Hello and welcome to the first X-Ceptional Reading, a look at tactics and strategy in Marvel Crisis Protocol from the perspective of an improving competitive player.
In 2023 I settled on MCP as my primary game after feeling quite unsatisfied with gaming since the glory days of Magic: The Gathering tournaments. Competitive Warhammer 40000 felt impenetrable to me, and while I’ve never been world class at gaming, I was used to winning more games than I lost. I love painting minis, but getting them to the table never lived up to my expectations. Finding MCP changed all that, and sparked competitive impulses which GW games never did. I was immediately keen to learn more and win more.
There’s a tremendous content scene for MCP – it seems that everyone who’s ever won a two day event has a podcast – and I’m no world beater. I do think about the game constantly though and hope the blog can get these thoughts in order, and even help other players focus their own thoughts.
A new Affiliation for a new year.
Until now, I exclusively played Avengers at tournaments, dabbling in other affiliations in casual games. After almost a year of pushing characters into their deployment zone with Captain Sam, I needed a change. It turns out I like shooting people, and since the balance changes in September 2023 there’s one guy who does that about as well as anyone.
While I don’t intend this blog to only cover X-force, for now, they are where my focus is right now and what I have something to say about. Since the September 2023 rework, X-force have been in the ascendancy. Over the next few months I want to answer some questions for myself, and hopefully readers as well – are they actually a “good” faction? What crisis do they excel and struggle at? And what characters are must takes, or deserve a close look?
There are a few factions in Crisis Protocol where the A in Plan A stands for Attack. For some, the B in Plan B also stands for Be Attacking.
X-Force are an Affiliation with no in-faction safe midline extract grab, no in-faction extract steal and very little in-faction displacement (at least, until recently!) What they have going for them are attacks and dice mods to those attacks.
They are also highly mobile- but that mobility largely serves as a tool to do more attacking.
So if you like attacking, and you have fond memories of mysterious mutant warriors from the future, X-Force are worth a look.
X-tremely common plays
While there are many attrition factions available in MCP, X-Force have a handful of recurring play patterns that are reasonably unique to them. In essence, most of these boil down to setting up and winning one on one fights, denying your opponent activations and eventually leaving you with enough of an attrition advantage to simply walk on to secures, pick up extracts, and score out the game.
This is bread-and-butter attrition Crisis Protocol. You’re not going to table many opponents with X-force. You’re unlikely to be able to successfully run a very tall team and guarantee getting priority every round. And you’re certainly not winning through clever throws and pushes, or multiple extract steals. You’re playing a wide-attrition team many would describe as “fair”, but with a handful of nasty tricks which can tilt the game your way. These patterns are largely what makes X-force stand out from other similar options (to me at least).
Connecting with Cable
The most prominent of these tricks is the round 1 Cable double tap. Cat and Mouse, X-Force‘s best tactics card, allows an X-Force member to place R2 at the end of deployment. In practice this will almost always be Cable, outside of possible fringe cases on Infinity Formula, where Psylocke or Wolverine can abuse the extra power R1.
Cable can then Body slide by 1, taking him to the midline. This is slightly further than a long mover with a medium base will get with one move – and Cable does this, then can shoot twice.
He can comfortably threaten a huge chunk of the mid-board. In crisis map terms, he can reach, within his range 3 reroll bubble, any or even all of your opponent’s Senators, your opponent’s home Skrull, or their home Meteor. On a wide range of Crisis maps, Cable can reliably throw 10 attack dice with 5 rerolls and a possible Incinerate turn 1, and on many of these he can follow up with a size 4 terrain throw.
The secret is somewhat out on this, and you’d be hard pushed to find an informed opponent who will stand Miles Morales or Lizard on the midline against Cable now. However, Beta Ray Bill, Rhino, even Juggernaut or Hulk – these characters often rely on being able to expose themselves to damage R1, which can play into Cable’s hands.
Scoot, Shoot, Shoot
Cable’s general play pattern of place/shoot/shoot is mirrored by several lower threat X-Force characters, in particular Deadpool and Psylocke. While they don’t have the R1 threat projection of Cable, they can follow up with very consistent attacks round 2, finishing off a character Cable dazed or damaged round 1 or denying a key activation early or mid round without the prospect of being dazed first due to the positioning advantages this non-action movement gives them.
This can give advantages in some unlikely situations – such as on Mutant Extremists Target US Senators. Psylocke in particular effectively ignores the “one move action per turn” limitation on this crisis, routinely using Telekinetic Combat Enhancement and her Psy-Bow to have activation like “walk short, attack for 4 mystic, walk short, attack for 7 mystic.” She then becomes very difficult to chase down because opponents have to get within range 3 of her (to circumvent her Stealth) using only one move action.
Because Senators has one of the main features X-force like in a crisis – a shape that encourages engagement right the way along the midline – this can lead to a snowballing of advantage straight out of the gate. I’ll try to cover more on crisis shapes for X-force in the future, but spread out in a narrow corridor over the width of the map is the shape I’ve found to be ideal so far.
What am I trying to get out of X-Force?
I have 3 aims for MCP in 2024.
1. Learn to actually be good at this game.
From my games so far and what I’ve learned about X-Force, to win games with them you need to think ahead and consider your positioning carefully. This lets you maximize the amount of attacks you make, so by playing smart (careful movement) early, you get to play stupid (buckets of attack dice) later. I’m learning a lot about wargame fundamentals playing a move and shoot style faction instead of scooping up extracts and running to the corners of the board every game.
2. Make top 5 with a faction on Longshanks
Longshanks rating is obviously a pretty meaningless imaginary Internet number, but I want my imaginary Internet number to be one of the highest in the world for a faction, even if that’s largely a product of circumstance.
3. Win a tournament
“Tournament” in Scottish translates as “4 round one day event in Stirling at Common Ground Games” the Central Belt’s finest purveyor of Vallejo paints and haggis toasties. I’ve finished 4-0 for second before and 3-1 with X-force twice, but I think copious dice mods and range 3 attacks will be enough to take me over the top.
Progress so far?
I’ve been playing x-clusivley X-Force in 2024, and my results have been mixed. In person, I’ve been really happy with my games, going 3-1 at the first two Scottish tournament of the year and getting some great practice games in. Online, things have been less successful, going 2-2 with the bye in the Scottish TTS league (although I did win my final round against Refzon, a great player from my local area).
I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the faction, but I’m facing some big puzzles. How to win on Riots against scenario teams, what to do into Cosmic Ghost Rider and Hulk teams, and how to avoid grinning like a fool and tilting my opponent when Cable does 7 damage to a character round 1. I’ll keep compiling my notes on these conundrums and updating you as often as I can.
If you enjoyed reading this, please reach out and let me know what you’d like me to cover in the future. Next time out I’m planning to compare the new hotness for the faction, recently spoiled 4 threat Bishop, to the existing runners and riders for the 4 threat slots for X-force.
Thanks for reading, and be x-cellent to each other