Another month, another Marvel Crisis Protocol event! This was the long awaited teams event at Common Ground Games where we set up in teams of three. Our team, Underpowered Scoundrels Form Mediocre Syndicate (apologies to whoever came up with this first as I’m sure I saw it somewhere and then stole it) comprised of me, my long-time friend and gaming sparring partner Gareth and my son Scott. There were some restrictions in roster selection to avoid duplicates of characters and cards but with the number of options available and only needing 3 rosters this wasn’t a huge issue.
My roster is basically the same Criminal Syndicate roster I’ve been playing for a few months, but without Patch Up as Gareth wanted that. I put in Indomitable instead as my main game plan on Secures is to sit on the objectives like a bunch of potatoes and not get moved off them. Gareth played a slight variation on Web Warriors and Scott was using Weapon X with an option to flex into X-Force if he felt like it. Tales of Crisis did a fun podcast reviewing the rosters which you can find here. Our team did briefly chat about which match-up we’d like to get and avoid, but in the end the pairing process doesn’t really allow you to do anything more than just avoid one specific opponent with one of your rosters so it’s barely more than random.
—Kingpin (Wilson Fisk) Threat: 4
—Shadowland Daredevil (Matt Murdock) Threat: 4
Rhino (Aleksei Sytsevich) Threat: 4
Ulik (Ulik) Threat: 5
Black Cat (Felica Hardy) Threat: 3
Hood (Parker Robbins) Threat: 3
Bullseye (Benjamin Poindexter) Threat: 2
Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) Threat: 2
Toad (Mortimer Toynbee) Threat: 2
Juggernaut (Cain Marko) Threat: 5
All According To Plan
Brace for Impact
Do You Know Who I Am?
This Is A Robbery
Eyes on the Prize
Secure Crisis: (3)
Cosmic Invasion! Black Order Descends on Earth (Threat: 16)
Super-Powered Scoundrels Form Sinister Syndicate! (Threat: 20)
Riots Spark Over Extremis 3.0 (Threat: 17)
Extract Crisis: (3)
Deadly Legacy Virus Cured? (Threat: 19)
Struggle for the Cube Continues (Threat: 17)
Spider-Infected Invade Manhattan (Threat: 17)
Game 1: Ross playing X-Men
Our first round is against Brotherhood Without Manners and I get paired into Ross’s X-Men. I normally hate the X-Men vs Criminal Syndicate match-up as both sides really want to play on their own Secures and it feels like there is a big advantage in just winning the roll for priority. However in Ross’s case he’s not playing pay-to-flip options so that suits me just fine. Ross wins priority and chooses his Extractions, I choose the higher threat value as I wanted to include both Bullseye and Toad and it’s more awkward to do so at 18 threat. Normally I would be expecting some X-men trickery to take a 3 – 1 lead on the Hammers but I think that Ross is not likely to take that approach. Therefore my plan is basically to end the first round with 2 Hammers and sitting on at least three Secures, and then ride out the game from there.
Extraction: Fear Grips World As ‘Worthy’ Terrorise Cities
Secure: Superpowered Scoundrels Form Sinister Syndicate
My team: Kingpin, Bullseye, Black Cat, Rhino, Ulik, Toad
My cards: All According To Plan, Brace For Impact, Indomitable, Mission Objective, This Is A Robbery
Ross’s team: Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Psylocke, Rogue
Ross’s cards: Children Of The Atom, First Class, Pardon Me Sugah, Patch Up, Psionic Constructs
Round 1: Ross plays First Class. Storm takes the left Hammer and Ulik takes the one on the right. Jean collects the rear Hammer and strolls over to the back left Secure, where honestly I’ll be quite happy if she stays all game. Toad pushes Storm further away from my left Secure and Cyclops takes a desultory shot at Ulik from the comfort of the rear right Secure. Rhino takes the final Hammer and ends up on the central point along with Rogue and Kingpin. Bullseye and Psylocke take short walks onto their nearest Secure points while Black Cat takes a rather over optimistic run across the board to sit next to Jean Grey. She might live through Jean’s attacks and then can run away with her Hammer. The score is 6 – 3 to me.
