Miniatures game grows with Street Fighter, HALO, Gears of War, more...
San Diego Comic-Con coverage brought to you by Tonner, Collectibles Insurance, and Big Bad Toy Store.
NOTE: There's lots to read below; stick around for some exclusive news on upcoming sets!
In the old days, WizKids used to have its own booth at San Diego Comic-Con, but that was before the hiatus (the sad year with no product after Topps ended the company). Two years ago, it was at Comic-Con that we learned that WizKids was back with the debut of the exclusive Thor’s Mighty Chariot at NECA’s booth. Last year there was a dedicated WizKids section of the NECA booth along with an exclusive Doctor Manhattan colossal figure. This year, WizKids continued to grow its presence.
One display case in the NECA complex was all WizKids, with lots of cool stuff to see. For the first time fans got to see the full lineup of Gears of War HeroClix figures: Damon Baird, Anya Stroud, Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago, Augustus Cole, Locust Drone, Kantus, General Raam, Skorge, and Mauler! A couple of these figures even made it into the HeroClix section of the Diamond/Previews booth. Also on display in both locations were figures from the soon to be released Street Fighter and Halo sets, all of which are fully compatible with the HeroClix game.
The biggest reveal thus far was six figures from September’s Superman set (on display at Diamond/Previews): Superman, Darkseid, Flash, Imperiex, Queen of Fables, and Wildfire!
Of course, while WizKids is best known for HeroClix that's not all they do. The display at NECA included current board games like Gremlins, Freddy vs. Jason, and Star Trek Expeditions, while closed boxes only teased Hunger Games and Quarriors. All of that was pretty cool, but it was just the beginning.
On Saturday, there was a HeroClix tournament put on by Matt's Cavalcade of Comics, a Corvallis, OR-based outfit with a booth in the exhibit hall. This Captain America "sealed" event drew about a dozen or so players who ranged from California natives to a couple all the way from Norway! It was a lot of fun playing HeroClix in that environment, and there were plenty of prizes for everyone (I came in 5th with a 2:1 record). Once the tournament was finished there was a special surprise; Jerome Gonyeau from WizKids was there, and he brought a box of goodies.
Out of that box came a bunch of upcoming figures (and current official tournament prizes Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, and the Horsemen of Apocalypse) from several HeroClix properties. From Gears we got to see Skorge, and from Street Fighter Dhalsim, Zangief, Guile, and Ryu. These were pretty cool, but to be honest I was there to see what he had from the Superman expansion set due out in September. These included Superman, Darkseid, and Wildfire (all three of which were in the Diamond booth) along with Eradicator, Commander El, Son of Darkseid Superman, and Lobo with Dawg! All of these figure looked great, especially Lobo and Eradicator. Beyond just seeing these we learned conclusively that the Boom Tube effect on Darkseid is NOT removable; in fact, it is made of a flexible plastic to protect it in booster boxes.
After everyone had a chance to check out the figures, I got to sit down with Jerome for a one-on-one. Our conversation ranged across pretty much everything WizKids is doing these days, from HeroClix to Star Trek, the Quarriors dice game, and all the rest. Here are some of the juiciest tidbits:
Lord of the Rings is coming soon in two distinct forms. A board game lets a group of players take on the roles of the Nazgul, cooperating before turning on one another. The other release will be a set (around 30) of figures fully compatible with HeroClix! They’ll also have their own unique epic campaign rules. The addition of Street Fighter, Lord of the Rings, and the rest have prompted WizKids to classify their tournament types; in the future they may add more that include these licenses in new ways.
Working with NECA has given WizKids access to properties that it might not have considered in the past, and so it was with Gears of War. Now, of course, it’s a perfect fit with the reintroduction of Halo! Both first person shooters will see their miniatures fully compatible with HeroClix as well. And while they’re starting off with small sets, there’s always the possibility of adding more in the future if the demand is there. There’s really no limit as to where they’ll go with future properties; the sky’s the limit!
WizKids is determined to provide players and collectors with great product, and their pipeline is chock full of releases. This continues throughout 2011 with the announced releases, and while it’s busy there is a bit of a break in November (between Superman in September and Hulk in December). The trend moving into 2012 is smaller sets with focused themes, through which WizKids can really "tell a story." The recent Captain America expansion set was the most thematic yet, and from what we’ve seen and heard of Superman and Hulk this will continue.
