Sometimes being the right hand woman of a powerful crime lord was everything she could ever want; power, respect and regular opportunities to deal out a serious beat down on the enemies of her Organization. Sometimes though...
Sometimes you end up working for a branch of the family led by a less than stellar member. Sometimes that member will get the bright idea to locate his operation in a dinosaur infested jungle in order to harvest exotic plants for the drug trade. Not just any dinosaur infested jungle though, not for this guy. He had to pick one that was on a very seismically active piece of land...
She stood in what remained of their headquarters. A few underlings were running around in in disorder, trying to find somewhere safe. This was a fool's errand, as the only safe place was in the Chairman's office, and he wasn't about to mess up his carpeting with the prints of lowly foot soldiers.
The Chairman's voice crackled in her earpiece: "Status report!"
As calmly as she could, she replied: "Well, we just lost most of the new recruits to the last blast of lava from the volcano. I'm trying to rally what's left and--ARGH!" She staggered as the stun bolt careened off of her rib cage. With a jaunty wave, the Wraith dove out through a hole in the wall before she could follow.
The Chairman was finally beginning to sound worried: "Well, at least the heroes plaguing us are suffering from the volcano too, right?"
She looked outside. The Wraith was making no attempt at avoidance as she almost scampered through the patches of smoldering lava. A golden glow around her showed that she enjoyed the blessings of Ra, God of the Sun and was thus immune to fire and heat. The Operative suspected this protection extended to all the heroes trying to shut them down. "Sir, I don't believe the volcano is bothering them at all." As she waited for his reply, she could feel the rumblings beneath her feet as yet another eruption began.
Outside, she could hear the heroes laughing.
My family, consisting of my wife and seven year old son, love SotM. For years I had read with envy posts by people who got to play games with the their spouses or children, yet this great pleasure was denied me as neither my son or my wife like competitive games. Then I read someone's post about playing SotM with their kids which prompted me to buy the base set. Since then, I purchased the reprint, all of the expansions, and a second copy of the base game and expansions to give as gifts to my nephews. As the title of this review shows, I LOVE playing this game with my family.
Since there are many reviews already up about the mechanics and such, I only plan to talk about why this is such a great family game. Please refer to some of the other great reviews for details on how to actually play the game.
Citizen Dawn was worried. The Glorious Revolution was in trouble. Her loyal comrades were being defeated one after another, and despite her best efforts she could not rouse them from where they lay in comatose slumber. That traitor to his kind, the brute known as Haka had done something to them, taking some of their essential energy so that they couldn't return to help her battle those foolish Homo Superiors who dared stand against the Glorious New Dawn.
Still, she was far from beaten. She shrugged off attacks from Haka's allies and turned to face the brute himself. He strode towards her, and as he did his fists began to glow with a strange green light.
"Release my comrades, race traitor!" she shouted.
"Do not worry, criminal. Even now, I return their mana to you." He sprang forward, the glow around his fists now blinding.
First of all, how hard is this game to learn? Superficially, very easy. Play a card, use a power, draw a card. One challenging portion for both my wife and son was getting used to the timing; there are clear phases to a player or a villain turn to which you must pay attention. Some cards will bring other cards into play at the end of a villain turn, and those new cards may also fire off end of turn effects. There are similar timing issues at the start of the turn; however, with a little practice this isn't too bad. My little son was able to grasp the concept well enough that he will sometime correct us if we forget something.
The most difficult portion of the rules and game play lies in the many interactions between the cards. It's not uncommon to have a hero or villain's damage modified by two or three different effects at the same time. Sometimes, this can get a little out of hand:
Gloomweaver reeled back in disarray. All of his followers were down. He was leaving a trail of motionless cultists and zombies. This cursed jungle, supposedly the resting place of the Dagger of Krognar, was a death trap of lethal animals and plants. The ground was strewn with razor sharp shards of obsidian that made every movement difficult and caused him pain when he tried to dodge the attacks of his enemies.
Suddenly he stopped. In front of him a young woman was smiling. At her feet, a robotic dinosaur grinned at him with razor sharp teeth.
"Hello Mr. Chomps", she said. "Where are all your friends?"
As Gloomweaver turned desperately around looking for an escape path, he saw he was surrounded by six of the wretched things. Another mechanical raptor sprang forward as other robots fired searing blasts of energy.
"Oh! There they are!"
