Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Marvel RPG: Civil War Review

I've had a chance to read through the Civil War Event book for the Marvel Heroic RPG from Margaret Weis. This is the first of many announced additions to the game and features a large-scale story, new resources for Watcher's and new Data Files for the players.

New Tricks
The book starts with new tips and ways to play for the Watcher and Player characters. There is a new optional rule for using scene distinctions that is aimed to encourage their use in story-telling. The idea looks good and I think that this is a good way to get more things included and utilized in the game rather than just what's printed on the data files.

There is also a new concept called Troupe play. This gives a way for players to play as more than one character throughout a campaign. This allows for a more dynamic story that can always involve every player since even if a player's 'main character' doesn't make sense to be a given scene. With this type of play awarded XP is given to the player, not the character so that the player can choose which of his characters to advance in the story in a way that makes sense to him. A suggested use of this rule in the case of this event is that each player takes the role of a hero on both sides of the conflict. I could see this being a great idea with the game leading to some fun player vs player conflict and interaction.

The Marvel Universe Comes Alive
Even if you have little interest in the Civil War storyline, there is some great general resources that can be added to your games. Margaret Weis has a great collection of locations, agencies and background characters that can help flesh out any story.

There's Atlantis and Wakanda as locations that each have their own pages of information. Each has Watcher character files for generic soldiers and guards as well as the leaders of the nations, Namor and Black Panther. Each also has some plot points that can be used with each area and some unlockable bonuses for the players. In addition, there are descriptions and suggested distinctions for key locations such as the Daily Bugle, Stark Tower and the New York Subway.
There's also organizations such as A.I.M., Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Illuminati that can be explored and utilized each with their own characters and milestones. These have all been pivotal groups within the Marvel Universe and are welcome additions to the game. The most surprising entry into this catalog is the press of the Marvel Universe. There are character files and suggestions for using journalists such as J.Jonah Jameson and Ben Urich and how the heroes of the game can interact with them.

Here come the Heroes
Don't think that this book is only for the Watcher. There are 32 data files included in the book for the players to use. Some of these are character that were seen in the original book, but they are not all exactly the same. Some of the heroes, such as Captain America have all of the same power sets and stats with just their distinctions and milestones being different. Other, though, have some pretty drastic changes which are worth a look. Spider-Man, for example, has his spider armor that was given to him by Tony Stark and the included version of Daredevil is when Danny Rand was covering for Matt Murdock so he has very different powers. One of the most interesting inclusions is Clint Barton who can use the power sets from his times as Hawkeye,  Ronin or Goliath. The new heroes are very diverse and provide some great new options.

The Main Event
For those that are unfamiliar with the printed mini series, the basic premise is that the New Warriors were involved in a cataclysmic disaster that blew up a school and caused many casualties. This led to a backlash against untrained costumed heroes and the Superhuman Registration Act was passed, which forced heroes to either register with the government and reveal their identities, or they would be branded criminals and arrested. This caused a split among the hero community with Captain America leading the anti-registration side and Iron Man rallying for registration. The ramifications from this event were felt for years in the comics and is still having effects on the universe.

The event is broken down into three main Acts; The Road to Civil War, Registration and Rocket's Red Glare. Playing through will take characters from the event that will spark the great debate of hero registration, to the conclusion and setting of a new status quo. There is the obvious inclusion of plot points that follow the books exactly, but there is also some advice and suggestions of how to take the event in a whole new direction, which is great. To freely admit and encourage a completely different and original take from the source material is another example of Marvel Heroic putting the emphasis on the story the players want to tell.

The Next Chapter
I should also mention that there are three planned supplements for this book that will be coming out through the year. The first, The Fifty States Initiative, focuses on the Avengers Initiative, The Thunderbolts and Heroes for Hire. The second is Young Avengers/Runaways  highlights the teenage heroes and how Civil War affects them. The last, X-Men follows the X-Men and other mutants through the story. Each of these books has new data files, scenes and distinctions that flesh out their respective focuses.

My only complaint is the price point and format of the book. The original book was a $20 paperback while the new book at its cheapest is $30 and is only available as a hardcover. The upcoming supplements are also paperback. I would have loved if the main event book was also a $20 paperback to match the others in the series. The OCD gamer in me is not going to love having the mix of formats on my shelf. While a minor complaint, it is something I wanted to address.

All in all though, this is a great book and if you want a general sourcebook for the Marvel Universe then this  is a must buy. The planned supplements will add some nice longevity to the story and allow for even more options and ways to play. Even if you don't want to use the main event, the background and characters included will be a valuable resource.

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