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Subject: Like doing my taxes - only more fiddly rss

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André Nordstrand
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I've read and heard so many great things about this game, so I went head over heels to aquire it myself. I got the enhanced box with a lot of space and card separators, I can't imagine how you'd store this in the original box. So if you want to get this game, make sure you get the later edition. So, over to the review.

Setup
The setup is very easy. Each player pick one hero each, then you decide on a villain and location. The villain card comes with its own setup instruction. Just follow that, and you're ready to play.

Gameplay
It's very easy to play this game. Basically, what you do on your turn, is to pick a card from your hand (consist ususally of 4 cards), play it, and then choose a hero power. Draw a card, and you're done. The hero powers are printed on the hero cards, and you may choose only one power per turn.

When each player has done their turn, you go over to the environment deck. First, check existing cards for text that might apply at the start of that phase. Then, draw a new card and apply that text.

Then you start over with the villain phase, which consist of the same as the environment deck. The villains vary a lot, where some cards come with a lot of things to do, while others are one-offs. When the villain phase is over, the heroes goes again.

In order to win the game, you have to get the villain to 0 hit points and/or follow the win condition on any villain cards that might apply to alter this rule.

Fiddlyness
First off, the villains. They have a lot of text on their main card, and you have to pay close attention to what the card instructs you to do at the start of the villain turn. Then, check all the played villain cards for "start of turn"-text and follow their instructions. Then you draw another villain card and play it, and apply the text here if applicable. Now, go through all the cards one more time and see if there's anything that happens during the villain phase. If not, check all the cards again for "end of turn"-text and follow the instructions. Be sure that you also check your own cards and the location cards for effect that might apply.

Now it's your turn again. You have very few cards to choose from, and only one power to use. What will you do? There's no less than 9 different damage types in this game, and the damage type matters a lot. Check what type of damage you are able to do, and check all villain cards to see if one of them are able to nullify, ignore or be hit by your certain type of power. You may play a card now, and later use a power. But be sure that you check all the cards, including the location cards and your fellow hero-cards.

"Holy mackerel, Batman!" is what comes to mind.

The theme
Superheroes are cool, no doubt. These are original works of art since they don't have the license from DC Comics or Marvel and such. That's ok, they do seem familiar to existing heroes so it's easy to connect the hero with his or hers abilities.

The heroes do get beat up a lot, and the villian is super strong. Even if a player is beat down to 0 hit points, the hero is still able to partake in the action with an extra ability that is usable when beat down. The more cards a hero is able to get out there, the stronger it gets. And when getting near the end, you have tipped the scale and are able to beat up the villain more than you receive beating.

So the theme makes sense, no arguing that. Although you might almost feel like a superhero yourself afterwards, having to keep up with so many cards with so much text that might apply.

Conclusion
How so many people can love this game is beyond me. The game forces you to keep up with a ton of card text and apply them, and making sure that you keep in mind with the other cards from the heroes deck, location deck and villain deck that - again - might apply. Did you remember that X was immune to "Energy" damage this turn, unless he is hit by a "Projectile" damage and the villains minion dealt more than 10 damage in total this round, while a hero player chose to omit his turn to nullify the location card? Oh wait, the minion dealt only 9 damage, because 3 of the damage was "Ice" damage which my hero is immune to...

Yeah, it is like that! I've given this some attempts, now, but I still don't see a game here. It's more fun to do my taxes.
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Jeff Dougan
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If you were in the US, I'd offer to take the game off your hands, then. My 8-year-old can't play it enough.
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Bern Harkins
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I can't help but notice that your example of over-fiddlyeness if made up... which is to say, fake.

Try playing the game a few more times. The "fiddlyeness" becomes much more managable with practice.
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Matt
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I love this game, but I really can't argue with you on how complicated it can get. I've considered making little paper tabs to put under cards to remind of effects that take place at start or end of turn, just so I don't have to look at every individual card each round.

Still, to me, it's worth fighting through the hassle to have a Big Boss Fight game with super heroes. Since I'll be putting in many more plays, I imagine I'll remember the more nefarious villain effects after a while.
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Mike B
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Radulla wrote:
I can't help but notice that your example of over-fiddlyeness if made up... which is to say, fake.

Try playing the game a few more times. The "fiddlyeness" becomes much more managable with practice.


