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Jin TS
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What? Another SotM Review?

I know, I know, all of you must be saying "not another review, please!" because there are already tons of reviews posted before this. To be honest with you, I was initially not sure about writing a review at all on SotM as I can see there are so many fantastic reviews already posted, and I was asking myself: what is so special about my review? But after playing the fifth game, I have told myself I must post a review with some of my feelings, that’s the difference. I have not posted any reviews for about two years but this game, this game is really pushing me to do this despite the fact that I should have spent my time in doing other stuffs. Also, this is a rather long review which I sincerely hope it helps new gamers in getting a better feel about this very unique game.

My sincere apology if any comments or facts that I am posting here have already been mentioned or highlighted by other SotM gamers in other reviews as I have no intention to reproduce what others have said about SotM. This review is absolutely and purely my personal view after playing five sessions of SotM, with the first three sessions being test plays and learning about game rules. Even then, the five sessions have already taken up approximately 12 hours of my play time, which is considerably long for me. On top of that, this review is not about the rules. I prefer to focus more about the game play and nature of this game, instead of how it is played. Readers may check out many other reviews that have well written rules and games system which I will not replicate here.

How did I get into SotM?

Here's a little bit about my background. I am generally a RPG theme fan, and games that I love most are Talisman, Cosmic Encounters, Tomb, Twilight Struggle, Summoner Wars, Ticket to Ride: Europe, Sid Meier's Civilization: Board Game, Robinson Crusoe, Small World, Thunderstone, Carcassonne and many others. I have been tracking SotM for quite a while since 2012, but perhaps after reading some reviews, I was worried about the problem of high maintenance effort in keeping track of damages and effects during play, and that has driven me away from it since.

However, back in August this year, by coincidence, through some reviews and session reports, SotM came back to my attention and I have always attracted to the theme and game system of SotM. What makes the final push for me in getting this game was the availability of Enhanced Edition which has improved some of the weaknesses, and now, a better game. Also, all the reviews and videos really helped me making the final decision getting into this band wagon, an expensive but an exciting one. Here, I would just like to say thank you to those who took the time to write and post their reviews for gamers just like me to understand and make an informed decision whether SotM is suitable for me.

What prompted me to write this review?

It was the fourth and specifically, the fifth session. Our game group played the fourth session after we test-played the first three games and I thought it is time to up the challenge, since we defeated the villains quite comfortably.

In the fourth session, three of us playing against the Iron Legacy, I'm playing Fanatic, my friend Philip is playing the Setback and John is playing Omnitron X. The game started with a blast. I mean we were being beaten left and right by Iron Legacy who had all the buffs up in after just several rounds. It was then that we began to realize why Iron Legacy is rated at difficulty 4. My hero eventually died, Philip's hero died and left with Omnitron X alone facing the villain. He was lucky that Setback managed to remove two on-going effects of Iron Legacy before going down and it helps the Omnitron X to fight on and set up his cards. Eventually, Omnitron X won, mainly due to his ability to consistently deal 2 or 4 irreducible damage from his card. In this game, all of us almost died, and thanks to Setback's big sacrifice, that’s why we defeated the villain. With the incapacitated heroes' ability, Omnitron X also became stronger and finally etch out a hard fought win. This session is already a blast, as we now truly understand just how certain villains may cripple us or send all our heroes packing. And so much to talk about after that, and obviously John was beaming with pride for winning it alone (sort of).

The mind blowing part was the following session immediately after we defeated Iron Legacy. Another friend came and join us, Nick and in this session, we fought The Dreamer in the Mobile Defense Platform environment. I purposely set it tough, but not too tough so that everyone will enjoy it and won't be overkilled by the villain and environment. I was playing Fanatic, John was Omintron X again, Philip was Naturalist and Nick was The Sentinels. Initially I have wanted to pair The Dreamer with Rook City or Pike Industry but I finally opted Mobile Defense System just to try out different combo.

Hell broke loose the moment we started! The Dreamer began with both Dark Hero, a Granite Oni and a Tooth Fairy. That was seriously hard to punch through and it became worse shortly when the second copy of Tooth Fairy came into play follow by Toy Master! We were discarding our hands faster than we could draw cards, and absorbed 10 damage every turn just from Tooth Fairy effects alone. Then more projections came in, everyone was taking heavy beating and in our minds, we were expecting to be defeated in another one or two rounds. The face of my friends looked shocked, stunned, flabbergasted, that sort of mixed emotions and reactions. We never expected it to be so so challenging! We were literally locked down, and can’t do anything, as we don’t have cards in hand, except Omnitron X and Naturalist where they were still able to get some card draw. It was the Naturalist’s perseverance and versatility that helps the team to slowly wear down some of the projections and buy time for Omnitron X and Sentinels to set up their cards. In that process, one of the Sentinels hero Writhe died, as well as my hero Fanatic. John was beginning to show his frustration to Nick as protest for him not helping us in any way. At one point John was telling off Nick indirectly “don’t be selfish”. The game has reached its heightened emotional state!

