So, the new Amazing Spider-Man set for Dice Masters hit stores last week (if you’re not already familiar with the format of the game, see the overview here). We’ve got a few Rainbow Drafts coming up locally over the next few weeks, so I’ll be posting more thoughts on the booster characters later, but for now I just wanted to look at the starter set.
We have a new affiliation for this set, and a few new(ish) keywords, which are all worth mentioning briefly before we get going. The affiliation is “spider-friends” not surprisingly, this applies to Spider-Man and, wait for it… his friends. There are several characters with this affiliation in the starter set, a Basic Action which interacts with it, and many more characters in the rest of the character spread.
Aftershock is not particularly a new concept for DiceMasters, but there has been some confusion about it (mostly because people don’t have the rules to hand), so I thought it was worth a quick mention.
The rulebook says the following: “Aftershock: When this character leaves the Field Zone because of your opponent (damage from their characters or actions, getting KO’d, being removed from the game, sent to the Used Pile or Reserve Pool) you must use their Aftershock effect.
There are two crucial things to note here- firstly, this only happens when your opponent causes the character to leave the field, so no clever tricks with KO-ing your own characters. Secondly, you must use the effect when triggered, so think carefully about which Aftershock characters to use.
(there aren’t actually any starter-set characters with this keyword, but I’ve mentioned it here for the sake of completeness).
Sacrifice is a new term for a not-entirely-new concept: essentially, it involves moving a character from the field to your used pile (nb – not prep area) to trigger an ability, or as a penalty for something else happening. There will potentially be some nice effects with this, and it could combo nicely with the effect below…
Worthy of considering in slightly more detail is the new “Underdog” keyword. Underdog is essentially a condition – rather than simply having an ability (or not having an ability), characters can now have an ability which triggers only when they meet a certain condition – specifically when the opponent has more characters fielded than you.
In theory, at least, these abilities should be more powerful than those which are permanent, and could add an interesting balancing act, as they not only force you to be careful about what you field, and when, but can also make your opponent think twice about building a wall of characters, especially if those characters will be unable to do anything once you trigger your abilities. On the other hand, the general amount of hate in this set for walling suggests you might struggle to trigger these reliably, so bringing too many could leave you stuck.
As with every starter set, there are 3 cards and 2 dice each for 8 different characters. After chopping and changing in early sets, they now seem to have settled on the model where there will also be another common card for these characters in the boosters, so we should avoid a repeat of the Avengers vs X-Men situation, where it was impossible to get a complete set of dice for the starter characters.
In terms of affiliations, 5 of the starter characters have the new “Spider-Friends” logo, so the designers are clearly pushing this as a theme from the off. There are also 2 villains, adding to what is already the game’s most extensive group and, most puzzlingly, 1 Guardian of the Galaxy!
Although the cards are numbered in alphabetical order, it feels like the only appropriate place to start a review of this set is with Spider-Man himself. This is the third set in which Spidey has appeared, meaning that I’ll probably be giving him an article to himself soon, but for now, I’ll just give a quick overview: there are 3 different versions in the starter, costing 3, 4 and 5. The 4-cost version; “Tangled Web” looks the best at first-glance – it’s cheap enough to be bought on a 4-sidekick turn, but with potential to cause your opponent some serious damage: he gets +2A when attacking and if he is on his burst face (level 1 only) he can give the same benefit to all attacking Spider-Friends. With the added bonus of a global that can give someone the spider-friend affiliation, this looks like a good solid card with some interesting possible synergies.
This ghost rider is apparently based on Alejandra Jones, who briefly replaced Jonny Blaze as the Brimstone biker during the Fear Itself storyline. However, she still has the same dice stats as the original AvX Ghost Rider, most notably that prohibitive field cost of 1-2-3, which you normally only want to pay for top-drawer characters who will be a major part of getting you the win. Ghost Rider is the only one of the starter characters whose efficiency is below 4 for all 3 cards available, and none of the abilities seem particularly grabbing for that: the “Alejandra” is probably the best of the bunch, allowing you to gain 1 life when she is blocked, and the fact that she has the spider-friends affiliation means you might consider her alongside Tangled Web, but otherwise, I don’t think I’d bother.
Silver Sable wasn’t a character I was familiar with before the set came out, a mercenary anti-hero from a made-up Eastern European country, but the cards are certainly worth a look. There are two versions which rely on various tricks to make her unblockable, but given her stats, I prefer the “Wildpack” version which is less conditional, attacks for 3 or 4, and when blocked costs your opponent a life and gives you a life: unless you are on full health (in which case, what’s the rush), that’s a guaranteed 2 net gain every attack, with an extra if your opponent wants to send her to the Used Pile.
Having made her debut in the Age of Ultron set, Spider-Woman is straight back for more. Aside from a slight paint-job, her dice are unchanged, with the same stats, and she is one of the more reliable blockers for the Spider-Friends, at least from the starter. 2 of the versions have good efficiency at 3-cost, with a little potential for stat-boosting, whilst the 4-cost is a sure-fire way of KO-ing an engaged character. A decent set of choices, but nothing particularly exciting.
