The Words of the Dark Lord: An Interview with Morgan Reid

With another fantastic result in the latest online league, Morgan Reid has shown the MCP Community that he is one of the most consistent players in the competitive scene. Morgan’s insights into the world of MCP are always highly sought after on the Podcast, and he is asked constantly for his advice and ‘hot takes’ on anything related to the game. With that in mind, I took the opportunity to ask Morgan some questions on MCP so far, and provided our facebook group community with an opportunity to ask Morgan anything. What can I say? The Dark Lord himself didn’t disappoint.

Why do you play MCP over other miniatures games? 
Two reasons:

1. I’m a big fan of the MCU and really enjoyed watching the MCU series develop from the first Captain America/Iron Man films though to Endgame (as well as Netflix’s Punisher!). Having the ability to play a game with all those excellent characters is too good an opportunity to pass up.

2. I love the how the game has been designed both at the strategic and tactical level. The strategy in roster construction allows players to develop and hone their rosters between games/events and the tactical experience during game-play offers a 3-way friction of Secures, Extracts and squad attrition. Brilliant!

Who is your favourite character and why? 
Thanos. I loved Thanos in the MCU and I usually enjoy playing the ‘big bad’ in any game system. There is something to be said for Thanos and his Black Order in MCP for their ability to inspire your opponent with a sense of dread! I think AMG designed Thanos brilliantly where fans can enjoy playing the Mad Titan whilst also capturing a sense of how individually powerful he can be in the movies (and I assume the comics but I’m yet to read a Thanos comic…).

Special mention to Thor though as he and his Asgardians were the first affiliation I really dived into when I transitioned from playing MCP casually as a side game with friends to competing at events/online. Thor is a bit erratic but is still a superb all-rounder. I might also be tainted by the fact I rate Thor: Ragnarök as my favourite MCU movie (very close with Infinity War/Endgame)…

Who is your least favourite? 
I had to consider this one for a bit but I think it’s Dr Octopus. I don’t know why I don’t like him, but I don’t! The pose of the model is a bit bland/awkward and I’m not a big Spider-Man/Spiderverse fan so I can’t relate that well to his character.

What is your favourite game mechanic in MCP? 
Tough question! I touched on this earlier but what keeps brining me back to MCP is the 3-way friction of Secures, Extracts and squad attrition AMG have designed into the game. The constantly changing weighting towards each friction as players seek a path to victory allow no two games to be the same. The attention and focus required to balance the competing frictions in competitive games often leaves me feeling that games are actually more a form of meditation or mindfulness instead of entertainment!

The actual single mechanic that (I think) is my favourite is the Daze/KO mechanic. I don’t know if this was an intentional game design (I suspect it was) but I view the Daze/KO mechanic as an inbuilt ‘comeback mechanic’ that allows players to fight back from apparent impossible odds and feels very cinematic. I like to visualise the characters getting their ass handed to them, taking a knee and wiping the blood (drop of blood?) off their face before they stand up and unleash hell like in most great (and not-so-great) action films!

What aspect do you like least about the game? 

Another tough question!

The game feels a touch more variance heavy than I would like compared to other game systems, but I understand that’s a core part of a game attempting to recreate cinematic experiences on the tabletop.

I think it has to be my perceptions where I think the game balance is slightly ‘off’. I won’t talk about individual characters despite my thinking some should be on the restricted list (not ban, just restricted).

I don’t enjoy the cards and characters that either enable/encourage non-interactive game play or deny/limit opponents the ability for counter-play. Without going into all the specifics, most of the things I enjoy the least involve characters having the ability to teleport/be moved long distances whilst they are holding Extracts. I would like to see AMG blanket remove the ability for characters holding Extracts to be ‘placed’ or moved outside of their normal movement whilst they are holding Extracts.

There might be some small exceptions to this but in general, I think cards like Asteroid M and Leaderships like Storm’s are excellent because characters cannot be moved if they are holding Extracts and there are player decisions and trade-offs to consider when deciding to pick up Extracts or go for high mobility. I think cards like Rainbow Bridge/Pentagrams (Pentagrams more for the first activation attacking characters in their deployment zone) and characters like Lockjaw who enable characters to move long distances whilst holding Extracts would create a more enjoyable game if they had the same restrictions as Asteroid M and Storm’s Leadership.

