[EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of the 12 Nights of Clix-Mas, an ongoing Critical Missives Clix celebration wherein we’re trying to publish new content for 12 straight days. If you’ve missed anything, you can check out Night 1, Night 2, Night 3, Night 4, Night 5, Night 6, Night 7, Night 8, Night 9 or Night 10 just by clicking the preceding links!]
“A Clixmas Carol”
It’s late at night on Christmas Eve and I am sitting here in front of my PC, with HCRealms.com up, planning teams. No, actually, that’s a lie. I am actually obsessing over a recent loss at a tournament.
A guy played 4 Wall Constructs on a 4 person team. I was piloting a Red Lantern team and when we met in battle and I got a few shots in, but it wasn’t nearly enough. He used Pulse Wave to quickly KO two of my men. I was left with 2/3 of my build, but only one character with a natural 3 damage showing and the other people left on team didn’t have move and attack abilities left on their dial. Even though I had all these characters on the board I was no longer capable of attacking his team. All these pieces left on the board and no matter what dice rolls I got or what strategy I used, from that point forward there was nothing to be done except lose.
So I am sitting here. Plotting. Obsessing. Planning team upon team. I should be lying in my bed, getting a decent night’s sleep so I can enjoy Christmas morning, but instead I am just sitting there planning. Plans of immortal Groots and Poisonous Grasshoppers are running through my head and I’m rejecting them all. They’re not good enough. None of them are good enough. And then my head starts to nod… and I am asleep. No, I’m awake! Asleep. Awake…
And then I hear it.
Someone–or more accurately some THING–creeping down the hallway, each step echoing like plastic parts rattling around in a cardboard box. Fearfully I turn my gaze to the door. Slowly now, ever slowly, it rounds the corner to my office and it’s… a man. Carrying several huge tackle boxes full of HeroClix, all stacked on top of each other in front of his face.
Trembling, I summon what courage I have left and ask, “W-who are you?” He–it’s a man, now, I can see his silhouette–he starts to reply in a deep jagged voice I don’t recognize. “Kyrphlxx.” Then he coughs and reveals himself by putting the boxes down on a chair.
In a familiar voice he bellows, “It’s me–your brother, HypeFox.”
“What are you doing here? Christmas isn’t until tomorrow.”
“You, Ninwashui, you… have brought me here,” and he points a bony finger in my direction. “You’ve forgotten what’s important. both in HeroClix… and in life. Will you be at my house on Christmas Day? Or will you still be here trying to figure out how to beat he who defeated you not a fortnight ago?
“You don’t understand! I’m so close!” I point at the Builds I’ve collected on the screen. “I’m SO CLOSE TO FIGURING IT OUT!”
“And once you finally figure out how to defeat that Build, Ninwashui, will someone else not find another Build that’s even more powerful? And will you not be right back where you started?”
“No,” I reply. “I can beat that guy. I’m going to buy some Entities off eBay. and I can always search the Forums on the Realms for strategies. I can beat that guy next time. I can beat them all!”
“I’ve been where you are. I’ve spent too much money and time on HeroClix. You need to learn what I could not before it’s too late. You need to remember that HeroClix is supposed to be a game, not an obsession. It’s not real life. I need to get that through to you before it’s too late. Now, you’re dreaming and it’s almost Christmas, so I’ve arranged something festive for you. Tonight you will be visited by three people. Without their help you cannot hope to shun the path you tread. Expect them tonight. But be warned: while the first two are friends, the last is one of the greatest enemies of fun the world has ever known. He will tempt you… but his is a path that leads to ruin. And years of obsolescence. Y’know what? It’ll make more sense after you meet him.” And just like that his giant tackle boxes fall over. I glance at the pile for just a moment, then turn back to HypeFox–but he’s gone. And now so are the tackle boxes. I am alone again. Or at least I thought I was…
Standing behind me I suddenly notice a tall figure. I turn and it’s my friend Scott. I’m startled, but he immediately cuts off my gasp and says, “I’m here to remind of your HeroClix past.” Suddenly we’re not at my house anymore. Instead, both of us are watching our younger selves in my parents basement. It’s 11 years ago. We had just stated playing HeroClix about a month earlier. Hypefox, Scott, and I were having a battle royal and sitting around an early map trying to figure what was hindering terrain and what was blocking. I noticed my team had Rogue and the Juggernaut. They weren’t very good, but they were some of my favorite characters from the comics and I just loved playing them for that reason.
Then something occurred to me. I turned to the older version of Scott that had brought me here. “I understand why you brought me here. You wanted me to remember why I play HeroClix. You wanted to remind me of why I thought it was fun. I get that. But, why are you here tonight? You don’t play HeroClix anymore.” He took a few seconds to think and replied, “That’s true. The way the game progressed didn’t follow my interests. Once they invented white powers the game was a little a more complicated than I liked for something that’s just a way to pass the time with friends. But, that’s not the case for you. You like Chess and you love playing complicated games. That’s how you have fun. Even though we have fun differently we can still have fun together–as long as it’s fun and not winning at all costs. That’s why I’m here tonight. Remember that and we’ll always be friends.” And then a mini Juggernaut comes flying through the air. I turn to look for who threw it, but I’m not there anymore. I’m back at my desk. But I’m not alone…
Standing there is my friendly rival Andrew from my local HeroClix venue. It seems that no matter how many people are at Comics & More on a particular night, we always end up playing each other. If I’m doing badly then I will see him at the losers table. If I am doing well then I see him in the Finals. The last time we played we were both competing to not be in last place at a Flash Sealed event. I won that round fielding a team that wasn’t good, but slightly less-worse than his. The time before that he won the day when he “Krampus’d” me.
