Monday, September 14, 2015

Power Legion Review and Test Play: Captain America vs. Boomerang and Constrictor

Having played a heavily simplified game of Power Legion with my boys, I decided to take the rules out for a spin on my own in a solo test play session.  In an effort to learn the rules as thoroughly as possible, this write-up will be an open beta test of sorts - I'll list out the math of the dice rolls and let commenters tell me if I'm doing it right.

The scenario is the When You Wish Upon a Star scenario from the Power Legion rule book.  In this scenario, heroes and villains fight over a crashed asteroid, hoping to gain control over the mysterious and potentially powerful space rock.  The board is a 3' x 3' woodland setting with trees dotting the landscape.  The translucent green rock lies in the middle of a crater next to a tree felled by the asteroid's impact.
The contested asteroid, lying in a crater.
I pitted Captain America versus two villains who were both, at one time, members of the Masters of Evil - Boomerang and Constrictor.  The stats for these guys were graciously provided by the gentleman running Dinah's Cat of Danger.

Captain America (956 Points)
Knockout d10+3Activation d12
Shield d12 (Device), Armor d6, Marksman d12, Leadership d10, Tactics d12, Ranged Damage d8 (Device), Strong Will d10, Weapon Master d12, Acrobat

Boomerang (532 Points)
Marksman d10, Ranged Damage d8 (Device: Boomerang), Sonic Attack d8 (Device: Boomerang), Flight d6

Constrictor (530 Points)
Knockout d8+2Activationd6
Armor d4, Lethal HTH Attack d8, Entangle d8, Damaging Aura d10

For those paying really close attention, I've increased Captain America's Strength statistic from d8 to d10.  I've done this because I think that the current trend of Captain America - both in the Ultimate Marvel Universe and in the Captain America and Avenger movies - is to show Cap as stronger than peak human performance.  I agree with it, and this raised his point value from the link to 936 to 956.   So, 1062 points of bad guy distributed among two minis versus 956 in one good guy mini.  Enuf' said - it's clobberin' time!

The view from Cap's perspective.
The bad guys, Boomerang and Constrictor.
Turn 1:
Owing to his Leadership Trait, Captain America rolls a d12 for initiative; between Constrictor and Boomerang, Boomerang has the higher initiative with a d8.  Cap rolls a 12, Boomerang a 7.  Cap goes first.
Cap rolls a 7 on activation, giving him 3 actions.  He uses all three and stands astride the meteor's crater at the end of his turn.
The badguy strategy at this point was to use Constrictor's Entangle, Damaging Aura, and Armor to tie Cap up while Boomerang swoops in to grab the meteor.
Constrictor, however, rolled a 3 for activation, getting a single action.  He moved forward but didn't tie Cap up as needed.  Boomerang rolled a 2, and took his single action to fly over Constrictor with his boot jets and try to put the meteor between himself and Captain America.

Turn 2:
Cap rolled a 4 and got two actions.  He crossed the meteor crater and advanced to Boomerang and threw his shield at the flying villain.  Here, I didn't know exactly what to do.  The Weapon Master trait says to throw at -1 with Agility (d10), but he has Weapon Master at d12.  I rolled a d10 to hit (maybe should have been a d12); not having clear guidance from the rules, I decided that a 1 would mean that the shield would fly past Boomerang and not return, but anything more would mean he would get the shield back (this seems generous - I'm open to suggestions).
Cap rolled an 8, Boomerang a 1.  He hit with 4+ than his opponent, meaning a Major Wound.  Using the play aid I downloaded from the Ganesha Games Song of Blades and Heroes Yahoo! Group, I checked the chart (this is not a part of the rules, but seemed to work well).  Cap rolled a 6 - knockout roll.  Cap rolled a 2, Boomerang a 3, which still meant that Boomerang took a one die hit to his knockout (d8 to d6), was Knocked Down (melee attacks at +1 to hit) and Stunned (cannot use tricks, fate, or bank actions).
Cap closes the distance and knocks Boomerang out of the sky with a shield throw.
Boomerang and Constrictor each rolled one action for activation; Boomerang stood up and removed Knocked Down, but was still Stunned.  Constrictor moved closer, but was still out of contact and out of actions with Cap.

Turn 3:
Cap rolled a 1 and initiative went to the baddies.
Bad guy plan was for Boomerang to use a sonic attack or ranged attack to soften Cap up, while Constrictor closed for the kill.
Boomerang used his sonic attack; I rolled a d8 and, not sure what the defensive die should be (Agility - if so, does Acrobat apply; Strong Willl; Mind?) I used Agility and Cap won.  The sound beam/wave missed.  I realize now that Boomerang was still technically Stunned at this point - not sure whether I needed to remove that first.
Cap faces down Boomerang's sonic attack.
Boomerang chose to get on with the plan - he flew up and over Cap with one action, then spent his last action grabbing the meteor.  Having done that, I realized he should have just skipped the attack and gone for the stone to begin with.
Constrictor rolled a 1 and turned it back to Cap.

