Strategy

Sentinels of the Multiverse Strategy: Omnitron-X

Continuing my trend of picking heroes that, perhaps, aren’t as clear-cut on their effectiveness…I present to you a breakdown of Omnitron-X who, surprisingly, could be counted among one of my most-played heroes to date. I think only Fanatic is a certainty for more usage, as he has secretly become my go-to support character when forming a trio of heroes to face down a baddie. This comes after my first few games with him where I was completely underwhelmed by his deck, since my first Sentinels product I owned was Shattered Timelines (so I had two heroes to select from…) and I had little choice at the time. But he’s definitely grown on me – especially when paired with Unity but even without her he plays extremely well on most any team. So let’s dive right in!

The two versions of Omnitron-X

Standard version Omnitron-X – 25 HP, Power: Timeshift – Reveal the top card of a deck. Put it into play or into the trash.

I don’t own his variant yet, so this is almost exclusively the version of Omnitron-X I am bringing to the battle. And honestly, I’m okay with that as I would probably stick to this more often than naught. His health is obviously on the lower end of the spectrum for heroes, but as you’ll see he has plenty of mitigation options baked onto the deck to preserve him over the course of a battle. But the real positive here is that power, which lets him accelerate a hero’s deck through additional plays/discards. This is what makes him a natural partner with Unity, who can play bots faster through him. I almost always place his deck first in the lineup, so I can set up whatever hero is needing a boost on their board state for the upcoming turn (or, in some situations, to let Omnitron-X himself get a little more advancement)

Omnitron-U version Omnitron-X – 24 HP, Power: Volatile Wiring – Until the end of your next turn, whenever one of your cards is Destroyed, Omnitron-U deals 1 Target 2 Fire Damage. Either Play a card or move 1 Equipment card from your Trash into your Hand.

This version of Omnitron-X is less focused on providing support and more on dropping some damage and cycling cards. Much like the Villain version of Omnitron, there are cards which get destroyed upon taking enough damage in one round, so this version can at least strike back when that occurs. There are also cards where Omnitron-X destroys his own cards to do an effect, and this helps leverage more benefit out of those effects by adding in extra damage and giving more plays or pulling cards from the discard. While I personally prefer him in his normal version, this variant does provide some fun and interesting plays you can make that elevates him to a pretty strong level of power.

Opening Moves

Obviously, with no way to mulligan a bad hand an the restriction of drawing 4 cards, there are limited ways to affect this. You’re at the mercy of the card draw. However, these are the cards that get me excited when I see them to open play and why they are great this early in the game.

Technological Advancement – Search your deck for a Plating or Component card. Put it into play. Shuffle your deck. You may Draw a card.

With four copies of this in the game, an ideal opening hand would almost be to have all four of these in your hand at the beginning. It lets you dig for the exact card you want from his deck, put it into play, and lets you draw another card afterwards. Getting 1-2 at the start means it’ll be a good opening of the game for Omnitron-X, as he is pretty lackluster (apart from providing the extra card play to a hero) without any Component or Plating cards to drop onto the board. If I have one of these in hand, it is almost guaranteed to be my opening card played (unless I have the Component or Plating I need in my hand).

The Plating Cards

There are three different plating cards, and each of them reduces different types of damage by 2. The better you know a Villain and/or Environment, the better you’ll know which of these you need. But usually you can have some inkling from the Villain card and their first turn regarding what type of damage might be predominant. And when in a battle that is predominantly one type of damage, such as taking on Iron Legacy, that constant reduction of damage helps Omnitron-X stick around. This becomes especially helpful once he becomes the highest HP hero, as many decks tend to target that hero and the reduction helps ensure he remains high. The only downside is that there can never be more than one plating in play – but at least you return any other Plating in play to your hand rather than discarding it.

Electro-Deployment Unit – At the start of your turn, either Draw or Play a card. If Omnitron-X is dealt 5 or more Damage in one turn, destroy this card.

Every deck is better when accelerated, and this one is no exception. Getting his Components out makes his deck more effective and capable of doing more. This provides either card draw to find the cards you need, or an extra play to get out the cards you have. Getting out a Plating will help this stick around a little longer, although playing it early enough should (in theory) allow you to get at least a turn or two of usage from the card before it runs the risk of being destroyed.

Reactive Plating Subroutine – Whenever Omnitron-X is dealt Damage of a type currently reduced by a Plating card, Omniton-X deals 1 Target 2 Damage of that type.

Eventually something will probably come along that deals 3+ damage of a specific type, and if Omnitron-X is prepared for it he can make sure that damage to him gets dealt back to something on the board. While I’m not saying I dislike getting hit for 0, but it can be disappointing to have this card out and not get to use it often. However, there are few cards I’d rather have out before this because it gives him some natural, out-of-turn ways to deal damage that could, theoretically, destroy something bad before it gets the chance to attack during a Villain turn.

***

Most of what I focus on in the beginning with Omnitron-X is getting his defenses up and helping accelerate decks. While he has some fun Components that I’ll be covering in the next section, I find myself now focusing more on defense first and attack power later for his early game. I’ll never object to dropping out an early Focused Plasma Cannon or Rocket Punch, but these are the cards I’d prioritize first. I also tend to, at this point, use the Omnitron-X base power on other Hero decks to help them get set up quickly because they typically have a higher potential for consistent damage in their decks. Not that Omnitron-X is incapable of some good, solid damage dealing…


Mid-Game Strategies

This is where Omnitron-X usually shifts focus to getting his own toys out, now that the other heroes I’m running have a slightly better board state. Hopefully the Plating is doing its job and keeping his incoming damage down to a minimum, making it safer to play some of these cards that go away if he gets hit too hard and too often. This is the point where he’s either ramping up in usefulness, or else trying to reestablish his board. The latter is frustrating, as he needs a healthy set of cards in play to really hold his own beyond a support role.

Rocket Punch – Power: Omnitron-X deals 1 Target 2 Projectile Damage. Omnitron-X may deal 1 Target 1 Projectile Damage.

This is a fine card to have out at any time, and I’d rarely complain about getting this one in play early. Dropping damage is always useful, and it is nice having a second Power to choose from, especially when getting extra Power activatons from other cards.

Focused Plasma Cannon – At the start of your turn, Omnitron-X may deal 1 Target 2 Irreducible Fire Damage. If Omnitron-X is dealt 5 or more Damage in one turn, destroy this card.

Better and worse than the above card, this one doesn’t require the use of a Power each turn and deals irreducible damage. That can be super-helpful in battles against foes such as The Chairman. However, the caveat is that you can’t take huge spikes of damage. Even with the proper plating, it is possible for the wrong combination of cards to come out from an Environment and/or Villain deck to make this card disappear, sometimes before it even gets to trigger. That makes this card more of a gamble than something like Rocket Punch, even if it is an arguably better card overall.

Slip Through Time – At the end of your Turn you may Play a card and use a Power. At the start of your turn, Destroy this card.

I hate having this card too early, and it almost always seems like I get one in my starting hand and the second as one of my first draws. The problem is that it isn’t always going to help if you don’t have two different Powers to use because you cannot reuse the same Power on the same turn. Honestly, that’s the one and only drawback of this card. Well, besides it only sticking around for one use unless you get lucky enough to play against Wager Master, and see him reverse the play order after you’ve played this card. Getting the extra play isn’t helpful, because you have to play this card to gain that. And with only three cards in his deck bestowing a Power, you may need to hang onto this card for a few turns just to make use of it.

Bio-Engineering Beam – Power: Destroy an Environment card. Omniton-X deals 1 non-Hero Target 2 Energy Damage.

This may be one of my other big reasons to bring Omnitron-X as my support character of choice. It is unfortunately situational, as there needs to be an Environment card in play to use the power – but it is a fantastic way to help control that deck. This is the card I love to have out and use with my Slip Through Time extra Power because it lets me deal damage, destroy a card, and I can still use the base Omnitron-X Power to give a Hero deck a card Play/Discard from the top of their deck. Some Environments you won’t want or need to use this one. Other times this is essential enough to warrant an earlier play of the card.

Disruptive Flechettes – Destroy up to 2 Ongoing Cards. Omnitron-X deals each non-Hero Target 2 Projectile Damage.

This is another situational card, as some Villain decks rely on Ongoing cards more than others. This is an opening move against someone like Iron Legacy, or even against Omnitron the villain. Slowing their board down is what is needed to gain the upper hand, and the middle of the game is usually where it becomes essential for victory. This is a beautiful card because it not only destroys some Ongoings, which is worth its weight in gold, but it also drops damage on everything. This could, with a single +1 Damage boost, wipe Grand Warlord Voss’s swarm of minions. Following this up with a Power like Bio-Engineering Beam means you can really swing the board in one single turn. And it is for turns like that where Omnitron-X can make a case for MVP on a team of heroes.

Reset – Shuffle your Trash into your Deck. You may Draw a card. You may Play a card.

This is better than a free card, as it replaces itself in your hand with a new card AND lets you play another card after that. Add in the benefit of shuffling those Flechettes back into your deck, or something similar, and you have a card that is rarely what you want to draw but is never one you are sad to have in your hand. As long as there is a single card in my discard, I’ll probably play this one the turn it enters my hand. I’ll even consider it with an empty discard, knowing there are several copies of this I could draw into later and play to shuffle that back into my deck. This goes here rather than in the next section simply because by the end game, you want to be set up for something big. But this is equally good at any point in time during a fight.

