Learnin’ DC Universe – Part 1: Overview and Character Cards

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Welcome back to Voracious Gamer, it’s been a hectic few months on the life front just got all my hobby stuff unpacked so it’s time to dig back in and do some Learnin’. So sit back and chill with me as I go through the rules of DC Universe a skirmish miniature game by the company Knight Models. From initial glances at the stat cards and the size of the rule-book (41 pages available here) the game uses the same system that the Marvel Universe models used. See my thoughts on Marvel Universe Miniatures Game here. Unfortunately due to some IP issues Knight Models lost the Marvel IP back in the winter or early fall of 2016. They’ve buckled down on the DC stuff though and the models are churning out. Many of which I’d be happy to add to my collection. I dabble in comic books here and there so I have my favorites like Dr.Fate, Aquaman and Darkseid, all playable in the game. As always this will be 2-4 part verbose-ramble-jaunt through the rules and mechanics.

This beast plays out on a terrain laden 36″x36″ board using D8s for it’s main mechanic. Each player will need 5-10 counters per model, counters can be poker chips, dice, beads and the like. Markers are not counters and are instead placed on the board to denote effects and the like. Measurement is done in inches and model sizes are all about the same (30-40mm) as most characters are humanoid in the game, models should be seen as taking up a cylindrical volume extending above their base to the height they would be standing. This is some miniature gaming grey area stuff here where you’ve just got to agree with opposing players on models that are dynamically posed. During the game players can measure anything and everything at any time. When it comes to rolling dice here d8s as I mentioned are used along with modifiers like 2d8-2 and such. There are rerolls, in which case the re-rolled dice result always stands and fractions should be rounded down here.

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Let’s dissect a character card next, each model in the game has one. If you’re unfamiliar with skirmish gaming essentially each model has a profile detailed on their card outlining what they can do and how good they are at doing it, often with unique things to add to strategy and tactics. We’ll use Dr.Fate as an example. He’s one of my favorites and would be the leader of my team if I were to delve into this game. First we’ve got his regular name and his superhero name (alter-ego), the name is unique in the game so a crew with different Dr.Fates is kosher but a crew with two Kent Nelson Dr.Fates is no bueno. To the right of the chracter portrait are the Attributes of which there are 8. the higher the number here the bigger\better the model is at that type of thing.  Power is an important one, Dr.Fate has 10 power, when activated he can spend power counters to do things and stuff but may not spend more than 10. The speed stat has three numbers representing the distance a character moves when 1\2\3 power counters are spent on movement. I don’t know if 14 is fast but if Dr.Fate spends three counters on movement he’s going a good distance indeed. Strength is next, normal human strength would be a value of 1, 4 and up is super human. Strength is used in interacting with scenery and beating down your adversaries. The attack value is added to any attack rolls made, representing offensive capabilities. Size is the size rating of the character and is used for a few different mechanics as well as Line of Sight. Agility i believe is added to your dodge avoidance rolls. The Stamina stat is added to endurance type rolls called for in the game. Willpower is used when resisting or using psychic powers.

Next to the attribute block is the Level. Dr.Fate is level 13, the levels are used as a points system and games are commonly (from what I can tell) played at Level 50. Affiliate below that shows who the model is aligned to, blue are heros, red for villains and grey for neutral. Neutral can be hired on to a hero or a villain team. The next box are the skills, these are the special rules that make characters unique. each is described later in the book, we’ll go through specific skills in another article series. Looking at Dr.Fate’s we see he’s got Phase Shift which means he caan move through terrain and he’s go Regeneration which allows him to heal among a few others that I don’t know the details on just yet. The last little box on the left side of the card are the Defenses. There are four types and the number for eaach represents the models defensive capabilities for that type of damage or attack. Going down from the top they are Physical (shield icon), Energy (burst icon), Supernatural (eye icon) and Mental (brain icon). Along the bottom of the card is the characters Endurance, their Health Points or the max amount of damage the model can take before going KO. As the characters are wounded their stats are modified as stated on the endurance bar. For example when Dr.Fate is down to his last four health he has -1 physical defense and -1 power. This is a kind of cool degrading condition mechanic that lets players see and feel the effects of a long fought battle or a worn out character.
There are two more sections of the character cards to discuss. First are the Attacks, this details what the model can do to attack. This is where flavor really comes to play as each model has really unique abilities that fans of DC will recognize and miniature gaming vets will use to add a deeper level to tactics. Can’t wait to be casting Amun Ra blasts all over the board with this guy. We’ll go over how to makes sense of the attack profiles in a bit. The last section are the models special powers and do even more for rounding out the character and portraying that comic book personality folks know. Like Dr.Fate erasing memories and working for Order, too good. These two sections (attacks and Special Powers) are the meat and potatoes of the cards after you take in the stat line that is.
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The game is played out over a series of rounds until the scenario’s round limit is reached, each round has four phases. Starting with the Power phase where players allocate power to each model, usually up to their power value, physical counters are used to represent this, something like beads, tokens or chits works just fine. The Initiative Phase is next, before the game begins each player takes a number of counters equal to the number of rounds in the game. They are placed in an opaque bag with the opponents counters. Note, counters need to be similar size and shape but different colors to tell them apart. During the initiative phase one counter is drawn, the owning player takes the initiative and gets to decide which player goes first. The third phase, is the Action phase where models are activated and they shoot stuff and do things. Once a character is activated it must spend at least one power counter but may spend all that they have as well as use special powers. There are ‘passes’ in this game, basically the player with the lowest number of models to activate gets the difference between his team size and his opponents in pass counters. pass counters can be expended to skip having to activate an actual character on the outnumbered team although players may not pass more than twice consecutively. Our last phase is aptly named as the ‘Final’ Phase. This is where effects and rules that mention the final phase are resolved. Characters whose endurance is down into the pale and blue zones of their cards make stamina rolls during this phase then end of round abilities and powers are cleared before victory conditions are checked. The game also ends if all characters on one side are KO and an extra VP is granted for doing so. (not sure if it goes to the winner or loser the text is a little unclear on page 13, I imagine it goes to the winner.)
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I think that’s a good stopping point for the first article in this series. We’ve gone over profile cards and the basic phases of the game. In the next post we’ll discuss game mechanics like dice rolls and movement as well as begin detailing the types of actions one can perform when activating characters. Eventually we’ll get to scenery and the scenarios and *gasp* maybe even some list building? Follow me on twitter @vorgames for all the gaming goodness.
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**Some kind of wordpress bug is effing with my ability to add space in between paragraphs, hence the ‘.’ work around.
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