Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: Super Systems (4th Edition)- 4-Color Studios

Before I begin, let me be clear that I have not played any of the previous versions of SuperSystems.  This will be my first exposure to the rules.  Unlike other super-hero systems out at the moment (Pulp City, Batman, Marvel) it is designed to be generic and allow the players to create their own supers.  

According to the introduction, the rules are designed to allow for a fast-paced, skirmish game designed to simulate the clashes of characters you will find in the pages of your typical comic book.  The game is designed to be played on a 4x4 board between two or more models per side.  The game also contains campaign elements, solo-play, and even role-playing if you so desire.

Wow, that is trying to tackle a lot of ground.   Let’s see how well they succeed.

Things I Liked
The game used an opposed dice rolling system based on successes called a Goal roll.  Readers of my reviews will recognize that I love this type of opposed success rolls.  I feel they give the most interaction between players to determine results.  The game refers to them as Pools, but they are not really pools as they can be used over and over again.  It is just their stat line.  Pools would indicate that the number of dice rolls diminish and must be husbanded like a resource.  These do not work like that.

This system allows a model to do all sorts of interesting and creative actions with a different Target Number for success on a dice.  This allows the game to be very flexible for both combat and also story-telling/narrative type actions such as busting open a door, figuring out a computer code, repairing a vehicle, etc.

This game comes equipped with a decent campaign system that is organic to the rules called a Series.  It includes the usual injury, experience, etc.  However it also has plot hooks and Scenario Scripts to play around with.  It also comes with Solo-play built in which is something I do not see in a lot of games.  The rules use a card deck to determine randomization.  This is used to determine the difficulty of the foes, and Motivations indicate how the Model should act on the board.      

The game uses diagrams and has lots of examples of play to clarify or demonstrate its rules.  That is good.

Things I Do Not Like
Sadly, this game uses an Action Point system to determine what a model can do.  In theory, this is a cool way to introduce resource management into the game so you have to think about what actions you can/should do.  For example, complex actions like a special power move take more Action Points to perform.  You gain and lose Action Points based on moving, attacking, doing things, etc.  Therefore, if a model chooses to run they might not have the AP to launch their big power move.

Well, that makes it sound pretty good.  Why is it in this section?  I have never really been a fan of Action Points.  Perhaps it is simply irrational hatred from my youth but I prefer to have a less fiddly way to monitor actions and capabilities of a model.  For example, I would prefer if the model was assumed to always be able to do certain things with no penalties, but to do others may need to make a successful GOAL roll of a certain difficulty.  If failed it couldn’t be attempted again that turn.  This would keep the uncertainty of action and avoid the fiddly tracking and the model’s skill level would play a factor.  Thankfully, SuperSystems has a low model count, so it should not be an issue.        

The game has a few basic archetypes and power sets to get you started.  Without those, building your Super team could take some time.  The process can be a bit cumbersome and knowing what everything does would be a challenge.  

Meh and Other Uncertainties
The turn sequence is alternating activation.  When a model is activated, he can do all of his actions.

Unsurprisingly, when your game is trying to capture the feel of comic books, and allow for the creation of custom heroes; there are going to be a lot of special rules.  This book is filled with all sorts of Combat maneuvers, powers, henchman abilities, etc.  That leads to a lot of complexity.  This will not be to some players taste.  Again, I think the scope and size of the skirmish allows the game to get-away with it to some extent but you will want a reference sheet handy.

This game uses differentiated Attributes and Special Rules for the models.  This allows a greater range of customization as powerful Bricks might have a weakness against Mind attacks, and Mentalists may be prone to drop to a casual punch.  This is the right amount of variability in the game to keep it interesting and not allow anyone to become one-note.  This is a big contrast to say, [i]Song of Blades and heroes[/i]; however this is more of a taste issue.    

In addition, whenever there is a custom build option in the rules you can expect some builds to just be that much better than others.  I would imagine balance could be an issue in this game, and it is designed to be a friendly match between friends more than a competition game.  There are build rules and archetypes for quick play, but no game is balanced perfectly.  There will be some things that are just better than other equal point structures.      

Final Thoughts
This game really is in-depth and covers all the possibilities.  In a sense, this leads a bit to scope creep.  It covers things like animals, vehicles, RPG, using the system dice less, henchman, solo-play, Series, you name it.  It is a great toolbox for helping you tell the stories you want to see on the table.  I love it.

However, this type of gaming is not for every type of player.  This will work best with a tight group of players who like narrative style gaming.  This is not for competitive players.  Generally speaking, I like the mechanics used in the system and think it captures what it sets out to do.  

If you have played the game, let me know what your experience has been.  

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