***

The mid-game Omnitron-X is either going to be a rock star for your team, or he’s going to be throwing out a little support as he can and scrambling to try and get something set up for the end game. I’ve had it go both ways, and even when he gets his board wiped he is still useful in his base form because of that extra card movement through a deck. At this point he’s probably not dropping a lot of damage, but can be dropping some consistent damage with the irreducible fire damage or the Gaussian Coil Blaster (which deals 1 damage to up to 3 targets at the start of his turn). He can also provide consistent healing with the Innervation Ray (heal 1 HP on up to 3 Hero Targets). A lot of Omnitron-X depends on what you draw, what you need, and how the Villain or Environment is affecting your plans. Because his best cards are arguably easiest to destroy, that makes him suffer sometimes as a consistent contributor.

Omnitron-X’s Closers

Here is where, if your board has remained mostly in tact, Omnitron-X can help bring down something in large chunks. It isn’t something you’ll want to do too early or too late, and probably only happens in a major way once per game. But if he can get that setup going and keep it protected, he can really speed up the end of a battle. Especially on the Omnitron-U variant.

Singularity – Destroy any number of Equipment cards. Omnitron-X deals each non-Hero Target X Lightning Damage, where X is the number of Equipment cards Destroyed by this card.

Self Sabotage – Destroy any number of Component cards. Omnitron-X deals 1 Target X Energy Damage, where X is the number of Component cards destroyed by this card times 2.

This is, quite literally, the one-two punch of Omnitron-X. Yes, it sets your board state backwards – thus the reason it is more of an End Game play for the battle. Depending on the flow of things and the cards in hand, it is possible to use one or both of these twice in a battle. Especially if you know there is a ticking timebomb, such as Fanatic playing End of Days. Knowing that you have a few Reset cards in the deck makes this something you can repeat several times in a longer fight, and it can really drop the board and one big enemy quickly. Especially using the Omnitron-U version to add an extra 2 Damage per card being destroyed. Just don’t pull the trigger too early without a plan in place, as it can really slow your own state down to a crawl once it happens. This is best when playing with other Heroes who can give extra draws or plays to Omnitron-X afterwards so he can quickly reset any essential cards.

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Closing thoughts

Overall, I have grown to like Omnitron-X far more than I ever anticipated from my first plays of him. He is flexible enough to fit with almost any team of heroes, and works fine against many of the Villains in the game. Ones that hit really hard make it a challenge to really be effective, as 5 damage in one round can happen from just a single unlucky card flip from some decks. However, most Villains stick among a particular type of damage, making it easy enough to reduce at least some of the damage coming in. And while I’ll probably never think of him as a control deck or as a damage dealer, he can definitely fit into both roles with the cards inside of his deck.

There are definitely certain heroes, such as Unity, whom benefit more from his presence on the team. But there are very few Heroes who would object to playing an extra card off the top of their deck and only a few Environments that you wouldn’t really benefit from a way to consistently destroy Environment cards. He can feel overpowered in one fight, and then when setting up the same setup he can feel underpowered in the next. His board state is what really drives his usefulness beyond the supporting card play. Which I suppose is fitting for this hero, because fights against the villain Omnitron can feel the same way at times.

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Strategy

Chrono-Ranger Strategy Guide

It has been a while since my last strategy guide. Life got hectic, and I got backed up on games to review. I’m finding more and more that I want to focus on strategies for a few great games rather than hopping from new release to new release so look for these sorts of articles to appear more often. Right now my intent is to dive into some strategy for these three games to begin:

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Millennium Blades

So stay tunes, as I hope to hit all three of them in January at some point.

But you aren’t here for the future. Rather, you are here to learn how to better manage a time traveling cowboy: Chrono-Ranger.

The two versions of Chrono-Ranger


Standard version Chrono-Ranger – 28 HP, Power: Quick Shot – Chrono-Ranger deals 1 Target 1 Projectile damage.

This version of Chrono-Ranger is pretty darn vanilla, but it gives you a taste of what to expect throughout his entire deck. He’s going to shoot things, and shoot them often. You’ll see a lot of projectile damage being distributed, and most of the time it is a small number like this one being dealt. That might lead you to believe he’s a pretty weak hero, but you’d be wrong. He’s got some cards in his deck that will allow him, and his allies, to ramp up the damage being dropped on whatever you are facing. So while his power here isn’t going to wow anyone, the consistent ability to place damage is a welcome inclusion and works well against any villain that doesn’t contain damage reduction.

The Best of Times version Chrono-Ranger – 29 HP, Power: True Purpose – Select a non-Hero Target. Until the next time you use a Power, all Bounty Cards also affect that Target and are not destroyed when that Target leaves play.

Here’s the sweet spot version of Chrono-Ranger. He needs some cards out to make use of this Power, but odds are you’re going to want to drop out Bounty cards anyway. Being able to make a Bounty card affect a 2nd Target, and keep that Bounty in play if that Target dies, makes this a really strong variant to play. Yes, he’s going to forego the use of a damage-dealing Power himself by using this. But think of this as an almost Bard-like approach: he’s buffing the rest of the team so they can be more effective on their next turn. This is a great variant to use when facing a deck that likes to drop big, or threatening, cards into play that need taken down fast. Tune into the next section, dedicated solely to bounties, to find out why!

The Bounty Cards

By Any Means – Play this card next to a non-Hero Target. Increase Damage dealt to that Target by 1. When that Target leaves play, destroy this card.

Simple, yet effective. This helps you gun down any one non-Hero in play. Yes, this can target the villain card – which is one of the more obvious ways to use the card. However, those decks can have some really nasty surprises in there that you’ll want to deal with and this can also be a great way to eliminate those in a hurry – thus the previous endorsement for the Best of Times version of Chrono-Ranger. You can put this on the villain, and then use his Power as needed to boost damage to whatever comes into play. Best of all about that approach is it will help keep the Bounty card in play for the entire game.

Dead or Alive – Play this card next to a non-Hero Target. At the start of your turn, Chrono-Ranger regains 1 HP. When that Target leaves play, draw 1 card and destroy this card.

This Bounty offers versatility in how you want to use it: put it on something that won’t die soon for the constant HP gain, or drop it on something small for the card draw when it leaves play. And, honestly, it becomes extremely situational. If I am still seeking some key cards to make Chrono-Ranger’s deck run optimally, I’ll likely go for the card draw (unless he’s hurting for health). However, there are better Bounty cards for card draw so the health is likely the better play more often than not.

Kill on Sight – Play this card next to a non-Hero Target. When that Target leaves play, draw 3 cards and destroy this card.

Three times better than Dead or Alive, at least in terms of the card draw. This is one of the best Bounty cards to have in an opening hand as it can really help accelerate the deck. Add in the fact that there are ways to cycle Bounty cards back out from the Discard pile and you’ve got a hero who could potentially cycle most of his deck in a game. You’ll always want to drop this onto the Target most likely to die next. Well, almost always, but we’ll talk about that during the Closers section.

No Executions – Play this card next to a non-Character card Target. When that Target would be destroyed, put it on the bottom of its deck instead. Then destroy this card.

This card may seem underwhelming at first glance. And let’s be honest, most games you won’t be ecstatic to draw this Bounty card. However, there is a very good reason to keep this one around: some decks have really scary cards. Like, you’re going to be in a world of hurt if it comes out. If a deck has any manner of reshuffling, this can be a way to thicken that deck back up with a less intimidating card. It can also be a good way to move out a card that can be pulled from the trash, such as the Goon cards with The Chairman. However, the most interesting way to use this is on the heroes’ cards (that qualify as Targets), allowing you to get them back into your deck if they are destroyed.

The Ultimate Target – Play this card next to a non-Hero Target. Increase Damage dealt by Chrono-Ranger to that Target by 1. The first time that Target deals Damage each turn, you may use a Power.

This is arguably the ultimate Bounty in the deck as it lets you get a free Power usage when that Target deals damage. Suddenly The Best of Times usage isn’t so bad, as you sacrifice one Power usage on your turn to have two cards being the Target of this Bounty. Which means you then swing back twice, dealing an extra damage to each of them. And, if you are set up well, this becomes a lethal situation for the villain…as seen when we talk about Closers.

The Whole Gang – Play this card next to a non-Hero Target. When that Target leaves play, you may destroy a Target with 4 or fewer HP. Then, destroy this card.

As a self-professed lover of Fanatic, this Bounty definitely reminds me of a favorite card of mine: Final Dive. However, it is different enough in the effect. Being able to focus down one target and remove a 2nd one in the process is fantastic. Even better is using this on something that has damage reduction, allowing you to bypass the slow and painful process of killing them (assuming you can get them down to 4 HP).

Opening Moves

Any bounty cards in your hand, with maybe the exception of No Executions, is a good opening draw and a fine first turn or two of play with Chrono-Ranger. He takes a little time to set up – he’s not bad out of the gate on his normal version as he can at least do some damage, but you want to be doing more than 1 damage per Power. Here are a few other cards that are nice to see, and play, early in the game for Chrono-Ranger:

Sudden Contract – Search your deck for a Bounty card and put it into play. Shuffle your deck. Chrono-Ranger may deal 1 Target 1 Projectile Damage.