White Tiger is another character I hadn’t encountered before, and the Internet is surprisingly unhelpful in terms of shedding light on just who she might be (Wikipedia lists several possibilities, although I’m eliminating the male characters based on the artwork…)
As with all the others, there are 3 versions: a 2-cost blank-text who offers the best efficiency in the starter set, an expensive 4-coster with an ability which doesn’t seem worth it, and Mystical Amulet, the 3-coster who looks like the best option. When the 3-coster is fielded, you can sacrifice (send from field to used pile) another character to give her +1A +1D and overcrush. The fact that this is optional means you don’t have to bother if she’s on level 1, with a single point of attack, but at level 2 or 3, especially combined with Tangled-Web on a burst, that’s nice potential to blow through a wall of sidekicks for some serious damage.
The 3- and 4-cost versions of White Tiger also come with an interesting global. On your turn. Once per turn, you may pay a fist. If you do, each player fields a sidekick from their used pile (if able).
There’s clearly going to be things to do with this – clever ways to exploit it for major advantage. For the moment though, other than triggering it when your opponent has no sidekicks in their used pile (a trick they can just as easily throw back at you) I’m not really sure what the benefit is. Definitely one to watch though.
So, that’s the Spider-Friends. I think there’s definite potential swinging with Wildpack, Tangled Webs and Mystical Amulet, whilst a Spider-Woman of some description is a reasonable blocker who can double as an extra attack to push you over the line; Leave Ghost rider at home: there are others who do what she does more efficiently. I’ll be interested to see how this affiliation looks once the randomised characters are factored in.
After the Spider-Friends, there are also 2 villains in the starter set, the first of whom is Carnage. Carnage is a big and bulky character, and there is a 6-cost version who offers you the chance to severely limit your opponent’s ability to buy a particular dice. However, as this ability can only be triggered once you damage your opponent with a 6-cost character, that is likely to be too late to be effective. There is a 5-coster who damages your opponent when they use action dice – the obvious comparison here is the rare Jinzo who must of us have into, even if they don’t buy into the non-comic sets. Carnage is 1 cheaper, and much more easily obtainable, but doesn’t target globals (you would need to pair him with rare Wasp) and “dealing 2 damage” as opposed to “paying 2 life” makes you vulnerable to Captain America or Iron Fist. Although it’s expensive, with comparatively low efficiency on paper, my favourite Carnage is “Sinister” who for 5 cost comes with built-in Overcrush and largely shrugs off damage from Action Dice. If you can get him out on level 3, 7 damage to the face is a lot to take unblocked, and probably large enough to do some damage turn after turn if your opponent does block.
Having recently binge-watched the Netflix Daredevil series, the Kingpin was a character of particular interest in our house, so it was nice to see multiple versions rocking up in the starter. His efficiency is fairly low (only Ghost Rider is worse across all 3 dice), and the abilities are not that amazing, but I think there’s potential here. The five-cost versions, which allow you to bounce damage back at your opponent, and allow him to spin up when damaged are usable if not exactly interesting, but the one with the biggest scope I think is actually the 6-coster.
Kingpin: Wilson Fisk, when damaged, moves a sidekick from used to prep. I think this set is going to see a resurgence in characters who benefit from you having lots of sidekicks in play (now where did I put my Gobby…) and I can see fun potential in this build. Otherwise he’s a big villain with the potential to do cause your opponent a few problems, but I think other dice are better for the cost.
With the possible exception of War of Light, every set so far has had a few outliers. That said, I really can’t quite get my head around how a single Guardian of the Galaxy found his way into this starter…
Drax was the most obvious omission from the Guardians line-up in Age of Ultron, and Guardians fans will be pleased to see him here. He is a solid defender, stat-wise, and has reasonable efficiency, although his field-cost is certainly a handicap. For this reason, it’s probably appropriate that the 2 non-blank versions of his card give you ways round this, either allowing you to spend life in order to field him (only 1, regardless of level) or simply to field for free as the Underdog. It’s hard to consider the merits out of context, particularly if you’re going to be building a Guardians team: if you’re building a big wall of characters, relying on Groot to boost their defence, then an Underdog ability isn’t going to be much help. On balance, I think I prefer the “Pained” incarnation, where you always have that option to pay 1 life instead of 2 or 3 energy, it just gives you more options.
That’s all for the starter characters from the Amazing Spider-Man set. There are definitely usable characters here, although it will be interesting to see how many we really want once the full card-pool is available. As you can probably guess from the comments above, Spider-Man Tangled Webs is the stand-out card in this box for me (in a Spider-Friends Team, obviously).
I’ll try to get another article out on the basic actions sometime soon, but I’m still undecided on whether to do it before or after I’ve had a chance to play some proper games with the boosters from this set.