Most everyone I know has picked up some new hobbies during the pandemic. For example, my wife is now incredibly into sewing and textiles; her next project will be recreating a spencer jacket from Hamilton (a musical neither of us has actually seen). Last summer, my friend Mike began designing a HeroClix campaign for himself and his son to play through. The campaign folds the end of Avengers: Endgame into an adventure set in the DC Universe, in which the Justice League must retrieve the Infinity Stones. It is extremely my shit, so I was happy to consult on it when Mike asked.
It is Mike’s fault that I’ve now purchased many new Justice League HeroClix, and that I will likely purchase more.
Our Hero … Clix’s Origin
I was one of the world’s first HeroClix players. I have the initial, promotional Batman and Spider-Man Clix to prove it (though they are at my parents’ house, so I unfortunately cannot provide my own pictures of them). Playing Clix led me to my first local game store, my first regular gaming group, and a lifetime of playing and loving strategy games. It is not an exaggeration to say that falling in love with HeroClix shaped my life, at least in some ways.
I’d played other board, card, and strategy games before HeroClix, but Clix resonated with me in ways those games did not quite. One reason for that, of course, is that I love superheroes. HeroClix allowed me to play out my own superhero battles, accurately and creatively, in ways other board and even video games did not. I loved pitting my favorite 300 point tag-team of Superman and Batman against whatever my store’s gauntlet threw at me each week. Clark and Bruce working together felt like Clark and Bruce working together, and each battle played out exactly as a comic book fight scene would.
However, Clix’s variability and adaptability are what really hooked me. As HeroClix released new expansions, I was able to not only expand my prized Justice League line-up (the set in which Clix released its first Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter was a big deal to me), but learn about new characters I’d never seen before. I even fell in love with some of them. Also, our store’s judge, who ruled (pun intended), constantly searched for or created his own unique, superhero-story scenarios that kept Clix fresh each week. Over the course of a month, our teams of heroes and villains might be responsible for stopping a bank heist, participating in a wrestling tournament, and teaming up to defeat Galactus. Those team-up scenarios, especially, in which all our shop’s players would play together on one map and work together toward a common goal while also still competing with each other, remain especially memorable in my mind. The constant politics and bullshitting of those evenings are things I still value highly when playing games.
I continued playing HeroClix through college. Then, I fell off the game while living in an area of Wisconsin where no one else played. I still played with my friends (including Mike, as well as Waiting on the Trade co-host Pat) every now and then. But as I got deeper into Magic: The Gathering, I had less time, disposable income, and attention to devote to Clix. Eventually, I sold off all my “extra” Clix. However, even then, I kept more figures than I thought I’d ever actually need again – relatively complete line-ups of Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, and of course, Justice League teams, as well as villains for those heroes to battle. I figured those Clix would be more than enough if I ever wanted to play again.
Enter Power Creep, Dissatisfaction, and Disposable Income
I have not actually played HeroClix with Mike yet during the pandemic. I have not played Clix with anyone except myself and my wife (who was gracious enough to play a few games with her excited nerd of a husband). That is how stupid these Justice League HeroClix purchases are. The pandemic is still on. There is still nowhere and no one to play HeroClix with. I bought these figures, essentially, to look at and click back and forth from time to time.
And yet, they make me extremely happy.
When Mike texted and asked me to take a look at his HeroClix campaign, I was excited to do so. As I realized what Mike was building, I figured his campaign might end up going long enough that I’d be able to join for a game or two. Even more excitedly, I began looking at HeroClix’s most recent rulebook and its more recent takes on (you guessed it) the Justice League. I found a set of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman figures that were expensive but seemed sweet. They were designed to work together. I nearly pulled the trigger on buying those three figures then and there.
But then, I realized how old all my old HeroClix actually are. The last set I’d bought a figure from (exactly one, because I could not resist owning future Damian) was released in 2012. The way figures’ powers and stats are designed now, my old Clix would be extremely outclassed in most battles. I knew Mike had bought some newer HeroClix. I wanted at least a Big 7 roster of Justice Leaguers that would be able to hang with those figures. However, I wasn’t prepared to spend as much money as it seemed a team that big would cost.
As I continued browsing, I happened upon HeroClix’s most recent DC-themed set. It just happened to be a Justice League Unlimited set. The figures included were (comparatively) cheap to purchase. They were also far more comic-accurate than I’d expected for an animated series-based set. For the price of the three more-expensive figures I’d been considering purchasing, I was able to put together an updated, 15-member Justice League. I ordered the Clix and awaited their arrival with glee.
This week, I bought two more Clix: Batman Beyond and Superman Beyond. For various reasons, our household’s February was a tiny bit depressing. However, for the first time in years, my wife and I were owed a refund when we filed our taxes. We both decided to splurge and treat ourselves to something we would not have considered buying otherwise. Kat bought more fabric and is also looking at some boots. I bought more HeroClix. (The reason I thought I’d never buy that particular Batman Beyond is because I couldn’t find him for less than $32 anywhere online. The fact that I found him for only $12 certainly helped convince me to pull the trigger.)
Why I’m Buying HeroClix Again
I know exactly why I’m buying HeroClix again, as well as why buying Clix and trawling HeroClix forums, even though I am not actually playing HeroClix, makes me happy. It is, of course, not actually Mike’s fault. My most recent favorite game, Magic: The Gathering, is making a series of moves that either constantly upend the game or that I just disagree with. I’d already mostly quit playing Magic last year. At this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever come back in more than a casual fashion.
So, the deeply-embedded portion of my brain that needs to analyze new decks, teams, cards, figures, and game mechanics (likely created during my initial time playing HeroClix) needs something to do. I’ve decided to set it loose on HeroClix again. Because during the few games of HeroClix I have managed to play recently, the game has tripped the same triggers it did in my youth. Hawkgirl’s latest HeroClix figure fights like Hawkgirl would; Batman’s latest HeroClix figure fights like Batman would. And while some of the game’s rules have changed and its figures are designed a bit differently, playing HeroClix still feels like playing HeroClix.
As I’ve previously pointed out on this blog, nostalgia has been a big game during the pandemic. Apparently, my nostalgia for HeroClix runs deep enough that I’m willing to invest time and money in the game without being able to actually play it. I’m unsure whether I’ll buy any more Clix (there are a few more JLUers I’d consider, before maybe purchasing some updated villains). But I know that I do not regret buying the Clix I’ve already bought. Call it nostalgia, call it stupid. Call it hope that someday my friends and I will be able to play games together again, and that local game stores will return to normal. For now, it just makes me happy to line miniature Justice Leaguers up on my desk or across from each other on a HeroClix map. And what are superheroes for, if not to help make us happy?
(P.S. – In the past couple weeks, I’ve discovered HeroClix is massively overhauling its ruleset. This doesn’t especially affect me, given I’ll likely play with only my friends, but that’s sure some timing, huh?)