In this series for newer or casual players we introduce the various Affiliations in Marvel Crisis Protocol, dip into their comic book history, and talk about building a roster around them. This week we look at A-Force.
A-Force isn’t so much an actual team in Marvel Comics. There was a miniseries during the 2015 Secret Wars event where a bunch of female characters all lived in a nation on Batteworld called “Arcadia.” Like most of Battleworld it didn’t hold up to a lot of logical prodding, but it was a cool concept. The main group of heroes featured in the series were She-Hulk, Dazzler, Nico Minoru (from Runaways), Medusa, and a new character named Singularity. America Chavez throws a shark and creates an international incident, and Loki (female at the time) is a jerk!.
After Secret Wars Singularity continued on to the newly reformed main Marvel universe with her memories of Battleworld intact, but nobody else remembered it or her. The same team, plus Captain Marvel, are brought together to deal with an evil version of Singularity and an evil dragon from Battleworld. Also they get joined by a version of Dazzler also from Battleworld who was part of the Thor Corps. Then the Civil War II event happens, which turns Carol Danvers into a cartoonish fascist and nearly kills She-Hulk and the series just kind of shrugs and stops there.
A-Force was deliberately designed as a female-empowerment comic, a showcase where the women of the MU were not upstaged by their male counterparts. I don’t know if you can remember back to 2015 to early 2016 but there was a fair amount of that kind of sentiment in the air, which got absolutely stomped on at some point late in 2016. The idea of a team of female heroes is a great one but there just didn’t seem to be a strong reason for them to be together other than as a marketing thing. Which, if that’s the case, I say lean into it and have a bunch of women come together in the book and explicitly say “we need to provide representation and role models to young girls whose STEM projects go horribly awry and give them super-powers, to show them that they can solve any problem by punching really hard, just like the male superheroes do!”
There are really only those two series that are actually titled A-Force (volume 1 (2015) #1-5 and volume 2 (2016) #1-10), and they only feature two or three characters present in the MCP affiliation. So here are some noteworthy runs featuring some of the members of the affiliation.
Sensational She-Hulk (1989) #1-7 or so. This was a pretty groundbreaking comic for the time. She-Hulk regularly broke the fourth wall, talking directly to the reader and realizing that she was in a comic. It’s kind of absurd and jokey, and it’s written/drawn by John Byrne who is a whole other topic entirely so if that’s not your bag check out…
She-Hulk (2015) #1-12. This series was written by Charles Soule, who used to be a lawyer and so unsurprisingly focuses on the courtroom. And yes, she goes head to head with Matt Murdock.
Black Widow had two excellent albeit short-lived series in the 2010s. The 2014 series (20 issues) features breathtaking art from Phil Noto, one of my favorite artists in the business right now, and the 2016 series by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee (12 issues) isn’t far behind.
For Captain Marvel, The Life of Captain Marvel ((2018) volume 2, #1-5) is a good place to start as it realigns nearly 50 years of continuity into a cohesive narrative. The 2012 Captain Marvel series, while weirdly bogged down in time travel, is where Carol really took off and became the star of the Marvel Universe that she is today.
A-Force in Marvel Crisis Protocol
A-Force has the second largest roster in the game, behind only the Avengers. They have every heroic female character except Nebula (who was always more of a villain in the comics) and Ghost-Spider (who is from another Earth and doesn’t get to hang out with the cool kids? Doesn’t seem fair. See “alternate reality Dazzler Thor” above). Whatever kind of playstyle you like, you can craft a roster for that style.
