Well, Andy wouldn't stop praising this game, so I went and decided to try it out. I sat down with some of my old highschool buddies (I'm back in Chicago for my last Christmas break... ever!), they picked characters, and we ran the first half of Breakout! The session took about 2 and a half hours to conclude, and what I learned about this game was amazing.
- The rules are poorly written and organized. When I first started reading the dice rolling rules I was genuinely confused, and this is coming from someone who loves Burning Wheel's Fight! mechanics. The writing is abstract at best, and the organization of said rules had me jumping all over the book in a way that I didn't appreciate. I eventually gave up, called Andy, and had him explain how the damn thing worked. A ten minute explanation did more good for my understanding of this game than the actual rules text.
- As poorly written as this game may be, it shines in actual play. We played a 2 and a half hour long combat, and it didn't drag in the slightest. Everyone was engaged and having a ton of fun, deciding how they were going to be awesome for their actions and reactions. The fact that it took a little longer to resolve actions didn't matter, for the simple reason that everyone was working out a narrative amongst themselves, not just rules stuff. If I'd run the same scenario in 4th edition this game would have been a crawling, boring slugfest. Instead it was an exciting game of being as awesome as you could be.
- The game is not easy on those who get hurt, and I mean that in a good way. This game has rules for injury that are intuitive and easy, allowing for the player to still do awesome stuff without getting rid of the drama of getting hurt, stressed out, or messed with. Again, the emphasis is placed on the narrative.
- Convincing people to play characters that they had not made themselves was a genuine pain in the butt. I felt like I was pulling a two-year-old's teeth, except the two year old had werewolf incisors, not a baby's, so when they bit it hurt like hell. They simply did not get the concept that the game was about playing already-existing heroes and, when this was explained, one of the players bitched and moaned for quite awhile. Eventually he sucked it up and moved on, but for the simple reason that he was so uncooperative I feel even less inclined to let people make characters. Besides, I like the whole "pick your favorite character and move on" feel that this game has.
- Again, I like the pregen'ed events. I already have enough games that make the scenario on the fly, so I have no wish or urge to make up the narrative structure. Players do a better job of that in play, as do designers who have months to make all the groundwork and get paid to do so. So you better believe that, if I keep playing this game for any meaningful length of time, I'll get the events.
Really, the highest praise I can give for this game is that the rules (once properly understood) are designed to get the hell out of your way so that way you can have fun. I've never run into a game that did it quite this, well, easily, in play as Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. It'll definitely be in my rotation of games from here on out. Now to just get my hands on a few more events, like Civil War. That should be interesting...