Turn 4:
Cap rolled an 8, took his three actions, and ran up behind the currently landed Boomerang, and spent two actions in a Power Blow (+1 die shift to his Weapon Master with the shield, goes to d20) and rolled an 8 to Boomerang's 1.  Applying a house rule I saw at the excellent Chicago Skirmish Wargames site, anything 4+ to hit adds a die shift of damage.  So his Strength went from d10 to d12 for this roll, and he got a 6 to Boomerang's 2 - a 4+ difference, so a Major Damage roll.  Another 6, so another Knockout Roll.  He was reduced to a d6 KO at this point, and rolled a 5 to the 6 previously rolled for damage by Cap - he collapsed in a heap, and dropped the meteor.
Captain America attacks Boomerang with a crushing shield blow, putting the villain out of the fight.
Constrictor rolled a 5 and got two actions.  He closed the distance to Cap and attacked from behind (I didn't see anything in the rules for a bonus for this, so the dice will decide what happens).
Constrictor weighed a few options - Lethal HTH Attack, Entangle, or Damaging Aura.  Damaging Aura gave the best chance to hit, so he employed that.  Cap got a bonus from his Acrobat, so was at d12 instead of d10 (I assume that applies here).  Constrictor rolled a 10, Cap a 4, so I gave Constrictor the positive die shift for damage.
Cap rolled a 5 (+3 for Armor) = 8, Constrictor an 11.  A difference of 3, so a Minor Damage roll.  The result was a knockback.  Cap was knocked straight back and, applying the positive shift in damage roll, went a full 2 x long (about 14") from the electric shock that Constrictor applied.
The shock from Constrictor throws Cap for a loop.  It's a long way to the crater and Constrictor now.
Turn 5:
Cap rolled another 1.  Turn over, but understandable - he just took a bunch of volts.
Constrictor rolled a 4, got two actions, and used one to get to the meteor and another to pick it up.

Turn 6:
Cap rolled a 3, and advanced one Medium move.
Constrictor rolled a 4, got two actions, and made two Short moves in the opposite direction, hoping for an exit off of the board (reduced from Medium to Short because he was carrying the space rock).

Turn 7:
Cap rolled an 8, got three actions.  He advanced with one and threw an aimed shot (+1 die shift).  Reading his stats, I realized that Marksman (d12) for Cap applied, and the +1 shift makes it a d20 to Constrictor's d6 Agility.
Cap rolled a 20, Constrictor a 1.
Rolling on the Major Damage table (4+ difference again), I got a Blinded result - Constrictor must have looked over his shoulder to see how far back Cap was and got beaned in the head for his trouble.  He dropped the meteor and tried to shake off the effects of the hit.  Again, I didn't have a house rule for this, but Cap did roll a 20 to hit, so the shield rebounded back to him.
Cap throws a dead-on shot with his shield, blinding Constrictor.
Constrictor rolled a 2, got one action - less than the two needed to come out of Blinded.  He moved one medium in a random direction, per the effect description.  I rolled a 12 for clock-face determination, got a 2, and shifted him accordingly.  Constrictor went from d8 to d6 Knockout.

Turn 8:
Cap rolled an 8, got three actions.  He advanced two medium and took another shield throw shot as his shield fell into his hands just as he advanced into throwing stance again.  Constrictor, being Blinded, had all attacks at +2 - so another d20 versus d6.
Cap rolled a 5, Constrictor a 1 - back to the Major Damage table.  Knockout Roll, with Constrictor reduced one Knockout value from his previous Major Damage, so a d6 (+2 for his d4 Armor Trait) versus the 5 that Cap rolled to hit.  Constrictor rolled a 6, so still in the game, but Knocked Down and Stunned (and still Blinded).  Not having a rule to say otherwise, Cap got his shield back.
Cap follows up with another shield throw that knocks Constrictor off of his feet.
Constrictor rolled a 5 to activate, so two actions.  He removed Knocked Down and Stunned, but was still Blinded.  Second Major Damage took Constrictor to d4 Knockout.