This is arguably the best card to see in an opening hand. With four copies in the deck, I’d even be okay with seeing an opening hand of just this card. Getting Bounties out is one of the key engines for Chrono-Ranger, and being able to pull one out each turn (and put it into play) while also dropping a bit of damage is nice. Better yet, the first play of it should pull out either The Ultimate Target or By Any Means to make that 1 damage a 2 instead. The 2nd use of this would be to snag Kill on Sight, unless you’re desperate for healing or getting swarmed by targets with 4 or less HP.

Displaced Armory – Search your deck or trash for an Equipment card and put it into play. If you searched your deck, shuffle your deck. Chrono-Ranger may deal 1 Target 1 Projectile Damage.

This one is excellent for an opening hand because you’re almost always going to search your deck for whatever card you’re wanting. And when you do, you’re dropping down a little extra damage. What would you want to pull with this card? Well, that depends on who you are facing and what is currently in play. In my mind there are three ideal candidates early in the game:

Jim’s Hat – You may play an additional card during your play phase. At the start of your turn, you may destroy a Bounty card.

This one is the obvious choice to pull for Equipment cards, as it helps accelerate your board state by letting you play an extra card and, if desired, destroy one of those Bounty cards you currently have in play. No matter what the situation is like, this is always a good card to get into play as cheating in extra card plays every turn can help you get ahead of the curve.

Temporal Grenade – Power: Chrono-Ranger deals up to 3 Targets 1 Energy Damage each. You may destroy 1 Ongoing or Environment card. Destroy this card.

A week ago this card wouldn’t even have made it into the article as I severely undervalued this Power. It isn’t even about the dealing damage to 3 targets – although that can be nice (especially if boosted by someone like Legacy). Early in the game, the wrong Environment or Ongoing card can wreck your game. It can slow your decks down so much that the villain gets the upper-hand and maintains that advantage. This was never so apparent as when I finally challenged Iron Legacy last week. Getting this into play when you know there is a card you’ll want to auto-remove in the deck is a helpful defensive maneuver, and that peace of mind can make this worth pulling and playing early.

Neuro-Toxin Dart Thrower – Power: Chrono-Ranger deals 1 Target 1 Toxic Damage. Reduce Damage dealt by that Target by 1 until the start of your next turn.

Previously my go-to here would have been Compounded Bow instead, as it deals 1 damage and 1 damage to a target – essentially doubling Chrono-Ranger’s attack power each turn. However, wisdom has shown me that the damage reduction could be even more important early in the game than a small increase in power. Unless you are playing on a team with some solid healing, every damage reduced is helping to extend the well-being of your entire team as they get things set up to lay the smack down on the villain. If I am running The Best of Times variant of Chrono-Ranger and don’t have an impressive hand of cards at the moment, this would be the Equipment card I’d probably dig for over Jim’s Hat.

Eye on the Prize – Chrono-Ranger may deal 1 Target 1 Projectile Damage. You may draw a card. You may play a card.

The name of the early game with this guy is accelerating his deck, and this does that by giving you an extra draw and an extra play. Bonus points for dropping down a little damage which, if you got out something to boost his damage in Turn 1, this becomes a really nice card to play on Turn 2.

***

An overall tactic that I tend to employ with Chrono-Ranger is to get set up as quickly as possible. I used to believe that meant getting his damage increased and start hitting as hard and as fast as possible, but my mentality has shifted a little to getting those extra card draws and plays as being the ideal early game for Chrono-Ranger. The extra damage doesn’t hurt, of course, and if you have some early threats that need eliminated he can help fulfill that role pretty well by increasing everyone’s damage. But ideally, his deck is about setting up for some really wild turns later in the game.

Mid-Game Strategies

This is where Chrono-Ranger can really start to hit his stride. He’s likely not to the point where he’s dropping bonkers damage on the board, but usually this is where 2-3 Bounty cards are consistently cycling into play and back out of the discard pile. All of the aforementioned cards are still great here, but there are a few more cards that really start to function well at this stage of the game (generally speaking).

Ranger’s Mark – Select 1 Bounty card from your trash and put it into play. Chrono-Ranger may deal 1 Target 1 Projectile Damage.

This is one of the key cards that can make this deck hum along. The key is to be aware there are only three copies of this in the deck, so while you want to be cycling those Bounty cards back into play you also don’t want to feel like you’ve made an inferior choice later in the game about how you used these. This card offers you the flexibility to put those Bounty cards on cards from the villain or environment deck, knowing you can resurface that card to put on the main villain when the time comes to focus them down. And, as per the norm with Chrono-Ranger, he’s also pinging them for a little damage in the process (which is likely boosted by now)

Terrible Tech-Strike – Chrono-Ranger deals 1 Target 2 Melee Damage. Chrono-Ranger deals 1 Target 1 Projectile Damage.

Okay, so this card is a fine opener. You always want to do damage, and dropping 3 damage early can be really helpful in a pinch. However, if you happen to have his two damage-boosting Bounty cards out then this becomes a 4 and a 3 instead, making it far more bang for that card play. That can wipe out a stubborn foe, or just drop a chunk off the big baddie. So while this is always a good card to play, it should be at the very least getting boosted by 1 at this point to make it an even stronger play.

Danny-Boy – Power: Chrono-Ranger deals up to X Targets 2 Fire Damage each, where X = the number of Bounty cards in play.

This piece of equipment becomes the star in the middle of the game because it allows you to hit several targets with a single power. Usually at this point you’re pushing back against the swarm of cards a villain pumped out early, and few heroes can distribute even damage like Chrono-Ranger on a consistent basis. If you have a few Bounty cards in play, and you almost always will want to have 2 or more out, you’ll be able to whittle down the ranks of foes. This is especially good in a Vengeance mode, where you have multiple villains to take down. This isn’t the card you look toward to win you the game, but it helps make the board manageable so that you can isolate the big baddie and focus them down.

***

The mid-game Chrono-Ranger is a lot like the early game Chrono-Ranger, except you’ve hopefully got a few Bounty cards in play. His damage curve should be steadily rising, and you’ll likely find yourself dealing damage virtually every time you play a card and every time you use a Power – his deck is built to drop damage often. His strength here is in board control, because he can almost always do damage and he can hit multiple enemies and boost his attack power AND can use The Whole Gang in order to drop off an additional weakened enemy when he destroys someone else. If this was Chrono-Ranger at his best, he’d still be a solid choice of a teammate. And some battles will never get past this point – either because they never run long enough or the card draws just don’t let you set up the ultimate Chrono-Ranger mode. But when he does get set up…

Chrono-Ranger’s Closers

Chrono-Ranger gets scary toward the end if everything goes well. His damage levels can be impressive, as you’ll see via these three cards. Really only two of them are essential, but the third one (listed first) is just as important at times to make sure he gets set up and remains set up to destroy the enemy as quickly as possible.

Bounty Board – Move all Bounty cards from your trash into your hand. Chrono-Ranger may deal 1 Target 1 Projectile Damage.

There are only two copies of this in the deck, so they should never be burned through lightly. These return to the hand, so having Jim’s Hat to play extra cards will be essential to get set back up as quickly as possible, but this card is great because it allows you to pull every Bounty card back from the trash. So you can use them in the early game to deal with the smaller foes and still retrieve them in time to place them on the bigger threat. Which leads to…

Hunter and Hunted – Increase Damage dealt to and by Chrono-Ranger by the number of Bounty cards in play.

You do NOT want to play this card too early, as it can hurt Chrono-Ranger as much as it helps him. However, the hope would be that this card comes out during the final turn, or the penultimate turn of a game to massively spike Chrono-Ranger’s damage. There are 6 Bounty cards, so adding +6 to your attack is nothing to sneeze at, especially since that would mean you probably already have an extra +2 from having By Any Means and The Ultimate Target on that card as well. And then toss in…

The Masadah – Power: Chrono-Ranger deals 1 Target X Irreducible Energy Damage, where X = the number of Bounty cards in play.

Let’s do some math here: The power potential, assuming no boosts from anyone other than Chrono-Ranger, would be 6 Bounty cards + 6 from Hunter and Hunted + 1 from By Any Means and +1 from The Ultimate Target. This fires off for 14 damage, and if you had Jim’s Hat in play you probably played a card after dropping Hunter and Hunted, which if you played something like Terrible Tech-Strike you’re dropping another 10/9 on the Target. So in a perfect world, you’re looking at dropping around 33 damage in a single turn and, by this point, that should be enough to finish off whatever you’re facing. And if that doesn’t kill it? Well, if it hits you during its next turn you’ll get to use a Power (thanks to The Ultimate Target) for another 14 damage. Assuming you survive.

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Closing thoughts

Overall, Chrono Ranger starts slow but has a massive spike in damage output near the end. I’m yet to hit this theoretical power level in a game, but knowing he can achieve this makes him a top-tier damage dealer in my books. Damage reduction can slow him down immensely early on, but if you can ride out those first turns he should even be able to start dumping consistent damage on even the most stubborn of Targets in the game. I find that most games he ends up being an above average contributor, able to whittle away chunks of damage while helping to boost everyone else’s damage potential. Being able to do +1 damage across the board to the main villain is worthwhile enough to make me want to consider including him any time I’m building a team of heroes.

