Saturday 31 January 2015

Head-to-Head: The Joker

It's been a while since I did my last one of these articles. I've had a bit of a busy month, but that's now out of the way so I can proceed with a head-to-head of the Clown Prince of Crime, the Master of Mirth, Mister J himself...the Joker!

Without putting too fine a point on it, the Joker is not only one of the most popular villains in the DC universe, he's also probably the leader of the most used crew in the Batman Miniatures Game. This second detail comes from a combination of his crew being one of the first released, his Kaos Agent ability making the crew excellent for new players, him having more options for his gang than any other villain leader and him being such a popular character.

Knight Models currently have two versions of the Joker available. 'Arkham' Joker, as featured in the Arkham series of console games, comes in the Joker crew starter pack with three henchmen for roughly £24 (depending on your retailer).

'Heath Ledger' Joker is, as you might expect' a representation of the Joker as played by Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight', and is available individually for about £12.

There is a third version of the Joker due to be released as a limited edition accompaniment to a limited edition version of the new rulebook. The Red Hood Joker is (possibly) the Joker before he became the Joker. There are apparently on 500 of these being released and this model will have the same stat card as Arkham Joker, and so doesn't really need separate analysis. 

I should point out that Red Hood Joker is only available if you pre-order the limited edition rulebook with the Joker of the cover before February 15th. If this is the Joker you want, you'd better move sharpish.

Round 1: Crew Building

This first round is a tough one to call as frankly, both versions of the Joker have access to exactly the same resources in terms of crew building. This is not a negative as the Joker crew has three potential Sidekicks, loads of Free Agents to pick from, more Henchmen than you can shake a stick at and even a gang specific objective token in the form of Joker Gas Canisters.

In terms of Reputation, these guys are pretty even too, Arkham Joker is 90 and Heath Ledger Joker is 80. Both represent excellent value for points, but in this game 10 points is not really a massive difference, and will only allow you to buy one very low level henchman (either a Pavillion A Lunatic or a Blackgate Prisoner), which actually facilitates one of Heath Ledger Joker's rules - see combat. I'm always wary about considering whether low or high points is a good thing in terms of Cheaphammering, one allows you more in your crew, the other allows you to spend less. Both are a win in my book.

The only other way to slip a playing card between them in this category is to point out that there's no way to get the Henchmen from the Joker starter set other than with Arkham Joker. Technically this means that Heath Ledger Joker has less choice in terms of Henchmen, unless you're willing to trawl ebay. Although to be honest, there are so many choices available to the Joker crew, this isn't a massive problem.

However, it is enough for round 1 to go to Arkham Joker.

Round 2: Movement

Neither version of the Joker is much to write home about in terms of movement, with a Movement value of just 2 and not much in terms of special rules on this front. In fact, the only trait worth mentioning here is Heath Ledger Joker's Undercover trait allowing him to deploy up to 20cm outside of the deployment zone. This means he can steal a march on the enemy early in the game and get into range with his Custom Gun from the start of the game.

Arkham Joker only response to this is that his main weapon is ROF 1 so he doesn't need to slow down to shoot, however, this is not a massive impact because Heath Ledger Joker would only be slowed down for two turns so round 2 goes to Heath Ledger Joker.

Round 3: Attack

This is the big one. Both Jokers have an Attack value of 4 and some frankly quite devastating attacks available to them.

Arkham Joker has Exploding Teeth which have the Remote Control trait and when combined with his Total Vision means that he essentially has homing bombs that are impossible to hide from. In fact the only defence the enemy has is to spread out to reduce the number of models hit (which leaves them ripe for being ganged up on). Combined with this he has the dreaded One Shot Gun which has the potential to remove any model in the game as a casualty. Finally, he has a Poisoned Knife, and his Poison Master trait means that if he inflicts a Poison Critical, its harder to get rid of its lasting effects.

