Successfully introducing a new villain into the Batman canon is always a risky affair; for every Bane there is a Wrath, for every Mr Freeze a King Tut (yes, I know he’s only in ’66, but my point stands). And when these new villains are as fundamental to the mythos as the very foundations of Gotham itself, such a risk is amplified.
But, as is generally agreed, the Court of Owls have been one of the great successes of the New 52, and all credit to Snyder, Capullo et al, even to the point where (love it or hate it), they’ve now begun to creep out of the shadows of Heller’s incarnation of ‘Gotham’.
Last year I mentioned briefly how the Court were an interesting, self-contained option for starting out in the game. Now, with the release of the first rules expansion, “The Flash and the Arrow”, a raft of new options are available to all factions – and, in particular, the Court have become a much more interesting prospect.
I freely admit that my own Court have been sitting happily, shinning silver glinting unbuilt in storage. Partly because they’ve only existed as a single starter and blister, they could only run at 300 points, which is below standard (ish) tournament format of 350. Even with the addition of a new Court starter set (see below), they’ve not really grabbed my attention while competing with my Law Forces, Batman, Scarecrow, Ivy, and Penguin (!) teams…
However the ‘FlArrow’ is changing all that, and given that they are one of only two stand-alone factions for the game (along with Watchmen), they are now more than ever a highly attractive prospect for a newcomer, or indeed as an additional faction for an old-timer like me.
Fair warning – you will need patience to build your Court. Invest in a pin vice – £5 from a hobby or craft shop – if you don’t have one. Paperclips are excellent pins and easily cut to length, and surprisingly durable. Usual tools – sharp knife and superglue – are of course required but you may find you need Green Stuff for gaps here and there. They are complex models, but absolutely worth the time and effort.
The full Court will set you back around £60 – 2 starters plus the Gotham Butcher – which makes them relatively cheap, especially given that gives you an array of options.
Fluff-wise, the Court (as with other factions) get a unique Strategy in the new expansion, giving them 2 additional sewer tokens which only they can use. Even Killer Croc can’t match that level of mastery, which along with Climbing Claws and Grapple Guns adds yet another level of mobility to them – it really is one of the most powerful new Strategies available. They also get their new equipment list:
Tireless, coming in at a mere $50 and an option for up to 3 Henchmen and Free Agents (i.e. all of the Talons and the Butcher), is cheap and devastating: Running spending only 1SC means far greater Action economy, which ultimately is the core resource in the game, whilst Hunter Training, though a whopping $200 grants the Tracking rule, enabling you to move Characters up to 2D6cm at the end of the turn. This really turns the (otherwise rather overcosted) Gotham Butcher into a viable, useful part of a Court list. More actions, more movement: the Court is now on the hunt, and they’ll send a Talon for your head!
From the initial Court box, all of the Henchmen Talons remain potent, but a special shout-out must go to Strix – in a nod to the Night of the Owls (and beyond), she can now join a Birds of Prey team, so if you should decide where to go next you’ve got the beginnings of a mighty hero(ine) team. William Cobb is still vicious, boosted by access to Ancient Weapons, and Xiao Long’s Sneak Attack just got a whole lot nastier with the new mobility options available. However, now we also have new talent from Court set 2.
The O’Malleys are a family of brutal talents. Grandfather gives the Court a bodyguard, which is a big boost to defend the fairly fragile leaders the court has. Son is a good lightweight option, not really potent but a heavier hitter than most at the 30 point mark. Father however is really potent, a 51 point monster with Stealth and Tireless built in.
And let’s not forget the leaders. Always the cheapest in the game, Court leaders are fragile – mere humans after all. Whilst Benjamin Orchard can at least try to cut you open, his combat abilities were never really developed (though pairing him with Grandfather at least opens up more options). The Generic Court Member, however, is all about intrigue and control (quite right too) – Discourage to limit your opponent’s action pool, Distract to lower their defences, and a gun to keep threats at range. Cheaper than Orchard, he’s a neat addition to the faction.
The Court plays by its own rules. It feels faithful to the comics and has a range of options without reducing you to paralysis of choice. And now, with some minor tweaking (and all credit to Knight for listening to the fanbase on this) they’re a great way into a great gaming experience.