Just because you get used to how fiddly this game is, it doesn't mean that it's not a valid criticism. I really like Sentinels, but there is always a ton to keep track of, and some of the things to keep track of don't have corresponding tokens (like beginning/end of turn effects).

My wife dislikes Sentinels for the same reason, which makes me sad because I wish I could play it more.
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Josh
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I... as one reviewer to another I must applaud your use of a good clear method of presentation and well articulated statements. As someone who has played this game I am trying to understand where you are coming from at all. I'd like to consider myself 'well traveled' in the various genres of games, and in terms of difficulty I feel sentinels ranks just above something along the lines of Apples to Apples. Everything you need is right there on the cards. Most cards are a couple lines of text written very clearly. If Sentinels gives you pause I can't imagine the reaction you would have to something like Twilight Imperium, Agricola, or heaven forbid a GMT game.

I have to think that is the crux of most disagreements over the 'fiddlyness' of Sentinels. It seems people just have very strong and wide opinions on what constitutes complexity and how much information is 'too much' to track. It is possible there is a subset of the 'too much' group who do enjoy complex games, but have a need to try to track all possible outcomes at all times. 'Baron blade has 3 mobile fortresses in his deck of 25 cards, we have blown up 2 and there are 19 cards left in his deck, so there is a 5.2% chance of drawing the other one next turn. Oh wait! We forgot to factor in the number of cards in his deck that allow him to draw multiple cards. Curse this game for being too complex!'

In any event, keep on reviewing, but maybe provide a bit of context/justification when you know you're making a strong claim counter to 'common wisdom.'
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David Stahler Jr.
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I just picked up this game after eying for well over a year. I have to admit, this is the one concern I have about it. But I would imagine that it does get easier with more play. I'm guessing the fact that it's co-op also helps--you can assist each other in keeping track of the details, rather than holding silent and hoping the opponent screws up by forgetting something.

On a side note, I was totally impressed by the physical components of the game--thick cards, an amazingly sturdy box with a built-in divider, printed deck tabs, and foam blockers. I kept thinking--why doesn't FFG's LCGs come in this format?
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Nushura
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I agree it has quite a few things going on the table...but "like doing taxes" is a bit exagerated.

In this game you have to keep track of start/end turns, immunities and damage modifiers (add +/- X damage when dealing Y type of damage)...and maybe "cannot play cards/use powers/do damage". And the game comes with tokens to help with that. The nice part is that cards gradually appear on table, so in general each round you have 3/4 new modifiers.

Compare it to any CCG/LCG and this game will fall on the waaaaaaay less fiddlier. Do you claim that you do not understand why people play Magic?

For me the great point of this game is that 90% of the cards either do damage or modify another card that does damage...but the theme is incredible. You do feel like having used a bazooka to blow up an enraged T-Rex that was about to eat one of your teammates.

In any case, thanks for taking your time to write a review
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Tim Korchnoi
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While I agree there is a certain amount of book keeping in this game, I think that it becomes easier as you play more and become more familiar with the characters. Once you fight against a villain the next time you battle them you'll remember certain key elements and things will go faster. Also, since this is a purely cooperative game, you don't have to remember everything and can even divide up tasks for each team mate to focus on. I admit we also use dice as memory devices since you can use color and also a 3D object catches the eye easier than a two dimensional one.
Here's hoping you'll give the game a few more plays before making a final decision
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Aloha!
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We were playing this horribly, horribly wrong by having the villain and environment go one each player's turn instead of just once for all players. Doing that makes for a very hard game with a LOT to keep track of.

Once we played it correctly the between round bookkeeping is actually very minimal and the damage types rarely factor into anything. Some of this depends on the combination of decks on the table and I can imagine some combinations would be nightmarish. My suggestion: play with again with a more basic set of decks and judge it.
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mathew rynich
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His whole argument against the game is that it can get fiddly, but that statement without a bit of explaination is very misleading.

There is a complexity rating for all the heroes and villains in the enhanced edition rulebook. Maybe it would be helpful if the reviewer cites which heroes and villains they played. Playing characters like Haka, Ra, Wraith ... against villains like Ambuscade, Baron Blade or Omnitron is really not fiddly at all (they are all fairly straight forward). Now playing the Chairman or Citizen Dawn with heroes like The Adept, Nightmist, Absolute Zero ... really takes someone who is trained in the game. That's why they put those complexity ratings in the enhanced edition and expansion's rulebooks.
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Fernando Robert Yu
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It just takes 1 sharp player to be the "bookkeeper" actually. As the owner of the game, I am the one who hands out the modifier counters and such. I am a veteran Warhammer: The Mass Combat Fantasy Roleplaying Game (1st Edition) and Warhammer 40,000 player as well as a former wargamer, so I am a bit used to modifiers and such, and this helps the other focus on their tactics as I point out which modifiers apply where.

