We all love a good heist movie, don't we? My favourite bit is the early chapter - usually done as a montage or series of short, choppy scenes with a unifying musical track - when the Boss puts his team together. Whether it's Ocean's Eleven, Hogan's Heroes or Justice League, you get this sense of a diverse group of character, each with their own particular strengths and weaknesses, who come together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
When I wrote the rules for building your "X Teams" (whether the X stands for Exploration, Extermination or something else is for you to decide) in Zero Dark, I really wanted to capture some of that flavour as well as borrowing from the popular Horizon Wars mechanics for building custom mechs - but with even more creative freedom!
The baseline is that each hero - the main type of character, the other being allies, who are a bit different - gets 15 stat points to spend on four stats that will look a bit familiar to Horizon Wars players: M, F, A and D. But they mean something a little different in Zero Dark: Mobility, Fight, Acuity and Discipline. The first two are physical stats. The latter two are essentially mental stats.
Then you can add as many upgrades to each hero as you like!
What? That makes no sense!
Mad, right? Well, the thing is, if you're playing solo or co-op, then you add up all the upgrades you've taken on your characters and then you run down the clock by that many cards. So, sure, by all means take a ludicrous bunch of upgrades for a superhuman hero, but you'll have less time to complete your mission.
Now, things are slightly balanced in the heroes' favour, because upgrades are better than the clock. This allows you to balance how hard you want any given mission to be by giving your heroes more upgrades and abilities. It'll run down the clock, but your advantages will mostly off-set that disadvantage. Mostly.
In a PvP missions, you must agree with your opponent how many upgrades you get to take on each hero. So there are no limits, but your opponent has the same advantages you do. The default position is 4/16/4, or 4 heroes with a maximum of 16 upgrades, a maximum of four of which are allocated to each hero.
Makes a bit more sense, now?
Hmmm... OK, so what are the upgrades?
There are loads of upgrades, but they split down into five main types: specialisms (of which you can have a maximum of one of each in your team), traits, gadgets, weapons and allies. One of the traits - "synthetic" - also gives you access to things like artificial intelligences, robots and drones.
They sound really interesting! Tell me more.
I will. Next week, we'll talk about allies. If you want to know more about the others, you'll just have to wait. ;)