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 time we look at the spoooooky Midnight Sons!
Like the Defenders, Midnight Sons are a loose association more than an actual team. Initially Doctor Strange brought the characters together to battle a demon named Lilith. Various permutations of the group kept reuniting over the span of the 1990s to fight various demon- and vampire-related threats.The group reassembled in the 2018 Damnation crossover event under the capable leadership of Bats the Ghost Hound to fight Mephisto. The overall lineup of the group has varied each time and none of its incarnations line up exactly with the MCP Affiliation. This is why we need a Man-Thing/Werewolf By Night pack, AMG!
Blade’s mother was killed by a vampire while he was in the womb and he inherited some “vampire enzymes” (I don’t think that’s how it works). He then was mostly human vampire hunter for the first part of his career, looking very different from the Wesley Snipes version of the character. Somewhere along the way Blade got bit by Morbius the Living Vampire (I really don’t want to go there) and got more vampiring powers but his “enzymes” made him immune to all the bad stuff like burning up in the sunlight. Pretty convenient if you ask me. He’s fought Dracula a bunch and is now an Avenger I guess but that feels weird.
Black Cat is maybe the world’s greatest thief. At one point she made a deal with Kingpin to get bad luck powers. She’s had an on again/off again relationship with Spider-Man, who makes her want to be a better person despite her protestations. Wikipedia lists her as a member of the Sons but I can’t find evidence that she actually was at any point, so I’m guessing this is where AMG did their research.
Doctor Strange is a big name, you know his deal.
Doctor Voodoo used to be called ”Brother Voodoo” because comics in the 70s were written by white guys. Jericho Drumm was a psychologist whose brother Daniel was a voodoo houngan. When Daniel was killed by an evil sorcerer he made Jericho promise to go to Dagobah train under the master who taught him. This being comics of course Jericho gives up his comfortable life and career to go off and study the mystic arts. He turned out to be pretty good at it too, even becoming Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme for a while. He also has control of his dead brother’s spirit, which is a power I want.
Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze was the Ghost Rider of the 1970s, a stunt cyclist (that was a big thing in the 70s, just like quicksand, Bigfoot, and casual racism) who was bonded to the demon Zatharos by Mephisto. Mephisto then forced Ghost Rider to punish evil, which I have to say doesn’t sound like a very devil thing to do but the Comics Code was a hell of a thing.
Iron Fist is Danny Rand, a white kid who was trained in mystical kung fu (are you getting the full sense of the 70s here?) in the secret lost city of K’un-L’un. He defeated a dragon so he could claim the power of the Iron Fist, then returned to New York to hunt down his parents’ killer. Danny and Luke Cage are best buds. Recently Danny lost the power of the Iron Fist and it was passed to a successor, but this is comics and we all know the new kid will die within 12 issues to motivate Danny to come back.
Moon Knight, okay, this is complicated, even for comics. Marc Spector was a mercenary who found a lost temple to the Egyptian moon god Khonshu and was appointed to be the tool of the god’s vengeance. But Marc has dissociative identity disorder so he has three other personas, or maybe they’re just cover identities, or maybe they’re aspects controlled by the phases of the moon. He’s died a handful of times and Khonshu keeps bringing him back. Basically, each new writer that’s come along for Moon Knight since the early 1980s has had a different take and nobody had their hand on the rudder and he’s kind of a mess.
Wong is Doctor Strange’s assistant/valet. He spends most of his time either saving or being saved by Strange.
- Rise of the Midnight Sons (Crossover event, 1992) This was the first place where the “team” came together, featured in the Ghost Rider, Morbius, Darkhold, and Nightstalkers titles.
- Siege of Darkness (Crossover 1993-94) A seventeen part crossover across nine books in two months. The 1990s ladies and gentlemen!
- Damnation (2018). A four issue limited series with (you guessed it) a lot of crossover tie-ins. This is the only “modern” appearance of the Midnight Sons and is notable because it features Bats the Ghost Hound, who is awesome.
The Midnight Sons in Marvel Crisis Protocol
Midnight Sons are a very fighty affiliation. They have fairly strong attacks and are good at throwing around special conditions. On top of that they have some great movement tech that will let them get where they need to be. They’re also reasonably tough so they won’t melt as soon as they start mixing it up with foes. If you prefer punching things in the face over playing board control the Sons may be worth a look.