Even if slight mistakes are made, this is just a game, and a coop one at that. It shouldn't be taken too seriously....even if the heroes lose there is no real death in the comic world, just defeat...
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Ian Allen
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I agree with the OP.

The game is fiddly and there is a LOT of text to read and effects to keep up with.

While I like the game and will play it anytime, I refuse to be the one to keep up with all the fiddly text crap. If someone else wants to "run" the game and add up all the plus's and minus's and start effects and end effects, I'll be glad to sit there and play my hero deck.

Since I never want to be the one to "run" it or keep track of all the fiddly crap, I sold off my copy and all the expansions and most of the promos that it came with...

and I don't miss it one bit.

Every now and then I play it over at a friends house and it is a decent game, although its very "swingy" in that sometimes our team clobbers the villain and sometimes the team gets clobbered instead.
It's not usually very close in the games i've played, it's usually a blow-out one way or another, but that doesn't bother me other than I enjoy when our team gets their ass kicked and I am really bored when it's just a cake-walk.

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Jack Darwid
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I love the game, and you clearly explain one thing that I hate the most from the game: the fiddlyness. And I still love this game even with the fiddlyness inside...
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J P
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There is an iPad app for $4 called Sentinels Sidekick. Pretty much saves a lot of time and playing around with moving chits. Also does notes on damage reduction, etc etc.
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Andy Szymas
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Shadrach wrote:
I feel sentinels ranks just above something along the lines of Apples to Apples.


Are you seriously trying to argue that Sentinels can be ranked complexity in the same realm as Apples to Apples? Apples to Apples cards generally have a single word on them, and it doesn't really matter how they relate to the other cards.

In contrast, Sentinels cards generally have at least a full sentence (and sometimes more) explaining what they do - and that sentence/paragraph needs to be checked against nearly every other card in play to see if it interacts.

Shadrach wrote:

In any event, keep on reviewing, but maybe provide a bit of context/justification when you know you're making a strong claim counter to 'common wisdom.'


It seems to me that the common wisdom in this case is that Sentinels is fiddly - it seems to be a common theme in this thread anyway and I would guess at least mentioned in other reviews.

All that to say - I like the theme of Sentinels, myself. I don't like playing as the bookkeeper, and thats usually what I end up doing.

Hey - maybe that could be a Sentinels hero - the Bookkeeper!
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Mike Beiter
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I like and own the game. But I agree it is very fiddly. True the cards do spell it all out. But you do have A LOT to remember if you play with higher complex heroes and villains. We constantly are playing cards and having to stop and redo math. The first time I played Absolute 0!!! That was tedious! Do X cold damage and now prevent it. Now its fire damage but fire does X-1 damage. Now gain X life for the cold fire cold fire fire cold ouch! And in games where the environment has 3 or 4 ongoing cards and the villain floods the field. My best recommendation is to play with complexity 1 heroes. It allows you to deal with and minimize threats easily and keeps the board from becoming too crowded. Its still a fun game but it can get very complex.
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Andrew Arenson
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MajaiofDreams wrote:
But I agree it is very fiddly.


While Sentinels is, by design, fiddly, the amount of fiddliness generally builds over time rather than starting at a high level.

Fiddly is often used derogatorily. I don't mean it that way here, just as a description. There clearly _are_ a lot of things to track in Sentinels. I just don't find that to be a problem.

When I say that Sentinels is fiddly by design, what I mean is that the game was designed so that a lot of different effects could be put into play that would interact with other effects, causing emergent behaviors that aren't on any one card. That's part of what I love about the game.

As for the fiddlyness building over time, at the start of the game, with the possible exception of villain cards, there is nothing yet in play to have to track. Over time there are more things to track, but ideally as the number of things to track grows, the players will also get more familiar with what's being tracked.