So the team carried on and fight on, barely surviving on around 5 or 6 HP. Only when they managed to slowly take down one of the Dark Hero that the situations improved, and Sentinels hero were beginning to heal the rest and making some impact. Naturalist and Omnitron X were the star after they have cards properly setup and gradually destroying all projections. It took 3.5 hours for the session to end and I sat there for more than 2.5 hours as spectator, playing the villain and environment cards and engrossed with all sorts of emotions: frustration (due to inaction), delighted (as we finally defeated the super tough villain), annoyed (as Nick wasn’t really cooperating as a team, and looking at John’s black face), excitement (looking at how the heroes, villain and environment interact and generating unique outcomes), astonished (as I began to realized just how well this game plays out), surprised (by the outcome of defeating the seemingly “impossible to defeat” villain). It was a long time since the last time we had so many different emotions when we play board games, and if I am not mistaken, it was back in 2013 when we played Carcassonne.

Everyone was relief after the game and can’t wait to play another session but it was very late, 1.30am. This game is quite painfully amazing for me. We even talked about it for another hour before all went home at 2.30am.

From these sessions, I shall give my simple review about SotM, even though I know I’m not yet qualified to be considered an experienced SotM player, but I think what I can share may be useful to others:

What are the things I dislike about SotM?
No game is ever perfect, same goes to SotM, and I can see the following issues or weaknesses found in the game:

d10-1 The extensive amount of maintenance work during play. Calculation or maths work is necessary for playing this game. It is quite tedious and a lot to keep track, a lot to think and a lot to remember. Even though tokens were provided in the Enhanced Edition, still a lot of mental work is required to play the game effectively and I can fully understand the agony of gamers for playing the first edition.

d10-2 The game needs clearer rules , and some additional explanation would make this game perfect. For example, all effects are cumulative, especially those -1 or +1 damage, or the hero of Chrono Ranger may place more than one Bounty card on any villain, and etc. They are not destructive to game play but missing some small details may change the game effect drastically, and that may cause frustration to any players who are impatient.

d10-3 Playing time can be very long. You can see from the example above. It is supposed to be a fast game, finishing within an hour, but it has the potential to drag, so be warned. I suspect that the more challenging you are searching in this game, means you will be fighting against tougher villain, which also mean it will be a longer game (except against Iron Legacy). On top of that, player’s analysis paralysis behavior also prolonging the playing time.

d10-4 Player number scalability and game challenge issue. The game is generally easier when a team has more heroes, even though it has introduce the H system that takes into account of the number of heroes in a game.

d10-5 This game requires attention and focus to play well in order for players to enjoy it. This is not a simple beer and pretzel game where players casually chat and play at the same time, unless winning or losing is not important, and wrong calculation or mistakes during play is not a concern to all players. In fact, players are advised to get enough sleep to play this game to avoid mistakes that will have negative impact on other players.

What are the things I love about SotM?
There are so many good things from SotM, here they are:

d10-1 Simple game mechanism is just one of the reasons why it is so outstanding about this game. Pick a hero, play with a few friends (play solo if you can’t), randomly select a villain and environment, then play. The game turns are all simple and easy to learn. The only difficulty is during game play where extra effort on game maintenance work is required. Other than that, it's a very simple game system, loving it. Well, if you happen to have a chance to play Earth Reborn, you will understand what I mean by games that are not simple (this game requires the test play of 8 different scenarios in order for players to fully capture all the rules and game mechanic, though it's still a fantastic game nonetheless).zombie

d10-2 Easy to setup and pack up. I have many board games and those that requires more than 15 minutes of setup time and another 15 minutes pack up time usually get to the table less. That’s a fact for me. Well, after a long week of work, sometimes I just don’t want to waste more time in doing the nitty gritty stuff when I want to play games. Those are the time I want to jump straight into the game and start playing, not sorting, arranging, setting up the board and table with hundreds of tokens, etc… You will understand if you have played Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game. It’s a fantastic game but it simply takes too much time for setting up and packing up. That is just my personal concern. I’m sure some gamers won’t really mind.

d10-3 Simple to learn, difficult to master. That’s right, this game is another one that I treasure because it has this special feature which is unbelievable. Gamers may, over a long period of time, master the deck of a specific hero, but because the villain, environment and other team hero members are constantly different, this feature always ensures gamers learn something new in every game play, observe something unique or uncommon in every game session, and that is really cool.

