhammer, iMac/motorcycle, dumbbell/park bench, record player/arcade cabinet, and adjustable wrench/manhole cover. I like these changes for a couple of reasons. First, it gives you flexibility since with only three tokens you have access to all four light/heavy object combinations you’re allowed on a regular starting team. Second, it cuts down on the amount of cardboard being used which is good for the environment. Third, I think the smaller size will encourage players to either put the object that a character is holding right next to the character or on their card, thus eliminating objects being forgotten about or missed because they’re under a character of only slightly larger size.

The set includes two two-sided map sheets: Helicarrier Interior, Castle Hideout, Iron Man’s Workshop, and Ultron’s Lair.

Helicarrier Interior is a fairly standard indoor map. The art represents the landing bay of one of SHIELD’s ships with some small rooms. It’s not quite symmetrical and has walls, blocking, and hindering terrain. There are spaces where the art shows open sky. To simplify things, these squares are all blocking terrain instead of having the orange-text “open air” rules that many maps like this would normally include.

Iron Man’s Workshop is the another indoor map. There are workbenches, a couple of high-tech cars, and several Iron Man armors (including a Hulkbuster) on display. It’s asymmetrical and has blocking, elevated, hindering, and obscuring terrains. The starting areas are in opposing corners.

Castle Hideout is marked as an outdoor map but should be marked indoor/outdoor as there is a twenty-five square area that is inside a building. I don’t know why they didn’t just call this Castle Zemo. Just call it a missed opportunity. Both short sides of the map and one long side are outside the ramparts of the castle. There are three drawbridges into the castle for those characters not able to ignore elevated terrain when moving. That doesn’t make things easy, though, since the entrances on either short end of the map are filled with hindering terrain. Castle Hideout has blocking, elevated, hindering, interior, walls, and water terrains.

Finally we have the disturbing Ultron’s Lair indoor map. This map is symmetrical but along the long axis. The miles of cables covering the floor combined with strategically placed lower elevation sections form Ultron’s face when it’s viewed from the correct angle. It is important to note that these red areas are elevation 1 with the majority of the map being elevation 2. In my first game on this map, neither myself nor my opponent paid enough attention and just presumed that those areas were elevated (oops!). There are also areas of blocking terrain but only in each corner and one small patch of hindering terrain near one starting area.

The last items to cover are the Campaign Rules, broken into seven scenarios. Each scenario has a standard way to play and an alternate Hard Mode that can change with characters are played, win conditions, etcetera. Each card has the Premise (the story leading to the battle), which map to use, which characters to be on the Avengers and Masters of Evil teams, rules that affect setting up the map and/or what characters may do, win scenarios for each team, and which scenario to go to next depending on which team one.

While this is a great idea, it fails in a few ways. I’ve played the campaign twice—once with the regular rules and once in Hard Mode. The results were the same each time with The Avengers winning Scenario A: “Jailbreak,” the Masters of Evil winning Scenario B: “Meanwhile, at Stark Tower…,” the Masters of Evil winning Scenario E: “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and The Avengers winning Scenario G: “The New Age of Ultron.” Scientifically speaking, two times through is not a good sample size but unless once side has incredible positive luck on their dice rolls and the other has phenomenal bad luck, I just don’t see how this scenarios could go the other way—especially the first two. For fun and curiosity, I’ve also played Scenario C: “Avengers Assemble!” The Master of Evil won and, again, I don’t see how it could likely go the other way.

Hard Mode for Scenario G says to add a 75 point Baron Zemo to the Masters of Evil team. The problem with that is that there isn’t a Baron Zemo at that value in this set. He’s either 25 or 50.

A problem in both modes for Scenario G is that the text for which characters go on the Masters of Evil team says, “…and two Ultron Drone Bystanders” but the set-up under rules gives three specific spaces for Ultron Drones to be put into. This also causes a second problem in that the set comes with six double-sided bystanders but this scenario needs seven: Nick Fury, MODOK, Wrecker, Taskmaster, and the three Ultron Drones.

There’s also the question of how many actions to take per turn. The problem is that the builds for each side don’t always match each other in points. My opponents and I agreed to play at one action per turn (none of the build totals meet or exceed 200 points). This could be made more clear.

Overall, I like the IDEA of the campaign. It’s the execution that failed due—and this is just a guess—to a lack of playtesting.

As a set for beginners, Marvel HeroClix Battleground: Avengers vs Masters of Evil has a few advantages. Most of the characters should be familiar to players who aren’t well-versed in Marvel Comics. Both versions of all ten characters are fairly easy to understand in what they do, the exception being Iron Man having a special power on his card that isn’t on his dial. It certainly includes all of the basics that two players would need to start playing and that’s great. One downside is that a pair of new players just picking up the set may be confused by the duo cards for each character and which click to start on; not an insurmountable problem but it could be easily solved with an additional card explaining it clearly. Speaking of clear instructions, this set should have included a quick-start guide in addition to the Core Rulebook and P.A.C. I’m not a fan of WizKids’ current sheet for new players but it’s better than the nothing that was included. The “2-4 players” on the back of the box is misleading; which there are Battle Royale and Skirmish formats, neither having anything to do with this set. There’s also the various other problems I’ve mentioned in this review.

For experienced players, there are a few GREAT characters to add to their collections. With mostly very low point costs, they fill in rosters for a nice variety of keywords. The maps are each good to great in their own ways. I especially like the idea of flummoxing an opposing team with little or no flight by picking the Castle Hideout map. The campaign, sadly, fails as written. I think the scenarios could be fixed by having players build their own teams and only incorporating required characters (like Red Skull in Scenario A) where needed.

Is it worth buying? I think so! I certainly don’t regret my purchase, it’s just that I see room for improvement and hope that the next boxed starter will be quality tested a little better before the designs are sent off to be manufactured.

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