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Sentinel Tactics: The Flame of Freedom» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The Multiverse Continues rss

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Marc Anthony
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I'm a die-hard fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse. After more than three years of playing I still haven't found a game that I can't stop playing like that one.

For a time my friends and I campaigned through Descent 2.0 and its various expansions but we never quite achieved the gaming experience we wanted. Time and again I found myself returning to Sentinels of the Multiverse and its seemingly endless replayability. Each expansion also furthered the characters' story in an unpredictable but cohesive way.

When Sentinel Tactics was announced, I was highly skeptical. Another grid-based tactical game? No thank you please. Getting knocked around by an Overlord and never getting to use my cool abilities didn't sound like fun. I had had enough of exhausting setup times, baggies of tokens, and individual scenarios with so many rules you had to pause every five minutes to remember what the goal was.

So I ignored it.

The Kickstarter came and went. All I wanted was just more decks for Sentinels of the Multiverse and I didn't care for this new game they were trying to push. It wasn't cooperative and it had lots of miniatures. Not for me.

Poking around on the Greater Than Game forums I realized the somewhat troubling news that Sentinels of the Multiverse would be winding down in the next year or two. After Wrath of the Cosmos there would only be two, maybe three, expansions before the final expansion and the end of the story. It saddened me to think that there would be no more new heroes to explore, no new villains to fight, and no more unpredictable environments to battle in.

Around this time I also found out that my brother had almost bought me Sentinel Tactics for Christmas. He had read about it and thought I would like it. I started to wonder if maybe I was missing something. Maybe I was wrong to write off this game even if it was so very different.

After all, if the creators of Bunker, Legacy, Tachyon, Baron Blade, and Omnitron thought that this was worth their time and a worthy successor to the Sentinels story, shouldn't it be worth a try?

After reading some reviews and Luther's excellent designer notes here on BGG, I decided that I couldn't wonder any longer. If this was the next chapter for Sentinel Comics I had to know what it was all about.

I ordered the game and from there I began to piece everything together. The overarching narrative of Sentinels of the Multiverse was approaching a cataclysmic event yet to be revealed. Sentinel Tactics however was not concurrent with the card game but picked up the story years later.

The Freedom Five are now a private organization who have dispensed with secret identities. Baron Blade is back to his old schemes. Omnitron has finally rebuilt himself. Ra has been missing and only recently returned in a different form. Legacy's daughter has survived and is now a hero in her own right. Former foes like Ambuscade, the Operative, Proletariat and Citizen Dawn are all back.

How much does the story affect the overall gameplay? Not really that much. There are hints of it all over the cards and the scenario books, but you wouldn't really need to know their history to play the game. However as a fan of the card game I have to say that the fact that the creators have maintained the continuity and invested in the longterm development of these characters really means a lot to me. I don't feel like I'm pushing a generic hero around a board. I'm fighting as Legacy, a hero that has a substantial history and a storied relationship to other heroes and villains in the game. Now the new people I'm introducing the game to might not know all that, but I do. And it makes a tremendous difference. I'm invested.

Now as nice as it is to have engaging backstory on the flip side of each character panel and thematic artwork all over each cards, that in itself is not enough. After all this is not a comic book. This is a board game. And the best story in the world will never be a replacement for an actual fun game.

So I gathered up some friends, somewhat painstakingly learned the rules, perused the long list of FAQs, and sat down over several nights to play Sentinel Tactics: The Flame of Freedom. Very quickly I discovered that this game excels at one thing really well: it makes you feel like a hero.

Going back to Descent, a game that I really like but don't always fully enjoy, the problem always seem to be the disconnect between what my character is able to do and what they actually get to do. On paper Descent heroes have all these cool classes and neat weapons and sweet abilities. But in reality the heroes get repeatedly knocked down, roll crappy dice rolls, heal slowly, and generally do things that don't ultimately matter since that Shadow Dragon is just going to respawn next turn anyway. The map scenarios require me to reread and explain the specific rules multiple times before any of us really get it. That is not to mention the time-consuming issue of finding the exact map tiles you need and setting up the various decks and tokens every time you play the game.

Sentinel Tactics is everything I like about Descent but in a more streamlined less complex system that just happens to give heroes more flexibility and more options within a single game instead of fewer options. Instead of an Overlord who must go it alone, upset his friends or be crushed by them, Sentinel Tactics has teams of equal weight who get to work together. The end result is that even when you lose, you still have fun.

In my first few games I played with new players each time. Even when they weren't on my team it was fun to recommend strategies to them or point out their options. Despite being a competitive game and not a co-op, Sentinel Tactics doesn't seem to encourage much in terms of animosity. Part of this is due to the excellent balance of the characters. While not every combination of heroes is going to work equally well, it never feels like there's no chance or that you can't do anything. You always have options.

