In this series we look at the various Affiliations in Marvel Crisis Protocol and dip into their comic book history. These are intended to be introductory discussions for newer or more casual players to the game rather than a deep competitive analysis. For a more competitive focus we recommend checking out some of the articles being written on Across the Bifrost.
You know who never had a chance in life? Victor von Doom. Nobody called Victor von Doom was ever going to live to a ripe old age, sitting around with his grandkids on his knee reflecting on the happy journey his life had been.
Poor old Vic was destined to be a tyrant, and a cornerstone of both the Silver Age of Comics, and (along with Reed Richards and Sue Storm), the Golden Age of Alliteration.
But he doesn’t take the biscuit. No, the pinnacle of redonkulous naming is the leader of the Inhumans, the magnificent Black Bolt: or Blackagar Boltagon to his mum.
Can we take a moment to salute that name, in all its glorious insanity? It sounds like something I would have come up with when I was 11 years old, and been embarrassed about by the time I was 13. Well now we’ve come full circle, it’s cool to be a nerd, it’s hip to be square and it’s time to enjoy Black Bolt and chums on the tabletop.
Ready? Let’s go.
The Inhumans first appeared back in 1965 in Fantastic Four #45 (well, Medusa and Gorgon had appeared earlier but we didn’t know who or what they were) by two fellows you may have heard of, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And like many of Stan and Jack’s creations they were moody outsiders. A secret, super advanced monarchical people living in a fabulous super-science city hidden away from the rest of the world. Okay, so that’s either Wakanda or the Inhumans’ Attilan. Over time though the pollution in Earth’s atmosphere became too poisonous for the Inhumans to remain on the planet, so they packed up their city and moved it to the freaking moon.
But what are the Inhumans, and what makes them different from mutants or any other super-powered folks? Well, you know that guy on Ancient Aliens who has hair like Ambassador Molari from Babylon 5? Turns out he was right. In this case it was the Kree who came to Earth millennia ago and began experimenting on pre-historic humans. Eventually the Kree got bored and wandered off but their test subjects formed their own society, and jump cut to today and you’ve got Blackagar Boltagon, Medusalith Amaquelin-Boltagon, Crystal Amaquelin, and Lockjaw, who is a Very Good Boy Yes He Is.
The source of the Inhumans’ powers is the same stuff the Kree used on them thousands of years ago: the Terrigen Mists! The mists grant cool powers, but often hideous deformities (another Lee/Kirby specialty!), and can be very dangerous or lethal to us boring old humans.
How many Inhumans are there? Before a few years ago, not that many. But then Black Bolt went a little nuts and released a massive cloud of Terrigen Mist on Earth causing millions of people who didn’t know they had Inhuman DNA in them to mutate. Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel is probably the best known of this lot. Why did Black Bolt do this, exactly?
Because Fox had the movie rights to the X-Men franchise and Marvel was shying away from spotlighting mutants and looking for a replacement No one knows.
Fantastic Four, vol. 1 (1963) #45-48. Start off at the beginning to see how they’re presented. These folks are weirdos, and maybe not good guys. They are aloof, mysterious, dangerous. And the last issue of this arc introduces Galactus, so it’s totally worth the twelve cent cover price!
Inhumans (vol. 2 (1998) #1-12) This limited series really established the Inhumans in modern comics. They’d had some short run series and popped up here and there throughout the 1970s and 80s but here’s where they stepped up into the big time. Well, as much of the big time as the Inhumans get anyway.
War of Kings (#1-6, plus a ton of one shots and tie-ins, and a bunch of issues of Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2) This is a big old space war, written by a fellow named Dan Abnett that readers of the site may have heard of. Look, I’m not going to lie, this is the weakest part of Abnett and Lanning’s Cosmit Marvel stuff but it’s still got some great Inhumans content. And Crystal gets married to Ronan the Accuser, which sounds like a wacky sitcom if I ever heard of one!
Inhuman (2014, #1-14) Another great writer, Charles Soule, deals with the aftermath of Black Bolt’s Terrigen Bomb and new Inhumans popping up all over the place. Sets the stage for the new status quo.
Just whatever you do, don’t watch the tv series. Seriously. Ugh.
