Earlier this year, WizKids announced a new approach to designing dials. They announced specialist and generalist dials. The goal is to diversify our options for team building and make the game easier to pick up at the same time.
Generalists are what we’ve been used to over the past few years. This is typically a higher point dial and is an attempt to capture everything about a character, so the dial is packed full of powers and abilities. Generalists will do more but will also take up more space on your team.
Specialists, on the other hand, are just a snapshot of the character. They’re lower point dials with less powers and abilities. These dials are designed to serve a specific role. Specialists will do less but will also take up less space on your team.
We started seeing some of this in World’s Finest, but this design philosophy really showed up in Uncanny X-Men and Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Now we’re seeing it again in Joker’s Wild. The Justice Society of America got the specialist treatment and it’s drawn all kind of controversy. You can play nine of the early, Golden-Age characters for 300 points. You read that right – nine non-generic figures for 300 points.
JW008 Green Arrow 40
JW019 Hourman 25
JW022 The Atom 25
JW025 Hawkman 30
JW036 The Flash 35
JW040 Sandman 30
JW041 The Spectre 40
JW042 Dr. Fate 40
JW052 Green Lantern 35
Some people love them; others hate them. I was really intrigued by this approach, so I wanted to see for myself. I finally got to try them out last week and here are some of my thoughts.
So How Do They Play?
This new JSA is all about team work. Each individual piece is fragile, often around four clicks deep. A heavy hitter can take them out fast! Knowing my pieces were this fragile made protecting them a high priority. The JSA team ability lets them share defense values and there are a lot of 18’s on the team. Additionally, they all have “A Simpler Time” trait that adds a twist – +1 defense at range, +1 defense in close, Super Senses that only succeeds on a 6, or conditional Probability Control.
I was concerned about their ability to deal damage, but the team has more options than I first thought. Dr. Fate can use Enhancement or Empower. Green Arrow has Ranged Combat Expert. The Atom has Close Combat Expert. Even still, you will need to land many smaller hits to take heavy hitters down, so the JSA really needs coordination.
The Green Lantern is a must play piece. Remember what I said about protecting your pieces? That’s Green Lantern’s specialty! He has traited Barrier and Indomitable so he can keep making blocking terrain. Additionally, he can use Barrier as a free action but only to place one square of blocking terrain. If you keep your team together, Barrier and high defense values should be enough to keep your heroes in the fight.
What About Comic Accuracy?
Some people weren’t concerned about their playability. They were concerned about their comic accuracy. Does playing this JSA feel like the characters and stories in the comics?
After playing them, I say yes…in a sense. In big team up books like Justice League, Avengers, or Justice Society, it’s not uncommon for each character’s individual powers and abilities to get less emphasis. For example, there are plenty of X-Men issues that de-emphasize Wolverine’s healing abilities for the sake of drawing the whole team into the fight. These pieces play like that. These figures are about the JSA as a team not as individual characters.
If you’re looking for the definitive Spectre or Dr. Fate, these pieces won’t do it for you. If you’re looking to field a large JSA roster and fight as a team, these pieces will do the trick. So when we talk about comic accuracy, I think it all depends on what we’re looking for. These figures excel as a team, but individually they aren’t very impressive.
Overall, I really like this team. I think it’s a much more balanced and fun way to get a large roster for less points than team bases have been in the past. If you like this take on the JSA, there are some other teams that you should check out too. The Metal Men and Doom Patrol from World’s Finest and the 1960’s X-Men from Uncanny X-Men will scratch a similar itch. If you like Heroclix for the synergy, positioning, and teamwork, collect this team.