We finished our five-session arc of With Great Power . . . last night. It’s certainly the best gaming experience I’ve had in years, and in the short-list for my best gaming ever. From start to finish it was pure joy.
A lot of that joy was contextual: as noted I am a madman on the subject of Silver Age Marvel comics, and I was lucky enough to have two magnificent players (Sternum and Invincible Overlord) who, in addition to also being huge fans, were terrific role-players and enormously funny people.
Some of that joy was due to the fiction. Last night:
- The Thing single-handedly defeated a Troll army that was marching on Asgard (including clobbering Ulik, who had humiliated and enslaved him last session).
- Spider-Man, tapping into the power of the Norn Stone, defeated the mighty Thor in single combat. Just as he was about to steal Thor’s hammer in accordance with Loki’s sinister plan, Peter Parker realized he was going too far–and returned it to the thunder god.
- The Enchantress, who had seduced Peter into near-villainy, came to understand that, though nought but a mortal, his heart was more valorous than many an Asgardian’s.
- There was a funny scene when the Thing tried to tell-off Odin the Omnipotent, but the All-Father basically yawned him away.
- Loki, frustrated, made a play for the indestructible Destroyer. There was a big fight between Spider-Man, the Thing, Thor, and the Fantastic Four against the Loki, the Destroyer, the Radioactive Man, the North Vietnamese Army, and the United States Air Force. In the end, the heroes triumphed (of course).
And some of the joy was due to the system, though I’m not sure how much. With Great Power . . . is played with a deck of cards rather than dice. You generally want high-ranking cards, and in order to get them the player will choose to sacrifice certain aspects of his or her character. Thus, Spider-Man might ignore Aunt May for a little while in order to save the city. In mid-game, however, many of these aspects fall into the clutches of the Game Master, who can then do sadistic things: like say that Aunt May has gotten engaged to Doctor Octopus. In the end-game, a couple of rules shift around to favor the players, and if they’re lucky they can save the day and any spinster aunts.
So the card-economy does a great deal to affect the pacing of the game. Going into this session, I was concerned that I had beaten up the super heroes so much that there was no way they could build up a hand strong enough to take me on. Since Sternum kept his most valuable aspects out of my grasp, I couldn’t win outright, but (I thought) neither could the heroes. It turns out that I was mistaken. The card economy is clunky, opaque, and feels a little ad hoc, but it worked out beautifully last night, and I’m very impressed with Michael and Kat Miller for getting this design right. (That said, we did end up house-ruling it that I couldn’t take an aspect all the way to Transformed in the course of a single fight.)
So – best supers gaming I’ve ever had, and a good time was had by all. Excelsior!