The Inhumans in Marvel Crisis Protocol
We’ve got two new expansions here: Black Bolt and Medusa, plus Crystal and Lockjaw, to go alongside the existing characters Beast and Ronan who have been folded into the lineup.
This does make for a pretty top-heavy team with only two characters at 3 Threat and the rest at 4 Threat or higher, so you may well be looking to play tall and take an elite, hard-hitting team that keeps priority clutched tightly to its chest. That, or throw in the likes of Okoye and Valkyrie which will…make a nice change.
Although Medusa is canonically a leader-level character in her own right, it’s Black Bolt who brings the Leadership Ability with him: King of the Inhumans allows you to spend up to one power on each turn (i.e. each time you activate a character), and gain one power on a different team member. Unlike, say, Avengers or Cabal this does not bring a net increase in Power; furthermore, you are locked into a 5-threat leader. Nonetheless, passing power around in this way is pretty…umm…powerful, opening up plenty of early plays and mid-game flexes. I like it. Grade: B
We’ve got some pretty sweet cards to mess around with here.
First up are the affiliated cards, kicking off with Attilan Rising:
What I love about this is that only Inhuman characters benefit – this is an incentive to build a thematic roster, and something I’d like to see more of.
As for the card itself, it can give you a serious amount of power. If you’ve got three injured characters, that’s three power to every Inhuman character on your roster – that’s not to be sniffed at. If you’re planning on playing aggressively it has clear merit, and you will be actively aiming to get Black Bolt injured – plus a net injection of power dovetails nicely with your ability to play pass the parcel with it.
This card will also going to give you some epic moments on the “comeback turn” – with Attilan Rising in your deck, it ain’t over till it’s over. Ultimately I feel like this might be a good card in a world of great cards, but it should not be dismissed either. Grade: B-
Next up is Inhuman Royal Family, another one locked to the Inhumans within your roster, and hopefully the start of a positive trend within the game:
This could appear to be poor value, in that your Inhumans natively have one reroll anyway, so there is a reduced benefit. Nonetheless, it’s worth consideration. In the case of Black Bolt and Medusa, they’re potentially chucking enough dice that there is still huge upside; and Crystal can get so much joy out of her conditions that rerolling 4 dice instead of 1 to nail that Wild could make all the difference in the world.
Not an auto-include then, but still an interesting card in its own right. Grade: B
Lucky last for the affiliated cards is Terrigenesis. I feel like AMG have hit the hat trick here, with three cards in a row that are interesting but situational, worthy of consideration but not a slam dunk.
Civilian objectives are starting to become pretty common, so that doesn’t stress me, but 3 power for the opportunity to do a small amount of chip damage does. If you take this card, you’re really punting on getting an opportunity to Daze or KO somebody: and if you can engineer that, and bank the bonus VPs, it could well be a game changer.
The payoff for creating your own little Inhuman is super thematic, and this card ultimately is one for the gamblers who live for those big cinematic moments. Grade: C (or potentially A for those who like living dangerously)
Moving onto the character-locked cards, we have Crystal’s Elemental Infusion:
Conditions, baby! And plenty of em! Turn Crystal into an unstoppable conditions machine, cranking them out by the yard. Since Crystal can also make them stick (see her card below), to call this an annoyance would be quite the understatement.
You’ll probably need a Bodyguard to keep her around long enough to have an impact, but Bodyguards are hardly a tax in this game. If you are cooking up some mad conditions build, this card really lets you double down on that – although it remains to be proven that this angle can work competitively. Grade: B
Rounding us off is Lockjaw’s Last-Minute Save:
Yeah that’s good. That’s really good. Lockjaw already likes hunting in packs for extra Power (see below), and now he comes with his own little Field Dressing: except that it works for characters being KO’d rather than Dazed. Put both in your eight and watch the world burn. Grade: A
As a final word, let’s flag up a couple of established cards that can work well with Inhumans. As you’ll see, Black Bolt is a character that you actively want to flip to his Injured side. That being the case, I would strongly consider All You’ve Got and / or No Matter the Cost to force the issue, as well as maybe Sacrifice to redirect attacks his way (or away from him once he is Injured, and you need to prevent him being KO’d).
These are all decent cards in their own right, and their specific synergies with Black Bolt really do make them worth a close look.
