Monday, 11 March 2013

An Evening With The Joker

Last week I wrote a post about a simple, one page, game I'd found for fights using Heroclix Batman figures. Finally, this evening, I got a chance to try them out.

On the one side I had Batman and Robin. Well, it seemed the obvious choice.

An area of rubble in the middle of the table contained an Object of Value (OoV). One of those counters is the object; it took an action to search for an pick it up. Whether a counter was the object was randomly determined.

Also looking for the OoV was teh Joker, and a gang of henchmen in US military uniforms (as they were the only figures I have for such a role).

Both sides advance.

Some action - Batman throws batarangs at the Joker, scoring three hits, but the Joker deflects them all (a 4+ hits, but a 4+ on a defence dice blocks one hit).

Meanwhile Robin goes to check one of the possible objectives.

The game uses playing cards to determine initiative. Both Batman and The Joker draw an Ace - both have the Outwit ability, which allows them to break ties and move first, so they cancel out. Batman's suit is higher than The Joker's, though, so he acts first. He runs over to the objective marker, but it's a dummy.

The Joker sets off smoke bombs, immobilising Batman.

Meanwhile a henchman finds the OoV.

Another henchman shoots at Robin, who easily evades the gunfire.

Robin then gets stuck in, causing the first casualty of the game.

The Joker attacks Batman whilst he's confused, but scores no hits.

Meanwhile Robin knocks out the henchman with the OoV.

Another one cuts in and grabs it.

But free of the smoke, Batman knocks him out with a swingline, or something.

Robin grabs the OoV, then makes a run for it, but The Joker immobilises him.

Batman attacks The Joker, to give Robin a clear escape.

A henchman tries to stop The Boy Wonder, but really doesn't stand a chance.

Batman is incapacitated. This lowers his defences significantly.

The Joker scores a hit!

Robin taunts the henchman ...

Then escapes with the OoV.

The Joker swears vengeance!

So how did the game play? I liked the initiative system, where you draw a card per figure, but get to assign them as the number is counted down. The Joker has Leadership, which allows him to activate henchmen as a group as well. I actually like the combat mechanism too - roll some attack dice with a 4+ being a hit. The defender rolls dice and a 4+ cancels one hit. Some special abilities use red dice which score or block 2 hits on a 6, and other abilities allow rerolls.

To be honest what I didn't get on with were the stats and the powers. The values assigned to each character don't make sense to me, and weaker characters are too weak to be much good against anything - the henchmen, for example, roll 1 dice to hit against Batman's defence of 5 - not much hope. Even activated as a group just gives them multiple chances of a miss. I can see that some special abilities might work to make things easier for a team - an incapacitated character, for example, only has a defence of 1, so is very easy to wound. But characters often have between 8 and 10 hits, so are not easy to defeat. I'd possibly opt for lower numbers (making combat a little more random), and streamline the stats - for example most characters have a move of 5", 6" or 7", with the distribution being pretty arbitrary; I'd have most characters moving 6".

As for the powers, there are a good and interesting range, but how they work isn't always well explained. Incapacitate, for example, immobilises a character on their next turn. And it can be 'renewed' as an action. Does that mean that the immobilised character doesn't get a card? What happens if they get to act before the character who immobilised them; does that character get to renew the immobilisation? Mind Control has a similar issue. And what is the range of some of the powers? Smoke bombs have no range listed - do they use the character's range statistic, or can they just be used against anyone anywhere?

This is the problem with 'one page' rules. They are short, and seem simple, but unless you are willing to wing explanations on the fly they lack detail. I like rules which are tight and at least make an attempt to explain how things work. After all, the original author probably had an idea how things should work; I'd like to know what it was, rather than second-guess them.

Obviously these rules are described as a draft, and I look forward to an upgraded version, but I may have a play with them myself. There's a potentially interesting game here, and it just needs teasing out.


  1. Enjoyed that. Looks like a lot of fun. Henchmen are only there to be punched out anyway so weakness makes sense.

  2. Despite the flaws it actually looked quite fun. And I'm sort of with Phil on the henchman, they're there to be trampled by our heroes.

    1. I agree that henchmen are there to be trampled, but I guess you have to decide whether they are active combatants (and can therefore influence the game) or just terrain. I'd like to feel that they offered a minor challenge to the heroes, more so if they team up.

  3. Interesting game there. I have some 28mm crossover minis I have been meaning to get done but had't figured out a ruleset for solo games. I think I will use Pulp Alley with some thematic (flavor text) changes. It has a neat opposed dice mechanic that is a little like this but more meaty.

    1. I think I'm going to nick mechanisms from this and see where I go with it. I'm not ashamed to steal wholesale from other people's rules :)

  4. Glad you had fun with the rules feel free to butcher them to your hearts content


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