She-Hulk is the leader of the Affiliation, and her “Defenders of Arcadia” ability is a real winner. When an allied character is damaged by an enemy effect (not by something where the character inflicts damage on themselves for an effect) another allied character can gain 1 Power. There’s a limit of 1 Power per turn per character, but that can add up over four or five of your opponent’s activations. That’s a nice trade off for taking damage, which is something you’d be doing anyway. Grade: A-
A-Force Assemble can be clutch if you bunch up on an objective. Anybody in the affiliation can pay the cost and everybody benefits, which is cool and good. Playing this card at the right time can make a significant difference and keep a character (or two) in play. Grade: B+
Special Delivery is the new, non-banned version of Drop Off. It requires an in-affiliation flyer (Angela, Captain Marvel, Crystal, Storm, or Wasp) and She-Hulk to both pay 1 Power and you place She-Hulk within Range 1 of the end of the character’s move. Plus She-Hulk then gets to make an attack with her builder. Great stuff! Even the restriction on who can use it isn’t terrible since there are plenty of fliers. Grade: A-
Stalwart Determination lets you keep from being pushed or thrown for 1 Power, nice and simple. It’s one of those cards that never quite makes it into my eight, and every few games I wish I had. Grade: B
Agents of S.M.A.S.H. requires you to have both Bruce and Jen on the same squad and let’s be honest, unless you’re playing something more cute than effective that probably isn’t going to happen. It’s a great throw but it’s like Nighthawk fans – you never really see one in the wild. Grade: D
It’s a little more likely that you might take both Gamora and Nebula, but still only to the level of Werewolf-By-Night fans (still more popular than Nighthawk though). If you do you can take Daughters of Thanos for a one-two attack. The cost of the card isn’t as bad in this affiliation where you’re more likely to have extra Power kicking around. But you really still need to ask yourself “why have I taken Nebula? Where did my life go wrong that it led to this point?” Grade: C-
Pym Particles allows Wasp to give an ally a throw. More than half the A-Force members have an innate throw already, including Wasp herself. Coals to Newcastle. It’s not a terrible throw but it’s limited to terrain and not enemy characters. Grade: D
Building Your Roster
She-Hulk is an absolute boss. Like her cousin Bruce she only has a one-sided card with 20 Wounds. Unlike Bruce, she’s really good. Both her attacks have really high strength, and with Superior Weight Training she’ll be adding at least two more dice to those pools most of the time. She can bodyguard, and she has the Crossbones thing of moving when she takes wounds. She-Hulk has the same problem as her cousin though, namely no real defensive abilities, and she’s going to have a big target on her so get her some protection. Grade: A-
We’ve talked about Angela before. Long story short, she’s really good and although she doesn’t really need the extra Power from the leadership it lets her use Heven’s Wrath or throw stuff more often. The only catch here is that she’s 5 Threat, and juggling that with She-Hulk-s 6 fills up your squad pretty darn quick. Grade: A
Black Widow’s two models are both good, and the first one (Prime Widow?) has the advantage of costing only 2 Threat. That gives you great flexibility in an affiliation with some very expensive characters (She-Hulk and Angela, and other out of affiliation characters who would love the extra Power like M.O.D.O.K. or Magneto). She’s also great at getting extract objectives and getting away, and Stealth helps a lot with that, but she’s going to need some backup if she starts taking attacks. Three threat Widow (Epic Widow?) doesn’t have the Long Move but is more fighty and her defensive stats are a little better. All depends on which fits your build better but you can only have one of them in your 10 character roster. Grade: Prime Widow B+, Epic Widow B
People didn’t take Captain Marvel much before A-Force came out, because her Binary Form power is really what makes her sing, and it’s fairly expensive. But with getting a handful of extra Power each round you can likely get Binary Form off on round 2 and wreck some serious face. Also she’s a flyer so she can Special Delivery She-Hulk into the mix. But Captain Marvel’s primary role is to be an unsubtle beatstick so let her get to work. Four Threat is a bit higher than I’d like, and you have other beatsticks or flyers available so you may not reach for her right away. Grade: B
Crystal’s main focus is on spamming special conditions and preventing the opponent from removing them. None of her attacks are very strong but she can make three of them each turn. Stun, Incinerate, and her Push are solid, Slow is situational but can really help. She’s a little fragile with no special defensive tech and not a ton of wounds. If you can keep her safe and within Range 3 of her targets she can be annoying as hell for your opponent, but she takes a little more finesse than most characters to get the most out of her. She’s a flyer too, so another Special Delivery candidate. Also, dammit, she should have long hair. Grade: B
