Sunday, March 25, 2007


Funny how geek hobbies can become life lessons.

Last week, it was announced that Heroclix would be going through a number of changes for it's fifth anniversary. There are some minor rules changes (figures will now come with cards that have information like their powers and abilities, including brand new character-specific powers, traits for theme team building, and character bios), but nothing that makes the new figures incompatible with older ones (they might even make downloadable cards for older figures, which is nice of them.) The major change, though, is in distribution and packaging.

Heroclix is abandoning the rookie/experienced/veteran model it has used forever, instead making only one version of each figure and using a rarity system similar to the one used by the D&D and Star Wars miniatures game. Since the extra versions of each figure made up the majority of each set, they've compensated by boosting the number of individual characters from 40 to 60. Booster packs will now contain 5 figures (with packaging that allows the inclusion of 'giant' figures without sacrificing slots), although the price has gone up as well.

There are positives and negatives about these changes. On one hand, the loss of the R/E/V system means we will likely only see one version of each character in the set, thus slowing those individual character's having a version on a certain team (for example, when they make a Guy Gardner figure, we aren't guaranteed to get a a version with the Justice League team and a version with the Green Lantern team in the same set.) This may also hinder some thematic team-building, as each character will have a set point cost and you probably can't find another version of the character that will fit what you need.

On the other hand, no more R/E/V helps some characters who don't fit that mold but would be hurt by all being Uniques or being forced into a Collector Set. The Runaways, the X-Statix, the Young Avengers, and various alternate-reality characters really get a way better chance to be made now. The character cards are good in that they help players know exactly what powers they have (some discussion has arisen over colour interpretation), and the character-specific 'white box' powers are a nice touch that will allow them to better interpret characters in the game. There are also the aforementioned packaging improvements, which is really nice.

Not that the changes themselves matter to this write-up, as much as the reactions to the changes. Players have been split right now over the issue. Some players (such as myself), are perfectly fine with them. Others have violent flashbacks to Mage Knight 2.0, which effectively killed that game (although there are more ill-conceived decisions regarding tournament play in that game that probably had more effect). They also don't see the need, pulling out the old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The problem with this philosophy is that even if it isn't broken, how do you know it can't be improved? I'm not saying change for the sake of change is always a good idea, but neither do I advocate standing still in time. Either one is not going to get you anywhere.

Some of the best things in the world are made when the creators take risks. I mentioned the X-Statix before, and I think it's a pretty good example: Milligan and Allred took one of Marvel's lousiest titles in X-Force and completely threw out the original concept, replacing it with their own (which later turned into it's own book), and it was brilliant. Fans complained early on, but that's to be expected. There are probably a few more good examples that I'm not worldly enough to know, but I just want to show that not everything is New Coke.

It's understandable that people have an aversion to change. Humans like the familiar, it gives them comfort. When introduced to something different, they are fearful of it because of the lack of familiarity.

I guess it makes sense when someone who has devoted some part of their life to something (even if it is something ultimately inconsequential, like miniatures games), having it go in a new direction can be worrying. What if it doens't work? What if what made this good in the first place is gone? What if all the time you spent with this goes down the drain?

All valid concerns. But really, how do you know until happens? And maybe, just maybe, experiencing the failure is better than experiencing nothing?

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