Blade’s Bump in the Night leadership is freaking amazing. Allied characters can Place themselves within Range 1 once per turn for 1 Power. Not a huge movement but that little bit can be very helpful in repositioning at the end of an activation to get behind cover or closer to an objective, or just far enough away from an enemy that they’ll have to use an action to move to attack you. The positioning game is going to be key for the Sons. Grade: A
Bats the Ghost Hound is, appropriately, an awesome card. Any Midnight Sons character can pay 2 Power to just change an attack or defense die to whatever they need. Including Fail results. Who’s a good boy? Yes, you are Bats, yes you are. Now, this is in the Modify Dice step so you can’t use it to gain an extra die from a Crit, but if you need a particular result to proc a special ability, there you go. Grade: A-
Okay, yes Siege of Darkness is the same as Wakanda Forever except that it costs characters 2 Power instead of 1 to use. But I think we can all agree that Wakanda Forever is criminally underpriced, yes? Handing out free attacks with no range penalty is still solid even for 2 Power. Grade: A-
Banishment is situational and really depends on your opponent bunching up their squad around one of your characters. Plus some good luck in rolling the holy trinity of Crit-Wild-Hit. And your character gets the Stun effect as well as the enemies. This one would be great in exactly the right situation, but not so much most of the time. Maybe in an affiliation with more board control shenanigans. Grade: B-
The Seven Suns of Cinnibus is a great extra attack for Doctor Strange but he’s not likely to have 3 Power just burning a hole in his pocket. If you take this one you’ll need to plan ahead to let loose your Wave Motion Gun at just the right moment, and it will be amazing. But it isn’t all that necessary in an affiliation that has decent damage output already. Grade: B+
Vapors of Valtorr requires that an already fairly tapped Doctor Strange spend 3 Power to give an ally within Range 3 a 1-in-3 chance to be able to force an attacker to reroll any dice. Bad odds for dicey (no pun intended, probably) defensive tech. The Sons are short on defense but I don’t see this ending up in my ten. Grade: C+
Deal with the Devil will win you no friends. Considering how tanky Ghost Rider is, if your opponent finally manages to KO him and then you drop this card you deserve whatever happens to you, you magnificent bastard. Might I suggest a pairing with Age of Ultron? Maybe a dash of Hulkbuster on the side? :chefkiss: Grade: A-
For reasons outlined below, Ghost Rider will probably have the 3 Power to pay for Highway to Hell. So go ahead and reposition an enemy waaaaaaay over there, practically on the next table over. And for an added bonus they’re now Incinerated, so a good time to run over them with your bike. Note: you are legally obligated to sing the AC/DC song super loud when you play this card. Grade: B+
Seance doesn’t cost any Power and gives Doctor Voodoo an extra die for any Crits he rolls this round if he has the Brother Daniel token. Or if Brother Daniel is on an enemy, that character doesn’t get any additional dice for Crits. It’s not a guaranteed thing but it’s a nice boost if you’re bringing Doctor Voodoo in your squad. Unfortunately most dice fixing tricks happen after the resolve Crits step or this would be super good. Grade: B-
Heroes for Hire allows Iron Fist to leap to the defense of a nearby ally and become the target of an attack. Danny would get to add blanks to his defense dice if the attack is Physical or Energy, which is good because he’s not great at defense. That’s why he usually hangs out with Cage. Grade: B- (with just Iron Fist)
Speaking of power couples, The Cat and the Spider requires Peter Parker (either one) along with Black Cat. Pete flings Felicia Medium without her suffering any damage, which is okay right there, but then she gets to interact with any objective tokens for free. The odds of being in range of more than one objective aren’t great, but it’s very useful to cover the distance to get to the objective (and potentially daze an enemy controlling it). Grade: B+
Building Your Roster
Blade is the only team leader currently so he’s an auto-include, and not a bad one at all. Blade is one of those characters that is very tricky to take down. He has slightly better than average Physical and Mystic defenses, and can reroll any number of defense dice against those defenses for 2 Power, including Failures. Keep him away from the Energy-based attackers and you’ll be okay. Blade also can heal and gain Power if he’s within Range 2 of any other character with the Bleed special condition at the end of his activation (Bump in the Night can help him get into just the right position to take advantage of this).
And what are the odds of characters within Range 2 of Blade having Bleed? Really good! All of his attacks automatically apply Bleed and knowing he has this ability I’m guessing you’ll be putting other folks into your roster who can apply it too. Blade’s spender even lets you reroll any of your attack dice if the target already had Bleed. Finally, maybe a reason to bring Bullseye! (Just kidding, there’s never a reason to bring Bullseye). Grade: A-
Black Cat needs to talk to someone about the whole “Sons” name (get in line behind Storm and Jean in the X-Men) but she’s here to do one job: grab extract tokens from enemies using Master Cat Burglar and then get far away before they know what hit them. She’s got Long movement, plus a Grappling Hook to move another Range 2, plus the Bump in the Night, and a potential Short move from her Troublemaker attack if she still needs a bit more. If anybody does try to come after Felicia to reclaim a token her Stealth and Bad Luck will mitigate who can actually tag her. Most of her movement shenanigans are pretty Power-costly though and her builder attack is only Str 4 so just be careful not to get into a bad position with her tank on empty. Grade: B
The appeal of taking Doctor Strange for 5 Threat diminishes somewhat without his Leadership ability but he still has a fantastic toolkit. Healing allies and allowing them to take two extra defense dice are both great. Strange has very reliable attacks with his free ability to reroll all dice, including Failures, and his builder gives a free Short push. The ability on his Crimson Bands of Cyttorak attack to give an enemy an Activated token is phenomenal, but you need a Crit, Wild and Hit to trigger it – it’s not out of the realm of possibility given Strange’s reroll but the reroll is all dice so it will be tricky. Overall Strange brings a lot of utility if you have the Threat to spare (maybe just default him to 6 Threat in your mind to include the Soul Stone). Grade: B
The biggest difficulty with Doctor Voodoo is reading his card. As this writer is Older Than Dirt, I’m hoping his model ships with a magnifying glass. And be familiar with him before the game so you’re not spending a week reading his card at the table. Mercy! All hope lies in the new layout!
