Much longer break from posting than I intended. Something about summer break makes me take a break from everything.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve built some Lego models, played Black Sheep, Sequence, Munchkin Quest, and Sentinels of the Multiverse. I also had a birthday and wound up with a lot of gaming loot, so I’ve been re-organizing the gaming closet (of doom) and using MyStuff2 on the iPad to start cataloging my games. I’ve also managed to get a few more minis for Descent painted and one Dreadball team finished and another started. So, I have more than enough fodder to write some blog posts. Now to work up the time and energy…
For today, though, I’m going to write a little about Sentinels of the Multiverse. This card game is published by greater/than/games, and has been out since 2011. I played the Enhanced Edition (which has some art and gameplay improvements over the original edition). The basic premise of the game is that each player is a superhero trying to stop a villain from . . . well, being villainous. Gameplay is cooperative, but despite the number of cards in the game (578 of them), this is not a deckbuilding game. Each hero has her/his own deck, and there are 10 different hero decks to choose from (with suitably evocative heroes like The Wraith, Fanatic, and the Indestructible Bunker). There are four villains and four different environments, each with its own deck as well.
The basic rules of the game are simple. There are three phases (Villain, Hero, and Environment). In the Villain phase, the villain deck is used to determine what the villain is up to. You deal with any start of turn effects, draw and play one card from the Villain deck, and resolve any end of turn effects. In the Hero phase, you follow mostly the same pattern, except that Heroes also get a chance to use one of their Powers (either the basic one on their Hero Character Card or one granted by a card they’ve played). The Environment phase is the same as the Villain phase, but using the Environment deck. The general goal for the players is to deal enough damage to the Villain to win. This is complicated by Environmental effects and minions which also need to be dealt damage. Add the fact that the Villain is usually dealing to damage to multiple heroes every turn, and you have the effect of a massive, chaotic brawl.
In general, Hero cards are played to give your Hero access to extra powers, to better equipment, or to attacks. Villain cards give the Villains new powers that affect the heroes or to minions who usually do damage to heroes. Environment cards are a mixed bag, with some of them helping the Heroes (i.e. the police show up) or Villains specifically (i.e. the villains have a hostage), and others hurting or helping everyone (i.e. everyone’s fighting in an alley and deals extra damage).
I played with Paul and my wife, Beeje, and we all liked the game, even though Omnitron stomped all over Megalopolis, defeating our heroes Bunker, Wraith and Legacy with relative ease. Gameplay is fast and direct, with the randomness of the decks causing wild swings in who is winning, and the overall effect of the game mimics the feel of comics really well. There are more moving parts than in a co-op game like Pandemic, which makes Sentinels less likely to be taken over by one player who just tells everyone else what to do. Having a hand of very diverse cards means that each player always has a better sense of what his hero can do than the other players and makes the discussions about what course of action to take much more cooperative than in something like Pandemic–where each player’s choices on any given turn are much more circumscribed. The artwork really evokes a comic feel, and the little quotes at the bottoms of the cards give you a good sense of who these characters are. It’s a good sign when the players start referring to each other by their Heroes’ name instead of their real names.
The game does suffer a bit from randomness, but not more than any other card game that involves shuffling. My hero Bunker was never able to draw damage dealing cards, so I felt relatively useless for much of the game. On reflection, however, I realize how I could have played some cards differently and possibly had more damage options. But if all your good damage cards are at the bottom of your deck, you’re going to have a tough time winning. I’m also a little concerned about the effect multiple players have on the game. We played with three and found the game rather difficult, but five players would mean two extra players dealing damage and could, in theory, make the game easier. (For our game, we could usually either clear all the minions and the environment threat or we could damage the villain. Since damage is based on number of players, but the card draws for the Villain and the Environment aren’t, I would guess two extra players would be able to deal damage to the villain more consistently than we did.) We also played only one game, so I can’t say for sure, but I would guess certain combinations of heroes are also more effective than others. But, really, how could you achieve perfect balance among the heroes in every possible combination from 2-5 players and still make each character feel unique?
This is my new favorite superhero game. While I found Legendary to be entertaining, the fact that I get to play a single character in Sentinels makes it my new favorite supers game. (I should add that my wife loved having multiple female Heroes to choose from, too.)
Some other takes on the subject: