Go Big or Go Home – Building High Point Teams

Felix Hughes, affectionately known as the “Mad Scientist of UK Heroclix”, is the reigning UK National Champion and for some time has been posting in-depth strategy and team building articles on Facebook. He’s joining us this week to share two articles, the first of which takes a look at team building for large games.

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about how I go about building teams. I’ve spent time trying to describe how I identify the figures that I would look to include in my teams and the different styles of Heroclix Team along with a few other things I keep in mind. But all of this was really focused on ‘normal’ games of Heroclix. By that I mean the 300 points that are used for most competitive events. But the fact is that plenty of us play bigger games than this, and while these games may be less competitive in terms of prizes on offer I personally at least still want to try and win and that starts with having a solid team.

So today you’ll be able to read about how I go about picking the figures that I want to include in a High Point team, the general types of high point team you might see (for which I realised I needed to add another category to my previous list), and some of the strengths and weaknesses of those teams. I’ll also add a few more comments at the end, about the sort of extra details I would try to keep in mind for these sorts of games.

So what is a High Points Game and what’s so special about it?

Well the first question is pretty easy to answer. I tend to think of anything above 400 points as a High Point Game. But once you break that 400 point bar the style of game can change a bit, and those changes will tend to apply whether you’re now playing 500 points or 5000. So what are these changes?

The first is the simplest – you can use bigger characters. Since the first appearance of Galactus there have been Heroclix figures that are simply too expensive for a normal game. After all a figure that costs 400 points isn’t much use if you only get to play 300 point games. Playing a big game gives you the opportunity to unleash that full value Malekith you’ve always wanted to use. Or in the case of some more recent figures, trying out Solaris on something a little more impressive than his Retaliation dial. As the game gets bigger you should expect to see some really hard hitting and dangerous characters.

While the power of these cosmic-style characters is obvious there’s another effect of playing a big game that will tend to have an even bigger impact – Actions. This is actually one of the most important balancing factors in Heroclix. And the reason for this is the way in which Heroclix dials work. The best way to illustrate this is with a simple example. I’ve built a Heroclix team using 6 UXM Sunfire’s (Probably because somebody else had already collected all the Riptides). If I had the misfortune of facing an identical team then my options would be to try to Pulse Wave 3 times which won’t KO anybody or go for some big hits which might take down one figure. My actions matter. If we doubled the size of the game I now have the option to Pulse Wave 6 times. If I’m lucky and my opponent has grouped his figures up nicely then I can potentially wipe out a dozen or more Sunfire’s in a single turn and the more actions I have the more likely this is to happen.

And this is using a pretty simple example. There are plenty of ways in Heroclix to increase your damage from Super Strength to Enhancement and that just makes these possibilities even more extreme. The culprit is the relative shortness of most Heroclix dials and amount of damage a single action is worth. Simply put as the points and actions increase a team’s ability to deal damage scales up much faster than a team’s ability to survive that damage. This is one of the reasons you will often see changes in the action limit for bigger games (Such as 5 actions for a 1000 point game).

So what kinds of figures should I use?

Thankfully the answer to this question is the same one that I’ve been giving throughout all my team-building articles. You want your team to be built around Game-Changers, Best-In-Class Attackers, Cheap Support and Build-Around figures with effective and unique power combinations. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first that when it comes to your attackers having more points available opens up more options. On a very simple level there are characters with great combat values that cost 300 points or more that you wouldn’t see in a normal game. King Thor looks pretty good at 300 points but he looks better at 369 for instance.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the value of your Game-Changers and Build-Around characters might be different in a larger game. The best example of this is a character like Highfather. In a 300 point game he can shut down your opponent’s best attacker until you are ready to deal with them. In a 600 point game your opponent’s best attacker might be too expensive to be affected, or there may be multiple attackers and Highfather can only deal with one of them. Always keep in mind that opposing teams are likely to be larger or have more expensive characters than a smaller team. In general the narrower the range of possible targets the less likely that character is to be effective. This is true in any game of course, but the added possibilities in a large game make this all the more likely. If you focus on powers that have a wider general application like Rainbow Raider or Prime Nighthawk you are likely to be a little more successful.

What sort of Teams should I expect to see?

There are five different styles of team that you can build for a large game. These are mostly the same as the styles of team you’d build for a normal game but I find that the extra points and actions available in a big game will tend to favour some of these styles of team over another. As always when I talk about team styles I’m looking primarily at the number of Attackers on a team and by Attacker I mean a figure who has been included to deal damage to the opposition, whether that be through attacks or some other power like Black Mamba’s Smoke Cloud. So what are these styles of team? Because I’ve written about these before I’m going to skip some of the details and focus specifically on what makes these team styles work in big games.