He pairs best with someone who can boost his damage, especially early. Making that 1 damage on most of his cards into a 2 or a 3 can become a game changer. Additionally, anyone who offers healing or damage reduction can be a great pairing for getting out Hunter and Hunted earlier into the game. He’s got enough card draws in his deck that he doesn’t necessarily need a Tachyon to help with that, although it never hurts, and the same applies to getting extra card plays. He’s a lethal hero to bring in paired with several other damage dealers, and equally as lethal if just paired with support characters whose role is to help Chrono-Ranger do more things every round. He’s a flexible fit into almost any situation, and he’ll almost always be able to carry his weight even if the villains and environments prevent him from ever getting set up effectively. He’s easily one of my favorite heroes in the game, just because he is rarely dead weight in a match because, even when everything goes wrong for his deck, he’s still able to accomplish something most turns (especially when using his base character card).

Coming Soon…

Depending on how things go, I plan to visit these more often. Right now, based on my current card pool that I own, my intention is to visit Omnitron-X as the next hero covered as I’ve used him a fair amount already, he came in the same box as Chrono-Ranger, and I finally got to see him at his full potential last week against The Chairman.

However…

Should a copy of Oblivaeon enter my possession in the near future, that will certainly change to La Comadora because she is one of my new favorite characters in the game and I want a reason/opportunity to explore playing her even more.

Lord of the Rings LCG · Strategy

LotR LCG Strategy: A Hobbit Deck with Minimal Investment

One of the biggest questions that recurs in forums and Facebook groups about the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is what to purchase after the Core Set. I wrote a post almost a year ago highlighting my own speculations on where to go next, and so here is a sort of follow-up post to that one.

My initial purchases were going into the Dream-Chaser Cycle (Grey Havens), and I also got a Sands of Harad deluxe at Christmas time due to the unavailability of The Black Riders. But I always knew that the Hobbits were the ones for me and my playstyle.

Now that I am nearly 100 logged plays (in about a 12-month period) into my second plunge of this great game, most of them being solo, it is time to expound on my thoughts for a great first deck to chase. The Hobbit deck won’t match everyone’s playstyle. There are a few other great deck archetypes out there to pursue that might match yours better, and I plan to explore a few of them soon myself (Rohan first, then Dwarves, then Silvan). But I will always be a Hobbit player, first and foremost.

So to address the question of where to begin, here is why I would recommend The Black Riders as a starting point for new players after the Core Set:

  • This deluxe comes with a fairly complete and functional deck that has solid synergy out of the box. Even without any additional purchases, this deck can be used effectively on a reasonable number of quests.
  • This deluxe provides three heroes rather than the typical two you’d find in other Deluxe boxes.
  • This is the starting point for the Saga quests, which are designed to be a solid starting point for new players and, from my understanding, were designed so that even a player with just a Core Set could play and defeat the quests (losses are to be expected, but they are not insurmountable quests).
  • With only two additional purchases (a Saga box and an Adventure pack – $45 MSRP investment) this deck goes from good to great by adding Rosie Cotton and Fast Hitch into the mix.

Those are good to hear, but what you really want to know is how the deck ticks, right? How can someone effectively pilot a Hobbit deck, especially if it plays differently than some of the other decks out there? Luckily, I can help with that. And to sweeten things a bit, I have also constructed a Hobbit deck on RingsDB using only a single Core Set, the Black Riders box, the Dead Marshes Adventure Pack, and the Mountain of Fire box so you can see an idea of how the deck would look with that minimal purchase. I will also make recommendations on other cards in the Saga cycle that would be worthwhile to include, as that would be the sensible next set of purchases if you start down this road.

A Hobbit Deck, a brief snapshot:

http://www.ringsdb.com/decklist/view/9724/low-investment-hobbit-deck-1.0

  • The Heroes: This is a pretty standard lineup, and the one I’ve almost always used in there. Sam Gamgee is the MVP of the deck, thanks to his higher willpower and his ability to ready when engaging an enemy with higher threat. He is the Hobbit that I build up to be both a quester and a defender whenever possible and allow him to throw in an attack from time to time if he really gets built up with Fast Hitch, etc. to ready him more often. Merry is the other critical component in this deck, as he starts with 3 attack in this setup (and 4 when playing through the Saga quests thanks to Frodo being a hero). He, of course, gets stacked with anything that makes him hit harder or be able to attack more often. He is likely the 2nd Hobbit to get a Fast Hitch (the first going on Sam) so he can either quest and attack, or attack multiple enemies per turn. Finally is Pippin, whose abilities are solid but is honestly in here solely for access to Fast Hitch for the increased readying ability on the heroes. But his abilities do come in handy, increasing the engagement cost of all enemies in the staging area and allowing a card draw when engaging an enemy with a higher engagement. If I didn’t need Fast Hitch in the deck, I would likely look toward Spirit Frodo (Conflict at the Carrock) to fill that spot as a secondary defender, someone who could absorb direct damage treacheries (or effects like Archery), and someone who could absorb an undefended attack in a pinch.
  • The Allies: In this deck there are four standout allies, each for varying reasons, and then a swarm of cheaper allies to help you defend while building up those Hobbit heroes in the early game. The MVP of allies is Rosie Cotton, who may not seem like much at first glance. However, her ability helps shine, as she can contribute to powering up Willpower, Attack, or Defense when needed (and it will be needed!). Farmer Maggot is a notable inclusion for two reasons: he is a Hobbit ally, making him a candidate for Raise the Shire if you have a Rosie, and because he drops damage onto an enemy you’re engaged with (making it even better when combined with Raise the Shire). Barliman Butterbur is a good ally to have around because he can take your undefended attacks, allowing you to be slightly more reckless in your decisions on how to attack and defend and who to hold back from questing. And Bill the Pony is that lonely card that seems simple but is so vital. Bill can help quest each turn, but that isn’t the real benefit. Not only does Bill come into play for free, he also boost the HP of every Hobbit. Not just your heroes, but the allies, too.
  • The Events: Most of what I like to run involve the Tactics sphere and boosting your characters or stopping the enemy. The best of the ones outside of the Core Set would be the Halfling Determination, giving a +2 boost to all stats for the phase. It can help with questing in a pinch, but more importantly can boost Sam for a defense and a follow-up attack if he can ready. Its versatility of uses, and low cost, makes it one of the few 3-of cards I run (I typically run most cards with 2x as the max, apart from those critical to a strategy or ones that are cheap and efficient in some fashion). Raise the Shire was mentioned in the Allies section and with good reason: it helps you pull out Rosie and Farmer Maggot when engaging enemies, which is how this deck can run 2x of Rosie. Yes, they return to your hand at the end of the round but that is what makes it especially nasty to use with the Farmer. Take No Notice is the other noteworthy card in here, boosting the engagement level of all enemies and, hopefully, costing you nothing in the process. I’ve found it to be useful only at certain times, and so I run just 1x so it doesn’t clog the deck but still keep it around for when I need to draw it.
  • The Attachments: Fast Hitch is almost an essential attachment, and I used to think it was the best card in the deck. However, I’ve survived plenty of quests where I never saw it appear. It is a nice card, and it allows you to be a lot more efficient, but it is far from being an essential card. Yet I hesitate to shed the Lore Sphere because I know it can really change the game when you get 1-2 of them out. Popping it onto Rosie can be an equally good idea as putting it on Pippin so I usually put the 3rd copy on her if I manage to get them all in a play. Steward of Gondor is in here because it is a nice card to see in an opening hand – likely placed on Merry to help fund the higher ratio of cards in the Tactics Sphere – but I can count on one hand the number of times I see the card. I’ve never needed it to be effective, it simply helps accelerate. Hobbit Cloak is the Sam Gamgee attachment I seek after and the card that makes this deck function, making it so ideally Sam is defending the first attack with a 4 defense, and every attack after that with a 3 defense (as long as your threat is low enough). Dagger of Westernesse, on the other hand, is the tool that Merry needs to become a lethal Balrog-killer. They are restricted, so I would avoid putting anything else Restricted on him so he can wield two of them. A third copy could be used in here, as it wouldn’t be a bad attachment to throw on Sam if you pull all three in a game. Friend of Friends is the other one to highlight, which is amazing when it pulls off. Sadly, I almost never get them both but consistently have one in my hand early. But getting the pair out will boost Sam and Merry and push them both to elite levels.

Ideal Starting Hand:

In a perfect world, I would draw Fast Hitch, Hobbit Cloak, Dagger of Westernesse, Bill the Pony, Friend of Friends x 2. In two turns, I’d be 80% of the way to having a stacked team. Continuing the perfect world, the next two card draws would be the other Dagger of Westernesse and a Rosie Cotton. Maybe some day I’ll have that happen!

How to play this deck effectively:

This deck takes time to set up, as could be surmised from the starting HP of the heroes. You can’t freely go all-in and expect to come out unscathed on the other side. The bad news is that this deck needs some of those allies and attachments to really function well. The cheap allies and the Tactics events are in there to help keep your deck from flaming out in the face of the first few rounds. The good news is that almost everything you need in this deck is inexpensive so you don’t need to spend a ton of time saving up resources, and that is part of the secret of how this deck can function well as a tri-Sphere deck.

