Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/10/11/tabletop-review-wicked-heroes-children-of-the-mirror/
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a superhero? Of course you have, we all have. Even to this day, sitting at your job, staring out the window you daydream of looking down on the masses with your watchful eyes as the omnipotent protector, or the malevolent villain. Now comes the part where your nemesis steps in, either putting a stop your diabolical plans or to take you out without mercy. However, in this world, there is no holding back. If you destroy your villain, you gain his power to help the unknowing citizens. You destroy the hero? You gain his power to reap the rewards of an even more nefarious quest. This is the world corrupted by the obsidian mirror. The world of the Wicked Heroes.
Wicked Heroes: Children of the Mirror is a quick, sixteen page handbook written by John Wick, a designer who has had his hand in creating Legend of the Five Rings and the 7th Sea games. Wicked Heroes is described as a “horror supers game” that will be included in the Big Book of Little Games that will release in November of 2011. It is very quick and easy read, with a clear premise of the world, along with protagonists and antagonists that can make their appearance in the game that can be as short as one night, or as long as a full campaign.
After giving a brief explanation of the world, Wicked Heroes begins with its entire character creation system spanning over the vastness of a single page. Characters are created with five questions: Who am I, how did I awaken, what is my Gift, what is my Curse, and what is my motivation? The fun doesn’t really begin until you get to the Gifts and Curses. Mentioned at the start of the character creation section is the need for a deck of cards. When you get to the Gifts, you have the player pull a card, and depending on which one they received, they can end up with powers like the ability to freeze something immediately to -150 degrees, or summon a force field around themselves. There are 48 separate powers that can become a character’s blessing, with aces and jokers causing different things to happen all together. Next in line to be chosen for characters are the curses. The Curses section is chosen by cards as well, consisting of Hate, Fear, Greed, and Lust. The only differences are that these curses are much more open to exploitation by enemies and players alike. After the fun of seeing which blessings and curses a character receives, the player must choose what motivates their character and allocate points for each one, which will certainly come in handy later in the game.
Wicked Heroes does not run on the classic dice rules, but rather uses a card system to chose whether you succeed or fail. Without giving away the structure of the game itself, gifts automatically succeed. This is a good way of making it a true supers game, especially since it cites the reason that other well-known superheroes don’t need to “see if their powers activate,” so why should you? The other parts of the game are dependent on risks to invoke the power of the cards, which will give you “slammers.” These slammers will then help you change the world, the only problem is that the structure of the game is a little too lenient on how the slammers are used, letting the player who received the slammer narrate the outcome of the risk. This leaves too much gray area for a player to completely change the GM’s outcome of the situation.
The book continues to describe conflicting risks and the “Yes, But…” rules. These rules are for within-the-group actions, which can boil down any conflict to the classic playground argument of “Nu-uh,” and “Yeah-huh!” The book describes a situation of characters fighting over the loot they had found. One character plays a slammer on their turn to pick up the bag, which the next character plays a another slammer and declares that the bag is too heavy and requires two hands to carry it. My issues with the rules were only exacerbated by the further definition of the “Yes, But…” rules. This allows a character to use a slammer to “modify the previous outcome.” In this case, a player used a slammer to say that the original character had picked it up, but there was a large rip, causing the loot to spill out. When putting these rules to the test in a group, all civility left the second a conflict within the group arose. Eventually a victor was declared, and the “smelly one” sulked after their loss of cards.
At the end of it all, do I think that Wicked Heroes: Children of the Mirror is worth $5? Yes. For a price equivalent to an average iPad app, I think this game gave more laughs and entertainment to make up for the money. The creation system was fun for randomly generating a super hero that could be used in other supers games, and the background for the world would make an interesting storyline for a more structured roleplay system. This is also a great system for a one night game that no one wants to create an elaborate story for, and everyone always seems to have a deck of cards lying around, making it a system that could be picked up quickly. The learning curve of the game isn’t steep, allowing this game to be played with children as well as adults.