A lot of collectible games that I’ve played that lasted for several sets have a cycle where sets rotate in and out of competitive play, such as Magic: The Gathering which has Type 1 and Type 2 legal cards and decks. VS System, the late superhero card game, incorporated Golden Age, Silver Age, and Modern Age competitive play. Heroclix follows the same cycle, with Golden Age as the format that allows most elements, and Modern Age, a format that is restricted to figures, special objects, and additional team abilities (ATAs) from the most recent sets.
Last May, several “modern” sets finally rotated out of Modern Age and I’m really feeling the effects. Before the recent retirement, I preferred the Modern Age format over Golden Age for several reasons that won’t be discussed here, but with several sets rotating out I’ve felt very restricted in team building, and what I’d like to talk about are the game elements that will be gone from Modern Age that I’m definitely going to miss. For Part 1, I’ll talk about Bystander Tokens.
In the past, Feats were the game elements that players used to fill out their teams. Feats are game cards that granted special abilities to characters who could meet the requirements at the cost of a few points, ranging from 0 to 25 points. Before feats were introduced, it was quite common to have teams that did not maximize the point limit – people were playing 287 point teams, 295 point teams, and so on. But feats allowed players to maximize their remaining points.
Bystander tokens were cards/tokens that represented single-click characters. They have the same attributes as actual figures – they can have range, speed, attack, defense, and damage values. A lot of bystander tokens even have standard and special powers. Since they only had one click of life, there wasn’t any need to represent these characters with actual 3D figures and dials. They were also quite affordable, with the most expensive bystander token costing only 15 points. When the Modern Age mechanics were announced, Feats were one of the game elements that were banned – this resulted in Bystander Tokens as one of two ways that players could use to round up their teams. Sadly, the last few sets with Bystander Tokens have rotated out, so we can’t use them anymore in Modern Age play. And I miss them a lot! Here are the Bystander tokens that I’ve always relied on to fill out my teams, in order of the least expensive:
Lila Cheney from Mutations and Monsters (6 points)
I have to be honest – I only reach for Lila Cheney if I need exactly 6 points for my team. She serves only one purpose that other Bystanders can’t do better, and that’s as a highly mobile tie-up piece. She’s got a Speed value of 10 and the Phasing/Teleport power, which means that she can definitely tie-up any figure that you need to keep occupied. Her Attack and Defense values are so low that you can’t expect her to survive battles, so once you send her out, you know she’ll get KO’ed. But at least your opponent is going to waste an action to KO her.
Val Cooper from Mutations and Monsters (7 points)
For an additional 1 point, you can upgrade from Lila Cheney with Val Cooper. Val fills a different role – she’s mobile blocking terrain that can fight back. Her Stealth can prevent opposing figures to take a shot at her, making her a good piece for your more important figures to hide behind. A Speed value of 7 can get her around well enough, and you can always have a flier carry her around. With effective placement, opponents won’t just waste an action to get to the figure that she’s protecting. Her Range value of 6, Attack value of 9 and Damage value of 1 means that she can at least fight back and ping opposing figures for 1 damage.
Jimmy Woo from Avengers (10 points) and Adeline Wilson from Crisis (9 points)
These two bystander tokens are quite similar to each other – they both have a Range value of 6, an Attack value of 9, a Damage value of 2, and Willpower. Willpower in itself is good for bystanders to have as it allows them to move two turns in a row without pushing, giving you more maneuverability if you’re using them as mobile blocking terrain. But they’re also capable attackers for their point cost due to their Attack and Damage values. I’ve used both of them successfully to ping through an opposing figure’s Toughness.
If you can afford it, spend the extra point and reach for Jimmy instead of Adeline. For that 1 point, you get 1 point for Speed (he’s got 8 compared to Adeline’s 7) and Defense (his 16 to her 15). Don’t underestimate Jimmy’s Defense – I’ve played several games wherein my opponent needed more than one attack just to take the token down – in fact, I’ve missed attacks on him myself.
Amadeus Cho from Mutations and Monsters (11 points)
Amadeus Cho’s combat values aren’t high enough to make him a factor in combat, but you’re spending 11 points for his special Outwit. If you don’t have any means of disruption in your team, you may want to make some room for Amadeus. For a measly 11 points, you get a token that will cancel any power at the cost of a Power action. That means he has to be clear before you can do any Outwitting, but for 11 points, that’s fine. Move him in place with Telekinesis, then Outwit away. Whenever I face teams with him in the roster, I usually try to take him out first as he really has a potential to mess up my plans.
Congorilla/Congo Bill from Crisis (15 points)
15 points may seem costly for a single-click character, but it’s well spent on Congo Bill/Congorilla. He’s two bystander tokens in one – Congo Bill, a jungle explorer with a range of 8 and Willpower and an Attack value of 9, or Bill’s alter-ego Congorilla, a simian with a Defense value of 17, Super Strength and Leap/Climb. At the start of every turn, you can choose between one of the two.
He costs a bit too high for me, and I’ve really only seen him get used for one purpose – to carry the Shield Disruptor along with him. The rules of the game do not allow characters to drop carried objects – this only happens if they lose the Super Strength power. And that’s what happens when you switch between Congorilla and Congo Bill! Have Congorilla carry the Disruptor with him, then next turn switch him back to Bill to enable the Shield Disruptor’s ability (more on this in part 2).
There are a lot of other Bystander tokens that got retired, but these are the six tokens that I’m missing the most. I hope there are alternatives in the future as it’s really hard coming up with enough points for a well-rounded Modern Age team these days.