Declare Your Independence with IndyClix

WizKids Games’ HeroClix collectible figure game veers away from the mainstream with its new release, IndyClix.

Unlike previous incarnations, which focused heroes from the DC Comics and Marvel Comics universes, the 96-figure IndyClix set deals exclusively with characters featured in independent comic publishers (“independent” meaning anything other than DC or Marvel). The Indy titles have respectable followings that occasionally breakout into the national consciousness, including 2000 A.D. heroes like Judge Dread, Dark Horse’s Hellboy and Top Cow’s Witchblade.

For the most part though, the Indy titles feature characters that only diehard comic book geeks have heard of — and even then, we’re talking about people who turned away from the Big Two in search of something … different.

That said, an understanding of the characters isn’t needed to play WizKid’s newest release. Game play is essentially the same as earlier editions … with a few caveats. Each starter or booster comes with a number of randomly selected figures, each mounted on a “clickable” base. This base includes a dial with all of the stats needed to describe the figure — attack, defense, range, speed, and damage. A window on the base show’s the figure’s current stats, as well as any superpowers it might have at that time. As the figure takes damage in battle, the dial is advanced one or more clicks, revealing new stats and new powers. Each figure is worth a certain number of points, and players field opposing “teams” of equal point value (usually 300, but its up to the players). The figures are fielded on battle maps depicting various inside or outside scenes. IndyClix comes with one such map, an inside map on one side, and an outdoor map on the other.

And those game play caveats? For one, WizKids has decided to use IndyClix to introduce a revised ruleset for it and the earlier DC and Marvel HeroClix lines. These rules are a mixed bag, muddying as many things as they clarify (as is show by the rapid publishing an IndyClix FAQ on the WizKids site to clarify and further revise the rules).

The single biggest change in the rule set involves “taxiing”. In earlier editions, players could use a flying figure to carry a second figure into combat, and then immediately use that second figure to attack. This tactic was called “taxiing”, and it led to fast pace games that favored those who could assemble fast-moving first-strike teams.

IndyClix revises this rule to prohibit carried figures from taking any actions during the round in which they were taxied (they exception being “free” actions like the Outwit power, which turns off other figures superpowers). There’s been a lot of bitching and moaning in the HeroClix community about this rule change, but I for one welcome it. Yes, it does slow down the game, but it also shifts strategy away from the annoying first-strike offensive that came to dominate many games (especially in tournament play).

Other changes I could take or leave. For example, Mind Control no longer costs the MC’d figure an action, which prevents you form using MC to rob a figure of one of its actions, but also allows you to use enemy figures who are “pushed” and would otherwise be unable to take any actions. All in all though, I think the new rules do more good than bad, and the taxiing rules in particular should force a diversification of tactics.

Next to the rules, the next biggest change in IndyClix is the introduction of six new teams, one for each of the six publishers contributing heroes (and villains) to the set. Many of these teams have powers similar to teams we’ve seen before. Kabuki’s power is identical to the Bat Team ability from DC Clix (hindering terrain is treated as blocking terrain for purposes of line of sight), Danger Girl’s team ability is like the Marvel Skrull team ability (which allows them to roll a d6 and cause their attacker to target someone else) and B.P.R.D (Bureau of Paranormal Research) act as wild cards, allowing them to use any other team’s ability (like Marvel’s Spider-man and Legions of Doom teams).

But there are new teams as well. The Crusade team ability causes “knockback” based on the amount of damage the figure can do (rather than the amount of damage that was actually done). Knockback also happens anytime the Crusader rolls doubles (and doesn’t have a critical failure), rather than only when it hits. CrossGen’s power is similar to the DC Mystic Power, in that its team members do a click of damage to an attacker whenever an attacker scores a hit on them (unlike that power though, CrossGen figures don’t get to do a final retribution click when they get KO’d. And then there’s the 2000 A.D. team, which gets to choose on figure or one team as their enemy, and then gets a +1 to hit against that chosen enemy. As one would expect, the new team abilities change things up a bit, forcing strategy tweaks that invigorate the game.

As for the figures themselves … it’s an interesting mix. WizKids sent me a starter and two boosters to review, and I really liked what I saw. The set is has no medics, hardly any no-name grunts, and (from what I understand — I haven’t seen a full list of figs) only two fliers. What it does have is a heck of a lot of stealth and blades/claws/fangs. The former saw a lot of action in DC HeroClix with the Bat team, but that was only one team — this is the whole set (or at least a significant percentage of it). BCF is something we’ve seen plenty of before (it’s a superpower attack that does 1-6 points damage against other figs), but again, not in these numbers and not with most of its figures having a base damage of 3. To sit there with a BCF figure who can do a flat three damage or could do as little as one or as much of six makes for an challenging strategic dilemma. Do you go with the sure thing, or risk the embarrassment of a one?

Its easy to get excited about the set’s figures, even if you don’t have a clue who they are. Unique Arwyn, for example, gets Running Shot, Willpower and Range Combat Expert. It’s a very nice and effective combination, especially when you play the fig in a mixed game with DC and Marvel figs. In a straight-up IndyClix game she’s not quite as an effective, since so many of her opponents have stealth, but she’s still useful.

Rasputin is my next favorite figure — he’s starts with Psychic Blast, Stealth, Will Power and Perplex, which is just a damn cool combination. He’s like a DC can opener — move up all sneaky like, then bypass Impervious or Invulnerability with Psychic Blast. Or Perplex up a companion from Stealth, and dumb down figs the old fashioned way.

Judge Dread is competent, but not exactly awe-inspiring. His Running Shot and range of 8 is useful now that we’ve lost the old taxi rules, and Outwit is always nice. He won’t be taking down Superman anytime soon, but he’s good to have around (especially in his veteran configuration.

Like Colossus in HeroClix Xplosion, Witchblade has an activation click — she starts with Stealth needs to take a click of damage before her real powers kick in. In earlier editions this would be have been a liability, but it’s much less of one now that IndyClix has revised the taxi rules. Her powers, once she gets them, are very effective. Its hard not to love the combination of Charge and Blade/Claws/Fangs, with a little Energy Deflection thrown in for long-range defense.

Being an X-Men and Batman fan, I wasn’t expecting to like IndyClix as much as I did. I probably won’t go as crazy collecting it as I did with the earlier releases, but its got its fair share of must-have figs, and I’ll definitely be picking up a few boosters.

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