29th Jul2021

‘Crisis Protocol: Hawkeye & Black Widow Expansion’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

You’ll forgive me, I hope, for my lack of initial excitement at learning about the Hawkeye and Black Widow pack for Atomic Mass Games’ Crisis Protocol. Whilst I think Natasha Romanoff’s alter-ego is a fairly interesting character, I didn’t realise when this pack was first announced that this would be a very different Black Widow to the one in the core box. Hawkeye, I find a pretty irritating chap all round, so his inclusion into my game system was most unwelcome – and in both cases where Crisis Protocol is concerned, I should never have doubted either of these characters.

Let’s start with Black Widow – who in the core box is known by her original name of Natasha Romanova, but in the expansion, where she is Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, she is Natasha Romanov. Whilst it’s annoying for owners of both versions of Black Widow, these are actually intended to be the same alter-ego, and so you can only ever field one version. Apparently Marvel and Atomic Mass agreed to change to the current MCU version of the name in the expansion – it’s just a shame they missed it for the core set. In any case, the main thing is that the Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D exists later in the Natasha Romanoff timeline and therefore she is more powerful and now costs three threat instead of two.

Whilst the original Black Widow had four health and long movement (allowing for close range hit and run style play) the new version has five health, moves medium and has four physical, three energy and three mystical defence – which is pretty good for a “regular” human if you ask me. Her base attack is the automatic pistol, which is range three and rolls just four dice, but then allows an immediate second attack. Each of these attacks generates one power for Black Widow (so two total) and of course, the cost for the attack itself is zero.

For two power, Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D can throw Tear Gas. This is an A2 range attack that rolls four dice and prevents the target from gaining power as the result of any damage done – the target also gains poison. Widow’s Kiss is the next attack, and costing three power this is a six dice mystical attack by default. Before damage however, the target is also pushed short, and an additional dice is rolled for each status that the target is afflicted with. Whilst Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D can only inflict poison by herself, in conjunction with Hawkeye’s abilities, this power can be deadly.

Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D has three more Superpowers or passive abilities that are of note. Firstly, she is Stealthy, which means that she can only be targeted by enemies within range three of her. This is a bit “so what” for me since most attacks are range three or less, but it certainly helps in some situations. However, as enemies close in, her other two Superpowers kick in – firstly, Parting Shot. This Superpower basically allows Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D to spend two power to inflict one damage on a character that targets her with an attack, and after that one damage (automatic) is inflicted, she can move short away from that enemy.

Finally, a niche Superpower – Interrogate. Interrogate allows Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D to score one additional victory point against Crisis Cards that her controlling player would otherwise score, as long as Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D is within range two of a dazed enemy character. For example, if a Crisis Card might have scored one or two VP’s for the Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D player, then Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D can pay three power to interrogate (gaining one more VP) as long as there is one or more dazed enemies in range. Weird and conditional, yes, but also potentially very helpful and quite thematic.

Moving on to Hawkeye, and what we find is one of the most straightforward, versatile ranged characters in the game. Hawkeye threat three and has a relatively squishy four health, with four physical defence and two energy and mystical defence. Despite this, Hawkeye has a couple of ways to deal with his own fragility, first of which is Hook Arrow. This is an active Superpower that allows Hawkeye to move up to three from his current position. Bearing in mind that this Superpower does not cost an action, it effectively gives Hawkeye an extra (fairly long) move.

In addition, Hawkeye has the Fast Draw reactive Superpower, also costing two power. This Superpower allows Hawkeye to “fire back” against any attacker targeting him who is outside range three with his default Arrow Shot attack. On that note, let’s cover the Arrow Shot, which is Hawkeye’s bread and butter – and it is fantastic. For zero power, Arrow Shot is range five and rolls five dice. In addition, Hawkeye gains power equal to the damage dealt and can choose whether his attack is physical or energy before he fires. Finally, for a wild dice, Hawkeye can choose to apply one of Bleed, Shock, Slow or Poison on the target enemy – which is the ability that links so well to Natasha’s Widow’s Kiss.

Finally, Hawkeye can spend one power to “enhance” his Arrow Shot using his Trick Shot Superpower. This, simply, allows the next Arrow Shot to ignore line of sight and it removes the benefit of cover from the target enemy. Due to the rate at which the standard attack usually generates power, Hawkeye can actually use Trick Shot on almost every shot – which increase the chance of hitting, doing damage and inflicting those status tokens quite a bit. There’s no change on Hawkeye’s injured side, except that he gains an additional health (up to five.)

In short, I was pretty much dead wrong on Black Widow and Hawkeye. As a combo, these two pack a deadly combination of close- and long-range skills that complement each other well, and both slot well into an Avengers line up thanks to their combined Threat of six. The new Black Widow model is fantastic, with a motion-rich sculpt of Romanoff leaping off a piece of crumbling Hydra architecture, whilst Hawkeye is as you would expect – in the process of firing arrows at an alarming rate. Whilst I won’t always field this pair in every Avengers line up going forwards, I really like them together and, even though it goes against my MCU preferences, I really enjoy using Hawkeye’s ranged abilities to great effect.

Crisis Protocol: Hawkeye & Black Widow Expansion is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator

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