Domino is likewise kind of a finesse character. She can count Failures as Crits for 1 Power each, which definitely makes her attacks more likely to land. And she prevents enemies from rolling additional dice on Crits. So she’s going to tilt probability very much in your favor. Her attacks aren’t the strongest but turning Failures into Crits means more dice so it’s possible you might get lucky and spike. The extra Power from the affiliation ability will be most welcome for Domino’s Probability Manipulation – find a way to get her some rerolls and she will be amazing. Grade: B+
I feel like Gamora should be better for her 4 Threat honestly. A 6 dice builder with Bleed is great and she’s super mobile between the Long move and her Assassin Leap but after that there just isn’t much else. She can certainly get to an extract objective and get away, but unless an enemy is within Range 2 of her she doesn’t have anything more than average defenses and wounds. In an affiliation where you’re already tight on Threat I have a hard time finding anything she does that somebody else doesn’t do cheaper. Grade: C+
Medusa’s biggest drawback is that she can get Power hungry, and guess what affiliation fixes that? The Queen of the Inhumans is all about board control, moving enemies, herself, or allies around and now she’ll be able to pay the cost for her Royal Decree without any problem and maybe even get a Split Ends attack off more frequently. And her damage output isn’t terrible either, especially with crit-fishing on her Braid Bash for the Flurry effect. Four Threat isn’t bad at all for all of this either. Grade: A-
Do I have to say again why Okoye is almost an auto-include here? Have you seen the number of times I’ve said “this character is good, but a bit fragile so be careful” so far in this list? Or “you’re going to be tight on Threat”? Yeah, Okoye. Keep her within 2 of She-Hulk and pass attacks around as needed to keep everyone on their feet. Grade: A
Shuri should also be on in your 10. The extra Power from the affiliation for her to hand out as rerolls is amazing and makes up for Shuri not having a big builder attack. A good long range Push for board control also rocks. Imagine Shuri and Medusa on the same squad, and the pure dominance you would have over who stands where. No go make that a reality. No, wait, not against me! Grade: A
Storm has the problem that the best thing on her card is her X-Men Leadership ability, but she has some solid synergies here in A-Force. If she Stuns an enemy with Ice Blizzard and Crystal is nearby that condition isn’t going away. She has Flight for using Special Delivery. Storm’s Tempest throw is more affordable as is her Eye of the Storm to boost her attacks. Of all the affiliations outside X-Men this may be the one where Storm works best. Grade: B+ (in A-Force)
If you want someone to dish out damage, look to Valkyrie. She’ll rely on She-Hulk/Okoye for some defense but she’ll blender up enemies like nobody else. Grade: A
Wasp shows up a lot in A-Force lists because she’s a 3 Threat flyer who can Special Deliver She-Hulk. Beyond that though she doesn’t bring a ton of utility. She has some great movement in her tiny form but can’t very reliably handle or protect objectives. The ability to reroll defense or dodge dice in tiny form is good, combine that with Stealth and she has decent protection, but she’s still only 3-2-3 and it’s going to be ugly if someone gets right up on her. If you’re only taking Wasp for the Special Delivery you might want to look at any of your other flyers instead. Grade: C+
With all those affiliated characters you may not even need to look for outsiders to bring in. But some folks like Iron Fist or Doctor Strange can really shine if they have more Power to play with.
One unaffiliated character I’m going to make a pitch for is Ghost Spider. 1) she should be in the affiliation anyway and 2) I’ve noted that durability is an issue for A-Force. Gwen’s Life Saver can, in fact, be a life saver.
If you want a multi-affiliation roster you have plenty of choices. Avengers and Wakanda have a lot of cross-over, Inhumans and Asgard have a couple. Or you could pivot on Storm and go for X-Men – an A-Force squad of She-Hulk, Angela, Valkyrie, Wolverine for 18 Threat is terrifying.
So Are They Any Good?
Yes, very good. Lots of flexibility and the extra power really makes some mediocre characters shine and makes good characters even better. The list of member is wide enough that you can find a style that works for you. They tend to favor the extract crises because they have more characters with good movement than they do tanks.
But you’re looking at a minimum of 10 Threat to get three affiliated characters (She-Hulk, Okoye, pWidow). If you want to include Medusa you’re starting at 13 Threat instead, and it’s going to be tight if you want to get to five characters at anything below a 17 Threat crisis. That said you may want to try to force the Secure toward those with E and F maps in case you don’t have too many characters in your squad. That’s just Gamma Wave and Demons Downtown currently. Hmm interesting, Demons Downtown puts the Incinerate special condition on characters in range to contest a portal. Doesn’t Crystal keep enemies from shaking Incinerate? That sure wouldn’t be a nice thing to do, would it?
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