Legacy Lore 002: ATAs
Legacy Lore is an article series that hopes to talk about Golden Age game effects and how they do (or don't) work under the current rules. This is meant to be informational and helpful and as such should not be taken as any “official” word on anything. If you'd like to reference any of this information for yourself, you can head over to Documents and look at the Legacy documents.
Additional Team Abilities (ATAs) are one of my favorite “cardboard” game elements. When they were first introduced they were actually Feats (we'll cover Feats later). Fairly quickly, they were spun off into their own classification of element with the Feat card versions no longer legal in any format. They were an opportunity to create new and different Team Abilities without having to design new symbols and clog the Team Ability pages of the PAC. And while ATAs have appeared inside of sealed boosters in different forms over the years (most recently being on character cards) the best part of them was they were Print and Play legal. Meaning, even if you didn't get to a convention to get a Wizkids produced version of the card, you could still play them. And they “never” retired because they were not connected to any specific set release.
This is what the 2012 Rulebook has to say about ATAs:
Additional Team Ability (ATA) cards can be added to your force if the characters on your team meet the prerequisite listed on the card. Each ATA card indicates the cost per character that must be added to your force in order to use it in the game; all characters that meet the prerequisites must be assigned the ATA and your force’s Build Total is affected accordingly. ATA cards provide either different or additional team abilities to the qualifying characters on your force. These team abilities are possessed by the qualifying characters and can be used by wild cards (unless the ATA specifies otherwise). A force may only include one ATA card.
So, to try and explain that for modern eyes: ATAs had a keyword requirement. As long as one character on your force had that keyword, you could use the ATA. You had to pay the ATA point cost, say 3 points, for each character with the matching keyword. So, if you had two characters with the X-Men keyword for a X-Men ATA, you had to assign it to both and pay 6 points. If you didn't have enough points in the team build, you couldn't assign it to either of them.
ATAs were “possessed” which is an out of date distinction that probably isn't worth discussing at this point. Many could be copied by Wild Cards but as time went on, more and more were Uncopyable.
This is how ATAs worked for the vast majority of their time in the game. This is the way I learned and was most comfortable with.
A year or two before they were retired from the game, a small change was made that, in my opinion, made them less attractive.
This is what the 2014 Rulebook has to say about ATAs:
Additional Team Abilities: Additional Team Ability (ATA) cards can be added to your force when it is a themed team. Each ATA card indicates the cost per character that must be added to your force in order to use it in the game; all characters that meet the prerequisites must be assigned the ATA and your force’s build total is affected accordingly. ATA cards provide either different or additional team abilities to the qualifying characters on your force. These team abilities are possessed by the qualifying characters and can be used by wild cards (unless the ATA specifies otherwise). A force may only include one ATA card.
Although ATA cards use a keyword as a prerequisite, it is not required that the themed team’s shared keyword be the same keyword as the ATA!
So, now you had to have a themed team to use ATAs. The keyword chosen for the themed team did not have to match the ATA keyword, thankfully. But that small change turned a fun point filler mechanic that could bolster non-themed teams into something that had to be much more carefully considered.
I don't think, ultimately, that is the major reason ATAs were struck from the game. ATAs had been in the game for roughly a decade or more by the time they were put out to pasture. And this was also not too long before the major 2017 rules overhaul, that would require work to make them function as well as be balanced with modern elements. As well, they were something of an “Old Guard” mechanic.
I loved and still love ATAs. But players I taught to play the game did not have the same affinity and often didn't even think of them. As well, with the death of the Player's Guide, there was no singular official resource to find the older ATAs. Add in the death of Print and Play and, well, ATAs were simply too beautiful for this new world of Heroclix.
The game has seen lots of new elements added that fill that ATA shaped hole. New equipment assignment rules are in the vein of ATAs. Shared traits have filled much of the design space that ATAs once occupied. And with a refocus on just Marvel/DC sets, there has been less of a need for new Team Abilities.
But for me, personally, I'll always be sad that we got four TMNT sets with Convention Exclusives and never got any TMNT specific team abilities. Which, in a world of ATAs, we could have.
If you're curious, there is a repository of ATAs on this site. It's on the Documents page as “Legacy ATAs.” As always, not official, but it was my best attempt at rewriting them all to work under the current Heroclix design environment.
Thanks for reading. If you have an older effect that you're curious about feel free to write into email@example.com and maybe we'll cover it in a future Legacy Lore.