All kidding aside, Doctor Voodoo is fascinating from a character design perspective. He’s using the spirit of his dead brother to possess enemies and to protect himself. When possessing an enemy within Range 3 he just has to spend Power equal to the enemy’s Threat and the enemy drops any objectives and can’t contest or interact with any others until Voodoo recalls the Brother Daniel token. A great way to lock down characters who are there almost exclusively to grab or hold objectives
But you may not want to leave the Brother Daniel token on an enemy all the time, because without it Doctor Voodoo is pretty squishy against Physical and Energy attacks. If he has the token Voodoo gets to roll two extra dice – he can move it back to himself for 2 Power when he’s targeted or for free in the Power phase. It’s a balancing act, but making someone drop an objective at the end of a round and then having an ally scoop it up at the start of the next round will be sure to infuriate your opponent. Grade: B+
When you absolutely, positively need to get a character to the other side of the board in one turn, Ghost Rider is your guy. Two Medium moves plus a Long on a 65 mm base plus a Range 1 place is some distance. Ghost Rider will also punish enemies from attacking his allies, both by gaining Power himself and from inflicting damage on the attacker. So really the choice is to attack him directly, but he’s a fairly meaty tank. He can dish out Hex and Incinerate special conditions which is nice, but not Bleed which would be better alongside Blade. Ghost Rider is a super solid choice if you’re not trying to run a spam list. Grade: B+
Iron Fist is all about doing damage. If he can bank the 8 Power to fire his eponymous Str 9 attack that will Stagger and place an Activated token on an enemy, that’s the dream. But even his regular builder attack is Str 5 which is solid. Danny wants to be right up close to his enemies so he can count blanks as successes on defense rolls against Physical and Energy attacks, because otherwise his defenses are solidly meh. So make use of his Flying Kick to get him where he wants to be and the Bump in the Night to nudge him into cover against long range shooters or something. A cheap (3 Threat) beatstick. If you can somehow combine his Iron Fist attack with Strange’s Crimson Bands of Cyttorak to give out two Activated tokens in one round, that is living the dream. Grade: A-
Moon Knight is somewhat unpredictable as his Multiple Personalities power has a different effect every activation. None of them are bad, and even the move is a “may” not “must” so you should look at them as special bonuses rather than planning an activation around getting any particular one. You should hope for the extra 2 dice on the next attack this activation, because Moon Knight’s Strength 4 builders aren’t great. With the Throwing Crescents you’re guaranteed two Power, and note that you can reroll any (not all) on the Bo Staff so you have okay odds of getting some damage through. The reroll is after resolving Crits so you can’t fish for more dice but you can try for a Crit-Wild-Hit Yahtzee to trigger the stagger. Once you have a little Power though the Avatar of Khonshu attack is pure money though – Strength 7 against Mystical is very nice and it has a decent ranged built in teleport. Moon Knight is a little fragile if you don’t keep him at range from enemies but he can be a decent jack of all trades offense/maneuverability piece. You have to play it by ear and let the random roll dictate much of how he will act however. Grade: B-
Wong remains a decent 2 Threat support character, tossing around some extra Power or healing, but keep him tucked away safely. You could assign a bodyguard to him but then you’re really inflating the Threat cost. Get whatever use you can out of him but know the opponent is going to pick him off and deny you his support sooner or later. Grade: B+
Spider-Man or Luke Cage can be added to make use of good Team Tactics cards alongside Black Cat and Iron Fist, respectively. Having other characters who hand out Bleed can really help Blade, so Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Gamora, Kraven, or sure, I suppose Bullseye could be added in. You’ve got a strong focus on damage dealers in the affiliation so you could either lean into that with Wolverine or Valkyrie or you could grab some tanks to sit on objectives, like the aforementioned Luke Cage or Groot. If you’re looking to build a dual affiliation roster there’s a ton of overlap with Defenders or Avengers (Ryolnir let me use his Moon Knight picture on the condition that I DEMAND AMG ACKNOWLEDGE MOON KNIGHT IS AN AVENGER), and you even have two overlaps with Web Warriors. And can you even imagine someone like Miles Morales or Quicksilver with an extra Range 1 hop?
So Are They Any Good?
If you like to play a more aggressive style of squad but maybe want to go a little wider than Asgard or Black Order then Midnight Sons might be for you. Focus in and beat down your opponent’s squad one model at a time, using Bump in the Dark to get into the best position and staying clear of attacks. Just throw a bunch of solidly damaging characters directly at your opponent and make them deal with it. There’s not a lot of subtlety here but it can be very satisfying.
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