Round 2: Apart from possibly relieving Jean or Storm of a Hammer with either Rhino or Black Cat as required, my plan this turn is just to keep scoring the central and near Secures. Rogue punches Kingpin and he hits her back and throws her into Jean Grey. My hopes of Black Cat doing something cheeky into Jean Grey are dashed when the latter completely obliterates her! Sadly for Ross those are basically the last good dice he’ll get all game, as is demonstrated when Bullseye dazes Psylocke in one go. Cyclops again bounces off Ulik who leaps over and pushes the poor chap across the board to where Rhino can use him as a jumping off point en route to Jean. Storm tickles Toad who pushes her away again. Finally Rhino dazes Cyclops, attacks Jean Grey and then punts her away with This Is A Robbery so he can collect her Hammer. The score is 14 – 4 now.
Round 3: I think it’s basically impossible for Ross to overhaul me from here, but I suppose I ought to make it certain. I play All According To Plan and Rhino leaps over to Storm (dazing her to add insult) and legs it for the corner with her Hammer added to his collection. With his 3 points out of Ross’s reach it’s definitely over now. Rogue hurts Black Cat but Jean somehow fails to finish her off, while on the other side of the board Ulik KOs Cyclops. Not surprisingly, Ross has had enough of his dice and we agree to call it there with a 22 – 5 result.
Thanks to Ross for playing but unfortunately the dice made it not even a game. His team was definitely picked with fun In mind rather than being really competitive so between that and the gap in our experience it would perhaps have been a bit of an uphill struggle for him anyway; I flatter myself that I could have beaten Ross here even without the stupid dice. Gareth also got the win against Kai while Scott, who we’d ‘thrown under the bus’ was overcome by Stu. So as a team we take the win by 2 – 1.
Game 2: Sam playing Guardians of the Galaxy
Next up is my pick for expected winners, Warlords of the Nine Realms and I get paired into Sam’s Guardians. This is where the match-up process works for us as I don’t particularly want to play into Martin’s X-Men so we take advantage of the system to make sure to avoid that; I actually think that the reverse is probably true too, so Martin may have been pleased to dodge me. Sam wins priority and chooses his Extractions, I choose the lower threat value this time as Black Cat fits more neatly at 16 than 17. For once I don’t take All According To Plan as I’m expecting to be taller than Sam’s team; instead I pick Shadow Organisation to reduce the impact of some of the Guardians’ long range attacks for a round. Losing priority is a bit annoying in this match up as I’m sure that Sam will do the Eyes On The Prize safe extract with Beta Ray Bill, while if I have priority I would get to do that with Ulik and then sit on my points while making Sam do all the running. As it is I’ll have to cross the board and try to relieve him of at least one Book.
Extraction: The Montesi Formula Found
Secure: Cosmic Invasion! Black Order Descends On Earth
My team: Kingpin, Black Cat, Rhino, Ulik
My cards: Brace For Impact, Indomitable, Mission Objective, Shadow Organisation, This Is A Robbery
Sam’s team: Star Lord, Agent Venom, Beta Ray Bill, Groot, Rocket Raccoon
Sam’s cards: Crew Of The Milano, Eyes On The Prize, Foreign Assignment, Lovable Misfits, Mission Objective
Round 1: I think that I’ll need to hang Rhino out in the middle here at the end of the turn as he’ll be needed to take one of Sam’s Books. Agent Venom, Groot and Rocket get Winging It tokens. Predictably Bill gets us underway by playing Eyes On The Prize, collecting the central Book and retreating to safety. Ulik moves over to the right. Star Lord and Black Cat pick up the remaining Books and sit on the rear points. Groot and Rocket go on the left with Kingpin while Rhino ends up mid-board, kind of hanging out in the middle of nowhere. Venom puts Incinerate on him and I use Aggressive to get to the Portal on the far side of the board. The score is 3 – 3.