In this particular example, Gloomweaver was the unlucky recipient of 26 points of damage in one turn due to the presence of two Obsidian Fields, an environmental card that boosts all damage by one. Sometimes as what happened here, it makes for a short game that is either a quick romp to victory or a merciless beat down:
The hunter known as Ambuscade grinned at the last of the heroes went down. His great ambush was a success; using the hazards of Megalopolis against the heroes, he had prevented the heroes from ever getting organized enough to stop him. In the meantime, his carefully selected array of traps and weapons had pounded the heroes into the dirt.
He looked over where a few brave paparazzi were still taking pictures. He smiled behind his mask. Placing one foot on the chest of the unconscious Bunker, he said "Make sure you get my good side, boys!"
In that case, we were severely hampered by the environment and were never able to build up a serious offensive threat. In short order, we were taken out.
Keeping track of what's going on was hard in the original printing. When the second edition came out, it included a great many status counters for keeping track of all of different modifiers. It's still not perfect, but it is a lot more manageable now.
Short, lopsided games are not the norm. We certainly lost any number of games while we were learning things, but that was due to bad strategy rather than unwinnable combinations.
This is the greatest challenge of SotM for my family; the very depth of the gameplay can be bewildering to a newcomer. Indeed, it is too much for my son in some cases. The more complex heroes such as Absolute Zero or Nightmist overload his analytical abilities but he is content to ask for help. My wife also found it confusing at first, but by concentrating on just three heroes (Tachyon, Wraith and the Argent Adept) she has grown fairly confident of her abilities.
The game can sometimes take a while, too. We will often start a game and leave it set up on the dining room table when my son's attention span is exhausted. A good shorter game will run 20 to 30 minutes; a good long game can take an hour. Leaving the game set up is easy to do as long as you can protect the hit point counters from the cats!
What makes this game work so well for my family is the terrific narratives that we generate. This is a game so drenched in theme it leaves little theme stains on the table after we've played. From my son saying with delight "Hello Mr. Chomps, where are all your friends?", to my wife's grim satisfaction as she throat jabs a villain into temporary impotence to all three of us yelling "HAKA SMASH" as I unleash a Rampage or 15 point Savage Mana attack, playing this game is just fun, fun, fun. Having your son jump up and down with both his hands in the air because you've all just won against tough opposition is to me one of the best feelings in gaming.
Even the lopsided games can be entertaining, as my first little story illustrated. In that game, the environment produced a volcano that was doing seven points of fire damage to everything on the table every turn. My son was playing Ra, and he had a power that could make all heroes immune to fire damage. Our heroes sat around eating a snack while the volcano did our work for us. The true glory of this game for us though is the very close battles:
Tachyon leaned against the wall for support, gasping for air. Both of her teammates were down, crushed by the newly rebuilt Omnitron. She was very nearly out of the fight herself, though she took some small comfort in the heavy damage the homicidal robot had sustained. Sparks were spitting from severed conduits and the thing's armor plating was cracked in a dozen places.
She braced herself as the robot, in it's dropship mode, came back for another pass. "Inefficient flesh thing, know your doom! My sensors show you cannot withstand the energy of my Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb!"
Tachyon smiled. The metal fiend had just made it's last mistake.
In this game, both my son and I were knocked out. We were fighting the promo Omnitron and had reduced it 10 hit points. My wife, playing Tachyon, had only three hits left when the villain deck produced the above mentioned bomb, which would do 15 points of damage to all non-villains on the board. Sadly for the robot, my wife had one more trick up her sleeve:
As the fearsome device locked on to her, Tachyon pushed herself into one last burst of speed. Sprinting forward, she ran just fast enough to keep the device from firing but not so fast that it lost tracking. Using a pile of wrecked cars as a ramp, she launched herself into the air and landed on the exterior of Omnitron itself. The Pulse Bomb locked on to her and fired, just as she flung herself into the air.
Bits and pieces of Omnitron rained down for the next 30 seconds.
She had a card that let her redirect any one packet of damage to any target she desired. When the Pulse Bomb attacked her, she redirected the damage to Omnitron and...boom!
We have also broken this game out when we have visitors and especially when I am hosting strategy board game nights for my friends. It's a great way for my son and wife to feel included in my hobby and to connect with my gamer friends.
We have been playing this game since Rook City came out. We continue to find new combinations of heroes, villains and environments that make for compelling games. When all is said and done, I anticipate we'll be playing this for at least several years to come.
love the italic bits :-) theater of the mind :-)
Does the card text trouble your 7 year old at all?
Does the card text trouble your 7 year old at all?
Parsing it, you mean? No, he reads very well; with the exception of some of Nightmist's more complex cards, he usually understands what a card does. Why he should use it at a given moment is another matter all together, which is why I like to steer him to more straightforward heroes like Ra.