Okay, I think this might be a little fun post for International Blog Against Racism Week, but I don’t know how much.
Heroscape is one of my favorite games ever. Not so much for the just-enough strategy, the quick game play, the cool figures, and the brilliant terrain building, but because… of its combination.
And also—and this is the most important reason—because it is crack fic on rocket fuel. Crack fic, if you don’t already know, is the combination of characters from vastly different times, universes, stories, legends, and so on. The first release of Heroscape alone had an orc on a dinosaur battling a Morpheus-like figure—Morpheus! Not Neo the One, but Morpheus!—battling a team of agents that had a woman in it battling samurai that actually looked realistically Asian battling soldiers from freaking World War II, with a serving of angels and robots on the side.
Now, the first set had mostly white folks, and some of the expansions don’t have PoC at all, but it’s still pretty racially aware for figure battle games (especially HeroClix). And while it occurs in Valhalla, I understand the need for a place of myth where people fight each other and then resurrect every day, because otherwise the game would be more than a little bit horrible. And the whole Valhalla thing is just a backdrop anyways, because otherwise there wouldn’t be aliens.
This is a bit weird perhaps, but I decided to take a stock of the people of color in Heroscape. They are heroes, some of them very strong picks—pseudo-Morpheus is an example—and some of them lead armies and are not to be messed with. There are no magical negroes. It’s all kinds of awesome… well, I think there should be more PoC, but you know. Sigh. Can’t win them all.
Now, I’m only going to look at the people from Earth. I’m not prepared to deal with the possible inter-racial complexities of, say, Marr, a planet where aliens live alongside cyborg gorillas and sentient snakes.
So here goes. I’m going to cover this set by set, because there’s a lot of units now. Some sets are small, a few are big, and two are master sets—that is, they come with a whole stack of figures and terrain pieces.
Rise of the Valkyrie: Master Set
Half of the cards that were human were PoC. The rest are aliens, robots, elves, and orcs, and they outnumber the humans. So this ratio is impressive.
He’s a hero, not simply a part of a trio or quartet of a squad. He has cool powers—he’s able to pass by all figures, including hostile figure, without getting engaged in a battle, which gives him huge maneuverability. He’s also not likely to be the black guy who dies first in the SF movies, because he’s got a decent amount of life, a decent defense, and also a huge sword you don’t want to be near (6 damage in a set where 2 to 3 damage is the norm). Ranged damage that keeps you far, far away from him is the way to kill him.
Agent Carr rocked. He still does, actually.
Krav Maga Agents
A squad, which means little guys, but a group of little guys. They only have one life each, but then again, they can be in different places in the battlefield, and it really sucks to get hit three-four times in one turn by most squads anyways. This squad consists of a white guy, a woman, and a black guy—two Agent Smith style, with a Trinity thrown in for the lady. They have range—they can shoot people from far away—and they have a special power that makes them incredibly hard to kill from a distance. Killing them close up also tends to be nasty—see said issue about getting hit three times, and while 3 damage is somewhat the median in Heroscape, it is still quite decent. Especially from range.
Thematically, and also strategically, people love to combine Carr and the Agents.
As I mentioned before, they look like actual Asians rather than a caricature—nothing creepy about their eyes, and their skin is a realistic shade of yellow for midland Japanese. They aren’t a showy squad like the agents, but their defense is nothing to sneeze at—and their special power, which mimics the samurai way of fighting, a sort of defense turned into offense—makes them ideal units to engage and tie up enemy units. Those trapped by them tend to not want to hit them, because they hit back on defense as well as on offense.
People underrated them at first, and but after some games they became regular picks, though a bit less so when more sets came along. But that’s okay, because more sets came long with literal armies of Japanese.
Okay, we’re going to pass through some sets without PoC. I’m also not going to cover these sets in much detail. Which is perhaps wrong, but I’m tired, and maybe I’ll go back later.
No PoC. Sort of boo. But not too much boo, because there were only three human cards (a hero is represented by one card, and a squad is also represented by one card). The rest were robots, orcs, snakes, an angel ((They’re called “Kyrie” in Heroscape, but they’ve got wings, so I call them angels anyways, even with all the Christian baggage—another win, I think, because the term Kyrie gets rid of religious weirdness with Unfortunate Implications.)) with gray skin, and a demon ((Also a Kyrie.)).
No PoC, three human cards, and the majority are, again, robots, orcs, snakes, angels/demons, and add to that aliens and werewolves. Including an adapted Egyptian god, though he’s also a werewolf (and a not a good figure at all, one of the consistent F’s in the various fan Heroscape gradings).
A squad of Tibetan monks (a bit creepy-colored, but then, this entire set was badly colored…)! Another squad of agents with a black guy, though no woman. Three other non-PoC human cards, making a good part of this set human, but the rest are cyborg gorillas, robots, angels, and alien very very nasty dogs.