Take advantage, in the early turns, of the low starting threat. Most of the time you’re going to be able to choose when to engage an enemy, and you always want to engage them before your threat surpasses their engagement cost. Those extra cards are always welcome, and Sam loves to quest and then ready to defend that attack. If the quest starts with no enemies in play, I might chance things and quest with all three Hobbits. Sometimes you might need that just to offset the starting threat in the staging area. But most of the game is spent using Sam, Pippin, and allies to quest and relying on Sam to ready for defense (or Barliman to take an undefended attack) and Merry to hopefully one-shot whatever engaged you.

This deck builds up slow, but once it hits its peak this deck is nearly unstoppable. I’ve taken down the Balrog and other massive, scary enemies with relative ease. I’ve had Sam reliably defend 5-6 attack swings every round without taking wounds. I’ve dropped big chunks of progress on quests. This deck can do it all, and it does things effectively once it gets going.

Surging enemies are this deck’s worst enemy, although this iteration is better suited to that than the high-cost unique ally version of a Hobbit deck I had been running (ally Gimli, Boromir, Legolas, Elrond, etc. are all fun, but take a LONG time to get out for such little return). Discarding attachments is a nasty shadow effect, but even more devastating will be anything that either ignores defense or simply drops damage on exhausted (or all) characters in play. Sometimes you’re going to lose and lose hard based on early turns or treachery cards that can’t be cancelled by the deck. However, those have proven to be the exception more than the experience, and losing early just means a quicker restart to challenge the quest again.

What to look for when adding to this deck:

Obviously there are a lot of other cards that could be added to the deck. A lot of the Saga cycle has cards with good synergy, providing at least a few cards in every box that mesh well with Hobbits. Anything dealing with having a lower threat than engagement costs should at least get some serious consideration, as that is the gimmick this deck works with. My current testing is using more Hobbit allies that exist, although there isn’t one good pack to pick up to bolster their numbers. But having 3 copies of Raise the Shire and being able to choose from a lot of allies is a good thing. Most of them are inexpensive and provide 2 Willpower to help with questing. Plus Bill boosts all of their HP in the process. I hope there are some better allies coming in the current cycle, but even with what exists there is enough to make it worth tossing a few cheap Hobbits into the mix. Anything with card draw or, if running Spirit, cancellation is going to help the deck either accelerate its setup or allow it to survive long enough to get running. Cards that help Sam defend better, such as the Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived) are great to include. Anything that boosts Merry’s effectiveness as an attacker, or provides allies to attack with him so they can ready and attack a second enemy, are equally beneficial.

Board Gaming · Strategy

Sentinels of the Multiverse Strategy: Absolute Zero

(Note: My friend, Steve, is a very skilled Absolute Zero player, so anything added in italics below indicates his additional thoughts on this…which will help to make this guide even better!)

Back in March you, the readers, voted on who I would talk strategy for next, and the votes rolled in for the frozen man himself, Absolute Zero. And after three months of tinkering with him far more than I wanted to, I have to confess that I still don’t feel like I can contribute a high-level analysis of how to effectively pilot his deck. However, for those who are wanting some clear direction on where to even begin with him, this might be a great benefit for you! Because wow, it took a lot of plays to start to feel like I was getting his deck to work efficiently enough to function!

The four versions of Absolute Zero

Standard version Absolute Zero – 29 HP, Power: Thermodynamics – Absolute Zero deals himself either 1 Cold Damage or 1 Fire Damage.

I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing, too, when I first pulled this guy out. What? His power is to hit himself? Yep. The key here isn’t apparent until you find some of his cards in the deck that synergize with this, allowing him to deal damage to non-hero targets or to heal himself via this baseline damage. Is it situational? Absolutely. Does it make no sense to do sometimes? You betcha. Can it be a good and worthwhile power? You’d better believe it. And that, in a nutshell, sums up Absolute Zero: he needs the right combos of cards to really shine.

Termi-Nation version Absolute Zero – 25 HP, Power: Violent Shivers – Until the end of your next turn, increase all Damage dealt to and by Absolute Zero by 2.

Hey AZ, you aren’t helping your own cause, here! 25 health isn’t that hot, and making it so you’re taking 2 more damage for a full round can be beyond dangerous. Yet there are some serious benefits, once again, that can be found in running this version. That boosted damage is N-I-C-E when you need it, and it works especially well when you’re dropping Ice damage on yourself in order to heal that much health instead. Or when you want to spike some serious damage onto the enemy(s) out there. I wouldn’t say this is his best version, but I do think it is a step up from the vanilla Absolute Zero in terms of feeling like it is useful.

Freedom Five version Absolute Zero – 28 HP, Power: Pilot Light – Absolute Zero deals himself 2 Fire damage. If he takes damage this way, search your Deck for an Ongoing Card and put it into play. Shuffle your deck.

This is the version of Absolute Zero that really starts to feel like there is some utility to that base power outside of situational plays. Again he deals himself damage, something you should be expecting by now. But in exchange he’s digging into the deck to pull out cards and put them into play. This is the AZ that can get set up a little faster with those essential cards, making him far less dependent upon good draws. They still help, for sure, but this version is great to run because he feels more efficient than the other versions. There is a sense of control that comes from this power, and it is equally nice to be able to reset quickly if you get an unlucky wipe of ongoings.

Freedom Six version Absolute Zero – 28 HP, Power: Elemental Wrath – Absolute Zero deals 1 non-Hero target 2 Cold damage.

It feels like this version is out of place. Almost like the developers kept hearing complaints about the difficulty in using Absolute Zero and so they catered with a base form that has a power that deals damage to something other than himself. It was the form I gravitated toward early when running his deck, and with good reason. This is definitely the best one when learning how to use this deck, but I don’t think it is the best version of Absolute Zero. I’d say it is better than the base version, but worse than the other two overall as you get more familiar with the cards in his deck and how best to employ them.

Opening Moves

Obviously, with no way to mulligan a bad hand an the restriction of drawing 4 cards, there are limited ways to affect this. You’re at the mercy of the card draw. However, these are the cards that get me excited when I see them to open play and why they are great this early in the game.

Glacial Structure

This card is nice because it helps you to start digging. It isn’t his best digging card, but it is going to get more of your deck into the hand and has a chance of pulling non-Module cards that you need to get set up. I wish it was a One Shot instead of an Ongoing, but it is still nice to get it out there early so you can turn it into more cards in your hand.

(Glacial structure is a card a lot of people wish was a one shot, but the way it’s written, it speeds him up by two turns. normally, in order to draw two cards you have to skip a full turn. glacial structure allows him to more or less either A.) skip a turn to draw 4 cards (play GS, use GS power, draw at end) or B.) use a potentially wasted card play to set up for a later power use that would be wasted to allow for flexibility to draw cards. it also works for Fueled Freeze Fodder.)

Onboard Module Installation

This one is one of the most likely cards to see in the hand, as there are 4 of them in the deck. It is an excellent card because it includes drawing a card, searching for a Module card, and then playing a card. Talk about efficiency! Unfortunately there are only two different modules this can pull out, but they are both excellent cards to get onto the board as quickly as possible.

Isothermic Transducer

This card is the one I will almost always dig for first of his two Module cards because it allows you to deal damage whenever he takes Fire Damage. There are plenty of ways for him to deal that damage to himself, but there are also ample situations that deal Fire Damage via Environment and Villain cards and those are the best situations when this is in play. “Oh, you want to burn me for 2 damage? Right back atcha, buddy, only this is going to be COLD.” Which gets even better if you can find…

Focused Aperture

This one is outstanding to play on the first turn because so much Cold Damage is in his arsenal. It pairs well with that Isothermic Transducer, allowing you to get even better on the exchange rate involved. I love that this card is simple and straightforward, something lacking often in Absolute Zero’s decks.

Cryo Chamber

The beauty of this card comes from pairing it with Isothermic Transducer. It is much like Focused Aperture in helping offset to damage balance of taking damage vs. dealing it, but in a more useful way because it reduces the damage you take from Fire while increasing your Cold damage. Which, with the Isothermic Transducer, means you’ll take one less damage to still deal out the same amount you would have without this card. Since AZ has a relatively low health to begin with at times, anything to reduce that damage coming in is really helpful.

***

An overall tactic that I tend to employ with Absolute Zero is to get set up as fast as possible, which can be seen by the favoring of card draw, retaliatory damage, and boosted damage. If you can get Cryo + Aperture + Transducer on the board in the first 5 turns, you’ll be set to really drop the freeze on the villains as the game progresses. Without those cards, you can often feel like his deck is treading water, relying on One Shot cards to do a little damage and hoping to get a useful Power off from time to time.

Mid-Game Strategies

This is where Absolute Zero can either start to shine (if the above combinations have been found) or really start to feel like he’s being pulled along by the other Heroes involved in the battle. Apart from seeking out the above combinations, here are a few of the cards that can be really good at this point:

Null-Point Calibration Unit

This card is nice because it helps to offset the damage Absolute Zero is soaking up (much by his own hand). There are a lot of ways for him to deal himself Cold damage, so you’re almost always going to be able to regain HP as needed when this is in play. It isn’t so much of an excellent early-game card, though, as you’re usually not hurting too bad for the HP. But you definitely want to get this out there before things get too far out of hand.

