The Winter Guard are the newest Affiliation to join MCP and boy, does it come smashing like a hammer! As of now, we know Crimson Dynamo is the leader of Darkstar, Red Guardian, and Ursa Major. Other inclusions in the Affiliation haven’t been revealed yet, but as they have an August 12th release date, we should know a week or so before then. Other members are a bit of a toss up, as the team has always been small and made up of this core-four. No other former members are currently in the game, but of course could be added later. Other possible additions from the current MCP roster include other Russian characters like Omega Red, Kraven the Hunter, and Black Widow– none of them seem likely to me.
A Look at the Cards
A little background on the Winter Guard- created in 1998 by Kurt Busiek and Sean Chen, they first appeared in Iron Man (Vol 3) #9. A Russian state-sponsored super-team, the Winter Guard were Russia’s answer to the Avengers. Contrary to popular belief, the Winter Guard are not ‘bad guys,’ and are seen as analogous to the Avengers, not antagonistic to. The two teams have helped each other on numerous occasions. Originally led by Josef Petkus as Red Guardian (though now he is the Steel Guardian), the MCP version follows a more modern take on the team, led by Dimitri Bukharin- the Crimson Dynamo!
On first reading, I felt that Dynamo is the new leader to beat. His leadership ability, Unbreakable Red Line, alone is worth his 4 Threat. While he’s not going to win awards for most powerful attacks, both of his are solid pieces of tech that do what they need to. His ‘gainer’ is a Beam 4 with S5. Incredible in the right situations. On a wild it adds shock as well, which isn’t my favorite status, as we never remember to apply it to dice rolls, but it’s a nice addition. His spender is pretty OK as well. Range 5 is nice, but only S5 for 2 Power. At least it’s cheap! It does ignore LOS and cover, which is nice, but the Wild Explosion is where it’s at for this attack. Auto damage is fantastic in this game, even 1!
You aren’t going to be spending Power on his attacks though, his Superpowers are where this model is going to shine. His leadership first makes his team tough. Shrugging off a status each turn for free and a 3/8 chance of not being pushed off an objective makes this model an anti-control piece extraordinaire! He can give himself more Power for an action, hop around like Toad, suffer less damage from incoming attacks, and make enemies reroll attack dice! He can do it all! Oh, and he can fly, that’s cool.
All this in a hard candy-coated shell, Dynamo has good defenses with 4/3/4 and a healthy 6 Stamina on both sides. All in all, he’s a great piece and even better leader, I see Winter Guard as a popular Affiliation with this red-suited monster leading them.
Along with Crimson Dynamo, comes Darkstar (Laynia Petrovna) another great anti-control piece. At 3 Threat, she will be an easy splash in other Affiliations as well. Her attacks are solid, and a nice mix of Energy and Physical. Her gainer is a great Range 4 S5 Energy attack, and while it only ever gains 1 Power, she can reroll all of the dice for it if she wishes! Careful here though, this wording means you reroll all (other than failures), not pick and choose. Still good. Her spender (which you aren’t going to use much) packs a S7 punch at Range 2. You can choose if it’s Physical or Energy, which is nice, and Wild Bleeds. Not fantastic for 3 Power. Mostly because you’re going to be using that Power on her awesome Superpowers!
Dimensional Portal is similar to other teleports we’ve seen, but fits very nicely in Winter Guard. Teleporting big slow members of her team up to Range 3 helps out everyone’s favorite mutant bear a lot. For 3 power, she can reposition any of her allies within Range 3 of her, but only once a turn. As a 3 Power Reactive, Darkstar’s Darkforce Barrier is a nice defensive power that adds dice and keeps her teammates from getting out of position. Only against Physical or Energy attacks though. Oh, and she can fly, that’s cool.
I’ll admit, when I first read Red Guardian‘s card, I was terribly underwhelmed. But then I re-read it and listened to Tim and Chuck discuss it on this episode of “Wait, Did I Roll a Wild?” and they convinced me that he is much more than a ‘bad Captain America.’ Red Guardian just does different things than I initially expected him to. That’s on me.
