The number of people playing in a Marvel Heroic game can make a big difference. The more you have the slower things become. This is chiefly because not only does everyone get to act but reacting to a villains attack can take just as much time. This is further compounded by the more villains that you have.
I feel that the ideal number of players is around 3 to 4 and with no more than an equal number of opponents in a scene. Typically you’ll find that a scene will last between 1 and 2 hours (unless you get very unlucky with the dice).
The reason I bring this up is that one of our sessions of our Civil War campaign had around 6 players. The GM cleverly split us up, having us divide into two groups of two and one group of three people, each sent on a different anti-registration mission. These scenes were run concurrently.
There are some players who only pay attention when it is their turn but I always try to be entertained by the actions of others, especially in scenes where you aren’t present. If nothing else observing how others run their characters can give you tips on how to run your own character.
The number of players did seriously impact how fluid this particular scenario was. In nearly four hours we were only able to take two turns each. None the less that was enough to complete each of our missions.
One of the limitations of playing the Invisible Woman, who is still trying to remain undercover, is that I felt it wasn’t appropriate for her to take part in one of these missions so I took the role of the Wasp.
She was perfect to join the team infiltrating Stingray’s underwater base to steal some supplies and his experimental submarine. Wasp hated stealing from a fellow Avenger but she was keen to prove that unlike Hank Pym she was anti-registration.
Once we’d each returned to the Anti-registration base we discovered that there was a suspicion of a traitor in our midst. The traitors identity was revealed in a separate mini-session run by the GM.
One of the advantages of using an online gaming site like Infrno is that there are plenty of people wanting to play a quick game. The GM used this to flesh out the campaign, running a group of pro-registration on a raid on the underground, revealing that Justice was the traitor. Accompanied by The Thing and the Human Torch the Pro-registration heroes were able to capture Captain America.
This did enhance the comic book feel of our campaign, with events from other issues affecting the main story arc. Rather than the GM just declaring events had occurred ‘off panel’ we knew they’d been played through and the outcome decided by game mechanics and real people.
Our next game picked up with the wedding of Storm and Black Panther in Wakanda with a host of superhero guests. I returned to playing the Invisible woman in her Stark designed armour that boosted her powers (unlocked with XP I’d gathered through the campaign).
It was a tense time, especially in light of the capture of Captain America. Sue warned the other members of the Fantastic Four to be on their best behaviour, hoping that this happy day could bring the community back together. She then spent a little girl time with Storm, giving her advice, having had first hand experience of superhero weddings.
Before the ceremony Black Panther arranged for several prominent members on both sides to attend a secret conference to see if he could negotiate for peace. For this scene I took the role of Reed Richards, promising I wouldn’t have him simply agree to anti-registration terms.
Also in attendance was Tony Stark, Wolverine, Speed Ball and Namor. The final member was a surprise and I couldn’t resist Reed commenting that he smelt something ‘fishy’ about Namor’s appearance.
The meeting didn’t solve anything, with neither side willing to budge. Interestingly we didn’t use game mechanics (as we had during the early committee and press conference scenes). We just roleplayed events.
I tried to have Reed compromise some what, when Namor demanded Nitro be handed over to him. Reed suggested that if he could persuade the government to release him Namor could offer citizenship to anti-registration heroes and Black Panther could do the same.
If the anti-registration side didn’t want to abide by the laws of the United States then they could become foreign nationals, given immunity for the registration act. In theory they could still operate in the US and they certainly had the technology available to quickly travel from Wakanda or Atlantis.
The anti-registration heroes were aghast at this, insisting that they’d rather keep fighting the government that leave America. Sadly Black Panther said that there was no hope for peace and departed to marry Storm.
A few days later, back in the US, the pro-registration side baited a trap for their opponents. A Stark factory was made to look like it was on fire and an emergency broadcast sent out to lure the anti-registration side.
Sue was unaware of this, as she accompanied the rest of the Fantastic Four to the site where they were met by Iron Man. Sue was horrified and said that this was what villains did.
The anti-registration heroes arrived, realising it was a trap only once they were inside and SHIELD agents began firing tranquiliser darts at them. For my first action, under the pretence of capturing the anti-reg heroes, the Invisible Woman threw a force field around the other PCs.
Wolverine acted upon threats he had made to Stark during the earlier conference and stabbed him in the back. Stark’s nanobots started to heal him but Wolverine used a device made by Cable to neutralise his tech. Speed Ball defeated the Human Torch and the Thing was so traumatised he withdrew to get his injured team mate to safety.
I was feeling torn during these scenes as I felt Sue would be horrified by the actions of both sides. Wolverine had gone to far in his attack on Stark and Speed Ball had injured her brother.
Worse was yet to come when Reed Richards brought in a wild card to even the odds, the Hulk robot once used by Dr Doom. Sue deliberately put herself in danger, pleading with Reed to put a stop to his plan which succeeded in inflicting emotional stress on him.
The Hulk Robot initially ignored Sue, leaping over her to target Cloak. As a teleporter it seemed the machine was eliminating the anti-registration sides tactical advantage. The Invisible Woman secretly aided Wolverine by performing her own version of the fastball special, using her invisible force blast to hurl him across the room into the robot. In the resulting rampage it inflicted physical stress on most of us, with Sue taking d12 in a single attack.
I decided to finish what I’d started and used the physical stress dice in my pool, even though I knew it would create trauma. Sue collapsed into Reed stretching arms, saying that blood was on his hands which was now both figuratively and literally true.
This was enough to push Reed into emotional trauma, forcing him to flee the scene with Sue. With only the Hulk Robot left those heroes still standing were able to defeat it and capture Stark.
Using his last ounce of strength Cloak was able to teleport them to the underground but his injuries from the Hulk Robots attack were so bad that he passed away, just as Dagger arrived. It was a shocking ending but the true cliff hanger was Cable announcing that he was planning to attack the SHIELD helicarrier with a gamma bomb! What a way to end Act 2.
The GM checked with Cloak’s player that he was okay for his character to die. We all agreed that it made thematic sense, with things escalating and Cloak being a good stand in for Goliath who died in the comics. We also had Cloak’s body absorbed into his cape, thus opening the possibility he might return from the darkforce.
For my part Sue’s position is becoming more and more difficult to maintain. Both sides are out of control and she can’t agree with either one. All hopes of co-existence and compromise have gone, with the war becoming ever more bloody.
As we enter the final act I have no idea how we will resolve things.