Sunday, July 7, 2013

A More Inclusive Axis

(This isn't quite a crafty thing. It implies craftiness, but that's really just printing out some scaled images and maybe gluing them to cardboard. But I couldn't think of a better place to put this, so here it is.)

I got Wonder Forge's DC-licensed Axis of Villains game, sold by Target as part of this summer's Justice League push. There are comic book fans in the house, and my lovely and talented spouse prefers cooperative games like Castle Panic, so I thought I'd give it a shot. From a game design point of view, there's nothing wrong with it. It's a cooperative game with simple mechanics: Villains, who come in sets matched to the heroes in play during any given game, move according to die rolls and special card draws. Heroes move to intercept them and beat a target number with a die roll in order to capture them and remove them from play. There's some nice chrome in the form of cards which allow the heroes to trigger individual special abilities; they can also "team up" and combine their rolls, necessary to defeat some of the particularly powerful villains. I give them credit for not underestimating the intelligence of children; they recommend the game for ages 8+, but I've seen games of similar complexity rated for 12+ or even 14+.

So far, so good. There's a problem with the hero selection, though. All dudes: Supes, Bats, Flash, and GL, the chick-free quartet DC has been pushing on their JL merchandise lately. This should be irksome to any right-thinking person, but it's particularly irksome to my Wonder Woman-loving wife who, if she's going to be pretending to be a comic book superhero, would like to play her favorite comic book superhero thankyewverymuch. But as someone who has been tinkering with fun but somehow unsatisfactory games since white box D&D (for those who weren't around for the early editions of D&D in the 70s, let me just say: uphill both ways, and get out of my yard), I can fix that problem.

To play female heroes, they need the same attributes as the existing ones: color, abilities, and villains. The villains are easy, at least as game pieces. Each hero has, mechanically, an identical set of villains. There are five villain pieces, covering the same range of values (odd numbers from 7 to 15), so it's just a question of attaching faces and names to the numbers. Special abilities are a little trickier, but not insurmountable. It's just a question of breaking down what the rules are and making tiny exceptions to them. The hard part, really, is the presentation. Color is tricky, but naming the villains has been harder. For some of these characters, it's not difficult to come up with a list of characters they've had long-term enmities with. For others, I've had a hard time coming up with a list of five bad guys distinctly associated with that hero and not already attached to someone else (consider the massive overlap between Gotham heroes and villains). The name of the villain is, game-mechanically, irrelevant, but if you're going to the trouble of playing, say, Huntress or Zatanna, you want to be fighting Mandragora or Felix Faust, not just "11" or "7." Where possible, I've provided a full list of five and suggested villain values. Where my knowledge of comics fails me, I've come up with powers in hopes that people who know more than me can fill in the non-mechanical details like villain names.

Here, then, are some other superheroes I've drafted for Axis of Villains. With these, you could play an all-female version of the game, or mix and match as you see fit. You'll need to make your own control pads, villain counters, and stand-ups for them using the ones that come with the game as templates, but the Internet is full of useful images. Good hunting!

(The following won't make any sense if you don't have the game, and I've had to invent some terminology anyway. Those of you who have played the game know that powers are keyed to two symbols on the control pads and power cards: a puffy impact cloud and a spiky explosion. Below, I refer to the former as "biff" and the latter as "pow.")

Wonder Woman
Color: White

Biff: Granter of Victories. When teaming up, if the villain's color matches any of the heroes', all roll two dice.

Pow: Golden Lasso. Select one villain in the same space or an adjacent one. That villain misses its next move. (Turn it face down to indicate that it misses a move, then face-up again after movement is called for in its sector.)


Dr. Psycho--7

Color: Black

Biff: Summoning. Move any villain in her sector to her space.

Pow: Pots! The villain she fights misses its next move, even if she loses the fight. (Turn it face down to indicate that it misses a move, then face-up again after movement is called for in its sector.)


Brother Night--15
Poison Ivy--13
Felix Faust--11
Warlock of Ys--9
Dr. Light--7


Color: Orange

Biff: Battle Rage. If she loses in battle, Hawkgirl does not move back to the Satellite.

Pow: Nth Metal Mace. Hawkgirl may move any villain she fights back two spaces, even if she loses the fight.


Shadow Thief
The Monocle


Color: Purple

Biff: Crossbow. Huntress may attack any villain in an adjacent space.

Pow: Motorcycle. Huntress may move up to four spaces farther than shown on the movement die.


White Canary
Sicilian Mafioso


Color: Glow-in-the-dark lime green

Biff: Coordination. Other players may use their powers during her turn.

Pow: Advanced Planning. When a <<>> card is to be drawn, draw three, select the one to be used, and return the others to the bottom of the deck.


Color: Orange and yellow stripes

Biff: Eagle flight. Roll the movement die twice and take the higher number.

Pow: Rhino charge. Select a villain whose space she moves through during her turn and push it back to the outermost ring.

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