Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game
Basically this is a game that I wanted to love, but because of the extreme diregard for clarity within the rulebook the game ends upon my shelf not being played. Yes, the rules are so unclear that one cannot even play the game in my and my players opinions. I have even written toTSR explaining my problem with their defense system and the response I received stated "that the whole Counteractions thing is out of whack…". After this statement they preceeded to explain to me what they meant to say in the rulebook under this section which helped me out a little with the translation of the game into a playable mode.
Let me start out with a little bit of how the game works. Instead of dice you use a pack of cards that determine the random numbers you will need and some other stuff that I will touch on later. You have only 4 abilities: Strength, Agility, Intelligence and Wisdom. Using the cards and your abilities you try to beat action difficulties that are assigned by the GM depending on what task you are attempting. The difficulty ratings are 0 for automatic, 4 for easy, 8 for average, 12 for challenging, up to 40 for impossible. Skills lower your difficulty by one level. A hero with acrobatics could change his average (8) attempt into an easy (4) attempt because of his skill.
A kind of hitpoints are used which are determined by the characters hand size. The better the character (more skilled, experienced, older, wiser,etc.) the higher his hand size the more cards you have in your hand. Since you take away cards equal to the number of damage points you take, it is important to have a high hand size. As I said before hand size is very "expensive" for a beginning character and it doesn't work like hitpoints generally do. Captain America has one of the highest hand sizes around. This simualtes his long time experience in combat. Also a character's edge stat helps them in combat and is explained along the same lines as hand size. Edge and hand size go together, if you have a 3 hand size you have a 1 edge, 4 hand size 2 edge, etc. Edge will be explained as it pertains to actions in a minute. So, with hand size, you may be able to hit Cap and do damage to him, but he'll be able to stay in the fight longer than the young inexperienced heroes. To hit someone in combat you use your Strength (or Agility if using martial arts or a ranged attack or your power's value if using an attack power) added to the difficulty modifier of the action (average modifier being 8) added to the value of a card (cards have values between 1 and 10) from your hand. If the card from your hand is the same "suit" (each card is either a Strength card, Agility card, Intelligence card, or Willpower card) or its value is lower or equal to your edge, you may play another card and add its value. This can go on until you run out of cards for that "suit" or run out of cards that are below or equal to your hand size. This number is then the difficulty the versus the NPC bad guy who uses his Agility or an appropriate power added to a card from the top of the deck which is drawn at the beginning of the round called the narrator's card. This card determines all of the NPC's values since they do not use hand sizes. Hand sizes and edge are only used when the character is controlled by the PC, when controlled by the GM they have predetermined hitpoints (greater the hand size the greater the hitpoints) and have the narrator's card added to any ability or power to determine the action score. The damage you do will be your action score added to any weapon value (+1 value for a rock, +2 for a knife, +3 for a spear, etc.) subtracted from your opponent's defenses (+1 and up armor or force field values) added to Strength for a physical attack or Willpower for magical or mental attacks. This number is subtracted from your opponents hitpoints. Your character takes wounds when he cannot defend against an out of the values of the cards in your hand. You redraw any cards you use for actions, but you do not redraw any cards lost in wounds. When you are out of cards, you are unconscious.
On each card besides its value and "suit" there is also a positive, neutral, or negative sign. These are called aura readings. Positive favor characters and negative favors villians. Neutral is for neither side and things stay the same if an aura reading must be had from the card. These aura readings are used as time determinations and health recovery. If a power is used that lasts a certain length of time, that length will be determined by the aura of the narrator card. After the first round the power (or anything else needed to be determined by time) will continue to function as long as the narrator card dealt at the beginning of the round does not come up negative. Characters draw a card from the deck to be added to their hand (if they have taken damage and their hand size is not at its max) if the narrators card comes up positve at the beginning of the round. If the card comes up negative, then the value of the card is added to the villians hitpoints. A neutral value of the narrators card means neither side gets anything extra.
This addition to the rules is supposed to represent the way heroes and villians get knocked about and always come back for more. Everyone has seen a character in a comic knocked unconscious one minute and the next, fighting like they were never even damaged. What I've given you is a brief overview of how I understand the rules of the game. I have done this to better explain what I like and dislike about the system. My explaination above of the rules is not very well, partly because of my confusion with the rules, this being my first game to use something other than dice to determine results, and my attempt to keep this review short (too late!).
