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What If...? Marvel Heroclix Miniatures Game

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

It was around 20 years ago on a trip to Boston that I first encountered WizKids' Heroclix. I can still remember the excitement at the prospect of being able to collect plastic models of superheroes. And collect I did. Not fanatically but steadily and sporadically over the years, building a veritable army of pre-painted plastic models of principal and positively obscure characters from the DC and Marvel Comics universes. I was always more of a Heroclix collector than player, however. Tho' I dabbled with the game, I was never overfond of endless beat 'em ups. Heroclix figures always come pre-painted and affixed to dials that record their powers and stats - you click them on to the next position on the dial whenever your figure takes damage. It's a great concept, originating with Mage Knight (WizKids) in 2000, and when applied to superheroes it allows for some intriguing elements such as new powers or abilities kicking in in response to damage. However, it's always seemed to me to be underused in games that really only boiled down to characters beating each other up or, increasingly in later versions, hurling objects at one another.



There have been other attempts to incorporate Heroclix into board games but most have turned out to be quite superficial IP tie-ins. The key exception was Star Trek Fleet Captains, which used Heroclix dials with ships from the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. Later expansions added in Romulan and Dominion ships. It proved to be one of the best Star Trek strategy games so it's a pity it isn't more widely available.


That brings us to What If...? This board game version of Heroclix draws not so much on the Marvel universe as its multiverse, based on the animated Marvel Studios series on Disney+, which is narrated by The Watcher. The game incorporates versions of mostly familiar Marvel superheroes (including Thor, Captain America and Dr Strange) but these are not the versions we know from the comics and Marvel Studios movies. Instead these are versions from alternate realities, so, for example, this version of Captain America is from a world that has suffered a zombie plague: Zombie Captain America!



The game comes with 10 high-quality pre-painted Heroclix minis; each designed with dials that offer two alternative versions of the characters' stats and powers. If you're a Heroclix collector you'll want this game just for the minis but What If...? also provides a great entry point for anyone coming new to Heroclix. You can pit the Heroclix minis against each other in a conventional bash 'em up but What If...? also incorporates scenarios that you can play independently or strung together as a campaign. These indicate pre-set character groupings where, for example, Dr Strange and The Watcher are both leading teams to complete specific objectives. You can usually secure victory by an old-style knock out of all the opposing team but you'll find it thematically more immersive to try to achieve the scenario objective - typically involving securing and triggering various Infinity Stones.


The game incorporates several double-sided boards, and you'll set up 1-4 of these depending on the scenario you're playing. You may find them a little constraining, especially in scenarios that use only a single board, but they certainly feel like a big step up from the paper mats that were originally the norm for Heroclix players. There are rules for activating characters that require tactics on the part of the players in order to optimise superhero powers and effects. Again, this is a notable improvement on the early days of Heroclix. Sadly, there are a few omissions and misprints on some of the cards but these are fairly easily dealt with. Our main gripe is that all the scenarios supplied in What If...? are two-player games. With 10 minis in the box, it would've been good to have incorporated the option of three- or four-player variants. We'll just have to home brew our own; maybe additionally pressing into service some of the old Heroclix figures on the shelf to supplement the multiverse minis that come in the box.


(Review by Selwyn Ward)


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