On the other hand even though it's a dice game, you are always well aware of the relative power of your attack and defense. All it takes is an aim or a dodge action to boost your chances of success. And unlike a lot of dice-based games, a bad roll doesn't feel like it totally derails you. It feels very tactical and the mechanics all tie into the specific flavor of your character.

One of the things that the game has done exceedingly well is to rehabilitate characters that were somewhat underpowered in the card game. Heroes like Bunker and Absolute Zero were originally slow build characters who were easily crippled by a nasty villain draw. Now they are respectively a walking tank and a battlefield controller. Bunker can barely move but he has incredible defense and long-range missiles. Absolute Zero can equip an extra power, heal himself, and surround enemies with hazardous ice structures. Villains that were pushovers in the card game like Baron Blade or Omnitron now are ferocious fighters with many devious abilities available to them.

The amount of work that has gone into converting these characters into a tremendous variety of interesting and unique abilities is pretty breathtaking. Somehow each characters' powers are different enough to provide multiple strategies without overwhelming you with too many choices. Everything about this game screams balance which is not something that is present in the majority of thematic games I've played.

While I appreciate the scenarios and the furthering of the ongoing Sentinel Comics narrative, the heart of this game is really the skirmish mode. Requiring minimal setup and easily customizable for whatever you want to do, Sentinel Tactics is all about having a good romp maneuvering around the board, coordinating with your teammates, and doing superheroic stuff. Whether it's the giant robot Omnitron using his rocket jump to hop across the board and push people into hazards or Legacy intercepting attacks for his allies and boosting their dice rolls, the game is really fun and insanely replayable.

Just as my friends loved picking out a hero in the card game and imagined what they could do based on the art, this time your hero actually gets to do the things that you wished they could do. I'm excited that I found this game at the beginning because I'm 100% confident that the expansions are just going to add even more interesting characters and more wonderful combinations of cool things to do.

Are there any flaws in the game? Sure, like in any game there are going to be some people who aren't in love with the superhero theme or the muted colors of the map tiles. While you may feel pressured to buy the miniatures, the game works just fine with the cardboard tokens.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the rules, you may still need to read through the FAQ for clarity and run a few practice games before it all makes sense. The line-of-sight and movement rules are not exactly intuitive for new players but if you keep reiterating it, they eventually will get it. I made my share of rule mistakes in my first several games. And it may take new players a couple of games to really get the hang of it. But so far everyone I've showed the game to really enjoys it, even the casual gamers.

The fact of the matter is I never wanted a game like this. I didn't think I needed one. But now that I've played it, I'm not sure I can ever go back.
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Craig McRoberts
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Thanks so much for this. It makes us feel good to see the characters from Sentinel Comics come to life for so many people.
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Jim Wilde
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Great review, and great read. This is easily the BEST super hero game going, with excellent theme, mechanics, and back story. I can't figure out why this isn't in the top 100. Maybe it's too new yet.
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I think one of the reasons it hasn't made it past the top 100 is its theme and possibly the board itself. The game IS THERE, but this is the kind of game that has been done before with characters the mainstream audience is familiar with, so it may come across as a "Been there done that."

If anything its worth noting that while the Original SotM is 118, Marvel Legendary is 103. If you were to ask me which I thought was the better game, I'd say Sentinels of the Multiverse. If you were to ask me which has a better brand recognition (and would explain why it has the rank it has) for super hero games I'd say Marvel Legendary.

So for it to even break the top 100, it would have to pass Sentinels first - and considering the current pre-order going on...it seems very few of us has a copy of Sentinel Tactics in comparison.
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Craig McRoberts
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Tegre wrote:
I think one of the reasons it hasn't made it past the top 100 is its theme and possibly the board itself. The game IS THERE, but this is the kind of game that has been done before with characters the mainstream audience is familiar with, so it may come across as a "Been there done that."

If anything its worth noting that while the Original SotM is 118, Marvel Legendary is 103. If you were to ask me which I thought was the better game, I'd say Sentinels of the Multiverse. If you were to ask me which has a better brand recognition (and would explain why it has the rank it has) for super hero games I'd say Marvel Legendary.

So for it to even break the top 100, it would have to pass Sentinels first - and considering the current pre-order going on...it seems very few of us has a copy of Sentinel Tactics in comparison.


Even though Tactics has been out for almost a year now, we're really starting to see it get some love in the public. Especially with the launch of the tournaments, I've been noticing more and more people playing Tactics with no previous knowledge of SotM. And I think that's going to be the key to its moving up in the ranks.
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Geoff B.
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One of the obstacles that faced Tactics coming out was that it is so different from SotM that a lot of the initial purchasers weren't going to be fans of the game.

I really like the tournaments and that is a great way to build the brand.

I also think a lot of people are going to wait and buy Tactics in stores because of shipping and the lack of attachment to promos at this point.
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Marc Anthony
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Just a side note: if you can get a hold of the promo pack I think they really add a lot to the game. One extra card per character greatly expands your strategic options.
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