What’s a blue area? It’s a tiny habitable spot on the moon and it is pretty popular – the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Inhumans and now SWORD have all set-up shop there at one time or another. So I guess any match played on this crisis is transported to the moon’s blue area. Why’d they make it look so much like New York? Just what does SWORD have planned?
Does that really say 14 threat? Yeah. It does. 14 threat secure and at that, one that wants you to blanket the map’s centerline with bodies. How many bodies can your roster field at 14? How much quality can your list bring at 14? Rocket, Groot & a 9pt Thanos? Six-wide unaffiliated? Angela, She-Hulk and a three of choice? Magneto & his ilk? Maverick & Goose? Personally, I’m hoping for a two point Karnak to pull together an all my favorite Inhumans 14 – an overgrown-boy can dream.
A C shaped, winner take all, low and even-pointed secure that’s only RNG when it is contested – is an interesting animal. To contribute to the scoring system, a securing character must pay a power to interact and claim if uncontested, or attempt to claim if contested.
With priority, you’re bringing SWORD to take advantage of the shape and the point value. Without, you’re looking at SWORD to keep enemy models occupied and leverage range, mobility and control. Regardless, SWORD encourages the uncontested interact.
“SWORD in my mind is close to a perfect crisis design, in that there is a huge benefit to being the player with priority, as well as the player without it. Players with priority get first crack at flipping 2/3 of the stations without needing RNG. But, if you don’t have prio it means you can go last and get the final opportunity to move someone and flip it,” says Ryan Farmer of the Strike Better podcast. “If you win prio, and are going against a player who you think is only going to field 3-4 models, then picking SWORD and a higher threat can allow you to both flip two tokens in your favor AND move last in round 1, which is arguably the most important.”
SWORD finds itself breaking new ground in old company. A fresh take on the “flip” secure, prayers to RNGesus (Random Number Generator Jesus, aka RNG) are only needed if the point is contested. Another interesting variation, is that the crisis doesn’t check for Healthy vs. Injured status – only whether or not it is contested. Meteors, Mutant-Madman and Spider-portals (the other “flip” secures), all ignore injured characters when rolling for control.
The RNG secures lend themselves to a flexible scrum, loosely based around the points of contention. The tighter the shape, the more, focused areas of conflict are prone to develop.
The C shape here often makes a single secure location the crux of the fight, with two variations. First variation is an edge focus, with an edge objective being the focal, while the center point, albeit also focal point, is secondary, and the third point is claimed early and/or again late but is otherwise non-central to the action. The second variation puts the center point focal, with both sides remaining relevant, to varying degrees. The flow of a game can also move between these variants over the course of play.
The push offered by the crisis in the power phase is another new take. SWORD is consistent. Unlike the unpredictable Spider-Portals, you know there’s going to be displacement from the Base. You can count on it but you can’t count on being the one who gets to do it. While some simply called it, win-more, season three finalist Steven G / Raptornest described it as a choice between, “Push to murder or push to ‘stagger.'” Regardless, it is an effect worth fighting for.
Additionally, unlike the other flip-secures, which always have a chance of failure, “because of the auto-success,” he added that he has often found himself avoiding, “leaving a point uncontested since there was no chance of failure for my opponent if I abandoned it.”
In contrast to the old, “RNG secures like Spider-Portals and Origin Bombs which were pretty rough on both extremes of attrition teams like Cabal and X-Force and objective based teams like Web Warriors and Syndicate.” These affiliations, Raptornest continued, “have little access to characters in affiliation with greater than 3 energy defense [and] in some builds two […] On the other side, Mutant Madmen helped some of those teams with access to high Physical defense values but not all and most of the affiliations that were “good” at RNGs [are] still good at this one.”
So what’s SWORD then? It’s the fixed RNG secure. The one that gives the priority player the first shot at a sure thing, the option to try and flex points into a position to go last on turn one. It’s the one that starts the round by granting a flourish of win-more-murder-stagger to whoever actually holds at least 2/3s of the base Consoles.
Alright SWORD, you’ve got my attention
Once the secure game is understood, the extraction pairing is where we carve out a unique flavor.
With a single, two-point, extract, it’s a tug-o-war. For the likes of Legacy Cure or Montessi, the winning the consoles is parity with losing all the extracts. For fast extracts, such as cubes or spider-infected, a winner-take-all, three-point swing is either all the points you’re willing to give up, or an even faster path to victory.
The Senator and SWORD are a particularly interesting pairing. Locking you into 14 points, this hunger games set-up doubles-down on the C shape. Models are forced to the middle of the map, to both claim the base and search for the Senator. The base is the priority, as the winner of the SWORD secures has tremendous leverage over an opposing the Senator, and an effective stagger against the primary threat should they control both. The Skrull and Alien ship also offer up a similar scene, with much varied point totals.
But what’s good at 14 points? What’s good on this 14 points?
The low point value makes squad construction a major decision point, do you settle for average activations, or try to push higher or lower. Are you picking 14 or something else? To go five wide at 14 points requires a few decisions to be made in roster construction. A three wide build is not uncommon. Four wide is easily achievable by most affiliations. And Black Order has the unique distinction of a being able to rock two, affiliated models into 14 points.
Sin’s leadership adds even more win-more/win-harder to a game played on SWORD as she can allow a push away during the clean-up phase, followed by the power phase push from the scenario. When her leadership triggers, it will make it even harder for her opponents to catch-up on the scenario.
Any roster that can run wide into SWORD and save a control effect to push a lone enemy character off the point is advantaged here. Wakanda is an example roster that can easily hit five wide at 14 and has plenty of control options at every point value from there.
Storm led X-Men have a cheap enough core to hit five wide without much effort and the First Class Tactic can give them an incredible first round on any interact based objective. Paying zero power to RNG is almost as good as paying one for an unstoppable claim.
Any extra-wide list should actively have a game-plan for SWORD, and many will be mainlining it in their three. This crisis gets an A for rosters that can hit five-plus activations at 14 points and an S for rosters that can do that and bring a control piece to activate last.
What about the other side? 14 points usually means less health to chew through. You can bring bodies to fill out the activation count, but are they quality? The other side of making a play for the Base is considering it’s all or nothing swings, a more elite list may be willing to give up a couple turns of scoring to pull back into the mix late. A powered up three-action Thanos can pretty easily flip two of these, and with a bit of luck and effort, remove your ability to respond. A three or four wide attrition-forward squad can make their presence felt on this crisis, often turning the game into a match of last model standing.
So how do I get to the SWORD Base?
The Cable and Domino expansion is in the wild. Hot off the presses, and finally breaking through world-wide shipping delays. This crisis comes with their pack. Cable is the first X-Force leader, and Domino is a three point turret who’s ready to spike damage into the opposing squad. They are also both affiliated Uncanny X-Men and Cable is an Avenger.
X-Force may be a surprisingly easy buy-in to Marvel Crisis Protocol. Cable & Domino, Deadpool & et. al., line up nicely into the core-set, allowing an X-Force dual affiliation, with build-trees into either or both Avengers & Cabal. UtilityCookie is concurrently publishing a series on X-Force, and I encourage you to check it out. SWORD is included in the secures he has plotted out as their bread and butter.
Tune-in next-time for an uncomfortably long look at everybody’s favorite extract: Hammers!
Obligatory Thanos Pic: