So in this series, I’ll be going over each affiliation and diving into what I believe to be misunderstandings about each one, and why the echo chamber of online discourse is often wrong, or at least draws to the wrong conclusions. Starting alphabetically, we have my first love A-Force.
A-Force is actually a rather oddball faction, with only one leader and a bunch of characters that were at one point considered to be “The Best”, while also having a few powerful tactic cards. However, if you ask any tournament grinder, you’ll learn that A-Force is rarely played and rarely has any success. So why is that? Well here’s the most likely thing you’ll hear is something like…
“They need a cheaper leader. Having only a 6-threat leader is rough.”
This one has always struck me as odd. She-Hulk is certainly a boat anchor for the faction, as she can often be dead weight, but she’s not a bad leader. I’ll come back to this in a minute.
But for the moment, consider Cabal. This is a faction that has three leaders and the one that has seen any tournament success, the only one that’s really being played for that matter, is the 7-threat powerhouse Malekith. Cabal for the last year has really only played tall, or really tall. Historically speaking, Black Order and Brotherhood of Mutants have also had a lot of success with their expensive leaders.
So why do people believe A-Force needs a cheaper leader? Well, She-Hulk has a lot of bad matchups… Like a lot. Any faction that can melt through her 20 health with sheer volume of fire, such as Guardians or Shield is not good for She-Hulk. Not to mention only having 3 physical defence makes her weak to repeated throws, and she can be thrown by many characters who are significantly cheaper than her since she’s only size 3. Her leadership is arguably the best thing on her card, being able to juice herself and her teammates up for explosive turns. All of this combines to make her a massive target, which you’ll have to spend a lot of your gameplan protecting.
So to bring this full circle, She-Hulk is both the weakest link and backbone of the affiliation currently, and that’s why people want a second leader, so She-Hulk is a tech pick into certain matchups, or at least free to run it down and punch the snot out of things. There is a massive caveat to this though, the second leader needs to be good. While true, Malekith is a monster of a beatstick, there is a reason why no one ever really says “Thank god I have Sin/Red Skull in this list.”
“Special Delivery is the best card in A-Force.”
This might be a little controversial and requires a history lesson for you greener players. There was a card called Drop Off. It allowed a character that had flight to move another character and then you’d get a free attack, so long as it cost 0. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s literally Special Delivery (it’s why you’ll occasionally hear someone use it as nomenclature when playing this card) but with a few crucial changes. Drop Off was unaffiliated and any character with flight in any faction could move any character, the artwork was even using Rocket and War Machine. The only limitation on Drop Off was needing the character being the same size or smaller, meaning Dormmamu could Drop Off MODOK if you wanted to.
Special Delivery limits it to just She-Hulk but more importantly, the flight character must be A-Force affiliated. This doesn’t sound too bad, until you look at the list of A-Force characters. Most of the characters are not very fast and therefore, the distance you get off Special Delivery isn’t great, and the seven dice punch might be worse than the attack you can do with that action instead. The faster characters, Angela, Crystal and Wasp, also have their own problems as individual characters.
Do not mistake me for saying Special Delivery is a bad card, it should absolutely always be in your roster’s ten, but as I played more and more games, I started to not bring it in my five as much. It has won me the game single handedly as much as I’ve also never played it after bringing it in my five, either because She-Hulk or the only flyer I brought died too quick, or because it’s also a bit of a “Got’cha!” card. A more experienced opponent will definitely be playing around it, making it often hard to get good value, even if things are going well for you on the attrition side of things.
Personally I think Stalwart Determination is the best card, as I can count the number of times on one hand out of hundreds of games where there wasn’t at least one throw/push in my opponent’s roster. The timing on the card is also sweet, because your opponent will often forget you played it four or five turns ago, and can then muck up their plans really badly.
Since we’re talking tactics, A-Force Assemble is an odd one. It boosts your defence dice for a round, but also needs to be played during your turn and you need your team to be wide and close together to make good use of it. If A-Force ever gets a cheaper leader, this might be playable in a wide vs wide matchup, but at the moment it lives in an awkward place of needing all the stars to align just right while also not being much worth it in the end.
“A-Force is a Bad Faction.”
So this is going to be a little harder to explain but I’ll try my best. I spent the last one thousand-ish words being somewhat critical of the faction and the characters in it. They absolutely have problems. However, I truly believe A-Force has the tools to take a major event, it has good characters (so good most needed to be nerfed) and a lot of tech into some of the scariest lists out there. She-Hulk herself is actually quite good into the Hulks and Malekiths running around the meta, with other characters being able to bring scenario plays, control or raw damage to the game.
However, A-Force always feels like you’re one bad turn away from losing the game. You have to play perfectly (and have a little luck) to really get the most out of them. While piloting skill will always be important, sometimes the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze, not compared to a lot of other factions that could get similar results with a lot less mental effort required. Looking at you Shadowlands Daredevil. I believe only truly bad factions out there are the ones which have nothing going for them, or that the factions’ problems are so huge, they cannot overcome them.
To summarize, people believe that A-Force is in a bad place at the moment due to the inflexibility of She-Hulk and the reliance on Special Delivery, but if She-Hulk got a little buff to her defences and people experiment with leaving Special Delivery at home, A-Force could still absolutely make a much deserved comeback. Next week, we’ll cover the misconceptions of my second love, Asgard.