d10-4 The theme is clear and strong! Super heroes, with super powers. Even some super heroes do not have superhuman powers but they do have funky and exceptionally useful gadgets to stay in this game. Good examples are Wraith and Expatriate. I think many people, not all, somehow has a superhero in their mind, or vision. So the theme of this game really matches what most people feel strongly about, We all grew up with superheroes stories, comic books, movies, cartoons, etc...the theme is so much a part of our growing up, and our life!

d10-5 Excellent design and artwork. I know this is a very subjective comment because I understand that some gamers prefer artwork such as those from Lord of the Ring: the Card Game that are sharp, almost 3D in effects that comes in very fine finishing. In my personal opinion, this is essentially an old school design and it gives me the nostalgic feeling. It was a great idea and I think it really captures the spirit of the entire game of super heroes. In fact, every hero, villain and environment card has its own design, symbol and theme! It is similar to Summoner Wars’ different factions. And I deeply appreciate this part of effort from the producer.

d10-6 Top quality products in which all the cards are really thick, but I still sleeve them. The box were nicely designed and sturdy and the dividers are all really good, no complain at all. The last time I enjoyed sleeving my cards was during Summoner Wars: Alliance. Top notch quality and that really makes me feel worthy after I have invested hundreds of dollars into this game.

d10-7 Massive amount of replayability. The combination of 22 different heroes, 20 different villains and 13 different environment (this is my collection so far, still awaiting for a few expansions due to out of stock), the saying of “no two games are ever the same” is so true. I place a lot of importance on this feature for every game that I purchase, because I have always wanted varieties and replayability in any board games that I play, so that it can last for a long time.

d10-8 Surprises, surprises and surprises! This game guarantees players with lots of it, even if you unfortunately discover that it’s a bad game for you, it’s a surprise! I mean, seriously, the outcome of every game is completely unpredictable and in that process, unexpected events may happen, and that’s great! It will always leave us with a refreshing feeling and we want more, and play again, and again, and again…laugh

d10-9 Flexible and scalable play style. Players may choose normal difficulty level or advanced mode, which means tougher challenge. This is a very thoughtful board game feature which is really cool and gives players more options to enjoy the game.

d10-1d10-0 Player interaction is reasonably good. Players can really test their cooperative skills and work together in defeating tough villains. This may potentially build relationship and bonding among families and friends.

d10-1d10-1 Teaching of human positive value. Yes, in fact, cooperation, sharing, sacrifice, never give up, discovering creative solutions, are just some of the most desirable and noble behaviors that can be cultivated in a person by playing this game. And indeed, what is better than teaching our younger generation through fun and creative board games like SotM? This is perfect.

d10-1d10-2 It comes with a story and unique names! That’s another big plus point, to me at least. I love games with strong theme and background story, just like Summoner Wars, and every hero, villain and environment has some form of story to it, with a nice name. Names such as Omnitron, Sentinels, Legacy, Ra, Tempest, K.N.Y.F.E., Akash'Bhuta, The Dreamer, Ennead, etc…are just some of the names I really like, easy to pronounce, remember and recognize. I’m not sure why, but I pay a lot of attention to villains and their story, and what they are capable of doing, their abilities, and their mission…simply loving it. The stories are rich and interesting. This is a unique universe by itself, just like Summoner Wars! (I’m sure you guys must be wondering whether my getting into SotM has anything to do with Summoner Wars)

d10-1d10-3 Flavor text are really fun and creative! It’s so funny to read them and embrace the role of that particular hero. You should read the text of Setback, it’s really funny and thematic, and the message is clear, even a loser can be a winner! How true is that in our real life, and how we wish it always happen that way! laugh

d10-1d10-4 Fulfilling your dream as a hero! I think many gamers will agree that playing this game really gives us the feeling of becoming a super hero, saving the world or defeating a mad bad guy. Many gamers enjoy this role and sensation, especially when they win a hard fought battle. You don’t feel that you are left out or a bystander (if you have played Lord of the Ring: The Card Game in controlling a party, you will understand what I mean here), you are actually contributing and helping your team in defeating the villain, and that feeling is exceptionally personal, it is awesome!

What’s my final words?

Well, if you have read my review up to this point, you should realize that I’m falling in love with SotM! This game is absolutely incredible, unbelievable and truly wonderful! I have always been a strong believer that if a game is somehow able to make a player or a group of players to be so involved into it, with their deep emotions and feelings, it has to be a great game. And, in short, this is truly a remarkable and excellent game, one of the finest so far that I have played. I really can’t wait for my son to grow up and enjoy playing this game with him, together we create and experience delightful or agony tales as super heroes along the way, together as a team. By the way, he’s only 7 years old.

