Monday, February 18, 2019

And Now for Something Completely Different... Superheroes!

Marvel's Alpha Flight: Back row: Shaman, Snowbird, Sasquatch, Vindicator/Guardian, Aurora. Front row: Northstar, Puck, Marrina.
One of the more "fringe" genres in tabletop wargaming has to be superheroes. Sure, you see the odd WW2 game with Captain America playing some minor role, but for the most part, superhero gaming just isn't done - by either the traditional "historical" community or even by the more adventurous sci-fi/fantasy bunch.

Omega Flight: Wild Child, Smart Alec, Box, Flashback with his "future men", Diamond Lil
For me, "peak comic book" was in the mid-1980s. I followed the Marvel titles almost exclusively, and the Uncanny X-Men with particular fervor. My favorite artist and creative person was the British-Canadian polymath, John Byrne. Together with scripter and co-plotter Chris Claremont, he created some of the best superhero stories of all time, including the "Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past" storylines in the Uncanny X-Men.

The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants: Avalanche, Mystique, Magneto, Pyro, Blob, Destiny
Byrne was also tapped by Marvel to create Canada's superhero team: Alpha Flight. Originally created (according to Byrne) "just to survive a battle with the X-Men," Alpha Flight proved to be so popular that they were spun off into their own title, written and drawn by Byrne. The prime adversary group for Alpha was Omega Flight. Like the Alphans, Omega Flight was created by "Department H" of the Canadian government as an officially sanctioned team of supers. While Alpha Flight were the prime team, Omega and Gamma Flights consisted of supers-in-training... and when Department H was disbanded due to budgetary considerations, the lower-tier supers took the easier rout of using their powers for selfish purposes. This allowed them to be manipulated by Delphine Courtney, a humanoid robot and agent of Jerry Jaxxon, an aggrieved former boss of James Hudson (Vindicator) who sought revenge against Hudson for "stealing" the battlesuit designed by Hudson for the company they both worked for, when Hudson discovered that the company was to turn over his invention to the US military. This resulted in a downward spiral for Jaxxon, who was fired and subsequently rendered paraplegic after a suicide attempt... Dark stuff for kids' comic books eh!
The Uncanny X-Men: Phoenix, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Professor X, Storm, Cyclops, Wolverine
So as a side project some years ago I started buying and rebasing (and sometimes repainting and converting) Wizkids' "Heroclix" figures to create the supers of my youth. Heroclix figures can be hit and miss in terms of sculpting quality but they're usually cheap, and the variety of them is really monstrous. Pretty much every super you can think of has been made into a Heroclix figure (sometimes multiple versions), but having said that, I've still had to do conversion work on figures like Omega Flight's Box, Smart Alec, and Flashback, as well as on the "future" Colossus and Storm, before their specific models came out. For the most part, though, I just applied a black or brown wash to the models as-is and rebased them. Easy. The other great thing about Heroclix is that they're approximately 28mm scale so all of my modern 28mm models can be used with them. Great for those games set in the mid-'80s with our Eureka Soviets and US Army models!
The X-Men (Days of Future Past): Colossus, Storm, Logan, Kate Pryde, Franklin Richards

Wizkids also made Sentinels in their range - these are the giant mutant-hunting robots that have featured from time to time in the X-Men and other Marvel books. I've got two versions - the original (left) from the initial "Infinity Challenge" range and the "Alpha" at right which came later. I really prefer the sculpt on the Alpha version, and it also has exchangeable arms, torso and head to create a "damaged" version - cool. However in the Days of Future Past setting I can use both versions; the larger ones can represent the "triad patrols" combing the ruins of New York City circa 2013, while the smaller more detailed models represent the "Omega series executive cadre" that eventually kill the remaining X-Men (spoiler alert!)

Sentinel with Logan and Kate
The tricky part, of course, is actually playing games with the models. What rules to use? Well, we once played a "Days of Future Past" game years ago, I think using a modified version of GW's Lord of the Rings skirmish system. That was OK. But recently I picked up a trove of old TSR Marvel Superheroes RPG stuff so we may give that a try. MSH is pretty simple and might be suitable for skirmish gaming. There's only one way to find out, right!


MurdocK said...

Have you considered PULP ALLEY for your games rules set?

Wouter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wouter said...

That sure is something different.
There are quite a few superhero games out there though, like those from Knight models (DC) Pulp City and Crossover miniatures. Kitbash games has a beta online and will be launching a KS for their line soon.
Quite a collection you got there, some really amazing models in there too.
Looking forward to see where this is going.

Greg B said...

Great work Dallas. While super heroes have never quite been my thing, I am inspired by the possibility of a charred adamantium skeleton appearing at some point...

Dallas said...

Thanks for the comments guys! The conundrum I always have with superhero gaming is the level of detail you necessarily need with superpowers etc. that takes the game in a direction away from the tabletop and more towards role-playing. I'm hoping that the very simple Marvel system will lend itself more to tabletop wargaming and being something that can be picked up easily on a Thursday night, or as a one-off at a convention.

DaveV said...

These look really cool.

I played the Heroclix game years ago. Maybe I should look into re-basing/re-painting some of them...