(I tend to dig for his null point faster than his isothermic, because the self healing can really help out in those opening moves, keeping him higher up.)

Coolant Blast

This card is fun. In some battles, you want to get this one out early because of the other card interactions out there. For instance, if you’re taking a lot of Fire Damage based on the matchup, you really want to get this into play so Absolute Zero can crank out the damage (which is hopefully reduced AND boosted with the above combos). This also works to use the Power on this card after hitting himself with a Frost-Bound Drain. I’ve gotten this card out too early and had it sit there for a long time without much benefit, which is why I think this is best to consider around the midpoint. If there is another card in your hand, it is usually better to play something else early unless you’re taking Fire Damage (from the Villain/Environment decks or just from your own powers)

Cold Snap

There isn’t a bad time to play this card, but it isn’t one I dig for early. If I have it, the card is absolutely going out because pinging everything for 1 (or 2-3!) Cold damage without using a card play or power each turn is fantastic. But I find that midgame is where I usually have a board state that calls for this to be played because those decks are ramping up in power and getting more things into play. This only shifts into the early state if I am facing something, like Grand Warlord Voss, that drops a ton of things onto the board during setup.

Sub-Zero Atmosphere

Another great card that I don’t mind seeing early but don’t necessarily dig for. At first I didn’t understand the appeal of this card. But then I started to notice that a lot of Villain cards that come out activate the the end of their turn, meaning they hit you before you can react. This changes that dynamic, effectively allowing you a chance to take down the worst of what their deck throws at you before they get a chance to activate. This card is better than any healing card out there or damage mitigation card. This takes the teeth out of their deck and puts it into your control whether or not they’ll get a chance to smack you around or disrupt your board state. Pound-for-pound, this may be the best card in the deck for the team.

(Sub-Zero Atmosphere is a great card, but I would argue that it’s an early game card for one point that you did not cover: it makes all villian card end of turn effects happen at the beginning of the turn….ALL villian cards, including the villain character cards. A lot of villains have effects that happen based on things that are in play or were in play, and this can stall them out and slow them down, exactly what the card was intended for.)

Impale

Continuing the trend, this is another card I’m happy to see early but don’t really dig for it. Big baddie on the board that is going to take a long time to whittle down? This helps by dropping 2+ Cold Damage every time AZ starts his turn. Even better is plopping it onto the Villain, allowing you to always get progress on taking him down even while dealing with what the decks are throwing at you. There are a few matchups where you can’t, or don’t want to, hit the Villain early, but those are fringe cases and eventually this card becomes useful when getting played.

***

The mid-game Absolute Zero can be an absolute benefit to have on the team if he is set up properly. That Cold damage flows freely, smacking everything around and dropping damage when he takes Fire Damage himself. When everything is clicking, this deck feels like it could potentially solo some of the matchups out there and live to tell the tale, especially if he can drop some healing on himself as it becomes necessary. Unfortunately, he isn’t always set up perfectly and often I find myself having to deal myself Cold & Fire Damage without gaining any benefit of healing or bouncing back and doing extra damage to the threats on the board. Depending on what is happening during the game, cards like Modular Realignment can be absolutely critical here, and in other situations it can still be sitting in your hand the entire game and never getting used.

Absolute Zero’s Closers

The majority of his deck could be siphoned into this section, as there aren’t really many cards that are only good end-game like what Fanatic had in her deck. However, there are some cards that become better with time given the right board states and setups. Here’s a few that I find can be really fun and useful as the battle is grinding to its bitter end.

Fueled Freeze

Imagine a turn where every non-Hero card in play takes 8 damage. Sounds great, right? If you already have Cold Snap + Cryo Chamber + Focused Aperture in play then your opening turn drops 3 onto them all. In comes a Fueled Freeze, forcing you to destroy up to 3 Ongoing cards (anyone’s, not just his) to deal that much damage to all non-Hero targets. And it is Cold Damage, which means it gets boosted by 2. Dropping that damage will wipe out a lot of most boards, freeing you up to hit that Villain hard to close the game. It isn’t as effective of a board wipe as some other cards, but dropping that damage late while pruning some of the less-useful Ongoing cards can be a real benefit. I find that, too often, the early game and even mid-game are not great times to remove your cards. But when the Villain is on the ropes, this can help speed up the end of a battle.

(As for fueled freeze, you talk about needing to destroy ongoings, but you make it seem like FF requires you to destroy hero ongoings, but it’s great for taking out villian ongoings too.)

Hoarfire

Again, assuming a perfect combo world here (which AZ absolutely depends upon), this card is nice. Hit something for 4 Cold Damage. Blast yourself for a reduced-to-1 Fire Damage. Drop another 3 Cold on something else. Heal yourself for 3 Cold Damage. Hit yourself for a reduced-to-0 Fire Damage. Net gain of 2 HP, dropping of 7 damage onto the board somewhere. This card is okay without this combo. It becomes really good if all the cards are in place.

Thermal Shockwave

This is as close to a finisher card as he has in the deck, and it 100% depends on your HP being high enough. He needs to survive the X Fire Damage dropping onto himself in order to really make this an effective card. With the double boost, this already is throwing out 9 damage. He hits himself for 8 Fire Damage (because it would be reduced by 1) and then drops 10 Cold on something else out there. But that is just getting started. If Cold Snap is in play you might have thrown down 3 damage on every non-Hero card in play. So add more to that Fire damage coming onto AZ (let’s pretend there were only 3 targets). Now he’s done 3 + 3 to everything out there (18 Cold Damage), taking 17 Fire, and then dropping 19 Cold onto one target. That’s 25 damage he can drop on that Villain in the perfect situation, and that doesn’t even include the possibility of using a One Shot prior to activating this. Can you count on pulling this insanity off? Of course not. But if it does work out, he can make really short work of the Villain and bring the game to a quick close.

(his different ongoings are affected by his different base power cards. thermal shockwave plays a HELL of a lot differently if he’s Termi-Nation vs F6.  I tend to use Thermal Shockwave as an opender or midgame, as the consistent damage and healing it’s capable of gets to ludicris levels very quickly)

***

Closing thoughts

Overall, Absolute Zero can be an absolute beast if he’s got all of the right cards out on the board and in his hand. More often than not, he’s going to perform somewhere in between okay and great. But if you can get the cards to go the right way, he’ll be nearly impossible to kill and can drop all sorts of damage out there. If he’s getting close to death, then he can use the bound on Isothermic Transducer to hit himself with the Cold Damage just to keep afloat until the right things come along (assuming that Null-Point Calibration Unit is in play…). The fact that I had to add that (assuming…) part in there sums up AZ in a nutshell. His situational nature is what makes him feel really challenging to pilot as a deck because you won’t often have that ideal setup. Usually you’re running with a portion of it up-and-running and doing what you can while watching other decks hit their optimal point faster. But if he does get that board to fill out perfectly, there are few characters I’ve played that can drop the damage as fast as he can from round to round.

I feel like there are three fun pairings for him out of the base set. I like having him and Fanatic together because, as a duo, they can drop 40-50 on that villain late in the game when it all works out correctly. That is enough to salvage even the worst of situations and either win it, or at least give a shred of hope back to the heroes. I like him with Legacy because of the straight boost to power that Legacy often throws out there. He can use and abuse that with the frequent pinging with Cold damage that flows from him. And the most interesting pairing might be Ra, who could hit AZ with Fire Damage to have AZ bounce out an even higher Cold Damage attack. I wouldn’t use that often, but if AZ has the health to spare (or you really need the extra damage out there), this could be a fun tactic to employ. It also helps to work around invulnerabilities, such as when facing Omnitron, because you can shift the type of damage being done.

Coming Soon…

Instead of a ton of Heroes to vote on, here are three I’m looking to get some more plays in. Which of them would YOU like to see a small writeup about? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

Chrono-Ranger
Visionary
Tachyon

Board Gaming · Strategy · Wargame Garrison

Strategy for 1960: The Making of the President – Part 3: Post-Debate through Election

Welcome to the second of a planned three-part series of posts on 1960: The Making of the President by GMT Games. I was provided a copy of this game in exchange for some strategy posts, and while it took some time to get the opportunities to try the game out, I am very glad I could experience this one. This game definitely encourages many playthroughs to become familiar with the entire deck of cards and how they can impact/influence the game. But I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are closer to my own skill level at the game: beginner. So rather than focusing on specific cards and maximizing their usefulness, I am going to cover some overall strategies that have proven helpful to me (or have been hard lessons learned) across the three phases of the game.

Part 1: The Early Turns

Part 2: The Debates

Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

*****
Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

Now we come to what is, arguably, the most critical time in the game. Your early turns can see a lot of adaptability to the cards being drawn and just plunking down cubes wherever feels like it is a good place. The debates are the part of the game where you can either press to make a huge swing on the board or you can simply ignore them and accept the losses. But you can’t be so free and loose with the final rounds of the game if you want to have a chance to win. You get an extra card every round, although you still play only five of them, and every decision in these rounds will feel critical. These are the final attempts to shift the board into your favor going into Election Day, and the process of election itself which can have some pretty radical ramifications if things go your way.

