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I've been aching to review this game since I first played it all those months ago, and yet I forced myself to wait. My feelings towards Sentinels of the Multiverse have been on the tip of my tongue for some time now; whenever I get dangerously close to being able to formulate a coherent opinion on it, it fades into a murmur, usually in the form of "...it's just awesome."

And for a while, that's all I could say.

"Sentinels of the Multiverse? I've never heard of it; is it any good?"

"Well...you see. I guess...the thing about Sentinels...is that...well, I suppose you could say that...well...it's...awesome. Just awesome."

At that point, it'd be up to me to simply show my friends the game instead of trying to describe the experience to them; predictably enough, this usually resulted in them babbling the same nonsense while checking their phones to see if their FLGS had the game in stock.

But, having been introduced to Sentinels last summer (and accumulating every expansion/Sentinels product I've come across since then), I think I finally have enough games under my belt to take a step back, choke in a deep breath, and explain in plain English why Sentinels is just so great. So I guess that's what this will be an attempt to do.

--

Sentinels of the Multiverse. Are you a fan of comics? Does the idea of Super Heroes fill you with inspiration and joy? Do you long for the day you too can take up your own pair of spandex and turn slews of murderous scum into piles of blood and broken bones? Do typical topics of conversastion with friends involve "What super power would you choose if you could only have one?"

Even if you answered "no" to all of those, I'd still urge you to give Sentinels of the Multiverse a fair shake, but to those of you who said yes; buckle up!

--

While comic fans have been waiting patiently for Marvel or DC to get their act together and release a proper Super Hero themed game (both their card game releases are an okay start, but not the quality I was expecting from two mega-companies with ridiculous amounts of capital at their disposal), the folks at Greater Than Games decided to take the matter into their own hands and deliver a super hero experience to tabletops everywhere.

Sentinels of the Multiverse is, as straight-forward as they come, a cooperative, super hero card game. Gameplay involves each player (3-5) selecting a hero. Each powerful crusader has their own deck of 40 cards and no deck building is required. Within that deck are One-Shot cards (instant effects) and Equipment/Ongoings that slowly buff your character, giving them the abilities, advantages, and powers they'll need to fight. The heroes are all original creations, however many of them are homages to popular comic book protagonists (Bunker is a lot like Iron Man/War Machine, while the Wraith is basically a female Batman). Use your deck to get out Powers and use those powers to damage the villain and control the battlefield.

This is a cooperative game, so the villain is controlled by it's own deck (25 cards) that get's played automatically. Each baddie comes with a different theme, gameplay variant, and even win-conditions while their deck itself is filled to the brim with nasty surprises they can dish out. Intent on shutting down the heroes and advancing their own agendas, the villains range from simple yet tricky, to straight-forward yet brutal. Baron Blade is your typical Russian mad-scientist, using the assistance of his flying base and ridiculous inventions to defend his plans where Grand Warlord Voss is an insane, nomatic conquerer, hell-bent on overrunning Earth with his army of minions.

But it's not just "who" you're fighting that matters, but also "where" this chaotic clash is going down. The Environment deck (a smaller deck of 15 cards) sets the scene for the drama, allowing your epic battle to take place in the Ruins of Atlantis, the grand city of Megalopolis, an island inhabited by prehistoric dangers, or even a base on Mars. The environment adds somewhat neutral threats to the game, acting as a third party that can very well tip the scales (usually in the villain's favor; let's be honest, the bad guy wouldn't care about a meteor storm heading towards Earth, but the heroes would take it upon themselves to stop it before resuming the fight).

What do all these different decks create? Well, besides impending awesomeness, replayability! With the base set containing 4 villain decks, 4 environment decks, and 10 hero decks to toy around with, you and your friends will have plenty of combinations to keep you interested for ages.

"So, BreadRising," I hear you all asking, "You get a bunch of decks, you play some cards that allow you to do stuff and you all work together to do enough damage to kill a bad guy. That sounds pretty simple and boring."

Simple? Yes, it kind of is; your turn is broken down into a few phases, most notably Play, Power, and Draw. The rest is just doing what the cards instruct you to do. But boring? Far from it! One of the strongest elements that Sentinels has on it's side is theme. The game sets out to depict the hero/comics setting in the face of titans like the DC and Marvel and does it better than they have managed thus far.

Heroes play exactly like you'd imagine they would. The Wraith's deck is filled with Batman-esque gadgets and inventions that give her a deadly arsenal. Tachyon (the speedster) uses a deck that allows her mill through cards quickly, granting big bursts of damage after her fast card spending. The Visionary, a Jean Grey doppleganger, uses her psychic powers to reveal and rearrange the hazards of the villain decks and trick minions into damaging one another. Each character is soaked through and through with their own theme, from the card name and the effect all the way to the lovable artwork and flavor text.

Villains are similar in their thematic elements; Voss gets plenty of minions out on the field quickly and can end the game (hence overrunning the Earth) if not dealt with. Baron Blade spends his first phase trying to pull the entire moon into the planet. No matter who you pick out, you're bound to become infatuated with their consistency in mood and the shameless references to well-known comic book content.

--

"But BreadRising," you might groan in between yawns of apathy, "You said that if I don't care about comics or super heroes, I should still check out the game."

Yeah, I did, because my personal opinion is that Sentinels still contains fun and challenging raw gameplay elements even if the theme doesn't bring out the fanboy/girl in you. The card playing is simple on the surface, but offers plenty of room to learn as you figure out what makes each particular character tick and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Battles are also chock full of tough choices; you may have 6 cards in your hand that you'd love to have on the field right that instant but you're forced to weigh the options in face of current threats and the destructive elements that could lie in wait on top of the villain deck. It never comes down to simply playing the obvious choice as what may seem to be the wise move now might have you regretting your decision next turn.

