Relocated for work this past week and sought out our new town's FLGS for some gaming since I was off for the holiday. Met a great bunch of gamers there and got invited to try Sentinels. I'm more of a miniatures wargamer but the folks were so friendly I decided to give it a go. Their explanation of the game helped me understand a little better and we were off to the races.
In Sentinels, each player picks a super-hero character to represent them in-game. That character has a reference card that explains their health/hit points and also lists a power that they can usually use during their turn. Each character also has a small deck of cards that reflects actions, equipment and so forth that the hero would have/be able to do if this were a comic book.
In our group we had a character who could change size and powers similar to Giant Man; a Superman analogue; a time traveling bounty hunter; an over-the-top egotistical hero (I think they said he was supposed to be like Deadpool?); and my character, a speedster heroine named Tachyon.
In the game, all the players team up to fight one or more villains in a specific setting. Our first game we played against a pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses apparently in their temple or some such. The goal of the game was to defeat the bad guys before being taken out of the game ourselves. In our second game, I played a fish guy who looked like Abe from HellBoy but who was similar in powers to Submariner + Aquaman + Poseidon. Our enemy that time was a criminal underground with a shadowy master operating behind the scenes while they attacked our equivalent of the Justice League building/Avengers Mansion.
As the game progresses, the baddies get to do stuff, the environment gets to do stuff and the heroes all get to do stuff. Baddies typically are attacking to take your heroes out and/or trying to heal themselves of damage. The villain deck essentially plays itself and in our games the most experienced player ran through those actions as well as playing a hero himself. The Egyptian gods were a challenge as each was pretty hard to take down and there were buffs they could do to help each other/slam the heroes. Additionally, once a god was defeated, you flip their card and they still continue to affect the game during the villain part of the game.
The environment played a big part in the games as well. Particularly annoying was our hero HQ being infiltrated by the baddies who would turn the various rooms of the place to cause us headaches. One turn there were paparazzi involved so we couldn't use our powers (presumably that would give away our identities?) until they went away. While the effects were annoying they were very much the stuff of comic books with innocent bystanders in danger, stuff crumbling all around and generally making the heroes' challenge harder as their attention had to be split between defeating the baddies and dealing with the surroundings.
Going back to the decks for the heroes, the specific cards really do capture a specific hero's powers. For example, my Flash Lady (Tachyon) had some cool cards that would let me wallop bad guys for crazy amounts of damage IF I had cards with a specific keyword in my discard pile. For several turns I built up scads of those keyword cards (burst was the word) in hopes of getting a chance to hit the villains hard. At one point I had 12 cards which would have allowed me to at least deal 12 pts of damage---pretty impressive when villains we faced had around 25-35 hp apiece. At the last second I had to shuffle my discard pile back into my draw pile, losing all those burst cards. In story, I could imagine my speedster running around the planet dozens of time to build up speed only to have to stop at the last second and start again to face the enemies from a different direction.
The speedster deck let me check my top card every turn before drawing so I could decide ahead of time whether I wanted to keep it or not. I also had special equipment cards that allowed me to play more than one card (normally that's the limit per turn) and/or to draw additional cards instead of just one per turn. When I played the fish guy/ocean lord, my deck allowed me to damage the bad guys at least one hp per turn and had cool water-based effects that I could use for lightning damage or to use the winds and water to protect my character and the team.
Speaking of teams, the game is every cooperative and that's at least half the fun of playing. One player might be able to buff damage for the team while another is healing damaged heroes while yet another is redirecting damage from enemy attacks back at the villains. By the end of the evening, we had luckily defeated both sets of bad guys. The shadowy crime lord and his operative (he hid behind her for most of the game, immune to our efforts until she was taken out) was by far the most challenge. Every time we took out one of his henchmen or later when we caused him direct damage, we wound up being attacked in return.
Overall, I really like the game. It doesn't seem overly deep but I don't think it needs to be. If you and your friends like super heroes you may want to give this a try. I will also note that having around 4-5 players really helped both the theme and game play. Seemed like we had just enough folks to keep our cooperation going and active without bogging down.