Building Your Roster
If you’re playing Inhumans, you’re locked into Black Bolt, who is a banger through and through; on the flip side, the Affiliation Ability is extremely broad in its applications, and Medusa is a control freak. You really can go any direction with these guys, although I would argue that the control elements might be flight risks, in the sense that they will do their best work as splash characters for other teams.
Chances are, if I’m running Inhumans, I’m coming at you.
Black Bolt throws a lot of dice…like, a lot of dice, to the extent that anyone with a background in 40K will be tempted to shout DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA as they splash them out onto the table. You do need to poke to the bear to get access to the magnificently on-point Whisper attack, but that can be achieved with relevant tactics cards (as noted above), or just pushing him into provocative positions to force the issue.
Smarter minds than I have pointed out that Focus Power is worded such that it will apply to an entire volley from Whisper, delivering the goods with 11 dice to every chump in your way (plus innate rerolls)… yeah. The cost for the combo is ruinously expensive, as well it should be, but don’t forget you can shuffle that power around the team to help you get there.
Blackagar is limited by 2 puny dice against Mental attacks (and you really don’t want to become over-reliant on his Anti-Gravitation Field), so Defenders will rip him open; other teams might choose to manage him with conditions. All in all this is a powerful package, although Black Bolt is inherently limiting as a 5 Threat leader, and not without his drawbacks. Still, it should be great fun figuring out how to use him optimally, and the model is out of this world. Grade: B-
Medusa is the reason I’m buying into this faction. I love her character in the comics – just that little bit too cocksure, even for a Queen – and there’s no way I’m living my one life on this earth without painting the hair on this model. Do the rules stand up to what this character (and this miniature) deserve?
In a word – yes. Or in two words – hell yeah!
The key piece of tech on Medusa’s card is that Braid Bash (her 5-dice builder attack) has Flurry – meaning that it you roll a Wild, you get to do it all again. We’ve seen this before, but what puts Medusa over the top is that as an Inhuman, she has an innate reroll to fish for that Wild; and if she does damage, Medusa gets to push the target character Short.
This all multiplies up to a wonderful storm of nonsense: hit them, hurt them, push them. Bank your Power and get a flurry, then do it all again: hit them, hurt them, push them. Bank your Power again and that’s all from one activation. You are only halfway through your turn and you should already have your opponent panicking about where you’ll go next.
The really mad thing is that there is no limitation on who the Flurry attacks must target: you can go after the same character again, or someone else, entirely at your choosing. And in my head, I have already lined up some truly epic Whisper attacks with all this push-me pull-you.
Speaking of which, don’t forget the Royal Decree Slingshot. Do it once and place a friendly character in front of you; do it again and put Medusa back in front of them. Zip up the table, just like that! Grade: A
Crystal on the other hand is something of a curate’s egg.
Her attacks are generally weak, but with generous range; the real power, of course, is in the conditions that she puts out. If Crystal is loaded up with enough Power to kick out Elemental Onslaught, she can conceivably slap three separate conditions on some poor chump, with the innate Inhuman rerolls to help seek out those Wilds.
A really nice exploration of design space here is that enemy characters cannot shake Incinerate, Slow or Stun within Range 3 of Crystal, and I can’t wait to give that a go. I’d love to see what a conditions-focused roster would look like, and Crystal would really have her niche in that: light ’em up on Demons Downtown and watch them burn.
Crystal hits like a wet lettuce and when push comes to shove she might be a little too fragile for her own good, but it’s a very interesting card and one that I think the mad scientists will enjoy exploring. Grade: B for power, A for design and creativity
Lockjaw is where this release potentially hits the skids.
I’m honestly concerned that this little fella will prove to be game-breaking. When you look at the Turn 1 plays that aim to ice the game before it really gets going, free movement is generally a key factor: Drop Off had to be banned, and Pentagrams can have a similarly crushing impact on a lot of games today. Teleport is in danger of fitting right into that category.
With guaranteed power to pull it off, Lockjaw can give you Turn 1 plays on missions like Gamma Shelters and create dominant positions from the get-go. While it will be fun and refreshing to give some slow hard-hitting characters a stronger board position, I do worry that some bright spark will figure out a way to grab the gold and snatch away objectives before the game really gets started.
