By Jon Moisan
Although this summer has been all about Avengers Vs. X-Men, the greatest battles of the Marvel Universe might have been taking place far away from the pages of your favorite comic books. Heroclix, produced by Wizkids Inc., is a tabletop miniatures game that allows you to control the biggest battles between the greatest heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe. Want to see how Wolverine would fare against The Hulk? Want to know if The Human Torch can hold a candle to Spider-Man? Curious to see who the mightiest Avenger or X-Men might be? Wonder no longer because Heroclix may hold your answer! And since 2002, Heroclix has been producing and maintaining the big game of tiny super heroes. To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Heroclix is releasing a brand new set featuring the best versions of the greatest Marvel heroes and villains this month and we recently spoke with Brian Roll, Creative Director at NECA (Wizkids’ parent company) and Sara Jenkins, Director of Marketing for MFV, Inc. (Developers of the new Heroclix TabApp) about the anniversary of the game, looking back on a decade of Marvel Heroclix, and what the future holds.
|Thor, Captain America and Iron Man HeroClix|
Marvel.com: What is Heroclix?
Brian Roll: It’s basically chess with super powers. It’s the best way to get your favorite heroes and villains on the map and see who’s the best.
Marvel.com: What age range would Heroclix be good for?
Brian Roll: Our recommended age range is 14+ due to things like small pieces and so on, but in terms of gameplay, the mechanics are simple enough that kids as young as 10 can learn it and enjoy it. Our new TabApp (Mentioned below) is a good way to get kids involved or they can just enjoy those characters. I’d say our core audience is anywhere from mid-twenties up to mid-forties but the great thing about it is that they’re old enough that they can get their kids into it.
Marvel.com: What other games would you say Heroclix is similar to, if any?
Brian Roll: Well, I think that our combat dial makes the game extremely unique, in that the game changes depending how you play and take damage. Stats change, powers change; it’s just a new experience every time you play.
Marvel.com: Why should fans of Marvel Comics check out Heroclix?
Brian Roll: Besides featuring all the major heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, we go deep into editorial for obscure characters from every age of comics and beyond. We do Marvel movie characters. We even do different versions of characters. Big fan of the Thorbuster Iron Man armor? We’ve done it. And each one plays a little bit different. With our combat dial system, different characters and versions of characters really feel different.
Marvel.com: How does Wizkids select which characters to include in a set?
Brian Roll: The first thing we do is look at the theme of the set. For instance, the last set we made was Chaos War, which pulled very heavily from the Avengers. So we started with the big characters from the Avengers; Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-Man and so on. Then we look at who played a big role in Chaos War. And finally, we look over the entire 10-year history of Heroclix and look at who we haven’t made yet, who our fans want, what characters Marvel would like us to include, and so on. And then from there it’s a balancing act to create a good set that includes as many new and exciting characters as we possibly can.
Marvel.com: Past the set design, what actually goes into the creation of the individual character’s dials? Sculpts?
Brian Roll: The first thing we do is decide which version of the character we’re doing, which will dictate which sculpt we’re creating. And then it’s up to our research team to figure out what works best for that character as a playing piece. What is really going to make our players say “Yes, that is Iron Man!” Our goal is to make it accurate, and still keep it fun at the same time.
Marvel.com: Does the design team at Wizkids have a favorite period of comics that they like to pull from?
Brian Roll: We have a pretty diverse crowd so it varies. Myself, I’m partial to 90’s X-Men, but we’ve got other people who like Spider-Man, others that like Captain America and so on. But we’ve got enough people with enough different interests that we’ve got all our bases covered.
Marvel.com: How big is the Wizkids staff?
Brian Roll: We’re a small but dedicated team of about six fulltime team members working on the game and then various freelancers who help to bring the games to store shelves.
Marvel.com: What drew you and others on the team to Heroclix? The gameplay? The comics?
Brian Roll: It’s a fun game, but pretty much everyone is a big comic fan so it comes from a place of passion.
Marvel.com: What goes into creating a set as far as playtesting? From idea to shelves, how long does the whole process take?
Brian Roll: It takes about seven to nine months per set. We come up with a setlist, get it approved by Marvel, and from then on it’s sculpting and dial design working side by side. We like to do two to three months of playtesting, to get feedback, and then we can tweak the set and make sure we’re presenting something that’s pretty solid.