Round 2: I think that Sam might have left me a small opening here on the left as Rocket is vulnerable to Kingpin if I can throw Groot away. If I can make that work I might possibly just retreat with Rhino and take a small but safe lead on the Secures. Beta Ray Bill, Groot and Rocket get Winging It tokens. Kingpin throws Groot down the board but then fails to hurt Rocket at all; dazing him (which I think is quite likely) really changes this game. I make a bit of a mistake and push him clear of the building so he has a shot at Rhino; I should actually have sent him into the building so he has no choice but to shoot Kingpin. Groot moves back to the point. Rhino can’t play This Is A Robbery as Mission Objective turns it off, so he Stampedes and eventually dazes Star Lord with a throw and is able to collect his book. Credit to Sam here too – I initially misplaced Rhino after one of his attacks and Sam kindly let me reposition him to a less silly place. Sam plays Lovable Misfits which ends up not doing much apart from putting Stun on Kingpin (which admittedly is quite annoying) and then plays Crew Of The Milano to remove Stun from his team. Rocket shoots Rhino and moves back to the Secure with Groot. I move Black Cat over to the left to score that point; I’m not sure if that was the right move or not; I figure that at least it got her to be relevant. Bill dazes Rhino then Ulik leaps over and achieves nothing whatsoever – I was hoping to generate power to move to pick up that fallen Book. Venom tickles Ulik right back then collects the Book. The score is 6 – 5 to me.
Round 3: Rhino is powered right up so I should expect to him to KO Star Lord here and then throw Bill away with This Is A Robbery once there is no-one left to Mission Objective it to. On the left, I can probably take my time with Kingpin as the same move is online again and it’s not likely that Rocket or Groot can take him out in one go; in addition they both want to go after him to recover from any displacement. Agent Venom, Beta Ray Bill and Star Lord get Winging It tokens. Rhino throws a size 3 at Star Lord, dropping a couple of wound off him, then Stampedes and attacks twice. Annoyingly my dice totally fail me here and I manage just two successes off both attacks which isn’t enough to finish off the legendary outlaw. He does at least use This Is A Robbery on Bill. That’s annoying, but even worse Star Lord rolls like a hero and dazes Ulik in one go. Kingpin throws Groot into Bill and dazes Rocket before Venom and Bill combine to KO Rhino. Black Cat moves into the fray and Groot gives up on Rocket and collects Rhino’s book. The score goes to 8 – 7 to me, but that turn has broken my effort and it’ll take an absolute miracle for me to come back from here.
Round 4: There’s not much that I can do here that will actually impact the game so I just make some spite attacks. Agent Venom, Beta Ray Bill and Groot get Winging It tokens. Ulik continues my dice from last turn by failing to do even a single point of damage to Bill, though he does at least finally polish off Star Lord by throwing something at him. Groot one-shots Black Cat. Agent Venom and Rocket just run for the various Secures to guarantee that I’ll never get them next turn; the score is now 13 – 9 to Sam. I think that the below photo is from after we did the Cosmic Portal pushes.
Round 5: For the second turn in the game Ulik fails to even put a single point of damage into Bill. Bill leaves Black Cat on a single point of health and she relieves him of his Book and runs away. Kingpin moves to my near objective and throws Rocket just to deny that single point and we finish up at 17 – 12 in Sam’s favour.