Tactic#1 – Plan early for the cards you’re dedicating to the Election

In the first half of the game you are saving cards to use in the Debate phase and it needed to focus on candidate symbols, issue markers, and CP. The four cards you save here (two per round) have a very different focus: the state shown in the bottom corner. The cards you set aside will let you draw three cubes from the bag in the Election round to try and place them onto that shown state. So saving a card in a state you are already carrying, or one worth minimal points, might not be an effective use of those cards. On the other hand, there is no guarantee of pulling the cubes you need, so not playing a powerful event isn’t ideal, either.

My personal approach is to look and see if any of those states are controlled by my opponent with only 1 cube on that state. Then I look to see if any match a high-point state my opponent controls. Those are the ones I want to consider first for saving into the Election round. On the other hand, if there is a state I control that my opponent seems to be aiming for, I might keep that card for the election phase to either increase my cubes on there or to wrest it back from them.

Saving the right cards can be important, although not critical. If you really need to gain a particular state, it might be easier to spend the CP during these two turns and take it that way, especially with media support.

Tactic#2 – Media Support is so very important, yet so hard to come by

The power of Media Support going into the Election Day cannot be overstated. The original benefit, which allows you to bypass support checks if your opponent is carrying a state, is worthwhile enough to make spending CP on Media a good strategy. Yes, you have to pull cubes from the bag in order to gain that support, but that also makes it incredibly hard to lose the support to your opponent. Media Support also allows you to continue to flip the position of two adjacent issues on the Issue Track, a key component for gaining momentum and endorsements (more on that in Tactic#3). But even that isn’t the real reason to want to be doing well in Media Support…

In the early part of the Election round, you gain cubes into the bag equal to the Media Support cubes on the board. PLUS those cubes already out for Media Support. This helps to seed the bag with those cubes you want to pull, either when you are trying to win something or as a block when your opponent is pulling cubes. More cubes = better chance that the events during Election Day will go your way. It might be tough to get that Media Support out there. But if you are in a reasonably good position on the board, or if your CP would all be burned just moving or doing support checks, it might be better spent gaining that Media Support.

Tactic#3 – Endorsements can be a board-changing force.

Endorsements can be a funny thing: either they will be extremely ineffective and rendered useless, or they will be a critical piece of your strategy. The only way to gain Endorsements comes from having the 1st or 2nd place Issue at the end of each round. You draw a card, place an endorsement marker in the region shown (or remove one of your opponents’ markers from that area). It serves no purpose until Election day, and even then it only comes into play at the very end. If a state has no cubes on it AFTER the campaign cards are resolved and Election Day events are completed, then the person with Endorsements in that region claims that state’s votes.

This is a way that the Kennedy player, for example, can sweep up a lot of those states in the West that would otherwise default to Nixon.

If there are a good number of vacant states, or if you are playing cards that have a chance of emptying a state your opponent controls, then Endorsements can be really vital as part of your strategy. On the other hand, a board where most worthwhile states already have cubes on them, this might be something you can ignore completely.

The good thing about getting Endorsements in a certain region, though, is that it forces your opponent to react. Such as in the case of being Kennedy, and getting control of Endorsements in the West region. All those states that Nixon was ignoring, assuming they would fall to him, are now up for grabs. This may force them to play defense, moving and spending that critical CP to place cubes over there instead of doing something more devastating.

Tactic#4 – Know when to cut your losses and focus elsewhere

This is something that can be difficult to do. You’re wanting those points in a California or a New York. You feel like you’re behind and that could swing the game in your favor. But they are carrying the state (or, worse, they have their candidate there). You could spend CP after CP pulling cubes from a bag in a desperate attempt to wrest it from them.

Or you could focus elsewhere, and make actual progress that isn’t up to random chance.

The problem with high-scoring states is that they are tempting targets. The good thing is that your opponent likely has more than a few decent states that aren’t nearly as hard to crack. You are more likely to win those battles than getting stuck in a power struggle over a single spot on the board. Trying to get that 45-point state and failing is far worse than picking up 25-30 points in other states. Every point you take from them is really a 2-point swing for you. They can win the five biggest states on the board and still lose if you control enough area. Don’t forget that!

Tactic#5 – Look for events that let you place 5+ cubes throughout the board

One of my best plays in this game came in the final round, playing a card that essentially wiped my opponent out of the South and allowed me to pick them up. He had focused no time down there and had a ton of states with just 1-2 cubes. I was able to spend 7 cubes down there, no more than 2 per state. While he was off winning California from me, I took far more points in two actions (that card, and then an Election Event that took 2 additional states he controlled in the South and made their votes not count). It had been a very close contest until that point, and even though he had a bag seeded full of his cubes the rest of what followed didn’t matter. It caught him off guard and flipped the board in a very meaningful way.

Cards cap out at 4CP. Anything that lets you place 5 or more with a single action are almost always going to be worth playing for the event. This is the time of the game when you need to be dropping cubes like a madman, whether they go onto the map, into the Media Support, or onto the Issue Track. Anything else almost feels like a wasted action.

Tactic#6 – Shoot for 269, but don’t forget to have fun

This part of the game can become mathy. With the wrong players, this can really bog things down if a person looks at their hand and tries to add up the best sequence of cards to play in those final rounds. Be considerate of the person sitting across from you. Yes, this is a game and you’re likely trying to win. So are they, and only one of you will walk away victorious. Don’t suck the joy out of the experience by trying to math out every possible move here.

Instead, target something that you know will provide a strong swing if successful. It doesn’t have to be the “perfect move” to be the right move.

This isn’t a game where you’re simply trying to score more points than your opponent. Every point you score is also a point taken away from them. It is more of a tug-of-war struggle than it is a points race. This can open wounds that you wouldn’t expect as you sweep the board under your dominion.

The point of gaming is to win, but more importantly to have fun. Don’t sacrifice the fun, for either side, in the interest of trying to win. A close game is more likely to earn you a rematch than a one-sided beatdown, after all.

*****

There you have it, the final piece of the strategy guide for 1960: The Making of the President. This is, overall, a really fun and challenging game. It is far more interesting than the theme might make it sound, and there is a lot of tension to be found from round to round. This is a game that rewards repeated plays, as getting to know the various cards in that deck will help you be able to plan better and know what events should get prioritized for play. I have a long, long way to go to reach that point where I feel like I’ve mastered the game enough to know those things. But these three articles should, hopefully, help you get started down the path of making subtle changes to improve your overall results in the game.

What are some other strategies you might pass along to a newer player of this game?

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at some strategies to employ for the game. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Board Gaming · Strategy · Wargame Garrison

Strategy for 1960: The Making of the President – Part 2: The Debates

Welcome to the first of a planned three-part series of posts on 1960: The Making of the President by GMT Games. I was provided a copy of this game in exchange for some strategy posts, and while it took some time to get the opportunities to try the game out, I am very glad I could experience this one. This game definitely encourages many playthroughs to become familiar with the entire deck of cards and how they can impact/influence the game. But I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are closer to my own skill level at the game: beginner. So rather than focusing on specific cards and maximizing their usefulness, I am going to cover some overall strategies that have proven helpful to me (or have been hard lessons learned) across the three phases of the game.

Part 1: The Early Turns

Part 2: The Debates

Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

*****

We come to what is likely to be the short center of this three-part series. On Monday I covered six strategies to guide you through the early turns of the game. On Friday I plan to cover strategy carrying you through the end of the game. But today I cover that awkward 6th turn: the Debates. This is arguably the shortest round of the game, and some might write it off as being unimportant. And yes, you can still win the game if you do poorly here. You could make a case for “throwing” the debates in order to keep your focus elsewhere. Yet 9 cubes can provide a good swing in key parts of the board and shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.

Tactic#1 – Go into the game with a Debate strategy from Turn 1.

This can be a difficult thing to decide, as you have no knowledge of the hands of cards you will see in turns 2-5. Or what your opponent will keep. At best, you are likely to win 1-2 issues during the debate so keep that in mind. There are a few paths you can walk down:

1. Save two really good cards for two issues (4 cards total) to increase your odds of winning those issues. The final card you save can either be a card you don’t want your opponent to use the event on during regular rounds, or it could be a card of your opponent’s in that third issue category. Why? See Tactic #2 below!

2. Save two really cards for a single issue (2 cards total) and play to win the third issue in the debate for 4 cubes. This will let you “toss” up to three cards that would favor your opponent during those early rounds. Spotting them 5 cubes in the debate should be a reasonable compromise here, as some events can place 5-7 cubes from a single card. If everything plays out how you imagine, at least. Even giving them 7 cubes, winning the first issue in the debate only, could be a very worthwhile play.

3. Ignore the debate strategy completely. Every card you toss will help your opponent in some way. This is especially important if you are getting at least one overpowered event for them each turn and you simply don’t have the Momentum to preempt the event and/or they are never low on Momentum. This becomes the easy decision of avoiding the worst thing in your hand each turn, knowing that they will simply get 9 cubes to place in Turn 6. At least this way you can plan accordingly prior to the debate and try to set up the board so this won’t be as harmful in the end.

Tactic#2 – Try and trigger the first issue for your opponent

This sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a good reason to want them to win first: the first issue to resolve awards 2 cubes. If you want them to win one issue, you want it to be the one that scores first. Alternatively, if there is one issue you want to win then you want it to score last so you can net 4 cubes for the victory. This makes the playing of the cards really interesting, as it only requires the placement of a 2nd card on one side of an issue to trigger it.