Worst of all, the other examples I cited are generally tactics cards: they can be banned or restricted without causing too much ill will. I’m not sure where AMG goes with a character card, if that does prove to be overpowered (which I sincerely hope it does not). So my $0.02 here for AMG would be that if you want to push the boundaries on movement shenanigans, maybe leave that for tactics cards (which are easier to fix up) rather than character cards, especially given that this is one of the few rules areas where the game does have a patchy track record to date. Grade: A for power, E for potential impact on the game
A nice little kicker for all of these characters is the Inhuman ability, allowing one reroll in attack or defense. Similar to its Asgardian analogue, this ability is right there on the card, and will follow these heroes wherever they go.
Now let’s not forget the existing characters who’ve been added to the Affiliation. First up, Beast:
A close friend to the Inhumans thanks to his scientific work on Terrigenesis, Hank McCoy is a popular and welcome 3-threat option. He brings a bit of movement jank, a bit of control is generally just all-around good. I’ve had my head turned my Crystal’s janky conditions game, so I don’t see myself running him in that slot, but nobody would be crazy to do so. Grade: B-
And rounding us out we have Ronan the Accuser:
I like this guy way more than I probably should: Ronan brings a couple of particularly interesting things to the table here. First up we have the Judgment special condition, which honestly is below-the-radar filth. If you’re not aware, it means when you attack your opponents, they don’t gain Power, breaking a core mechanic of the game and choking off their comeback before it even starts.
If we’ve got Crystal also laying out Stuns, then we’ve got the makings of a very nice power-denial roster there, whereby we can kick the ever-lovin’ out of our opponents with impunity. Even better, if Crystal (or Kree Justice) does put out Stun, then Crystal can prevent that from being Shaken – and given that Ronan makes his way into this Affiliation because the two of them were husband and wife, it’s pretty cool to see them synergise so well together on the tabletop.
The other thing worth considering is the Power Gem. Bearing in mind that we can pass Power around the team, having a net influx of Power onto the table is exponentially more valuable to Inhumans than it would be elsewhere. He’s pretty expensive, but again plays well into an elite aggressive roster, and it’s something I’m very keen to try. Grade: B-
As for out-of-affiliation characters, the biggest thing I’ll be looking for is a Bodyguard: when Black Bolt is flipped and you need to keep him alive, or Crystal is putting out conditions and you want them to stick, you’ll need a way to redirect those attacks.
Okoye (as always) fits the bill, but for hipster value I’ll also be considering Black Dwarf. Slingshot him with Medusa, or Teleport him with Lockjaw, and he’ll be an asset up the field. Plus he helps to keep your roster nice and tall, if you’re playing smash-mouth and looking to keep priority.
Eh who am I trying to kid? Just run Okoye, go on. You have my permission.
So Are they any good?
Let’s go. You’ve thrown Crystal aggressively up the board and into a crowd – she slams down Elemental Infusion and your opponent thinks she’s a sitting duck. Nope, Black Bolt is right up there with her, and he’s packing Sacrifice. “I’ll just ignore him” ain’t gonna work this time, sucker.
So Black Bolt steps up and takes the beating on Crystal’s behalf. Bad mistake – now he’s angry, and the strong silent type is about to become the strong quiet type. You wouldn’t like him when he’s (only) quiet.
Now Blackagar is powered up and smacking people about – and they’re picking up conditions every time, that they can’t shake, because Crystal. By this stage we’ve got an actual Bodyguard up in the mix (probably Okoye, but maybe Black Dwarf if we’re feeling spicy) to keep Crystal alive and those conditions sticking like superglue.
Your opponent is now panicking and throws the kitchen sink at Black Bolt, finally knocking him over…only for Lockjaw to step up with a Last-Minute Save, reviving his master. Woggud boy! Here, have a treat.
Black Bolt whispers, and it all goes dark.
I might not play Magic, but even I know what a Johnny is; and this, my friends, is Johnny: The Affiliation.
Medusa and Lockjaw look set to be competitive staples in any collection, and will most likely reveal their full potential as splash characters in other affiliations. But just like growing to appreciate the beautiful absurdity of Black Bolt’s real name, if you are happy to lean into the madness, run their tactics cards and set up the combos, there’s a heap of fun to be had with running Inhumans as an Affiliation.
I’ve bought these guys myself, and it’s something I can’t wait to explore. I’m all in.
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