Thus far WizKids has not announced DC releases past September’s Superman set, but players shouldn’t worry. Despite the conspiracy theories they still have the DC license and will continue to provide great DC figures and sets. WizKids is very excited about the relaunch as well, as it provides all sorts of new designs for familiar characters.
Another recent venture has been HeroClix Online, letting players engage in matches with opponents all over the world. The game is still in beta, but production is continuing apace. Contrary to some of the Chicken Littles out there, there is no chance that HCO will supplant the physical game so stop worrying!
A recent advancement in product diversity is the Fast Forces pack, which repacks figures from a previous (or current) set but with new dials along with maps and dice. The Green Lantern set was a huge success, as is the current Thor pack. The next release in this series is the Watchmen Crimebusters set, the first time figures from the Watchmen Collector’s Set have been otherwise available. This is the perfect way for players to get their hands on the core Watchmen characters without having to shell out the cost of the original set. Silk Spectre, Rorschach, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Doctor Manhattan, and the Comedian return with new dials along with two new maps, dice, and a quick play rules sheet. Expect to see more Fast Forces sets in 2012.
As mentioned, the next DC set is Superman coming in September. We know a fair amount of what to expect in this expansion, including the sub-theme of Flashpoint. Comic readers are enjoying the universe-altering event, and this is the perfect way to incorporate these alternate versions of our favorite characters into the game. While no specifics were given, expect to see about half a dozen Flashpoint figures in Superman. The set also utilizes the mechanics of scalable point values and multiple starting lines. Formerly used on colossals, these have appeared on figures in Captain America and will obviously continue.
One aspect of the HeroClix game that WizKids is very proud of is the way they handle their Organized Play. Venues that order product can get OP Kits with Limited Edition figures, objects, and maps, and they’re free to use them in any way they choose (with the sole exception of selling the contents). Unlike other games that proscribe what types of tournaments must be offered, etc., this leaves the details up to the stores. A new online system is coming that lets venues register their games for their players to see in one place, along with posting house rules. Event descriptions can be saved and re-used as well, increasing the functionality. Eventually this will expand into a full tournament system with geographic info so if you’re a player who’s traveling it’ll be as simple as logging on, checking the local listings, and finding a game with the full build and house rules at your fingertips!
The WizKids site continues to evolve, adding more features all the time. Long in the works has been the product replacement system. It’s finally up and running, even though it only applies to the Watchmen set thus far. To roll it out and make sure it’s working WizKids wanted to start with those players who bought an expensive product and had problems; as the bugs are worked out the program will expand. Print and Play is another recent addition to the site, officially incorporating the hard work of fans. And for those who are wondering, the full HeroClix Online Gallery is on the list of “things to do” at the WizKids offices. With their small crew and huge list of projects, though, it’s not the highest priority. However, it has been classified as a "when, not if." The goal for WizKids is for their website to have everything a player might ever need.
One of the goals of WizKids is to pay close attention to their players and what they're saying. To that end they watch and read what’s being said on the forums, so don’t feel as though your voices are stuck in a vacuum. They're eager to learn from successes and failures, keeping track of everything and compiling copious notes on how to improve future releases. WizKids also feels strongly about interaction, which prompted Jerome's recent trip to Texas and his visits to several stores and venues. When possible this kind of local focus will continue, as well as more appearances at major conventions.
Note: the 4 range Street Fighter base under Darkseid is a temporary display. See the photo album below for the real thing.
Alright, you've waited long enough. Here's some exclusive new information!
-the Superman set will include a "Lois Lane with Superman's powers," probably representing the character from All-Star Superman when Supes gives her his abilities for 24 hours.
-the Hulk set will see another evolution of the Alter Ego (AE) mechanic. One character will be able to transform into three different figures!
-Hulk will have a good mix of new characters and new versions of previously released characters. “Re-made” characters will gain new life through the use of Special Powers. As Jerome said, “we’ve got special powers and we’re using them!” Specific themes in the set will include “classic” Hulk, Planet Hulk, and War of the Hulks.
-the Hulk set will have figures of Amadeus Cho, the Leader, General “Thunderbolt” Ross, and Caiera the Oldstrong!
Special thanks to Jerome for a great discussion!
- Scott Rubin