Heath Ledger Joker is no slouch either. His main weapon is his Custom Gun, which is a Firearm with a potential damage of 6 blood, which will outright kill most Henchmen in one shot. He also has a one shot weapon in the form of his Henchman Bomb, which  kills one of the Joker's henchmen, but inflicts significant damage on everyone nearby. Finally, up close, Heath Ledger Joker is also armed with a Knife, but it lacks any poison.

Side Note - I'm not sure whether you can use this ability on henchmen who aren't directly members of the Joker gang. If you can, this is an excellent use of a really cheap henchman, like the one that is made available by the points saved by using Heath Ledger Joker instead of Arkham Joker.

To split the difference I'm going to have to break this into three categories:
  • Main Weapon: I prefer Arkham Joker's Exploding teeth as despite the fact that Heath Ledger Joker's weapon is potentially more deadly, the opponent's inability to hide means that they have to take evasive action or risk taking damage across the gang, putting them on the defensive immediately.
  • One Shot Weapon: For me, Heath Ledger Joker's Henchman Bomb is more reliable, simply because you can hit more opponents with it and increase your odds of damaging. However, the One Shot Gun is brilliant when it works.
  • Close Combat: The addition of poison gives this one to Arkham Joker.

This is really down to opinion, but being that little bit better in close combat gives round 3 to Arkham Joker. However, don't be mistaken, both are awesome!

Round 4: Defence

Again, both Jokers are the same and have a Defence value of 4.

Heath Ledger Joker's only real defensive trait is Psycho, which means his Willpower won't ever be reduced. Combined with his Leader ability to re-roll Willpower tests, this provides him security against game effects such as Poison Ivy's hypnosis. It's a bit situation specific, but can be very handy.

Arkham Joker has no directly defensive traits, but his Remote Control teeth and Total Vision mean that he can have a significant effect on the game without having to expose himself to enemy fire. As this is a more regularly useful ability, round 4 goes to Arkham Joker.

Round 5: Special

This category is actually impossible to split. As Leaders, both Jokers have Inspire, the also both have Trickster and grant Trickster to the Henchmen with Kaos Agent which massively strengthen the crew by allowing them to move their Action Counters around at will. Both Jokers also get Luck, which allows a re-roll of important dice (such as the One Shot Gun) and offers insurance in both attack and defence.

As both Jokers are exactly the same in this category, round 5 is a tie.

Overview: If You Only Buy One...

Although it was actually mighty close in each category, at 3-1, the result is in and Cheaphammer recommends Arkham Joker.

There really is not much to choose between these models in game, and both with give your opponents fits. Heath Ledger Joker is a bit more conventional in game terms and searches out targets to gun down. However, Arkham Joker's ability to pull the strings of the game without exposing himself to danger really captures the character in my opinion. The fact that he's dangerous no matter what the enemy does, really gives him the edge. It's also really hard to argue with the value presented by the starter packs.

Once again, I hope you enjoyed the article. All judgments are simply my opinions, nothing more, so please don't be put off from Heath Ledger Joker. He's an excellent character in game, and actually will be greeted with interest by many opponents as Arkham Joker is so popular.

Comments and observations are, as always, very welcome.


  1. Thanks for the head to head Kieron. Useful for novices like me. :)

    I have been surprised that there has not been a Batman '66 Joker yet though, or even a New 52 version. :)

    1. I think the Joker is ripe for lots of alternate sculpts as limited editions and competition prizes (like the Red Hood Joker). I can imagine Frank Miller Joker, Killing Joke Joker, and so on without need for different star cards.

      However, I also think that a Caesar Romero version is probably overdue.

    2. Matching up with a Dark Knight Returns Joker would make a lot of sense. What about Arkham Origins? (I don't play the video games so don't know how similar AO and AC versions are). :)

  2. Another nice super-useful comparison for noobs (like me) and people who can't make up their mind (erm, like me as well :)).
    Thanks a lot