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Subject: A preview (part 1) rss

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Roberto Di Meglio
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First of all, please excuse me for splitting the preview in more than one article! I promised to do this in the week-end but as I have two kids I've had to set different priorities... Now, being sunday night here in Italy, this is the maximum I could do today to keep the promise and be able to wake up and be in the office tomorrow morning to whip the graphic designer into completing the game files for delivery to the printer

So, here it is the preview of Marvel Heroes - part 1!

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When Marvel approached us with a proposal to license and design a "big and beautiful" strategy boardgame based on the complete Marvel Universe, we were immediately excited by the challenge. Marvel Comics created hundreds of great characters and countless stories: to convey a meaningful picture of such a complex universe was even more diffficult than representing the "War of the Ring" as we had done in the game that at the time was just recently released.

In the end we decided a few 'fundamentals' we had to keep in our game. First of all, we wanted both Heroes and Villains to be featured. Marvel created some of the greatest Villains ever and we wanted them to be more than just a mechanical factor which the players were challenging. After much discussion, we decided that the way to go was to let each players control BOTH superheroes and villains. There were a number of problems to be addressed - we did not want a 'strange alliance'
to be created where a players'action as Villain could help his superheroes or vice-versa; but we thought this concept also opened the way to deal with the subject in a new and interesting way.

The second point was that the game should belong to the adventure/strategy category. The Heroes should face menaces, solve mysteries, fight villains, and the characters would evolve and change during the game, however in a way which should remain faithful to the stories. We wanted a "large story" to bring the game to a climax, and of course smaller stories to set the stage.

The third point was the location. The Marvel Universe is as big as, say--- the universe. Actually something more, with infinite parallel universes, extra-dimensional realms... More or less every realm ever conceived by the human imagination has been included in a Marvel story, from Asgard, to Hell, to Atlantis. But...
Manhattan has been the setting for countless stories in the Marvel Comics. Everything has happened in Manhattan, everybody - hero or villain - has been there. The only other alternative would have been to have the whole world, or the universe! as a setting, but the feeling was that it was somehow not appropriate to a character-based game. Manhattan was the solution to make geography and topography meaningful for our characters.

With these concepts as a foundation, we then went through several possible designs.
There was another challenge: we wanted to keep all the game elements consistent with the stories, but we also wanted the game to be played with different teams and villains. So every element should fit any character - how could that be? Our first design did not address this problem properly, making everything too 'generic' to be meaningful from a thematic point of view, so we had to drop it (and a few months of work with it) and start anew.

The end result of many months of thought and labor is the design that we decided to develop and publish and which I will start to describe in these previews.

In "Marvel Heroes" every player controls a team of 4 Heroes. Four teams are included in the game, for a total of 16 characters: X-men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Jean Grey), Fantastic 4 (you know who they are), Avengers (Cap, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man), Spiderman and Marvel Knights (Spidey, Daredevil, Elektra, Dr. Strange).
Every team has its "Nemesis", a Mastermind Villain controlled by one of the other players: Magneto, Dr. Doom, Red Skull, Kingpin.

Every Hero or Villain is defined by a reference card and essentially is represented by a set of combat powers; a special combat ability; a special non-combat ability; his endurance (how many KOs he can receive before being defeated); and his "Troubleshooting" ratings.
Mastermind Villains have very similar stats but the "Troubleshooting" ratings are replaced by "Threat Ratings". We will see later how these ratings are used.

At the beginning of each game round, players will have to use their allowance of "Plot Points" to set the strategy for their Team. The number of Plot Points is limited in the beginning, but may improve during the game allowing the Team to be used at full effectiveness.
With Plot Points, we achieved several objectives. First of all, we did not want all characters to be balanced. The level of power of the characters in the game is very varied and while all of them should be useful, we wanted to show a difference between characters, like Daredevil, Spiderman, or Captain America, which can be found fighting everything from petty crimes to world conspiracies, and characters like Thor or Dr. Strange which would be involved only in "high level" plots. So, each character has a Level, i.e. how many Plot Points you must pay (from one to three) to put him in action.
In addition to this, Plot Points are a very useful device to make the game progress from smaller plots involving only some of the characters to more challenging missions possibly involving a full team. The "experience" which is somehow an element in most adventure games, in "Marvel Heroes" is essentially represented by an increased allowance of Plot Points as the game progresses (there are also "Power-ups" which give additional abilities to Teams, which may be gained in the game).

After each player plans what he wants his Heroes to do, it's time to start the action! Each game round includes 5 action rounds, and in each action round a player does only one action, so the game progress very quickly around the table: Move a Hero, Use a Special Ability, Heal, Story Action, and the most important action: Troubleshooting.

Story Actions are essentially a representation of the fact that the life of a Superhero is not all fighting Villains. Other things happen which are important to a Hero or a Team: a baby is born, a photo book is published, the government gives an official recognition... These events are generated by a deck of Story Cards, and the players must use Story Actions to make these stories happen to the benefit of their Team.

The Troubleshooting action is used to try to solve missions, called "Headlines" as they are written in the style of newspaper headlines.

(In the next preview, we will look in more detail to how Headlines and Troubleshooting works).


 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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This sounds very interesting, Roberto. After seeing what a great job you guys did with War of the Ring, I am really looking forward to this game.
 
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Ben Boersma
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Clyde North
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Here, here, sounds great!

Thanks for putting that together! Even more excited now.

* Cheeky question: At this stage do you guys know when it will be released?
 
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Luca Iennaco
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Thanks for the time you took to write this preview. thumbsup
We're eagerly waiting for the second part! meeple


Do you have any idea about the release date?
 
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Tim K
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Thanks Roberto for the time you spent putting this together. I can appreciate the limited time one has with a family to take care of. I for one am really looking forward to playing this game with my kids (8 and 10) and my co-workers who are big comic fans like me. The game sounds great. I'm very excited that an outstanding superhero game may finally be produced.

Any guess when the game will be ready for retail? September maybe? Thanks again for the time you put into this. Its very nice to see designers reading the actually taking the time to respond to our posts.

Tim.
 
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Mike Silbey
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This is just the thing I've been looking for. Eagerly waiting for the next preview.
 
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Rob Silmser
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I'm so excited I almost wet myself...

...almost...
 
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Aaron Lambert
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Thanks for the great information about the game and for the interesting details on how it was developed and why it developed as it did! I can't wait for more!
 
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Michael Barnes
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See what happens when truly brilliant game designers do something other than come up with "clever" ways to score wooden cubes or Rummy variants with choo-choo trains? The game sounds tremendous so far- innovative design concepts and the theme is brownie-batter thick like I like it, but more impressively as with WotR the rules are completely organic in relation to the millieu they are attempting to portray. Can't wait to be/fight DOOM!!!

MB
 
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Casey Rogers
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This is sounding pretty good. I'm excited to read more! Thanks for posting!
 
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Roberto Di Meglio
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Well, regarding the release we should be very much on track for shipping the game out in late august, to expect it in stores around the end of september.
However we also promised our worthy friends of Fantasy Flight Games preview copies at GenCon and are working to make that possible. Let's keep fingers crossed.
Later today, part 2 of the preview!
 
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Adam B
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Thanks very much Roberto, I hope I can speak for everyone here on the geek when I say we truly appriciate the time and effort you put in to write this preview. Just one more reason to adore you guys at Nexus!!! Consider one copy of Marvel Heroes already sold!!!!!
 
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Jim Carvin
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This is definitely my most anticipated game of the year, maybe even of the last few years! I would be excited enough if the game was being put out by anyone else, but with you guys at the helm and after having play WotR, I anticipate this to be an incredible game.
 
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