Many white heroes, a white squad, but the first of the later numerous samurai squads makes an appearance. The other half of the set are elves, robots, snakes, and one undead mummy queen.
Ninjas appear. Another samurai squad. Two squads of just women, although one is a squad of elves. But the other is a squad of agents, one black, and one might be interpreted as South Asian. Woot! The rest are a couple of white squads, a white hero (although perhaps they are better thought of as Mediterranean) followed by robots. Including robot rats. That are a very mean squad, let me tell you.
Dawn of Darkness
Samurai archers! And Kaemon Awa, who you do not, do not, want to mess with. There is an actual dwarf—not a fantasy dwarf either! But a human dwarf! He’s a viking and he moves slowly, but he’s still cute and annoying to deal with, which is one of the best kinds of Heroscape characters, because underestimation will screw you over most times. And the Einar Imperium is a squad of Kyrie that break the white Kyrie tradition—they seem to be African. With wings. A bit fragile, but you still want to get rid of them second (you want to get rid of their leader, a woman—though white—first).
The rest are zombies, orcs, demons, and bloodthirsty ghosts.
Fields of Valor
Two squads of Ashigaru soldiers, the sort of grunts of a samurai army. And oh yes, it’s a samurai army alright. Add in a Ninja. And now add in elves, robots, and a very thematic group of vampires. Very thematic; there’s a storyline and everything that show up in game play.
Defenders of Kinsland
Kato Katsuro, who you really want to kill as soon as possible when facing any kind of samurai or Ashigaru army led by him (none of this “whites are the best leaders for a colored army” crap). Two female ninjas, and also let me tell you that the women are covered up in Heroscape. No fetish armor. My gods. It’s so awesome.
A couple white cards, a team of hero wizard elves for people who love to RPG, aliens, and wolves.
Okay, the ninjas and samurai are getting to be a bit much, and really it’s a bit of a stereotype, but this game is pretty much about fighting other people, and it’s hard to come up with better, although an Asian guy part of a squad of agents would be really neat. Maybe a part of a bunch of fencers! This game does not shy away from giving Vikings lizard arms (really) or giving samurai armor from the future.
Also, it’s such an Asian moment in the sun. I love it anyways, despite the Unfortunate Implications. But then again, I would.
The Latest Expansion Set As of This Writing
I don’t remember the names of expansions, and not this one; they’re not very memorable, but they do serve as distinct shortenings.
Female ninja (it’s getting a bit much; probably the last ninja in the set) and Indians (a hero and a squad). I don’t know if the Indians are offensive or not; what I do know is that they don’t look like whites and they don’t look like overly red people, they just look like people who are called “red”, and they are one of the best counter-drafts to ranged figures, because they dodge well. I’m kind of glad they didn’t release the Indians anywhere near the expansion with the cowboys (much earlier on) because there might be Unfortunate Implications.
Add aliens, fantasy dwarves this time, and cute little robots that short-circuit the growing robot army, in particular the really annoying rats.
Big Expansion Sets
I’m not going to cover them in detail, because they’re an excuse to either add terrain or huge monsters, including a dragon for every Valkyrie general (the figures are divided into various thematic teams). Well, okay, Aquilla, who is the lone female of the generals—we think—has a gigantic poisonous mosquito, but it’s as big as any dragon and is just as capable of killing them.
A very exclusive set. If you get the five of them together, you can sell them on eBay for $120, or $40 per figure, however you want to deal with package/shipping costs. An orc, a Western knight, an Eastern samurai (hey, that’s actually a nice symmetry), an elf, and… a big cyborg gorilla.
Invasion of the Marro
Almost everything is aliens, with a big hive figure, and there are four heroes against it all: a white guy, a female Asian ninja, a female Kyrie, and a robot.
These are figures usually handed out at cons, and are repaints of some of the squad figures. There’s a Tibetan monk, a female agent who does not look white (mulatto? South Asian? Mexican? I do not know, but her last name is Skahen, and I don’t know were that could come from at all), a knight, and an orc riding a sabertooth tiger. A polar sabertooth tiger. To go with the snow set, which has Bigfoots in it.
I don’t remember the name, but it doesn’t matter, because everyone knows it’s the castle set. It’s very flexibly built for a castle set, actually, impressively so. Pretty much genius. There aren’t any figures, but there is a door that has a life and defense that you must “kill” to get into the castle.
Agent Carr is one of the more popular door killers, with his six damage and the way he can run in a battlefield all the way to the door, pretty much ignoring all enemies in the way. The Nakita agents (the agent squad of all women) is one of the most popular for attacking a castle. Many male figures with range are the best at defending a castle. Which is… a bit backwards, if you think about innuendos and stuff.
I shall sleep now.