Those who read this blog know that I am a big fan of Scott Pyle’s Supersystem 3 for playing superhero battles on the tabletop. Well, Scott dropped a bombshell on The Miniatures Page to all us fans last week with the announcement of Super Mission Force, which is a new project of his. Originally billed as “Supersystem Lite”, Scott made sure to stress that that is no longer the case. The game has evolved beyond that.
So naturally, as a huge fanboy of SS3, I asked : why should I want this? Not trying to be a prick, just wondering what would appeal to me as a SS3 player. Here’s what Scott replied: The game plays a lot faster than any version of Supersystem, and there’s no number crunching in the build system. None. Zero. So it’s a different sort of game. you’ll use archetypes and menu selections to build characters, and once you know how powers work and what to expect, you’ll be able to build a character in a couple of minutes.
He is so right.
Here is my review (spoiler: it’s a glowing one).
Let’s start with character generation. It’s blindingly fast. You can build a team of heroes from scratch in about 15 minutes, whether you like creating your own, or whether (like me), you enjoy adapting classic comic book heroes and villains for your games. If you’re doing that, I found some of the power selections and limitations didn’t fit “classic” heroes very well, but of course, you’re free to change whatever you want. Most archetypes are built around one major power and two minor powers. I imagine this is done for overall game balance when creating your own heroes, and that’s fine. But if you want to adapt an established hero you may find this too limiting.
Example: here is my build for Spider-Man: Brawler: (Major) Scrapper, (Minor) Leaping, Entangle, Super Agility, Enhanced Senses. It’s kind of tough to see Spider-Man without any of those minor powers, so following the limit of 2 wouldn’t make much sense in his case. As far as “game balance” goes, I don’t really care, considering I don’t play competitively. Also, let’s all admit that some heroes are just better than others. Some are more powerful, more experienced, and just better at what they do. Who are you putting your money on? Wolverine or Starfox? (If you asked “Who’s Starfox?” then you’ve more than proven my point.)
Moving onto powers, SMF differs from SS3 in a lot of ways, most for the better. Powers are much simpler and there are no more dice control pools, which worked well but take a bit of bookkeeping (and a familiarity with a power’s cost and abilities) to manage from round to round. Some powers require a recharge roll before they can be used again; most don’t. Either way, you are often rolling fewer dice than in SS3, which is a good thing if you like quick resolution.
Combat is smooth and quick, and most of all easy as pie. Every model performs a combination of actions on their turn; such as moving, attacking, or interacting with an object. There is no point cost to keep track of. Attacks and damage are grouped together, so any “unsaved” attacks translate into damage without calculating a separate damage roll. I didn’t realize just how much this speeds up combat resolution until I played a couple of games, but it’s a huge time saver. Every archetype has access to unique abilities they can use in combat (Bricks can throw Haymaker punches; Speedsters can Hurricane Charge, etc.), and these really add a lot of fun to battles!
I confess that aside from the Henchmen rules, I didn’t really look too deeply into the rest of the rules so far. The Henchmen rules will also be familiar to any SS3 players, although they’re also easier. Henchmen exist to be smacked around by the numbers, and SMF makes it easy to make groups of henchmen in about 2 seconds that fill this role nicely. Whether you want gun-toting goons or brawling thugs, it’s quick and easy to do.
Every character has the option for one or more background choices which may give bonuses to certain activities “off the battlefield”, such as following up on clues, solving scientific puzzles, etc. If you like a bit of roleplaying in your miniatures campaigns, these help. Also, there are rules for carrying injuries from story to story and for developing heroes throughout adventures.
But if you’re like me, you’re looking for quick and easy gaming action that’s faithful to the superhero genre. Super Mission Force has that to spare.
Another thing I love about this game is the learning curve. It takes almost no time to learn these rules, as everything is based off of a 4 dice pool, plus or minus a couple of dice depending on your powers or desired combat actions. This makes this game very easy to teach to newcomers, which is very important if, like me, you want to get right into the action with people who aren’t necessarily wargaming geeks, but who love superheroes.
If there’s anything negative to say about the game, it’s that it’s still in the playtest stage. I had a couple of clarification questions, but nothing game-breaking. Also, people who want more detail may want to look elsewhere. Scott also said ” All [the quicker, simpler mechanics] comes at a cost of some detail, which longtime Supersystem fans may not like. All I can say is download the play-test doc and give it a look.
At this time, you can download the play-test doc here.
As a longtime Supersystem fan, all I can say is I think I may finally bid a very fond farewell to SS3 ( I will always love Supersystem 3), at least for the foreseeable future. I love and champion Supersystem, but Super Mission Force is exactly what I’m looking for to quickly adapt existing comic heroes to the tabletop, and to get in some quick, easy and fun games with my friends.
I can’t recommend this game highly enough, and I will certainly buy the finished product!