I love playing MCP with Sam, he’s such a lovely fun opponent and he’s really good. I have to apologise to him here as I think that I was very moany about my dice, especially in round 3, and I’m sorry that he had to listen to my frustration. I will admit that this defeat hurts though; I really felt that I had a decent chance to take this game either through dealing with Rocket in round 2 or by KOing Star Lord in round 3 but my dice just said ‘no’. Star Lord was especially annoying as not only did he survive but he also put down Ulik with some really brutal dice rolls that made it impossible to recover from. In retrospect I wonder if I could have just played on the three nearer objectives and let Sam have his home one with the two Books and just seen out the game 4 – 3 each round. At least that way he’s the one who has to do all the running. I don’t want to take anything away from Sam though – he played a very tight game (especially denying me This Is A Robbery in round 2) and was a total gentleman throughout. In the other games Gareth had a nice win against the always-excellent Martin while Scott and Thomas played out surely the most brutal game ever seen – the only piece left was Thomas’s Malekith with a single remaining wound. Well done to the Warlords of the Nine Realms for beating us 2 -1 and also eventually winning the whole event.
Game 3: Stevie playing X-Force
For our final game we’re up against one of the Glasgow-based teams in Team Gambit. We’re both out of the running to win and our team composition is quite similar in that we both have a Criminal Syndicate, Web Warriors and X-people rosters (though the rosters themselves aren’t very alike) so we agree to forgo the proper pairing process and just set up games that aren’t tedious mirror matches. I end up last with Stevie’s X-Force. I win priority this time and pick my Secures as I don’t really hate any of Stevie’s Extraction cards and Stevie chooses the higher threat level so, as he put it, ‘we can have more toys.’ With no normal Extractions in play I feel that Rhino is less useful so I replace him with Daredevil as the Ninjas can be quite annoying on the Research Station. I haven’t put Black Widow in this list for ages so I gave her a run out just for a sense of completeness more than anything else, though being able to cheaply sit and score an edge point should be quite useful. With 3 of my cards being specific to Extractions I was running a bit short on options so for the first time in a long time I had to include Versatile Strategy.
Extraction: Research Station Attacked!
Secure: Riots Spark Over Extremis 3.0
My team: Kingpin, Bullseye, Shadowland Daredevil, Ulik, Black Widow
My cards: All According To Plan, Brace For Impact, Indomitable, Shadow Organisation, Versatile Strategy
Stevie’s team: Cable, Domino, Psylocke, Magik, Toad
Stevie’s cards: Cat And Mouse, Disarm, Indomitable, Journey Through Limbo, One-Two Punch
Round 1: Thanks to the Ninjas I have an extra body to work with on the Researcher so my plan is to get out wide and score those points while leveraging Kingpin’s leadership so I don’t have to commit so hard to the centre. Psylocke starts us out with Cat and Mouse on the left; the photo above was taken after this was played. Bullseye goes on the back point, where he plans to sit and be annoying for the whole game. Domino goes in the middle and the Ninjas join her while Daredevil takes the right Secure. Toad drops the Ninjas then Black Widow goes to hide on the left point and Magik joins Domino in the centre, where Ulik and Kingpin will eventually score this for me. My dice let me know that their run from the previous game isn’t over as Psylocke one-shots Black Widow and Cable pumps a five damage into Ulik with a single shot. The score is 4 – 2 to me.
Round 2: I’m never really sure what to do with the Researcher now that the scoring for getting her to the far side is less generous so I just move it a bit back towards my team to make Stevie do the running. I need to clear out the centre here as unbelievably I’m way down on attrition and I haven’t even made a single attack yet. Ulik gives Domino an Activated token with Shatter Mountains, Shatter Bones (note that I think that I incorrectly played it that she got the Stagger token as well when it should be instead – sorry Stevie!) and dazes Magik. Psylocke KOs Black Widow with a single attack. Cable Body Slides into the action and throws terrain at Ulik which I have to use Brace For Impact on, then dazes him anyway and pays to Disarm Kingpin. Toad delivers a nasty hit to Kingpin who pushes Cable away and throws Domino into Toad. The score goes to 8 – 4 in my favour.