Marvel.com: How do you keep the comics relevant to the game? (Note: Wizkids recently did an eight-month campaign for players based on the Infinity Gauntlet comic event.)
Brian Roll: First off, we try to reflect major storylines and major characters that comic readers or just the general public will take interest in and know. It’s hard for us to do current comic event just because of the amount of lead-time we require, so while we would have loved to do an AvX event, we try to stick closer to the classic events. Stuff like Infinity Gauntlet, or Secret Invasion. So the same type of stuff that gets Marvel excited gets us excited and we try to incorporate that into the game and events. But we also know that when we do something like Infinity Gauntlet, our fans are at the right age to really connect with that event and enjoy it that much more. And sometimes, we get lucky and things just line-up. Take for instance, the Avengers movie featuring a cameo by Thanos. That cameo was extremely exciting for all of us because Thanos featured very heavily into our Infinity Gauntlet set.
Marvel.com: What are your most requested characters?
Brian Roll: Well, it’s funny that you mention that because right now on our website we have a fan favorite poll that allows fans and players to vote on what Marvel character they’d like in a future set. The poll features characters such as 3-D Man, Death’s Head, Hellcat, and Mangog and whomever fans pick will show up in a set.
Marvel.com: How much does your team rely on Marvel for input?
Brian Roll: We love their input, but obviously because of the relationship we’ve built up with Marvel, they trust us with their characters and we want to make sure to keep that relationship so we don’t do anything embarrassing or wrong with the characters. But that trust is really important because it allows us to go really deep. I think there aren’t a lot of brands that could do what we do and I think Marvel appreciates that and lets us do our thing.
Marvel.com: What does the future hold for Heroclix? More theme events? Theme sets?
Brian Roll: Well, because Infinity Gauntlet was so successful, we’d like that to be our thing. The storyline events that bring people back to the store every month, the offbeat character we were able to do like the Elders of the Universe, but also the storyline ties everything together and gives people a reason to keep playing and collecting. But in addition to that, we’re planning a lot of sets for 2013, we’re exploring what we can do with things like TabApp, and we’re going to be pulling from the Marvel movies as well so things are booming.
Marvel.com: And finally, after 10 years of Heroclix if you could sum it all up in one word or sentence, what would it be?
Brian Roll: I don’t know, there’s so many ways to talk about the game. I guess I’d say that it’s a really fun way to be the super hero or villain you’ve always wanted to be and do it in a fun and engaging way.
|Thor HeroClix TabApp|
To find out more about the TabApp, we also spoke with Sara Jenkins, whose company, MFV, is working with Wizkids to bring Heroclix to a whole new generation of gamers. One way in which Heroclix is looking to expand is by setting its sights on iPad users and the massive amount of people that already use them. To do so, they created a brand new game based on the Heroclix system that’s designed with younger fans in mind.
Marvel.com: What can you tell me about TabApp and how it works with Heroclix?
Sara Jenkins: In order to bring Heroclix to a whole new set of gamers, we’ve worked in partnership with Wizkids in order to create a game for the iPad that seamlessly incorporates Heroclix figures from several Marvel sets included with the game.
Marvel.com: What do people need to start playing?Sara Jenkins: Well, the initial set will be split into two packages. One containing the Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor) and one containing Wolverine & the X-Men (Wolverine, Cyclops, and Iceman) and each one will retail for $14.99. You should start seeing it hitting store shelves by late September.
Marvel.com: Do players need anything else?Sara Jenkins: Nope! One set is all you need to get started!
Marvel.com: Who is TabApp aimed at?
Sara Jenkins: TabApp is aimed at younger players who may not be old enough for Heroclix but would like to play the game or play with the characters. It’s a great introduction to the game.
Marvel.com: How does gameplay work?
Sara Jenkins: Gameplay is simple yet fun. You start by placing your TabApp Heroclix figure on the designated slot once you open TabApp on your iPad. Once there, the game will recognize which character you’ve chosen and allow to you play with them! Actual gameplay is a simple arcade-style version of Heroclix that is fast-paced and exciting.
Marvel.com: What future plans does WizKids have for TabApp?
Sara Jenkins: Following the initial release, the plan is to expand the character roster and add more! Any characters you see in Heroclix can show up on the TabApp. You never know what the future holds.