Cosmic characters and colossal powerhouses...
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The guys at WizKids Games have been churning out a pretty unbelievable array of HeroClix products recently, and that trend continues this month with an incredible Marvel expansion that’s sure to change the landscape of the game and at the same time attract new players. The second phase in the current “Infinity Gauntlet” series of releases and accompanying tournament events, Galactic Guardians debuts this week on April 11th. While the last two Marvel HeroClix sets focused on a particular character (Hulk and Captain America), this one has a more sweeping theme: the cosmic heroes, villains, and forces of the Marvel Universe! From the new appearances of old favorites (Nova, Blastaar, Medusa, Thanos, etc.) to desperately-needed team builders (Xavin of the Runaways, multiple classic Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.) and of course the return of the awesome Super Boosters with colossal figures, this set has something for everyone.
For those of you who may be new, HeroClix is an ever-growing miniatures game using high-quality figures pulled right from the pages of your favorite comic books. While there are various small Starter Sets and Battle Packs, the game really revolves around (and evolves with) the large expansion set releases, each bringing to the table dozens of new figures, exciting abilities and game mechanics, and more. Galactic Guardians is sold in regular blind booster boxes containing 5 figures, and a “Super Booster” configuration that holds one or two of six possible colossal figures. Boosters are designed both for existing players and those just starting out, and anyone can pick one up to start collecting and playing right away. Like all “collectible” games HeroClix has different rarity levels with “Guardians” featuring 13 commons, 13 uncommons, 10 rares, 9 super rares, and 4 hard to find chase figures.
With decades of interesting storylines to pull from, WizKids selected a very interesting character list for Galactic Guardians. Sub-themes in the set include the Infinity Watch (and a lot of Thanos-related content), Guardians of the Galaxy (both classic and modern), Annihilation, Galactus and his heralds, the Nova Corps, Defenders, and more.
Every booster you crack open will include a couple commons, but as we’ve come to expect in HeroClix they are far from boring or underpowered. First off there are the usual fun generics for army building in the Nova Corps Recruit, Cardinal of the UCT (Universal Church of Truth), Skrull Rebel, Annihilation Seeker, and Doombot. You can never have enough of these guys, although you’ll only really need two Blood Brothers to complete the twins. Unique heroes among the common ranks include long-awaited Guardians of the Galaxy members Charlie-27 and Hollywood, along with new versions of Drax and Adam Warlock (more on “Him” in a moment). Finally, two more “N” characters receive fresh figures with Nebula and a Defenders-themed Namor!
Next up in the uncommons with green rarity tabs are upgrades to (and repaints of) two of the commons: the Nova Corps Centurion and the UCT’s Cardinal Raker. Lots more solid team builders appear here as well from the Guardians’ Nikki and Martinex to Mole Man of Infinity Watch, Blastaar and Ravenous of the Negative Zone, and Lyja the Lazerfist who’s equally at home with the Skrulls or by the side of her husband Johnny Storm with the Fantastic Four. The common Doombot reappears as the basis for the sculpt of the awesome new Dr. Doom, and Magus is a repainted Adam Warlock. I was most excited for Xavin, another Skrull and one of the missing members of the Runaways!
Heavy hitters make up the bulk of this set’s rares starting with Defenders versions of Hulk, Dr. Strange, and Silver Surfer. The latter is joined at this stage by two more former Heralds of Galactus (and characters new to HeroClix) Morg and the Fallen One. Infinity Watch gets two more members in a unique Adam Warlock (based on the sculpt from month 1 of the Infinity Gauntlet series) and the deadliest woman in the galaxy: Gamora. Meanwhile, Super-Skrull returns to the game in a big way along with another Skrull and Guardian of the Galaxy Replica. Finally, among the rares is the all-new Captain Marvel, a cool figure on his own and one that the previous set’s Rick Jones can “turn into” via the Alter Ego mechanic.
Continuing the trend from the last couple Marvel sets, the Galactic Guardians super rares start off with some members of the Fantastic Four. In this case they are none other than Mr. Fantastic himself and Thing. Likewise, the previous Hulk set’s Inhumans king Black Bolt now gets his queen in the long-awaited update to Medusa. The rest of the super rares are pure “cosmic” characters consisting of Cosmo and Gladiator of the Annihilators, Lord Mar-Vell (the twisted version of Captain Marvel from the Cancerverse), the massive Stranger, and the fateful pairing of Mistress Death and Thanos the Mad Titan. Keep your eyes out for two different variations on the Mistress Death figure: one portraying her as a normal woman and the other as a skeleton!