Turn 9:
Cap rolled a 9, got three actions.  Closed the distance with one, used two in a Power Blow (+1d shift damage) with his shield.
Constrictor was Blinded, so the d12 Weapons Master for Cap went to d20 to hit.  He rolled a 16, Constrictor a 1.  He shifted one die up for the 4+ difference, and another die for the Power Blow.  The damage went from d10 (strength) to d20.
Cap rolled a 12, Constrictor a 2, then got +2 for his d4 Armor Trait; 12 to 4.
On the Major Damage table, Cap rolled a 5, got Slowed (-1 to Activation).
Constrictor, however, would have had his Knockout reduced below d4.  I determined that - new house rule - any reduction below d4 Knockout means that the character is Knocked Out.  Even if it's not explicit in the rules (see p. 12) it makes sense.
Cap delivers rough justice to Constrictor.  Down for the count.
So Cap, being a cast-iron badass, did what we've seen him do on multiple occasions in the comics.  He trounced two medium-strength villains with a mix of pinpoint shield throws and crushing melee blows.

1.  Superheroes are awesome.
2.  This is a more complex game than Song of Blades and Heroes, and necessarily so.  Not only does this incorporate different types of dice (more complex than the SoBH roots from which it derives), but the additional special rules to account for super powers add a good bit of variation.  I highly recommend getting stats set up in the format provided at the aforementioned Dinah Cat of Danger blog, which incorporates Armor into Knockout and provides the Activation roll (can come from Mind, Agility, or a Trait).  You should then copy from the PDF of the game the properties of each Trait that your heroes and villains will have, and print it out.  Example from this game:
3.  I liked the house rule of elevating damage when making a hit with 4+.  Probably a keeper.
4.  Not sure about the dodging of the sonic attack.  Is that an Agility roll?
5.  I need a house rule for when Cap gets his shield back via rebound after using it in a missile attack, and when it flies wide or gets stuck.  I'm open to suggestions.
6.  If there's one area where the game as written falls short, it's in the gaming aids department.  The two pages in the back of the rule book provide coverage of the Major Damage effects well, but fall short in the Minor Damage department.  The damage rules also seem ripe for using the difference between damage rolls as a modifier on damage tables.  The rules let the attacker pick the effect (I think), but it would work better as a game mechanic with a table.
7.  Solo playability is high for Power Legion.  You're just playing out a comic book scenario - it's like being a kid with some superhero figures, plus a few rules.  High marks on that front.
8.  My HeroClix are ripe for some rebasing.  Open to suggestions on that, too.  I've seen some clear bases, plain black bases, and varying terrain bases under HeroClix - let me know what you think works best across varied battlefields.

Well, that's it for now, true believers!  Stay tuned for more playtesting.  I'll eventually put on a campaign or two with Power Legion.


  1. Nice batrep. Good to see Cap knocked down those two lightweights. It's been so long since I played Power Legion (busy doing all sorts of other projects) that my mind was getting a bit boggled at times. I think I need to go back and play with just a couple of characters like you have and refresh my memory.

    1. Thanks. Agreed - I'm going to expand to 2 or 3 to a side and get comfortable with it before doing anything ambitious. I hope that, after a few games, it will get that chess-like feeling that makes Song of Blades and Heroes so enjoyable.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! It's a great set of rules; I look forward to playing some campaigns once I get the rules down.

  3. Have you continued with Power Legion? I personally like it better than SuperSystem 3rd edition, but we found that it was very difficult to hurt characters with Power Legion. Perhaps we were doing something wrong, but it consistently seemed that way over the course of several games.

    It also felt like Ganesha didn't quite follow through to complete the cycle on Power Legion, as the cards and extra bits that were promised to be available for download in the rule book didn't materialize. We ended up going with SuperSystem 4th edition, but I do wish we had been able to make Power Legion work for us, because I think it's a slightly more comic-book feeling rule set.

    1. I don't have any plans to change from Power Legion, but haven't had time to play lately. I am getting into Savage Worlds, which takes a very similar mechanic (different stats get different size dice, d4 through d20), but don't think that it's worth the effort to switch whole hog over to Savage Worlds Supers at this point.

      I do agree with you - it is difficult to hurt characters, both because (1) the damage tables aren't set up very well, and (2) any character with the Armor trait is extra hard to hurt. In one of my posted batreps, Iron Man and one of the Wrecking Crew beat on each other for the duration of the game before one carried the day.

      I also agree - Ganesha Games is not focused on the follow-through for Power Legion. The release of Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes, and all of the follow-on supplements, are clearly the focus.

      Having said that, the rules are sensible and many of the faults of the game could be fixed with a better damage table and house rules. I used a damage table I downloaded from the Ganesha Games Yahoo Group that made things better; you should check it out and modify it to your needs if you ever use this system again.