Round 3: I need to get try to displace some of Stevie’s team away from the Researcher so I can keep scoring it but it’s proving hard with the speed at which my team is being beaten up. I play All According To Plan to get back priority. Ulik leaps to the far point and dazes Toad but still can’t finish off Domino, leaving her on one. I will note at this point that I felt in good company as the next table over was Adam from Midlife Crisis Protocol whose catchphrase might as well be ‘so I’ll leave them on one.’ Magik does Journey Through Limbo to send Kingpin away from the action, she then Limbo steps forward and one-shots Bullseye. Daredevil leaves Cable on one and gets dazed in two attacks in return before Cable goes down to Bleed. Kingpin throws Domino and it’s blocked with Indomitable and the Psylocke drops him from full health. The score is now 8 – 7 to me.
Round 4: I’ll be lucky to end this game without getting tabled at this rate! I play Versatile Strategy as Kingpin’s leadership no longer provides my benefits. Kingpin uses Hail To The King to keep Psylocke out of my face and then KOs Magik, while over on the other side of the board Ulik survives a round of shooting from Domino before finally dazing her and giving Toad an Activated token (though with only 3 health on his injured side I was really looking to KO him and get him out of my hair). Psylocke comes back into the action and heals off the objective which means that, of course, Bullseye leaves her on one wound. Good play by Stevie there to see that opportunity. Daredevil bounces off Cable but at least the Ninjas do some work by scampering over to tie us up on the Researcher and buy me a bit of time. We go to 9 – 8 to me.
Round 5: Psylocke drops Bullseye in one and hurts Kingpin. Ulik KOs Domino in return but Toad, still on one wound, manages to dodge the only piece of terrain around to throw at him, a size 1 lamppost. Cable finishes Kingpin and Daredevil does another single point of damage to him while the Ninjas also fail to deal the one remaining point of damage to Psylocke. Toad flails about a bit with Ulik; this activation also marks the first time that Stevie hasn’t converted a miss into a success with the X-Force reroll. Everything is a tie so we stay at 9 – 8!
Round 6: I’m in the hands of the dice now – basically if the Ninjas can deal one damage to Psylocke then I probably win, otherwise I almost certainly lose. Fortunately they do finally manage a point of damage (on the fourth attempt, with a reroll each time) and Daredevil wakes up and KOs Cable at least. Toad has an absolutely insane turn against Ulik, leaving him on a single wound left before the return swing does the remaining one damage to finish the mutant. The final score is 14 – 9.
Many thanks again to Stevie for being a wonderful opponent and, just like Sam before him, having to put up with my moaning about awful dice. Perhaps my expectation of what ‘normal’ looks like for MCP dice needs some adjustment? As mentioned above I also think I cheated him in round 2 by having Ulik give both Stagger and Activated to Domino – sorry Stevie! Luckily there was nothing riding on this game, not only because we were both midtable anyway but also because Adam and Ben had defeated Gareth and Scott respectively. In general I think that my strategy was broadly OK at the start; I thought that Black Widow facing off against Psylocke would last a bit longer as she counts blanks against energy (admittedly only with two dice) and had a tolerable 3 dice against mystic attacks. Even just not going down to a single shot in round 1 would have score me one more point and Stevie one less! Possibly I would have been better off with Daredevil in the middle and Ulik on the right in round 1 as the latter can reposition much more effectively; Daredevil ended up with not a lot to do on round 2. I also wonder if I was relying too much on displacement from Kingpin and Ulik as none of my other characters brought much other than damage.
When the final scores come in we’re in 5th place out of the 8 teams which I think is perhaps a little better than I expected considering how the games all shook out. Overall I have much to ponder, probably mainly about my own attitude and how much fun I’m making the game for my friends. All three games the dice were a far bigger factor than I felt that they ought to be and it was just as unsatisfactory to have a total non-game against Ross due to my amazing rolls as it was to be on the wrong end of it against Sam and Stevie. Many thanks to Gareth and Scott for being fun team-mates, Ross, Sam and Stevie for fun games (and/or putting up with me!) and of course to Allan for doing all the work to run the whole thing. I did enjoy myself a lot, and I’ll be back… but not for a few months as I’m busy for at least the next two events. Criminal Syndicate are going back in the box for now and I’m going to play around with some of the factions I haven’t used in a while.