I kinda feel like this is “cleaning out the closet” week here at Game Paradise. Earlier in the week we reviewed Ninja, which was a game that sat in our queue for a while, because people found it to be intimidating. Today’s game, Sentinels of the Multiverse, has a very similar tale of woe.
This game came to us a couple of months ago and was promptly opened, and then promptly shelved for another day. This is a card game, and when you open the box the first time, cards are all you see. Lots and lots of different cards, with different backs, creating lots of different decks. We spent the first hour just sorting out all of the cards and bagging them up into their different decks.
Which brings me to my first component complaint about this game. When we opened the box, it was packed with cards, all the way up to the brim. Once we bagged them into separate decks, all of the cards would not fit comfortably back into the box. Just the width of the ziploc bag strips was too much for this very full box. Ya know, I kinda feel bad complaining about this. Normally my complaints are just the opposite: that the box is over sized. But this box is far from over sized, it’s a little under sized. Really the box needs to be about a half inch bigger in every direction, and then it would be perfect. Secondly, given the nature of this game, a box more like Dominion would have been more ideal. Then I wouldn’t have needed baggies.
Ok, so the game is sorted and bagged. It has been set on a shelf, waiting for a day when I had more patience (or more guilt that it has sat there for too long), and today is the day! I pulled the game down and started reading through the rules. Surprisingly, reading through them didn’t take me long. The instructions are deceiving, because intermixed with the rules are a lot of character back stories, should you care. But if all you want to do is play the game, there is only about three little pages worth of stuff you need to read. Really not bad at all. Why was I so intimidated by this game?
Oh right, all the different card decks. Once I had read the rules, and started setting up for my first game, that rush of intimidation came flooding back. It took me a little while to separate the hero decks, from the villain decks, from the environment decks. This was largely because they didn’t have one unifying feature on the backs that distinguished which kind of deck it was, strike that up to component complaint number two. Instead I had to read the cards and make some logical deductions, which was kinda like a game in itself. Once I thought I had them all sorted out, we drew our villain, heroes, and environment at random and we were ready to go.
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a co-op card game. Each of the players control a super hero who’s goal is to take out the villain and save the world from complete and utter destruction. You work together to accomplish this goal, talking about all of the different options you have and deciding what would be best for the whole. This is in the same vein as “Pandemic” or “Yggdrasil” but with the major difference being that this is a card game. You win by killing off the bad guy, you lose by all of your team dying or failing in a task dictated by the mission. Even if one of your team “dies”, you still have 3 abilities to be used to help the remaining team mates win. It’s not over until it’s over.
So for our first run through the game we started with one of the “easy” villains, Baron Blade, whose ultimate goal was to use a lunar beam to pull the moon into the earth. We were fighting him on Mars, and so our turns were filled with perils such as oxygen leaks, and meteor strikes. We battled this villain using the super heroes “Fanatic”, “Tachyon”, and “Tempest”. Over nearly an hour and a half of grueling combat we destroyed the lunar beam and killed Baron Blade, saving the world from disaster.
How did we do it? Allow me to explain…
Each player has a deck of cards associated with their character. The villain also has his or her own deck of cards. On your turn you do a series of things: Play a card, use a super power, and then draw a card. Very very simple. The intricacies come into play with what is written on the cards themselves. I love this because it makes the game so easy to teach. By having simple base rules I can explain all the rules to new players in just a few minutes. After that, it’s just “do what it says on the card”. Given that it’s a co-op game, everyone can help each other out so that new players aren’t stumbling in the dark when it comes to the strategy.
Each players’ deck was tailored to who their character was supposed to be. Fanatic drew upon martyrdom in order to do damage, with most of her cards hurting her in order to play them. Tempest was all about controlling the weather, and so he could do lots of small bursts of lightening on his turns. The character that I played, Tachyon, was similar to the “Flash”. She was super fast, and thus got to draw and play multiple cards on her turn. Together our little fighting trio made a pretty good combo.
Having enjoyed our first game, we wasted almost no time in playing again. The next night we picked another super villain, Omnitron, to battle and squared off again. Having a better grasp on how the game worked we did better the second time around, and the game didn’t take as long. We wrapped up in about forty-five minutes. We all had a good time and we decided that we needed to get some fresh blood involved on the next game.
And that brings us to the epic battle with Citizen Dawn. The instructions warn you that her and “Grand Warlord Voss” are harder foes to vanquish, but given that we did so well the first two games, we could afford to have it ramped up a little. Right? It was as if we went right from the little bike with training wheels to the Harley with the souped up engine. The battle waged on for hours and my players simply couldn’t make headway. Every time they managed to play a piece of equipment or ongoing power that might help them limp along, she quickly devoured those cards, leaving them with nothing but a few more points of damage. In the end, we called it a wrap before the game was actually over, given it had already been more than three hours.
You might be thinking right about now, “Wow! Isn’t that really over powered?!”. Not necessarily. Each of the heroes are designed with certain advantages and disadvantages. Same with the villains. And then when you throw in the environment, things could be swayed heavily in your favor, or strongly against you. It’s all about the random draw. I personally think the battle with Citizen Dawn was a ‘perfect storm’. The environment we were playing in took away cards that you had in play, and so did she. This resulted in almost no cards in play the entire game. The characters we used to fight against her with were also pretty weak, given her ability to block damage, destroy goods, and get infinitely stronger by killing her little minions. With a different set of super heroes, we might have done just fine.
So what did we think? We had fun! While all the cards were intimidating, the game play wasn’t that hard to grasp. The very simple base rules (play one, use a power, draw one) made the game less about remembering the rules and more about interacting with the cards and the characters. The game also has an insane amount of replay potential given that you randomize the characters, villains, and locations each game, I have also had a little birdie whisper in my ear that they have an expansion for the game, so we are anxious to see what more they have added.
We are fans of co-ops in my household. Maybe that makes us slightly biased, but everyone seemed to have a great time with this one, including the ones who are not big super hero fans. This game was also created by a small game company, Greater than Games, which I always love to see. So with all of that said, I would recommend taking a look at this game, should you have the time and inclination.
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