And decision making involves your entire team too, inducing a cooperative element that is often lost in other coop games. The card you're about to play may be good for you, but may not benefit the team as much as another option. Discussion amongst players is rewarded as most heroes contain ways to help out fellow teammates, aiding in their set-up, damage potential, or healing. Conversing about the dangers that lie ahead and defining what each person's role might need to be in order to make it through is essential to the experience.

Sentinels also has the advantage of a wide ranging difficuly curve, granting the players with a game that can cater to newcomers or challenge their team work. The game varies widly in it's complexity based on the heroes/villains/environments you choose.

Absolute Zero (a hero version of Mr. Freeze who finds himself dependent on his cryo-suit) and Fanatic (a Hawkgirl-like warrior angel bent on smiting evil) force the player to take risks, usually involving damaging themselves in hopes of a grand pay-off. They also involve a keen balance of knowing when to soak damage, when to sit back and recover, and when to unleash the fury. These characters probably shouldn't be picked up by first timers, but exist to offer a challenge to players later on. Tougher villains such as Citizen Dawn (leader of a mutant group called the Citizens with a Magneto complex) unleash powerful cards that can decimate teams that aren't prepared. If the hardest villains still aren't tough enough, add in their built-in Advanced Mode mechanic to make the fight even more brutal.

--

Maybe I still can't describe what I love so much about Sentinels of the Multiverse, but hopefully I painted an obscure picture of it's strengths that will aid someone in making a purchase. When I was introduced to the game, it came out of left field and blew me away, giving me the super-hero fix I had been waiting for from Marvel or DC.

Instructions: 4.5/5 - A beautiful instruction manual (laid out like a comic book) that's incredibly easy to read. It comes complete with hero/villain descriptions, a complexity chart for choosing characters, a glossary for quick reference, and an Order of Phases chart neatly displayed on the back. Some obscure situations may arise, however, and require consultation from the forums.

First Experience: 5/5 - After my first day, I was hooked. We logged in three games that evening and in between our second and our third playthrough I was already checking the web for a copy I could get ahold of.

Gameplay: 5/5 - It plays fast or slow, easy or challenging, complex or straight-forward, all depending on the characters you choose. Nothing is more satisfying than communicating with your friends, making a series of decisions that plan 3 turns in advance, and watching that scheme come together (or completely fall apart). Getting powers/equipment, blasting bad guys with damage, and working as a team; that's what super heroes are all about.

Theme: !!!/5 - There is no measure for how well the theme is executed. Each hero and villain feel absolutely unique, each boasting beautiful, cheeky cards that expand upon their own lore. Even the act of playing the cards feels akin to the hero you chose. Playing a game of Sentinels isn't just sitting down at a table with a bunch of decks; it's experiencing the latest issue of your favorite comic book, hot off the press.

Fun: 5/5 - The sole purpose of a game is to entertain and Sentinels does that dutifully (or I wouldn't keep coming back to it). It's simple on its surface, but complicated in its core, allowing for players to get hooked with ease and return again and again to keep learning and pushing the limits.
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Yoki Erdtman
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Excellent review Dan, and I agree, Sentinels of the Multiverse is just awesome!
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Tiffany Stolk

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Great review. This is one of my favorite games.
 
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nice review...

After I played just a couple games I immediately order everything I could and have a full box of heroes that I am sorely out of time to play with currently.

It's a wonderful game chock full of goodness.
 
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Jorge B
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Thanks for the review! You enthusiasm will surely infect prospective gamers.
However, to be fair, I like it when reviews point out possible negatives. In the case of SotM, this would be the fiddliness: there are a lot of modifiers and book keeping to keep track of. That would be the major negative as far as I'm concerned.
It still does not stop me from loving the game though.
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Wolfgang Kunz
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You're right. Same happened here. I bought it, I played it with my son (who really loves the Legendary: Marvel game) and we were hooked (and bought everything we could get our hands at.

This lets remember me at the time when I was 8 and reading Super Hero Comics in the kitchen on the sofa (while Mom was cooking) and dreaming being a Superhero too.

Totally awesome game. And I was surprised how much game you get with so little rules. IMHO book-keeping is no problem and they have the best "markers" one can get - even the look of them like being cut out of a comic-book is great.
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tiborvadovan wrote:
Thanks for the review! You enthusiasm will surely infect prospective gamers.
However, to be fair, I like it when reviews point out possible negatives. In the case of SotM, this would be the fiddliness: there are a lot of modifiers and book keeping to keep track of. That would be the major negative as far as I'm concerned.
It still does not stop me from loving the game though.


Yes, that is certainly a good point and a commonly mentioned negative! I did not mention it in my review because, personally, neither myself nor my friends have had trouble with it. We're diligent about using tokens and with 3-5 people keeping track of the math, there is always one person who catches something, reminding everyone that we get +1 damage here or there when it happens to slip by.

I also think it's simply a hazard of the genre; two player, dueling card games (Magic, Netrunner) are filled with modifiers and effects that even the most experienced player can forget occasionally. Add in 1-3 more players plus a Villain and Environment deck, and no matter which way you spin it, there are going to be a million things happening.

But that's what we want! We want more complexity! We want to create crazy combos and most importantly, we want a challenge! If you take out all the differing frequent effects, you take away complexity. So, I guess in my own opinion, I'd rather have the "fiddliness" of the game, because it keeps player interaction high.
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