He started addressing me as soon as he saw me. “I don’t have to take you far to show you what I need to show you tonight. What do you remember about playing HeroClix against Brian, the judge at our venue?”
“Well he’s very good. I’ve probably lost more than half the times I’ve played against him. I noticed he loves playing theme teams and usually they aren’t very good. I mean the pieces he uses aren’t the most powerful, but he plays them well and usually ends up beating me or at least playing me close. I’ve never had a blow out win against him. I know he got 4 Entities playing War of Light events. Maybe that means he’ll start using them on some really over-powered teams.”
“I know exactly what he’s doing with his Entities. Here let me show you.”
“Are you going to teleport me to his house?” He looks at me like I’m nuts.
“Wow. That’s creepy. I’d rather not, if that’s fine with you. Why would you even–”
“It’s been a long night.”
“I mean, how are we suppose to teleport, exactly? You know teleportation isn’t real, right? You know what? Just pull him up on Facebook. And then we’ll agree that we never had this conversation.”
I look up Brian, our venue judge, on Facebook. Just like Andrew said, his Facebook page shows all the unimaginably-evil plans for the Entities he owns. Actually, when I look closer the plans he has are the opposite of evil. The exact entry reads “I need X-Mas money! Make me an offer for these Entities.” He’s selling them all off to buy Christmas gifts for his family! He wasn’t really interested in making cutthroat teams–his Clixing would be just fine without the Entities. I turn to ask Andrew about it, but he’s gone.
But in his place is someone I sense is decidedly more evil…
Behind me is a figure in a black cloak, his countenance obscured by shadows from his large, billowing black hood.
“Your friends have shown you the weakling you are. But I can show you something else. Something… different.” His voice is strange. Each syllable drips with venom, but there is a hollowness to him, an emptiness that almost echoes against the walls. “I’ll show how to never lose a game of HeroClix ever again.”
Just like that his cloak opens up like a black hole and sucks me inside! It’s total darkness. When I can see again I’m looking at… myself. But I’m older. At least 5 years. I’m at very nice long wooden table. I look around at the room and it’s Comics & More. But it’s very different. The toys are gone and the comics are down to just one small bookshelf. In their place are row after row of nicely polished playing tables and some giant shelves with HeroClix for sale. There’s a slogan on the wall that says “Winning Means Never Having to Feel Like a Loser.”
I look at myself and notice that I’m arranging pieces for a tournament. I’m alone so I must be planning out my team before everyone gets there. I look at some of the things that I have displayed in front of me. I see at least 10 different Chase Primes. I see a new type of Possession Piece called a “Multiverse Alternate Reality Incursion Entity”. I see a new Infinity Gem Resource. I see a Quinjet. I even see two Team Bases with Galactus and the Spectre on them on them! All of these things must have come out in the next 5 years and it seems like I have them all!
The hooded figure speaks. “In your future HeroClix rides a wave of popularity generated by a new breed of player. The type of player that will win at any cost. Six months from now WizKids hires a new CEO. One they know will be able to get every last dime out of a well established successful brand. He’ll start by introducing new revenue streams such as needing a to pay for a special license just to purchase packs of HeroClix. Then he’ll make all of the most powerful figures more rare and hard to find with each passing set. The power level will increase so much from set to set that almost every figure in the previous set is useless as soon as the next set comes out.”
I look at all the pieces in front of me.
“Am I the new CEO?”
“No…” replies the hooded figure. “I am. But you’re the first and best of the new win at any costs HeroClix player base. You could even be the most successful Clix player ever. You just have make the right choice tonight–the choice to embrace your destiny.”
Then It happens. I was so busy looking at all of the HeroClix figures on display that I missed seeing the piece of paper on the table in front of my future self. I see it now, and I know that my future self has taken a dark path. The paper is a tournament flyer. It reads, “Come face the best HeroClix player in the world. Tournament hours 8-midnight on Christmas Eve.” I’m not alone at Comics & More because it’s early before a tournament. I’m alone because it’s Christmas Eve and everyone else is with their families tonight.
I point at the paper and turn to the figure in Black.
“I know now what kind of person I am in the future. That man has gone down a dark path. The only question now is who are you? Who is the CEO that is so determined to get every bit of profit out of his fanbase that he invented things like a pack license and the Prime Chase rarity?”
Slowly the hooded figure laughs and removes his hood. “My name? Oh, I think you know my name, Ninwashui. I think you’ve known it all along!”
“I’m former University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon.”
I wake up screaming at my keyboard, with Dave Brandon’s empty laughter ringing in my ears.
I look around. It’s morning. It’s Christmas. I look up at my screen and during the night I’ve created the most evil team I’ve ever seen. It exploits timing rules and a broken combo to KO an opposing team before they’ve left their starting area. This could beat anything wall guy could throw at me. I’ll be the best player ever. Then I look closely at it. A casual player wouldn’t even get an attack off against this team. It would win every game 300 to nothing. Before I even realize it I am pressing delete. I take a minute to send a simple text about my night to HypeFox and get ready to go see him. Somewhere he’s reading what he’ll soon tell me is the most confusing back-t0-back texts he’s ever seen.
“Hey HypeFox. It turns out I’m not evil.”
“Also, screw Dave Brandon.”
I stretch and stand. I head to the bathroom for a quick shower, but as soon as I look at the mirror, I’m startled by another visit from Phantom HypeFox.
“You know, Ninwa, I’ve been thinking–if you had used an Orange Power Battery, you could have prevented the Wall Guy from–”
I wave my hand to cut him off.
“Not today, HypeFox.” And I notice now that for the first time in the last couple days I’m actually smiling. “It’s Christmas, and I’ve got somewhere I gotta be.”
From Hypefox and Ninwashui to all of our readers:
Merry Christmas Everyone!