Some villains start with more effects in play. This is part of why I've seen the idea mooted that Sentinels should come with a suggested 'First Play' scenario so people could learn the game without being exposed to unnecessary complexity and/or difficulty. Such doesn't exist, though fwiw I offer Ra, Haka, Tempest, Fanatic (optional), and Wraith (optional) against Baron Blade in Insula Primalis as a possibility.

I _now_ know Sentinels well enough that I can play it pretty easily even when I'm tired, but when I was first learning, if I wasn't in the mood to think much, I would choose something else.
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After playing this a few times I have come to the conclusion that I would like it better as an app. I spend more time making sure that I haven't missed anything on the board then I do deciding which of my 4 cards to play on who.
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Mark Johnson
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They are eventually making this on iOS and I think it will be a much better format than the physical game.
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Josh
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AndySzy wrote:
Shadrach wrote:
I feel sentinels ranks just above something along the lines of Apples to Apples.


Are you seriously trying to argue that Sentinels can be ranked complexity in the same realm as Apples to Apples? Apples to Apples cards generally have a single word on them, and it doesn't really matter how they relate to the other cards.

In contrast, Sentinels cards generally have at least a full sentence (and sometimes more) explaining what they do - and that sentence/paragraph needs to be checked against nearly every other card in play to see if it interacts.


I did say slightly above. One sentance or heaven forbid two being slightly above one word. Lets not forget all the hidden information in A2A. Knowing what a particular judge will find accurate or funny requires a good deal of meta-game knowledge, and that is just so fiddley...

As for having to compare every card to 'almost every' other card in play; that is a bold faced lie and I have no compunctions about calling you on it.
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Andy Szymas
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Shadrach wrote:
AndySzy wrote:
Shadrach wrote:
I feel sentinels ranks just above something along the lines of Apples to Apples.


Are you seriously trying to argue that Sentinels can be ranked complexity in the same realm as Apples to Apples? Apples to Apples cards generally have a single word on them, and it doesn't really matter how they relate to the other cards.

In contrast, Sentinels cards generally have at least a full sentence (and sometimes more) explaining what they do - and that sentence/paragraph needs to be checked against nearly every other card in play to see if it interacts.


I did say slightly above. One sentance or heaven forbid two being slightly above one word. Lets not forget all the hidden information in A2A. Knowing what a particular judge will find accurate or funny requires a good deal of meta-game knowledge, and that is just so fiddley...

As for having to compare every card to 'almost every' other card in play; that is a bold faced lie and I have no compunctions about calling you on it.


I would submit that going from words to sentences/paragraphs is not a linear growth in complexity but an exponential one. If you truly believe that a comparison between Apples to Apples and Sentinels is even remotely appropriate, I don't believe we'll continue to have a productive conversation.

And you are welcome to call me a liar; I think the more appropriate description would be that I'm prone to hyperbole. Perhaps the more appropriate description of the fiddlyness in Sentinels is that cards need to be checked against any cards that have ongoing effects to see if they are effected.
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Yes, it's fiddly. Everyone knows it. Those who deny that it's fiddly are lying to themselves. But, if you can come to terms with the fiddliness and are OK with it, it's a great game. One of the best thematic games I've ever played. It's very easy to learn and play (aside from keeping track of modifiers and stuff). Unfortunately, it is the fiddliness that keeps it from getting played more with my group.

OK, do you know how cooperative games can degenerate into "Alpha player takes over and tells people what to do"? Well, I kind of feel the same way about SotM, except that it's "The guy who's reading off all the effects of the cards is the only one really paying enough attention to know what's going on". So, with my group it come down to:

Player A: Umm, I'm gonna use my power to deal 2 damage to that minion.

Player B (who is in charge of reading the card text when they come into play): Don't do that. Damage is reduced by 2 because of that ongoing card over there.

Player A: Oh yea, I didn't see that. Umm, I guess I'll use this other power to let each player heal 1 point of damage.

Player B: Don't do that either. Healing is reduced because of that environment card over there.

Player A: Oh yea, I didn't see that either. Umm, what should I do?

Player B: Just let me play the game solo.

EDIT: Having said that, I really enjoy playing SotM solo!
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Eeeville wrote:
They are eventually making this on iOS and I think it will be a much better format than the physical game.


But I play board games to get away from video games, not the other way around.
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David B
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Shadrach wrote:

As for having to compare every card to 'almost every' other card in play; that is a bold faced lie and I have no compunctions about calling you on it.



Wow. Just....... wow.
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