If you’re really lucky, when you open up your Galactic Guardians booster packs you’ll find one of the four rarest chase figures. In most sets the chases represent some sort of mini-theme in and of themselves, and Galactic Guardians is no different. These four take existing figures from the base set and outfit them with something special in the form of a super-powerful weapon. The uncommon lord of Latveria returns as Dr. Doom with Silver Surfer’s board, rare Silver Surfer appears as the Keeper with the Quantum Bands (and sash), super rare Reed Richards picks up the Ultimate Nullifier as Mr. Fantastic, and Thanos gets a hold of the Cosmic Cube! All four feature unique gray bases and the addition of their new equipment to their sculpts.
Packaged alongside the regular boosters is one “Super Booster” per brick. This is the only way to get the set’s six colossal figures: Galactus, Ziran the Tester, Master Mold, Giganto the Mole Monster, Uatu the Watcher, and Dormammu. These massive figures bring new dimensions to the game, offering super high point value match ups and unique scenarios. For in-depth looks at four of these colossals check out our reviews: Galactus and Uatu HERE and Master Mold and Giganto HERE. Joining the initially-unveiled four are the 2x2 square-based Dormammu, Lord of the Dark Dimension, and Ziran the Tester, Celestial in charge of evaluating evolved organisms. All six figures are playable at different point values and have multiple special powers and traits.
As WizKids puts out more and more sets they remain committed to increasing the quality of their figures. In Galactic Guardians, that means great sculpts throughout the rarity levels and some nice nods to the players. First off, while Guardians has about the usual amount of repaints, in this case they almost always differ in more than just the basic palette. Cardinal Raker gets a different weapon, Ravenous has a cybernetic face, Xavin and Super-Skrull have different faces, the other Skrull sculpt differs in Lyja’s fist and Replica’s wings, and most notably Dr. Doom is massively upgraded from the Doombot with cloak, rock base, and lightning effects, etc. In fact, the only repaints that DON’T include some degree of re-sculpting are the Nova Corps members (totally fine for generic army builders), Adam Warlock/Magus (they’re two versions of the same person and have different paint jobs and translucent plastic colors), and Dr. Strange and his “astral” self (again, two versions of the same character).
Some standouts for me in the sculpting department include the UCT members with their intricately engraved cloaks, the stately and proud Namor, Cosmo (‘cause who doesn’t love a dog in a spacesuit!), Silver Surfer/Keeper with his perfectly captured movement, the intricate texture of Gamora’s outfit, and the powerful musculature on the Hulk. However, the best sculpts in this set are arguably Mistress Death with her enormous bone/tooth throne, Dr. Doom (either rock or surfboard, your choice), and the awesome Lord Mar-Vell with his great pose, energy effects, and superb tentacle base!
Galactic Guardians is also a very colorful set, highlighting the solid paint applications and different materials you’ll find here. Many of the figures have some element of translucent plastic, from Namor’s wave to the Skrulls’ fists, energy and flying effects on multiple figures, Fallen One’s energy trail, Nikki’s hair, Doom and Thanos’ lighting, and the very bodies of Martinex and Astral Dr. Strange. Not to be outdone, many figures shine with cool metallic paint as well including Morg, Drax, Mole Man, Thanos, and once again Dr. Doom and Surfer.
Some figures with particularly good paint jobs are Nebula with her interesting palette, super clean lines, and perfect eyes, Nikki (for the same reasons), Xavin for her unique mix of colors and good borders, Captain Marvel, and Medusa with her nice contrast between matte (hair and base) and glossy (outfit). While no set is ever going to perfect and there may be a paint error here or there, you can be assured that out of any given booster you’re going to get some good-looking figures.