What do you look for when making a roster? Is it value, theme, or favourite characters? 
These questions are not getting easier…

I said this on our last podcast and I think it’s true to how I play wargames – I build with my heart but play with my head.

I start with theme and my theme is characters I enjoy. I play characters I enjoy because I am a firm believer that you have to enjoy what you play to perform well. I don’t really mind what the characters/affiliations play style is, be it control, attrition or a balanced approach etc. I can adapt my own playstyle and in-game tactics to suit what my roster wants to do.

Value comes into in once I’ve created the core characters (or skeleton) I enjoy and want to play with. Generally, I will then fill out the rest of my roster with efficient and (my perceived) high-value characters that will enable my roster to be competitive. That way I can combine playing the characters I love in a competitive setting because they are supported by efficient and high-value characters to make the squad(s) work on the table.

AMG have done such a good job on character and affiliation design that I think almost all the current affiliations can be highly competitive (I’m sure Spider Foes will get there soon..) if you are willing to put the thought, effort and reps into mastering what your characters can do and how your roster can synergise to produce high-quality squads that can leverage advantage on your crisis selections.

How would you describe your play style?
We normally talk about attrition, control and the balanced approach on the Podcast but I think those descriptions better fit what your roster or squads want to do on the table than describing a person’s play style.

I think I am generally a patient and calculated player who enjoys jockeying for positional advantage whilst waiting to identify an opportunity to make a decisive blow that can win the game. Usually, I find opponents can make a small mistake or misplay that will open up and opportunity for my squad to leverage and punish. Top level games can feel like he/she who makes the first small misplay generally loses.

Your consistency in this game is impressive. What about your play do you believe gives you the edge over most of your opponents?

The well-known maxim of ‘The harder I practice, the luckier I get’ probably sums it up.

Having said that, there are probably a few other things that go into achieving constantly good results in MCP though, and some of it is a good dose of well-timed luck. Whilst it’s not a big thing, I do think that having a career in the Military lends itself to learning and understanding strategy whilst also providing lots of opportunities to execute tactical actions – Much of that knowledge we have gained and tools we employ can be translated very quickly into tabletop gaming.

One of the things I love about playing tabletop wargames is that I find it fascinating how non-military folk can so quickly learn to understand elements of strategy and tactics that can actually be very similar to military concepts. The terminology is usually quite different, but the core of the ideas and concepts can be very similar. Humans are very intelligent!

What’s the best piece of advice you have received that has helped you in MCP?

It’s interesting because I bought into MCP on release so there wasn’t really anyone to teach me or provide advice in the early days so it was largely self-taught and spit balling ideas with a couple of mates.

I can’t really single out any one piece of advice for MCP, but I will reflect on a popular line of advice that was often used in X-Wing as players second-guessed their squads before big events which has carried over to MCP with me: ‘Play what you know’.

What is incredibly helpful, and also a highly enjoyable part of being in the MPC community, is the ability to communicate and send/receive advice from across the globe on platforms such as Discord and Facebook. I’ll often ask people in the US, UK and Europe (as well as our Aus MCP community) for advice on building rosters or matching up against different affiliations etc. Whilst I am comfortable with a number of affiliations, there are some that are still somewhat of a mystery to me, and I enjoy seeking advice from those who play them far better than me to good success.

If you were an MCP game designer for a day, what character and or game mechanic would you introduce into the game? 

I would bring in World War Hulk!

Whilst I’m not a big comic book reader, I did love that series and seeing the Hulk unleashed with his full power would is pretty satisfying for fans to see! How on earth Pagani and his team would balance that monster is a different story!

Either that or I would make Start Wars: Crisis Protocol… I am ‘Ryan Farmer Amazing Spider-Man’ levels excited at the prospect of a 6 threat Vader to play with and re-live the ‘Vader Down’ series where he is surrounded by Fear and Dead Men…

What is a common mistake made by your opponents in the last few seasons? What could they do different?

Overly aggressive on the attrition aspect at the detriment of points scoring.

I think one of the hardest aspects for newer players to learn when diving into competitive MCP is to curb the enthusiasm for violence, take a breath and consider how you will get to 16 VPs before your opponent. Often, punching the opposition as much as possible doesn’t lend itself to a winning strategy.