One Man Army

How to Identify: The team consists of a single character

Good Points: You get to use the most expensive and powerful characters available. This means high combat values and great powers. A lot of expensive figures will also have abilities to help them deal with a whole team of opponents. Colossal Stamina, Multi-Attack, Uncounterable Defences, and Attacks that hit multiple opposing figures. Some of them even provide key Support powers to help out. If the match-up turns out well and you have a bit of luck you might be able to blast your opponent’s team off the map in a few quick turns.

Bad Points: You may be able to KO a figure each turn but you are one big target and have to survive a whole team coming at you. The example of actions above shows this clearly. A Captain America Sentinel at 600 points might be able to KO a Sunfire each turn. But that still leaves 11 on the map, with 6 able to attack. Against those kinds of odds it won’t take long for the Sentinel to melt away. And this is the biggest issue. Unless you are using one of the older and slightly less balanced expensive figure like Galactus a more balanced team will almost always have more firepower and be harder to KO than one big guy.

Examples: Starro, Galactus, Shuma Goroth, Solaris

Tentpole

How to Identify: One Attacker with the remaining points used on supporting elements

Good Points: Like a One Man Army you get to use some of the most expensive and powerful characters available but now you also get to combine them with some support figures. Just adding Probability Control can make a big difference to these teams, as can having a few expendable Tie-Up figures. In particular though look for figures to maximise your advantages. Other than Probability Control you can include Perplex to make your already high combat values astronomical (Especially Defence) and Support to help keep your Attacker on their best clicks. Special mention goes here to figures that can provide extra actions to your Attacker. Juston Seyfert, Moleman, Extremis Tony Stark or even just Classic Avengers Captain America can all help you break the Action Disadvantage that is your worst enemy.

Bad Points: These again are pretty much the same as with a One Man Army. Your opponent is likely to be able to both deal and take more damage than you on any turn. Concentrated Fire is a big risk for your attacker and can easily overwhelm you. Your support figures can help but they can also provide easier targets for your opponent to aim for.

Example: Solaris (or any big Robot Keyword character), Juston Seyfert, Toymaster, Atomica

What happened to the Balanced Teams?

When I was looking at 300 point Teams I included a Balanced Team. But when it comes to Big Games that doesn’t work out quite so well. So while it still applies for a Standard Game I’ve split this down into two sub categories for Big Games. After all a team with three 200 point attackers will play quite differently to one with five at 100.

Heavy Hitters

How to Identify: A team with more than one Attacker but no more than one for every 200 points of the game. Remaining points are used for Support.

Good Points: You still get to run some of the most powerful attackers available to you but you are making much better use of your actions. Hopefully you can deal enough damage each turn to KO or cripple several opposing figures while having your own high combat values to make retaliation difficult. One variation of this team might be to run one really expensive attacker and then two cheaper figures to either finish off opposing characters or with some more specialised attacks like Energy Explosion or Precision Strike to handle particular threats.

Bad Points: We are starting to get into the area where these become fewer. You still may not be able to maximise your available actions but you can probably deal much more damage than a One Man Army. You can also withstand damage much better. Losing one Attacker is painful but not game ending. Your biggest threat though will be running into a One Man Army or Tent Pole that can KO your Attackers quickly before you can bring your numbers to bear.

Example: TW Superman, TW Batman, TW Wonder Woman

Balanced Big Team

How to Identify: A team with Multiple Attackers but no more than one for every 100 points of the game with any remaining points as usual devoted to Supporting elements.

Good Points: This is the sort of team I would try to aim for. You can maximise your actions in one turn to deliver massive damage, and with multiple attackers you can distribute that effectively, focusing on single characters or dealing with numbers. Losses are much easier to manage and you can include characters to deal with a variety of situations.

Bad Points: The big advantage of this team is in flexibility. This means that any bad points can generally be managed through you actual choice of figures. That said my biggest concern would be running into a Tentpole or One Man Army with a defence that you simply can’t deal with reliably either due to really high combat values or layered defensive powers. In most games you will still be able to manage with your multiple attacks but if your dice veer just a little from the norm you might end up in trouble.

Example: AVAS Iron Man at 125, AVAS Thor at 100, AVAS Ronin, CWOP Spider-Man, UXM Sunfire, UXM Scarlet Witch

Swarm Teams

How to Identify: As you might be able to guess this is any team that has more Attackers available than Actions.