For longtime players, one of the coolest things about a new set is seeing all of the game developments and special powers/traits that do things we would have never expected. In that regard, Galactic Guardians has some very cool new tricks to show us. All four of the base set’s Nova Corps members come with “Share Through The Worldmind” traits that grant bonus powers to each other; the more you use the more powerful they become by orders of magnitude. Nebula starts each game by stealing your opponent’s objects, Adam Warlock and Magus can switch places with one another based on damage taken or healed, Dr. Strange spawns astral doubles, Captain Marvel gets a huge boost when he’s fielded via Jones’ Alter Ego power, Mr. Fantastic can bring his family back from the dead, Stranger “grows” and “shrinks” to the size you require, Mistress Death is truly an inevitable force of nature, etc.! In addition, most Guardians figures have special powers that add another dimension to these characters, making them feel like more than accumulated stats and basic abilities... and often they just sound really cool. Just a few include Skrull Rebel’s “hiding in front of you,” Namor’s “Imperius Rex,” Red Shift’s “sword portals,” Lord Mar-Vell’s awesome H.P. Lovecraft nod “death itself may die,” and chase Thanos’ epic “toy with you.” With its tilt toward the cosmic, this set’s figures are on average more powerful/higher costed than in previous ones, ranging from the lowly 13 point Astral Dr. Strange to the eight (!) figures at 200 points or more, not even counting the colossals. Naturally it’s Thanos who tops the charts with his two versions at their most powerful costing 300 and 350. Just look at the Super Booster guys and the range skews from the relatively miniscule 50 point Uatu to the Earth-devouring 1800 point Galactus at full power.
One of the biggest changes to normal operating procedures regarding this new set is the replacement of the Buy It by the Brick promotion. Usually new expansions have an exclusive figure only available to customers who purchase a “brick” of boosters. For Galactic Guardians, however, WizKids is instead offering a “Marquee” figure. Available only to stores, the exclusive #100 Super-Nova figure can be used at their discretion, given away with large purchases, used as prize support, etc. The figure itself is a repaint of the standard 002 Nova Corps Recruit body with a unique uniform and paint scheme in purple and yellow with bare arms and red eyes. Representing Garthan Saal, it comes in a respectable 142 points with some cool powers and a decidedly mercenary attitude when it comes to “friendly” Corps members!
One thing that hasn’t changed is the OP (organized play) kit. Designed to promote the game through tournaments and giveaways, the kit is only available to stores and includes four different figures, two objects, and two maps. The Limited Edition figures in Galactic Guardians’ kit are Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine, and Spider-Man... but not as you’re used to seeing them. All four are decked out in exclusive black and blue Fantastic Four costumes representing 2009’s popular “What If? Newer Fantastic Four.” Two of them, Iron Man and Wolverine, are even all-new sculpts (Hulk is based on last set’s common figure and Spider-Man from the same set’s super rare). With popular characters in great-looking new versions and strong playability with unique powers these figures are sure to go fast in your local tournaments so make sure you find a venue with prizes and play to win!
Other than the figures, the kit comes with two objects that can give a figure who picks them up a boost: the Nova Helmet (granting Flight, Charge, and the Nova Corps keyword) and the Cosmic Cube (giving a figure Perplex and Probability Control, but with a chance to drop it every time it’s used)! Along with those LEs the kit expands the HeroClix battlefield repertoire to include two new thematic locations. The Realm of Death is an indoor maze full of walls, hindering terrain made up piles of skulls, and even a throne chamber. On the other side is the Blue Area of the Moon, the multi-elevation outdoor arena known for housing Uatu and the Inhumans as well as being the site of many famous battles.
Galactic Guardians is a great set for experienced and new players alike offering a killer lineup of characters, interesting new game mechanics, and much more. The booster set has 49 cool figures, and that doesn’t even include the six colossals in the Super Boosters, the Marquee Super-Nova, and four LE figures in the OP Kit. But that’s not even all there is... Galactic Guardians even has two more associated products, a ten figure Countertop Display (already in stores) and Fast Forces Annihilators set; both are packed with familiar figures with all new dials. Just like with last year’s Giant-Size X-Men set, the new colossal figures have great crossover appeal for toy collectors with their large size, high quality sculpts, and great paint jobs. Whether you’re looking for the latest figures to play in your next tournament or you need a Galactus for your collection, head on down to your local comic book or game store and look for Galactic Guardians on Wednesday, April 11th.
Visit HeroClix.com for even more info as well as downloads of rules and maps!
Review and Photos by Scott Rubin
Review Samples Courtesy of WizKids