Written by Josh Bailey
I have to start this article by asking that you give a thought to donating any amount you can to a charity or organization dedicated to assisting the fight against COVID-19 and its impact on vulnerable communities and/or supporting the cause of Black Lives Matter and putting an end to police brutality. It would be the heroic thing to do.
To continue our Why? series here at I Rebel, I wanted to dig into Heroic Mode because I was not sure myself why I would want play on Heroic difficulty. You can read FFG’s announcement article here if you are unfamiliar with the game rules, but it’s basically just dealing each player X extra cards each villain phase. For all of my games described below, X=1 because I am not a masochist.
Something I did not notice the first time I read that announcement article was that Heroic Mode assumes you are already playing on Expert. Personally, I don’t see why that needs to be the case and I am here to say that if you or your community want to play on Standard Heroic or even Rookie Heroic then you should feel free to do so.
My biggest takeaway from exploring Heroic 1 is that it’s a really good option to have for solo players. I mostly play true solo and one of the downsides of that setup is you don’t see much of the encounter deck in a lot of games, so there’s less chance of seeing impactful cards like Shadow of the Past or for encounter deck synergies to start coming into play. Playing on Heroic 1 (at any player count) now means you are getting through the encounter deck faster and a higher percentage of cards are being revealed as opposed to turning up as Boost cards. I used to hardly ever see my nemesis enter play but it happened in about half of my Heroic 1 plays. Also, for the first time ever, I actually saw Explosion get revealed while Bomb Scare was in play.
While it did obviously make all of my games harder, it also somewhat evened out each experience. What I mean by that is, in true solo, only seeing a portion of the encounter cards means that the game difficulty can skew pretty wildly towards easy or difficult depending on which portion of the encounter deck you see. In Heroic, you see most of the cards each time you play, so the overall experience is a little more consistent albeit more difficult.
So between Heroic and Standard/Expert, I see the difficulty being adjustable in two ways: choosing Standard or Expert determines the initial difficulty of the scenario while Heroic adjusts the “pace” or difficulty “ramp” of a scenario. So if you want a fair challenge for a deck that starts out very slowly but gets very powerful, maybe try Standard Heroic. If you have a good early game hero but aren’t sure yet about your overall deck construction, maybe stick to just Expert.
Below are the specific scenarios I tried in Heroic mode over the past week and how I found them to be different from the non-Heroic versions. I focused only on what are seen as the easier scenarios currently available because I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out what happens if you play Klaw, Ultron, or Mutagen Formula on Heroic.
The first scenario I tried out in Heroic mode was Expert Rhino with the Bomb Scare modular. I have to say, I got a lot of enjoyment out of this scenario which is not something I’ve been able to say about Rhino in a while. The difficulty is there while still being straightforward. This made it a good challenge to test the new Black Widow cards against as it doesn’t require much mental energy to run the encounter side so you can focus on how your deck is performing, but it’s also not so easy that you don’t get an honest assessment of your playing. Revealing additional encounter cards means that a Charge into a Stampede or Gang-Up is a possibility you always have to be prepared for, and as I said up top I actually had to take some damage from Explosion. Unless I am teaching a new player, I will probably never play Rhino on anything less than Heroic 1 again, but I am much happier to get this scenario out now.
This scenario suffers from being a little too easy to control as you can just stay in hero form nearly forever while you set up if you just keep the Criminal Enterprise tokens down to a reasonable level then start dealing damage to close out the game. However, with so many “When Revealed” effects and boost abilities adding tokens to Criminal Enterprise or removing tokens from State of Madness, revealing an extra card every turn makes it a lot harder to maintain control over the encounter deck. Criminal Enterprise can get so many tokens on it that it can outpace your damage potential (as I found playing Protection Black Widow), or you can have a hard time getting enough damage on Green Goblin before he flips back to make it worth taking the indirect damage for flipping him over in the first place. Overall, though, I found that Heroic made the scenario more difficult to win without making you much more likely to lose. That is to say that it becomes more of a slog than it is a rewarding challenge. Even in Heroic, I probably still won’t bring this scenario out too often.
The Ultimate Spider-Man Challenge
Not as in Ultimate Spider-Man, but a challenge that is so far the most Spider-Man-y you can get. Rather than upgrading the difficulty of a given scenario, I thought I could use Heroic mode to cram more modulars into an encounter deck and offset the bloated deck size with the additional cards revealed per turn. I again played Expert Rhino on Heroic 1, but added the Mess of Things, Power Drain, and Running Interference modulars instead of the single Bomb Scare set. This got as many big Spider-Man villains into one scenario as I could. I originally thought about doing this in Risky Business instead of Rhino, but after my less-than-positive experience with that scenario just before, I wanted to go back to the more fun Rhino scenario. I considered taking out Shadow of the Past and adding in Vulture’s set from the beginning but I decided to play it straight. I may have to go back and try it again that way in the future. I built a Leadership Spider-Man deck to take on this challenge. In the end, the encounter deck was unable to pull off any big combos like with Tail Sweep or Media Coverage into some bad treachery, but I did have to fight off every minion in the deck with the exception of Electro before I won the scenario. It felt very thematic and was a lot of fun.
The Wrecking Crew
Finally, I wanted to test Heroic mode in The Wrecking Crew, which honestly I was a little worried about given that the encounter decks are already pretty thin. It turns out this wasn’t really an issue as I always won or lost before any of the decks were depleted. As I was setting it up, I realized I never actually played against Expert Wrecking Crew before. The scenario takes up so much space and can be annoying to manage so I don’t play it very much except to show it off to new players on the Standard difficulty. The main challenge Heroic brought in was all of the additional attack effects that are present throughout the encounter decks, which I never really appreciated before. I started off playing kinda fast and loose as I usually do, ignoring threat and just trying to spam damage until I win. This left me vulnerable when I took my third attack of the villain phase without having much of a plan for defending it. You can also chain into a lot of threat placement which means I got hit by three or four of the side scheme effects in a single phase. Once I got used to how much incoming damage to plan for and tried to keep threat a little low, it again became a fairly straightforward scenario to defeat. It helped that I was running an updated version of this Cap-and-Hulk deck that is pretty potent in solo. If you want a scenario that is total chaos to the point you never what is going to happen in the villain phase, Heroic Wrecking Crew is for you. It’s still a lot of moving parts to manage, and even more so in Heroic, so I’m not often in the mood for it.
Overall I highly recommend trying out Heroic in any given scenario that has lost a little bit of luster for you, especially in solo. It is now my default for playing Rhino and I think I’ll be playing a lot more of that scenario in particular now. I haven’t tried it yet but I don’t have much desire to go beyond Heroic 1, based on how annoying Stage 2 of Risky Business was with its extra encounter card. I also hope that we get more mini-boss focused modular sets as in the Green Goblin scenario pack so that you can use Heroic to offset having multiple sets in a single scenario and allow for some fun villain team-ups.
Thank you for reading.
Any support you can give to an organization supporting people through all the hardships they are experiencing right now would be very appreciated. If you don’t already have certain groups in mind, here are a few ideas and resources to get you started.