Good Points: Swarm teams can struggle in standard games as they don’t have enough actions to make use of their characters but the bigger the game the more possibilities they have and while a Balanced team might be able to use all their actions on attacks a Swarm can do so turn after turn while taking advantage of powers like Enhancement; and with so many attackers available the inevitable casualties have a much smaller impact on your firepower.

Bad Points: When you have a Swarm team you never have enough actions to do everything you want to do and as always with a Swarm Team mobility can be an issue. More Expensive attackers might be able to hit and run for long enough to wear you down and most swarm teams will have a few key characters that are crucial to their plan so you need to protect those as much as possible. Swarm Teams can also be some of the hardest teams to play effectively especially with a time limit on the game.

Example: 20 Assorted Ultron Drones

So which is best?

Well based just on my comments so far you can probably guess my answer! But it’s actually not quite that simple because there is one more factor to consider and that’s time. Whilst a friendly game of Heroclix might last a few hours a game at an event will have a time limit and you need to keep that in mind.

If I were going to play a large game with a generous time limit and I really wanted to win then I’d be trying to build a Balanced or Swarm team with plenty of synergy and loads of attackers. A great example of this would be a Hydra team. The Hydra team ability lets you threaten hits against even the most expensive characters and with plenty of enhancement available those hits are going to hurt. And that’s not even mentioning the tempo you can get from the NFAOS Hydra recruits and similar clearing your action tokens when your opponent does start fighting back. The big problem with a Hydra team in particular is that they tend to be a little sluggish without many characters that can carry and without much Willpower. This means spending a few turns getting into position while your opponent might be picking off vulnerable figures. Without a time limit you can manage these losses but in a 45 minute game it’s quite easy for your opponent to rack up enough points to win before you can bring your full force to bear. It’s also worth remembering in a big tournament that swarm teams can be quite hard to play both in terms of positioning but also dealing well with the stress as you start to lose figures. Over a long day of games that can be very draining.

So while in general the more good attackers you can fit into your Big Team the better when it comes to practical considerations you will often be better building a Balanced or Heavy-Hitter team. This gives you the best chance to score some points in the time limit available for the game. This means you don’t have to worry as much about losing because you had to spend a few turns getting into position while your opponent was scoring points. And of course when taking this more aggressive approach make sure that your teams are mobile and hard-hitting. Not just because this will give you the best opportunity to hunt down your preferred targets and then getting away from retaliation but also means you’ll have a pretty good chance against other teams of powerful hard-hitting characters. Even in a longer game that mobility can let you avoid a swarm team from bringing its full firepower to bear.

Final Advice

So all of the writing so far has been about building a competitive team in a large game but there is one other consideration you might want to take into account and that is the opportunity that a large game provides.

One of the biggest problem with Heroclix is that it can be quite difficult to build some comic accurate teams. While the last few sets seem to be shifting in another direction it doesn’t take long to find some examples of this. For instance to build a classic Justice League Line-up such as one version of the Magnificent Seven just doesn’t work in 300 points but a larger game gives you a rare opportunity to actually play an accurate version of one of these team and it can be a lot of fun to just rock up with a favourite team, even if you don’t think it will be the most competitive. (Though if you can follow some of the guidelines listed above you might be able to surprise yourself and a few of your opponents as well.

The same is true of any other team that is only possible in a larger game. You might be able to build a small horde of Parademons in a normal game but a larger game you can add Darkseid to that same team for the full Apokoliptian experience. And while I’ve gone into some detail about the drawbacks of using one powerful character there’s no denying it can still be fun sometimes – especially those games where everything goes well, your opponent misses a few attacks and your One-Man Army dominates the game.

And finally there are some figures that really only function well in a larger game. I’m not necessarily talking about a figure like TW Superman here, who’s Leadership Power is much better in larger games where more characters can take advantage of it but rather a character like WF Lex Luthor/Joker duo who benefit from having plenty of allies around to use their Mastermind and help those allies out with the Underworld Team Ability and there are plenty of other characters like that, that don’t quite work in a normal game but suddenly come to life in larger games.

So while they might not be the most competitive teams possible I would recommend taking advantage of the unique opportunities a bigger game presents to play those teams you love that you just can’t fit into a smaller game or to take advantage of those figures that are just too expensive to fit into a normal game along with the allies they would need. You might not get too many chances to use those figures and you should take every opportunity. Nick Fury can make an appearance in any game but a fully powered King Thor is a rarity and it would be a shame to miss out.