What I like about the game is its usage of cards instead of dice to determine actions and other random results. My players also enjoyed the cards, because it made them feel like they had more controlover their characters actions and outcomes rather than the random roll of a die. The handling of recovery of health through cards and aura readings also gave me the feel of superhero adventure, with the battles continuing even though some of the heroes were unconscious a second ago. Although I like these rules,later on I will also list a problem I had with them also. The art in the game is superb and the amount of information is great. Its just that the information is extremely poorly explained. The handling of superpowers is excellent. Each superpower has a base understanding listed of how it will work. Below each power arelists of stunts that may be purchased at character generation or through experience as your hero progresses. This gives a great diversity in the types of superpowered individuals that you have raoming around in the game. You could literally have many characters have the same base power, but with all the stunts they could choose from, they could all be quite different from one another. Guns and ranged weapons are handled well. You simply have a your skill lower the difficulty number and you use your Agility to hit. When determining damage you add the weapon modifier to your Agility for the total damage you dish out. This reflects that the better you are with a weapon the more damage you are going to do, even with a puny pistol. In most other games damage depends solely on the gun ,and not on the shooter's ability to hit a vital area with their expertise in weaponry. Along with the excellent layout of the game, what I really like about it is its feel. It gives you the feeling of roleplaying in the Marvel Universe.
The problems with the game, unfortunately outweigh the good points. The main problem is that the rules are not stated clearly at all. This made me try playing the game once, had my players and I run into major problems with the rules, fudge through them and then put the game back on the shelf to collect dust. We enjoyed the feel of playing in the Marvel Universe, but I as GM was totally making up the rules as I went along to make up for the confusion. Strength is used for a physical attack , most of the time, and used to resist physical damage. Characters with high Agility can use Martial Arts to then be able to use their Agility to attack, but for resiting attack damage the character will still need a high Strength. So, you make up a character with high Agility, give him the MartialArts skill, and give him a high enough Strength to resist damage, and you have a Martial Artist good enough for combat. If the characters have a high Strength already, then why even pick Martial Arts and use Agiltiy. Just use your Strength to attack and defend pick another skill that's useful and yell Hiyah! to simulate a Martial Arts background. I've asked TSR about this problem with Martial Arts and what good it is if the characters have a better Strength than Agility (which most of the premade characters w/ the Martial Arts skill do have). The response was "just to look cool and to show off". My opinion to the problem is that four abilities just doesn't cut it for a game such as Marvel, where there are a ton of characters that have to be represented statistically.
The magic system, gadgets, and powered armor are treated as they are in most games that do not want to create new rules for these tough aspects of super hero games. Basically, you just use powers to simulate the effect of the purpose you are looking for. Magic is just having the character pick a power that simulates what he "magically" wants to do. The only disadvantage to magic, which basically enables you to use any power in the book at any time, is that the character has to go last in the round. This simulates the character having to take the beginning of the round to think up the right spell to use. In game play this created a huge pain in my back as my player fished through the powers book each round searching for the right power/spell to use for the current situation. This character even being able touse any power he wanted, got taken down pretty quick because of his disadvantage of going last and his low Strength. Actually, his Strength wasn't that low, its just that in Marvel Strength is the most important aspect of your character. Oh, I'm not saying you can't get around going against a character with a high Strength buy making up your character a different way. But, you will have to add a lot of powers, skills, equipment or any combination of the three to make up for your opponents Strength which he has dumped all his points into. Of course, I'm talking on combat from a pure physical level, not on a mental or mystical level.
As compared to the old Marvel Super Heroes game it will surely be a great improvement if the rules could just be straightened out and a little more added. What the old game did have going for it was the colorful maps that were included in the game and in most supplements. These maps were sectioned off so as to show how far characters could move in a round. This along with the rules for charging and damaging of obstacles (which are omitted from the new version of Marvel) made for great play during combat. After a fight in the old Marvel Super Heroes game, players could see the havok they've caused interpreted very well with the superbly structured city maps. This kind of slam bam destruction after a battle involving super heroes is not felt in the new combat rules within the game. Although the old Marvel game was very, very bad, Istill think it had the feeling of combat within the Marvel Universe. In my opinion, some of the "mood" from the first version should have been injected into various parts of this new version.
TSR has been answering some of my questions and admitting as to how one could be confused with the way the rules are written. I hope this interaction will help me turn this game from something that sits on my shelf and collects dust, to a game I play all the time. That may be asking too much, a supplement or 2nd edition may actually be needed to fully decipher what they are trying to say in the small section of the book which they devote to the actual rules of the game. Anyway I'm hoping for it to all be straightened out, cause I'm dying to play.
Style: 1 (Unintelligible)