October 29th, 2010
Review - Atomic Super Humans
from Radioactive Press
Radioactive Press designs some pretty unique games, as all of their products are pretty much made to allow you to bring to life toys and/or action figures in a traditional war/skirmish game setting. For instance their game Mega Bots sounds like the ideal ruleset if you wanted to use Transformers toys/action figures to play a skirmish game with. All of their products utilize what they call the Toy Battle System (TBS), so it's clear that they have toys and action figures in mind, as opposed to traditional miniature models.
Atomic Super Humans is a super-hero skirmish game rulebook designed for 2 or more players, and is based on the Toy Battle System as well, which is utilized by all other Radioactive Press games (like Giant Monster Rampage, Power Warriors, Mega Bots and The Swarm). While Atomic Super Humans is a stand alone game system, it can also be used as an expansion to any of the existing TBS games. You could effectively mix or match all of their games into a single game.
The rulebook is 57 pages in all, and comes in .pdf format for $7.99 USD, and they do offer a printed version through the online printing service Lulu for $14.99 USD. As far as rulebooks go, this one has a strange layout. It begins to explain that you need a character, or a team of characters to create your character profile(s) upon, a Pen/Pencil and a copy of the Character Record sheet (or a piece a paper), a measuring device in inches, at least 3x 10-sided dice (D10) and a 3ftX3ft play area, with suitable terrain.
Next you're dropped right into character creation. Essentially you select a character model to portray you, then you and the other player decides upon a Point Cost for each side. Here's the odd part, in terms of scale they suggest the models are too be 2-3-inches tall. Well that pretty much leaves out almost all of the action figures on the market today, as most are 3 ¾ inches - 5+inches tall, and most miniature models for wargaming/skirmish games are usually under 2-inches tall. So I'm not quite sure what they were thinking by suggesting 2-3-inches tall for the scale of the models/action figures. Nonetheless, 25mm, 28mm and 30mm+ scale models work just fine.
Now you choose what Classification your character will fall under, which also determines the maximum ratings. Available choices are Absorber, Braniac, Speedster, Shapeshifter and Brick, just to name a few. There's also the option to go the Multi-Class route, which costs an additional 30 points, and allows you to fine tune your class even more.
The Statistics used in the game are Distance (how far you can move), Dexterity (Close combat skill), Toughness (resilience to damage), Daring (measure of courage and will to survive), Wounds (how many wounds you have), Atomic Power (more on this later), Close Combat Attacks (how much damage you can inflict in melee).
You also use the build points to buy your statistics. For instance by default a character is given 5 Wounds for every 100 points you spend to create the character, and extra wounds can be purchased at 10 points a wound, but you can have no more than 10 wounds total. A character starts with 0 Close Combat Attacks, and you can purchase them at 10 points for 1 wound inflicted, 20 points for 2 wounds, and 30 points for 3 wounds inflicted attacks, and so on, but you can have no more than 6 total.
After that you use the points left over to buy your Powers and Abilities, and there's about 16 pages worth of Powers and Abilities to choose from. The options available are Teleportation, Shield, Laser Blast, Pierce, Knock Down, Microwave Blast, Poison, Doppleganger, and Massive Appendage, just to name a few.
For instance Impervious will cost 50 points, it's a Defensive ability and essentially reduces the damage being done to you, based on a chart of how far away an attacker makes a Ranged or Close Combat attack with your character being the target. Massive Appendage allows you to grow an appendage and essentially enhance a Close Combat attack with it, causing a critical hit on a result of 9-10, plus reducing the target characters Dexterity by 1 for the rest of that round.
By now if you have any points left over, you can also opt to buy Henchmen. There's Smart, Fast, Skilled and Tough Henchmen to choose from, oddly all of which cost the same 20 points each. The number of Henchmen you can field is determined by your Daring stat. A Daring stat of 2 allows you to purchased up to 2x, and a Daring stat of 3 would grant you the means to buy 3x, and so on. They can't be given any powers, but all do come with base stats based on which one you choose, and you can buy them a single Ability at a reduced cost if you so choose.
