Heroclix has been around in one form or another since 2002, remarkably. It’s a miniatures game that’s suitable for beginners, players of all ages or just those gamers who are tired of having reams of stats and rules to wade through on every turn of the games they play.

The miniatures are also fully constructed, painted and ready to play with straight out of the box too – which is an absolutely huge selling point.

The unique element of Heroclix however – and the reason for the game’s name – is the clickable stats dial on each figure’s base.

The stats dial does everything from showing a player’s speed, attack strength, defensive stat, range and damage, to even showing which powers are currently available to the figure. It’s also a way to track the character’s health too – which also shows when the figure is knocked out!

Though a stats card is also needed to supplement the information you can read on the dial, this information is usually pretty easy to get used to as well. Each figure’s abilities and stats give it a unique feel, with some really interesting combos being possible by having different characters teaming up and complementing each other.

Gameplay in Heroclix is really straightforward, though it’s recently changed slightly. Characters can now take two actions – previously it was a single token per character – with each resulting in that character receiving an action token, before they can take no more (with action tokens being removed at the end of the turn after the turn the action token was added).

No doubt other elements have been updated too, but having not played Heroclix in over a decade, I’m not overly confident that I remember every nuance of the original rules.

I was a little concerned about picking up the latest Starter Set, as it’s based on what I felt was a fairly impenetrable X-Men storyline with lots of unfamiliar characters – but the unusual setting and cast has allowed space to include some figures that are pretty different to any that have come before. Even the more familiar characters, such as Storm, Wolverine and Cable for example, have swords and different abilities to their previous figures.

The comic book also had a recurring theme of Tarot cards being used; it’s an element the Heroclix designers have cleverly integrated into the X of Swords game too. Now each scenario in the game will also have a specific Tarot card that affects play for both teams, with the artwork resembling the cards seen in the comic. It’s very well done indeed.

On those scenarios, this is another triumph for the X of Swords set. Starting with Scenario A, the comic storyline can be played through by two players – in a way that allows the various characters to be used, getting used to their abilities and the game mechanics in a measured way.

The really cool thing with the campaign is that it branches depending on who wins a scenario – so the storyline will change based on who triumphs over their opponent in any given session. It’s a really clever way of handling a narrative campaign and I wish more games would do this!

Not only does it then feel like players are taking part in a story that’s unfolding due to their actions, successes and failures, but it also adds replayability to the campaign – you won’t see everything in one playthrough, for example.

There’s six double sided map cards on impressively thick cardboard, allowing for not just the included scenarios to be played, but a good deal of variety if two player just want to make a team each and have a skirmish.

It’s a flexible, pretty customisable experience; there’s a lot here and the ten included miniatures allow for a lot of variation in play too.

The miniatures themselves, while painted, aren’t exactly overflowing with detail or any special colouring techniques; the painting can be disappointingly rough in a few places too. Some parts of the figures feel a bit flimsy too – many of the swords on various miniatures were annoyingly bent and refuse to sit straight, thanks to the way they’re packaged.

That said, to have miniatures painted to this standard and ready to go right out of the box is brilliant – and it’s not as if this box set is any more expensive than any number of miniatures games (of comparable size) which expect you to put in lots of work before you can even start playing.

The rules feel incomplete though – and they’re definitely missing some vital information, as well as lacking a clear turn order summary (I can’t find any information that explains Penetrating damage, for example – which is a pretty big oversight). The powers/abilities cards, provided for each player, are incredibly useful though. There’s also basic and advanced cards/dial settings for every character, so you can raise the complexity and difficulty of the game as and when you’re ready.

Of course, there’s 64 miniatures in the X of Swords set to collect, so you can expand your collection if you desire. There’s also more Tarot cards to collect and this will allow players to use the new Tarot deck rules too; be warned that this can end up being pretty expensive though!

Note that Heroclix characters and elements can be combined from just about any series or set when playing outside of the scenarios though, which means you can have Marvel vs DC characters, even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or other franchises that have appeared in Heroclix form, facing off against each other – which is another reason that the Heroclix concept holds such appeal!

As a standalone experience, the Heroclix X of Swords Miniatures Game starter set actually provides an awful lot of gameplay for the outlay; ten painted miniatures and lots of scenery to play on also gives you a lot of bang for your buck, not to mention the satisfying, branching storyline if you’re looking for a campaign to play with a friend.

Most starter sets are a good place to start if you want to check out Heroclix. Another recent release is the Empyre set, which has more unusual Marvel characters to add to or start off a collection, as well as scenarios, boards and more. You can buy the Empyre Heroclix set from Amazon here.

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