Red Guardian is the Winter Guard’s controller and another solid attacker. He still doesn’t have a ‘builder,’ is attacks that aren’t his Spender only gain one Power, but luckily he doesn’t have much to spend it on and has other ways to get plenty of Power. His Strike starts out basic as it gets, Range 2, S5, but only gains 1 Power. Add in a Push Size 3 or less Short and now we’re talking. His second gainer is a familiar Shield Throw like we’ve seen on Captain America, Sam Wilson Captain America, and Taskmaster. His final attack, Siberian Shield Slam, is again the same as Core Box Cap, but that’s not a bad thing, who doesn’t like a free Throw!?
Again, his Superpowers hit the mark here. For 2 Power, his Reactive Focused Repulsion Field is a nice defense buff, allowing Red Guardian to count Blanks as Successes when defending against Physical or Energy attacks. Keeps him on the table longer, good. His only other Superpower is an Innate called Red Guardian’s Suit that causes him to gain an additional Power any time he takes damage as long as it doesn’t Daze him. Same as we have on Sin, but more useful here on a character with more Stamina and ways to spend that power.
After taking another look, I like Red Guardian. He’s not just a Russian Cap, he does his own thing. He’s a control piece that hits hard and takes punches back.
Saved the bet for last. The standout piece of this wave, Ursa Major! The biggest, best bear, Mikhail Urus is a rare Russian mutant that wasn’t killed with his powers manifested, instead they indoctrinated him into government work and made him a killing machine. Ursa Major’s powers are pretty obvious- he can turn into a super strong and super tough bear! The longer he’s in bear form though, the more bear-like his mental state becomes, so he’s gotta change back occasionally. Luckily, he can easily transform for the length of a typical MCP game, so he has no Transform mechanic.
Ursa Major is my favorite kind of model- a straight-forward beater. He has tons of Stamina (7/7) and averages defenses (3/3/4). I imagine that extra pip of Mystic Defense is from being more bear-like mentally and not caring about someone rooting around in his head.
Ursa Major’s attacks are fantastic. His builder (yes, a builder) is a basic Range 2 S5 with Wild Bleed. Decent. His spender though… Bear-Armed Brawler is one of my favorite attacks in the game right now. Kind of a mix of Lizard’s Cold Blooded and Kingpin’s Hail to the King, this spender is Range 2 S7 for 3 Power. Ursa Major can Throw the target Short- BEFORE damage is dealt! This makes this Throw amazing, as some attacks that come with one miss out when the Throw is after damage and the target is Dazed or KOed. But that’s not all! The target is also Staggered, with no trigger! This attack is so good, I can’t wait to get this bear on the table.
Oh yeah, he has Superpowers too, good ones! Charge is always amazing, especially with his medium base and Short Movement, saving Actions is paramount. Aggressive helps with this as well, getting Ursa across the table into range of his Attacks as fast as possible is absolutely necessary. Finally, he has a Terrain Throw, Ursine Temper. Which is a solid 3 Power ability to throw Terrain of up to Size 3 Medium. Love it.
Unbreakable Red Line
As an Affiliation, until we know other members, Winter Guard is the smallest. The Core Four are all solid models and work well together. They have a theme around control and stopping the opponent’s control of them. Removing Conditions that the enemy worked to put on them and standing their ground on Secure Objectives, the Winter Guard will be a touch squad to move. Having two Size 3 characters works well with this theme, as well as Darkstar’s Darkforce Barrier, that allows them to hold their ground for certain. They might not hit as hard as Black Order (like we saw in this Battle Report), but their attacks are nothing shabby, especially with all of the pushes and throws mixed in. Winter Guard are going to be annoying to face, they’ll be moving you all around, while they’re going to be right where they want to be.
Luckily Winter Guard is getting a handful of Affiliation and character-specific Team Tactics cards! With Crimson Dynamo and Darkstar we have Dark Aura Manifestation, Fusion Caster, and Winter Rush. Dark Aura Manifestation is Darkstar’s time to shine. She only needs to spend one power to take one dice away from energy defenses. You need to be careful with this card though, as it effects friend and foe! This card will be great to set up for Darkstar’s own attacks, or those of Crimson Dynamo as well.