From Facebook:

How much do you feel the flexibility of brotherhood affiliation is shaping the meta? Do you feel single leadership ability affiliations are going to be put on the competitive back-burner as more leaderships get released?
I’m not sure Brotherhood’s flexibility through their choice of leader is shaping the meta much, or at all, to be honest.

Magneto is a powerful leader and character, and he might be part of the recent uptake in players increasingly choosing ‘Brace for Impact’ over ‘Field Dressing’ as the second restricted to ‘Medpack’ (meta picks?). I don’t really consider Brotherhood all that flexible in comparison to other affiliations due to their current lack of released characters in affiliation. The strongest Brotherhood skeleton, in my opinion (and at the time of writing), is Magneto, Mystique and Toad, so really their flexibility as an affiliation comes from their supplementary picks to provide the style of roster players are after. I don’t think Mystique offering a leadership option for Brotherhood has shaped or impacted the meta from what I’ve seen.

As for current single leadership affiliations, I don’t think they will be on the competitive back-burner because a lot of the good leaders and leadership abilities will still be good as time goes on. I suspect AMG will release multiple leaders for each affiliation to allow different play styles within affiliation (which is brilliant by the way) but leaders or leadership ability that are on the weaker side might remain weak where the strong leaders and leadership ability will likely remain strong. I think additional leaders give players choices and refreshes some affiliations that might be otherwise played less as new and shiny characters are released.

Rank your top 5 affiliations as they stand in the meta now. 
At first glance this is a pretty straight forward question, but some affiliations are really strong if they have a second affiliation to cover their weak points. A good example is Asgard – They are good at 14 and 16+ but I think they can be weak at 15. Add in Wakanda as their dual affiliation to cover 15 and you have a bulletproof roster!

Having said that, as at the end of Season 4, I’d rate the top 5 as:
1. Wakanda
2. Cabal
3. Asgard
4. Web Warriors
5. Brotherhood

When picking affiliations what weighs heavier: leadership, or tactics cards?
Tough question, I think good leadership can overcome average tactics cards and good tactics cards can overcome average leadership.

For me, I think I would (generally) weigh the tactics cards heavier than the leadership in most instances. CS is a good example of the opposite where I think Kingpin’s leadership far outweighs the CS tactics cards.

I think most leadership abilities are important to the overall approach when you are considering what approach to take with your Roster/Squad in trying to win the game, but leadership abilities (in general) tend to be less decisive than some affiliated tactics cards. Some affiliated tactics cards are very powerful and can swing a game in your favour. I like to use those powerful cards at critical times to try and either strike a decisive blow or leverage a small advantage that can lead to victory.

Could you expand on why you think Cabal is a soft counter to Wakanda?
Cabal have some excellent anti-Wakanda tech.

Trav, Jaren and I often joke (cry?) that MODOK is the best character in the game and the best MODOK is a Cabal MODOK.

Red Skull and MODOK are the central characters here and added to that, MODOK is the best Panther killer in the business (at the time of writing at least). Red Skull enables MODOK’s action economy though ‘Master of the Cube’, gets his power generation train rolling through the ‘Master of Evil’ leadership ability and the pair can unleash a devastating Round with clever use of ‘Cosmic Invigoration’ and ‘All You’ve Got’.

Another great option for Cabal is through Zemo as an excellent Shuri hunter. Zemo’s long move, charge and master swordsman rerolls means he can often ‘1-Shot’ Shuri who is a well-known Wakandan pest. Add Enchantress to the mix as a recent release to steal Extracts, control characters and access another Mystic attack option into Panther, this makes Cabal pretty appealing against Wakanda if you are confident you can mitigate their package of ‘RNG-free’ auto pushes.

Why should I play anything but Wakanda + the latest tuned way to fill out their 10 to handle rare bad match ups?
I would say that unless you don’t enjoy playing Wakanda (as I don’t very much) then playing Wakanda + the latest tuned way to fill out your roster is the easiest way to build the most competitive roster in MCP at the time of writing.

You don’t need Wakanda to win an event, or even a TTS league (despite 3 of 4 season have been won by Wakanda) and almost all affiliations are strong enough to win big events with. Wakanda, in my opinion, are just the most dice-mitigating and low-risk way of doing so.

But they are also boring 🙂

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