Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tommy's Take on Civil War: Fifty State Initiative

Not Pictured: Baron f'n Zemo

Margaret Weis Productions has continued their support for the Marvel Heroic RPG line with the supplemental Civil War Event Book called Civil War: Fifty State Initiative, based on the fallout of the Civil War and Reed Richards’ plan to place a hero team in every state.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The print version, not available as of this writing, seems to be about $20, but the PDF is $12.99 at RPGNow. The book is 136 pages and divided up into four sections: The Initiative, The Thunderbolts, Heroes for Hire and Hero Datafiles. This isn’t a huge book by any stretch, and on the surface seems kinda limited, but it has some cool bits.

The Initiative chapter begins with a focus on Camp Hammond, the superhero training camp from Avengers: The Initiative, and includes an example training scenario, as well as a short post-Civil War attack by Hydra, with an example of statted out Hydra vessel, kinda like their Helicarrier, as scary as that sounds. Not surprisingly, the book gives you a few options for dealing with the fallout of the adventure, including being drafted into Henry Peter Gyrich’s Shadow Initiative.

The rest of the chapter is largely datafiles for teams like The Shadow Initiative, The Great Lakes Champions, The Liberteens and The Rangers. This gives the book the interesting distinction of providing the second Constrictor write-up before we’ve ever had an official Magneto write-up. Most of the characters are completely usable as PCs as long as you add your own Milestones. There are also a few notable omissions, like Beta Ray Bill from Omega Flight.

The next section – The Thunderbolts - makes me REALLY giddy, for a few reasons. First off, Thunderbolts-specific Unlockables, like unlocking captured characters as playable characters, Pro-Reg Heroes being able to call in T-Bolts members for assistance, or T-Bolts members earning looser security for themselves. Milestones include trying to escape the T-Bolts, trying to go straight or trying to destroy the T-Bolts from within. The next thing that made me giddy? Baron f’n Zemo, complete with a “Born Better” powerset. I love Zemo…a LOT. Two action scenes are also included, one featuring the T-Bolts taking down rogue, D-list heroes and the other featuring the T-Bolts trying to recruit villains. There’s a sidebar about using the T-Bolts to expand Civil War, with special mention of one of my favorite subplots, when Zemo tried to win Captain America’s trust (the basis for my Mythic SAGA game I played a while back).

The Heroes For Hire chapter gives a small treatment to playing mercenaries, complete with Unlockables and Milestones. One of the nastiest is an 10xp Unlockable that allows you to have retroactively hired one of the opponent’s in the scene…turning them into a double agent who is actually on your side. A pair of action scenes are also included.

In addition to all of the Watcher datafiles that have been included, about 37 full blown player datafiles are included as well. Some of them include Black Cat, Bullseye, Venom, Songbird, Moonstone, Radioactive Man, Howard the Duck, Justice, Penance, Paladin and Nextwave.

WHAT WORKS: Baron f’n Zemo. Mechanical support for a Thunderbolts game. More datafiles are always a good thing.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: The art is pretty pixilated, especially the cover. I assume this is to keep the file size down. Some notable omissions among the datafiles, like Beta Ray Bill and Norman Osborn (who became the leader of the T-Bolts during the time of the Fifty State Initiative), or Initiative Members like Slapstick and Ultragirl. No Milestones or Unlockables for a “Heroes in Training/Camp Hammond” campaign.

CONCLUSION. I wanna run, or play, a Thunderbolts campaign, or anything as Zemo. Holy crap. The rest is good, too. But yeah, Zemo FTW. I have a feeling we’ll get a few Unlockables or Milestones in the X-Men book that’ll adapt to a “heroes in training” thing, but I could be wrong. I like it. Not as much as the Civil War book, and there are definitely areas where the book could have been beefed up, or perhaps done better with more focus (like some of the aforementioned Milestones and Unlockables), but still a great product, even if it’s not up to the standards of the first two releases.