Fusion Caster is a Crimon Dynamo-specific attack card. He must spend three power to gain access to a powered-up beam that rolls two additional dice per Wild, but he takes a damage per Wild rolled. Good for that desperate moment when you need to damage multiple characters at once.
Winter Rush is the card that stands out for me from this set. Characters on the Winter Guard Affiliation list can spend power during the Power Phase, if they spend six or more (not sure why you would spend more?), then each time an ally is damaged by enemy effects this round, another allied Winter Guard character can advance Short toward the enemy that did the damage. I love this. I’ve seen people upset that it’s ‘not as good as Avengers Assemble,’ but I think it’s better. Imagine Ursa Major, a little ways back, out of position. The enemy attacks an ally, Ursa Major moves Short towards them, with his big base. Another character takes a hit, Ursa Major moves again. This can help Crimson Dynamo set up a multi-beam round and really put the hurt on. This card really helps the slower members of Winter Guard make up that speed. Ambush bear!
Another wave of cards comes in the other half of the Affiliation. Sadly a little lackluster compared to the other half, but nothing unplayable.
First up, Bear Hug, is Ursa Major’s specific card. Sadly, it’s not a throw, but a move hindrance. It fits in well with the control aspect of the Affiliation. Unfortunately is costs three power to reduce an enemy’s movement to Short for one action. And he has to be within Range 1 to use this ability. It has potential, but there are too many restrictions to this card to make it taken often. When it does work though, and Ursa Major keeps an enemy model from reaching an objective they need… it’ll be mint.
Comrade’s Keeper is Red Guardian’s time to shine. This card costs him two power to essentially use Heroes for Hire and take a hit for an ally, but he gets to then throw the enemy that hurt him! Love this one, super thematic and fits with the motif of the team.
Finally, another Winter Guard Affiliation card, Sovereign Strike is a terrain-clearing explosion that deals two damage to ALL characters within Range 1 of the terrain destroyed. One Winter Guard character has to spend three power to target a Size 4 or less terrain piece within Range 4 of them to choose to obliterate. I love this. Automatic damage is gross in this game, and blowing up a large peice could catch a lot of characters within Range 1. Similar to Darkstar’s card, gotta watch out for your own team with this!
Where else do these four fit? With such a small Roster, they aren’t going to be Winter Guard every time you pick up these models. So what else can we do with them?
Crimson Dynamo- His leadership is where he really stands out, but what if he doesn’t have access to that? I like him in Spider Foes. Combining his Disruption Field with Green Goblin‘s Oscorp Weaponry means you can force your opponent to reroll 3 attack dice! Almost as good as Recalibration Matrix! He also ads a solid tank to their roster and fits well beside Venom and Lizard to have a lot of Stamina for your opponent to grind through.
Darkstar- Her low Threat, teleport, and defensive tech means she can fit well just about anywhere. She is a bit Power hungry though, so she wants an Affiliation that gives her that! I like her in Inhumans, coupled with Lockjaw and Medusa’s own movement shenanigans, Darkstar can help to ensure Black Bolt is right where he needs to be for a perfect Whisper.
Red Guardian- NOT a ‘bad Cap,’ Guardian is a wonderful control piece. He might even fit well with Web Warriors, helping to move enemy characters around even more with his push and throw, and can count blanks for that Spider-Man feel!
Ursa Major- Where doesn’t he fit? Any roster that wants a beat-stick wants the big ol’ bear. I actually like him in X-Men Gold, where Storm can move him around with her Leadership and get him into the best position for a Charge free of Power.
That’s all for me for today, you can hear us wax lyrical about all these models on “Wait, Did I Roll a Wild?” and other topics on Thursdays live at 7pm EST at twitch.tv/professionalcasualnetwork or catch up on YouTube! In the coming months we’ll also be adding an ‘MCP After Dark’ show on our Patreon directly following the live episodes of “Wait!” Join now to get all the notifications and the rest of the awesome content at Patreon.com/professionalcasual.
Other than that, I’ll see you next time, while I patiently wait for Iceman to be in the game…
“Bad GM” Dan Cole- A founder of PCN and GM for ‘A Grim Podcast of Perilous Adventure’ Dan is a lover of comics (especially X-Men), RPGs, and miniature gaming.