What really becomes interesting is when both of you start by playing cards on the opponent’s side. Do they have a 2nd card of that same issue to trigger that issue you saved cards for? It can be a gamble to open by placing on the issue you want to win last. It can equally be a gamble to place completely on their side. Which is why…

Tactic#3 – Initiative matters sometimes.

There is an important benefit to having initiative in the debate: if two issues trigger on the same round, the person with initiative chooses the order that they resolve. There is a cube of difference between 1st and 2nd, or 2nd and 3rd. It doesn’t sound like much, but this is a game where a single cube can make all the difference. Having the ability to choose the order in which they resolve gives you the power to play more aggressively on their side to try and give them the early victories so you can get more cubes on your own issues.

Tactic#4 – Know where to use those cubes you earn

Repeat after me: No support checks = good. Like, really good. Over-powered good. Knowing how to use those cubes effectively is vital to coming out of this round feeling good about the rest of the game. 9 cubes can take a New York or California from being carried by your opponent and make it so you are carrying it instead. That is a huge swing in points. It can be spread across multiple states, allowing placement without spending CP to physically move into that region (Alaska and Hawaii are particularly obnoxious). With even 5 cubes, you can take a state from being carried to having one of yours on it. That is huge. No bag pulls to see if it works. It simply happens. If you are okay with whatever your opponent does here, great. Let them run away with the debates. If your opponent lets you dominate the debates, you can make them pay dearly here by wresting control from their #1 state. Or seeding the board at will. But you need to have an idea of how those are best spent: taking control of a carried state, bumping big states to being carried by you, or gaining control of states far from your candidate.

And there you have it, four simple tips to help with going into the debates. Some might write them off as unimportant, but they can have a big impact. Yes, it might be for a few cubes but those can have incredible power.

What is your preferred approach to the Debates in 1960?

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at some strategies to employ for the game. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Board Gaming · Strategy · Wargame Garrison

Strategy for 1960: The Making of the President – Part 1: The Early Turns

Welcome to the first of a planned three-part series of posts on 1960: The Making of the President by GMT Games. I was provided a copy of this game in exchange for some strategy posts, and while it took some time to get the opportunities to try the game out, I am very glad I could experience this one. This game definitely encourages many playthroughs to become familiar with the entire deck of cards and how they can impact/influence the game. But I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are closer to my own skill level at the game: beginner. So rather than focusing on specific cards and maximizing their usefulness, I am going to cover some overall strategies that have proven helpful to me (or have been hard lessons learned) across the three phases of the game.

Part 1: The Early Turns

Part 2: The Debates

Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

 

Part 1: The Early Turns

Unless you are very familiar with the cards in the deck, those early turns can feel like you’re drowning in water. Six cards come your way, and at least half of them are likely to contain your opponent’s symbol on there. You need to play five of these (in most cases). The one you don’t play is likely going to be the one that benefits you the most. How do you handle this situation? Here are a few pointers on what to emphasize, the things to keep a close eye upon, and some overall tactics that have been successful in their implementation during the games I’ve played.

Tactic #1: Momentum Matters

One of the most important resources in this game comes in the form of those Momentum markers. You get some at the start of the game. Half of them get discarded when the round ends. You stand a chance of getting a few at the end of a round based on the Issues Track. What are they and why do they matter so much?

The Momentum markers are used for one of two purposes: to trigger the event of a card your opponent plays, or to prevent your opponent from triggering the event on a card you play. The first time you look at a hand of cards you will likely groan as you see the events that your opponent would love to trigger. There is a pretty good chance that they will trigger at least one of them during the round when you play cards. One of the keys to success would be to entice them to spend those markers early in a round on something that sounds great, but isn’t nearly as powerful as another card you’ll be playing later. But you don’t want to always have that best event be the very last card you play in a round – they might catch on and save a marker for that final card.

If your opponent is spending markers on triggering events, that means they aren’t spending them to prevent you from doing the same with their cards. Depending on who is producing more Momentum in a turn, this might not be a bad position to be in. The real key comes in knowing when to pay those markers to preempt the card you are playing. This can be a tough thing to do – it costs two markers, which means two cards you aren’t going to be able to trigger the event if your opponent plays them. A card which will swing the board in your opponent’s favor is something you don’t want to see played. Something which lets them gain Momentum, or trigger a permanent event, are also very worthwhile to preempt. This is a tactic that I am still working on trying to get right for timing. Knowing the deck, and what cards can really flip the playing field, will help you to better understand when preempting is important.

If you, as a Nixon player, can preempt Greater Houston Ministry Association, do so at all costs. That one card wrecked me several times when Kennedy played cards that couldn’t be triggered by Nixon because this was in play.

Tactic #2: Balance the gain of CP with the gain of Rest Cubes

It might seem like the best strategy is to play all those cards that give you the most moves during your turn; however, many of those high CP cards are balanced out with low rest (if any at all) when playing the card. But I must emphasize the importance that Rest plays in this game. I had a play of the game where, at the very end, almost every cube in the bag belonged to my opponent. It made it so everything went in his favor, which complexly flipped a few areas of the board and prevented me from securing more on my turn. Most of the game is spent with the bag draw playing a small impact (unless you are vying for Media Support or trying to take an area where your opponent is located or carrying). Yet the opportunities to dump in more cubes are rarer than you’d expect. Don’t sacrifice a great play for the sake of an inferior event that provides rest; however, when faced with a decision between two cards and you are torn on which to play, always go for the one with more rest. It will pay off by the end of the game.

Tactic #3 – Don’t ignore the power of the numbers.

I’m not talking about the obvious numbers here, such as New York and California, because their importance is immediately obvious. It can be easy to get caught in a power struggle over those high-valued states because it feels like you need those to win. In some games you may very well need to spend several cards trying to wrest New York from your opponent’s grip. But don’t underestimate how critical the rest of the states may be. Especially in the Midwest and the West. Some of those states feel unimportant, especially when dropping to 4 points for whoever wins the state. However, there is power in numbers and controlling a good majority of the map is oftentimes more impactful than focusing your effort heavily in 1-2 big states.

Tactic #4 – Think ahead to the debate phase, but don’t assume your highest card is the one to throw

My first debate round was a complete disaster on both sides. I tossed three cards in for a single issue. My opponent tossed four on the same issue, and his other one showed my symbol instead of his. He won the first issue, leaving me to sweep the rest by default. There was no excitement, no tension. Only frustration and the feeling of being too dumb to play the game.

There are three factors to consider in the card you are saving for the debate round:

  • Make sure the card has your candidate’s icon on there. If you keep a card that doesn’t have your icon, that means it has to be played on your opponent’s side of the issue which could potentially help them to win. Ideally, a card with both is what you want to save to allow for maximized flexibility. Triggering your weakest issue first by playing on their side can allow you to reap greater benefits when the later issues resolve.
  • Look closely at the issue icon shown on the card. It will have one of the three issue icons: Defense, Social, or Economic. Don’t be like me and save too many of the same issue. At most you will get to play two cards on a single issue, so anything over that is a wasted card! Plan on saving 2-2-1 as a spread so you can maximize your placement.
  • CP matters on these, as that is how you determine the winner. This will get covered more in the next post, but you don’t want to toss the lowest numbers over here. Depending on the card(s)/situation, you may not want to toss the highest, either. A nice moderation of 3CP cards is likely the best plan without any in-game context.

Tactic#5 – Don’t neglect the Issue track and, by extension, the Media Support

It can be so easy to focus on the cubes on the map and try to maximize your influence out there. A hand full of events and high CP cards can give you dreams of swinging states under your control or bolstering your cube count in a key state. But the Issue track is so critical that you should plan on dedicating at least one CP move toward the Issue track. But why is it so important?

Remember that discussion of Momentum toward the beginning of the article? Yep, this track is the #1 way to gain said Momentum as each of the three placements can reward the winner with a Momentum token. Sweep the issues and you can get three more at the end of the turn. Even winning one is important as it will keep your flow of markers going. Nothing is more favorable to your opponent than having no momentum, because it will allow them to freely play cards for CP without any care for the event text.

The other important thing would be Media Support. The player with more overall Media support gets to flip the placement of two adjacent issues on the track at the end of the round. This is key, as it allows you to boost your own standing while dropping your opponent. Winning that 1st place issue is so powerful in the long-run (see more on this in the 3rd installment when it goes up on the Post-Debate strategy).

Tactic#6 – Don’t forget about your candidate card!

The final piece of advice is a simple, yet forgettable one. You have a candidate card which is worth 5CP. That is higher than any card in the deck. But, even better, this “replaces” playing one of the cards in your hand. Got a really nasty event that you know your opponent will trigger when played? Use the candidate card instead so you can discard this one at the end of the round. There are few ways to flip it back over, so don’t be too hasty in using the candidate card…but don’t forget this is a very viable option when you need the CP or to avoid playing a specific card.

*****

There you have it, six tips on playing the early rounds of 1960: The Making of the President. The game is one of being able to adapt to the hand you’re given, to make use of the events, and to balance that with spending enough CP to make a difference throughout the game.

Are there other strategies you’ve found useful in the early game? Are there questions you’d like answered regarding this part of the game? Leave a comment below and I’d be happy to discuss with you.

 

Hopefully you found this review to be a useful look at some strategies to employ for the game. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon.