Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative card game in a deeply thematic Superhero Comic inspired universe.
The core mechanic of the game is the teaming up of separate heroes, who serve as the avatars for each player, against a unified villain threat within an environment. These are all represented by separate decks of cards, with the environment and villain decks being played automatically.
The core gameplay is incredibly simple, elegantly so. Each player has three phases within a turn.
1. Play a card from your hand
2. Use a Power
3. Draw a card
This means that, even with a lot of players, the game flows through rounds fairly quickly. Each hero has a very unique deck, but each unique deck rarely detracts from the central gameplay.
For instance, the Chrono-Ranger and the Visonary are two heroes who are fun to play but very different in their role within a team. Chrono-Ranger focuses on dealing single targets small amounts of projectile damage, but increases his damage by playing ‘Bounty’ cards on specific key targets. The visionary draws cards continuously to give the team supporting options, such as extra card draw or ignoring environmental damage. Both these heroes are very useful team members contributing very differently.
The villains are similarly designed, often with each villain desiring different strategies to defeat. The Villain turn is simple, but often devastating. These can be compounded by the environment turn, which has neutral effects on the whole table. The players win once they have reduced the villains’ significant health to below 0.
One criticism of the game so far is specific to how a few characters and their decks operate. The polish of the hero decks is sometime s inconsistent, such as a character called Sub-Zero. Initially the design of the deck seemed to be about amplifying damage to enemies by dealing damage to yourself. However, this theme wasn't explored that much within the deck, where Ongoing cards ended up doing a majority of the damage despite the powers of the hero. This, however, is the most extreme example (and possibly just a personal gripe). Most of the decks are actually very well put together.
While these mechanics are generally very well developed, what really makes this game great is the flavour and style of the game. The style shows great homage to their comic book aspirations. The Wraith, for instance, shows definite references to Batman, while the Ex-Patriot seems to be a reference to Domino from the Marvel universe, both mechanically and aesthetically. This is not a critique of the game, because they've put significant effort into making each hero their own, but these references are fun additions for the comic book audience.
It’s also refreshing to see such a broad demographic of characters. Far removed from the ‘silver’ and ‘bronze’ age of comics, where the straight white male character reigned supreme, the characters here are diverse. The character designs themselves are also very fun and unique. Apparently these characters are given better depth within Greater Than Games own frequently released comic book series. These guys are obviously passionate about comics, and it shows in this game.
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a great cooperative game, with incredible flavour. I highly recommend at least picking up the core set. Each expansion adds a lot, but the core set is great as is. Mechanically elegant, and thematically deep.
One criticism of the game so far is specific to how a few characters and their decks operate. The polish of the hero decks is sometime s inconsistent, such as a character called Sub-Zero.
Quick correction--Sub Zero = Absolute Zero?
Just played him for the first time this weekend (actually only a half play--I got interrupted and had to quit), but at first blush, he didn't seem any more underdeveloped to me than any other hero. Each deck seems to have one major combo it's based around, with a few minor related cards to support the hero while you get to that combo. AZ seems to be all about getting out that cold damage transducer (can't remember the card name off the top of my head) and maxing out the healing you get while damaging your self. A little trickier than, say, Haka--but elegant in its own way. (Of course, this is based on a very limited exposure; I could well change my mind once I get through a whole game).
I empathize a bit though a bit with your frustration--part of me wishes there was a way to fine-tune the hero decks--just a bit. One of the reasons I really like SotM is there it is NOT a deck builder: decks are prebuilt, and you can just focus on playing them. Variety comes from having a multitude of decks to choose from.
But, it would be kinda cool to have an expansion that was, say, "sideboard" cards for each hero--a limited set of other cards that could be used to tweak the play of the deck. That way, if you want to make Absolute Zero more of a kamikaze damage dealer than a subtlely finessed damage sponge, you could give it a shot. It'd even work great as small-deck supplements for each hero (like $6-10 a piece).
Given > Games' enthusiasm for expansions, seems like this would fit right in...