After a primer called Playing the Field which details terrain and how it effects gameplay (with collateral damage and all), now I've finally reached the actual rules to play the game of Atomic Super Humans on page 37. In Playing the Field it's also explained that rubble can catch fire, and even be electrified, so there's some really cool collateral damage effects modeled.
A round of play is broken down into Initiative, Movement, Ranged Combat, Close Combat and Recovery, then rinse and repeat. Setup is also pretty much like most other skirmish games, as you are allowed to alternate bringing characters into the play area, within 6-inches from a play area edge, and at least 24-inches away from the opposition. The Recovery Phase is unique too, as you can roll for the chance of recovering a single wound, and to bring a Henchmen back into play.
Combat is really simple, as there's a Base Target Number of 6 for both Ranged and Close Combat attacks, which can be further modified by range and cover, etc. So remembering that you need to roll at least a 6 or better on a D10 is pretty easy. Critical Hits are a natural 10 on a D10, and do +1 damage, and reduces a single stat by -1 for the remainder of the game.
In Close Combat a target of a CC attack is also able to Retaliate, and there can be a Critical Miss if you roll a 1. There's also a morale-like roll that needs to be made if any character looses more than 3 wounds in a single round, which is made by rolling against their Daring rating, and if they fail they must flee.
There's a small list of what they call Combat Maneuvers too, which can be used in place of normal actions like Carry, Duck, Leap, Ram, Throw and Trip, again just to name a few. After that the book ends and there's a 3-page Quick Reference Sheet, and a blank Character Sheet you can print off to create your characters from.
I don't see Atomic Super Humans winning any awards for innovation, certainly not in rulebook layout or design, but as a quick and fairly simple set of super-hero skirmish-game rules it's not an entirely bad option. There's certainly a lot worse skirmish games out there, but in the way of super-hero skirmish games there's not very many options to choose from aside from Pulp City and SuperSystem.
Oh I almost forgot Wizkids was brought back from the dead, so the uber fun plastic crack incarnation of super-hero gaming called HeroClix is alive and thriving again too. So technically there's three existing games, and Atomic Super Humans is now the fourth that I'm aware of.
Atomic Super Humans is probably at the end of the spectrum when compared to any of those other three options, but in terms of simplicity it's more along the lines of HeroClix, only even easier. My only gripe is that I don't like feeling like I'm creating a character for playing an RPG like classic D&D when I skirmish-game, and that's part of the process in Atomic Super Humans.
On the flip-side the Character Creation in Atomic Super Humans is quite comprehensive for such an easy to pick up and play product. I can't see it being too hard to use what's provided to create most any of the popular super-hero stereotype out there, so that's definitely a plus in the eyes of most gaming enthusiasts. The Character Creation provided in Atomic Super Humans is by far its strong point.
The whole scale suggestion of 2-3-inch tall models is still puzzling, although some Close Combat attacks have a reach as far as 6-inches, which is a little odd too. Therefore there's a couple of things in this game that at a glance doesn't seem quite right, but I don't think they hinder it enough to keep it from being fun and simple enough to pick up and play it. There's also the fact that we're talking about an $8 USD ruleset here, not a $20+ investment. You use all of your own models too, so there's no major “buy in” either.
With so many great super-hero models out there these days available quite reasonably priced in Reaper's Chronoscope range, and SuperFigs both, it's definitely not hard to find some suitable models to play with either. A handful of HeroClix can be picked up on eBay for a song and a dance essentially too. If money is no object, there's also the really nice models from Pulp City to consider as well.
It's actually pretty nice looking too for such an inexpensive product. The art is actually really impressive, and doesn't look like some crude drawings tossed in to take up space, like you might find in similarly priced .pdf ruleset productions these days.
All in all, Atomic Super Humans won't convince existing super-hero skirmish-game enthusiasts to convert, but I think it's a fantastic entry level skirmish-game of super-hero on super villain combat, complete with an in-depth character creation system, and collateral damage even.