I don’t mean to promote and help the selling of this game. But I feel that it is such a beautiful and fun creation that if I don’t share it with others, I’m being guilty as gamer. If you have read this and still hesitate, please, test play it just one time, at least. Any games that allow us to live (even momentarily) in our dreams, or in our vision or whatever you may call it, it is definitely a precious gem not to be missed! thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup

Thank you for taking your time to read my review, and I appreciate it very much.

Jin

[Latest update]: Just an update after three to four weeks of having this game, and couldn't stop playing it with my game group every weekend since it came onto our gaming table. SotM is simply marvelous, we have many near wins, and most of them are partially helped by the environment that are less brutal to heroes. So far, our group mostly played with four players, and sometimes three. We have not tried out all the villains yet, but we have loss to Iron Legacy (though we managed to beat him once), The Chairman, Akash-bhuta (in Ruins of Atlantis in advanced mode, that probably tell us why), and the infamous Spite (we find him the most difficult and evil, but great theme)! We easily defeated Matriarch (a bit disappointed), Baron Blade and Ambuscate, but barely defeated The Dreamer, The Apostate, Kismet, Omnitron (in three player game), Plague Rat and The Ennead. This game is so good, we can't wait to challenge some of the villains again, the variety, enjoyment and surprises we get from playing SotM was truly wonderful. But beware, the shortest game we played took us about 45 minutes, while the longest session finished in 3.5 hours. On average, each game session plays to around 1.5-2 hours. Still, a great game indeed and go on, play it, enjoy it!

[Latest Update 18/9/2017]: After two years of having SotM, I'm still playing it quite regularly. Recently my gaming group reignited the love for this game when my nieces joined me for board game sessions. And SotM is the perfect choice when they prefer non confrontational, fun and not too complex games as a start. This game still gives us the excitement just like when I started playing it few years ago, and it is a truly remarkable creation that will certainly last a long long time! A wonderful game that's worth invested in and now I'm still reaping the benefit and joy for having it and playing it!
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Josh
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Yeeeeeep, that's Sentinels. Welcome to the fun.
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Craig McRoberts
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Thanks for the great review, from the whole Greater Than Games team!
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Marco DeLaurentis
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I wanted to offer a suggestion based on some of your dislikes of the game.

I would suggest playing the game a few more times. When I play, even with new players, it usually never takes more than an hour to an hour and a half, and sometimes less. But that's mainly because I have played this game a lot and am very well versed in the game and can do the fiddly stuff and maintanence with relative ease. As players get more practiced with the accounting of the game, it tends to shorten the play time.

And scalability is easily fixed with the villian you pick. Certain villians are easier or harder depending on the number of players. Plus, if you know that a certain villian is easy with the number of players, or the group of heroes played (or both), there is always the advanced rules for each villian.
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pete truss
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You spend more time counting than you do playing. I love everything about it other than the constant math. Don't mind some but when the table is full of baddies and there's several different modifiers to consider, it gets real old real quick. Don't want to sell it on but I just can't bring myself to play it anymore
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Chris Laudermilk
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Great review. One of the negatives--the bookkeeping--is fairly easily mitigated through the many mobile apps available. I use one of the 3rd party ones, but may jump over to the official one (at least until I start introducing the fan-made decks). They help immensely with the picky tracking of HP.
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Andrew Arenson
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I very much enjoyed your review.

Like most things in life, picking the people you're with makes a big difference. If you're not enjoying playing SotM with a particular person (because, perhaps, they're not being as much of a team player as you would want them to be), then you'll want to take that into account in terms of either choosing to play with other people or choosing to play other games. Unless you think you can change them. (That's sarcasm).


Our regular SotM group is careful to pick combinations of decks that suit our mood and available time. If everyone's energetic and we have lots of time, then we'll relish digging in to more of a challenge. Sometimes, though, you just want to have a bit of more straightforward, easy fun. We'll do things like playing with Team Leader Tachyon or playing in The Block or Freedom Tower in order to reduce the difficulty.


And individual players have their quirks. Our group never plays against Spite because a couple of people in the group dislike Spite's theme so much that they simply can't enjoy it. I almost always veto the Realm of Discord because it has such a swingy effect on the game that I feel like it takes away from enjoying our particular villain and heroes combination.
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Jin TS
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Thanks for all the reply. Appreciate all the suggestions and comments.

Well, I have been playing games with this group of friends since year 2000, it's 15 years of friendship. We know each other very well, each has their own personality and character. Over the years, we have learned to tolerate and compromise, that's why we can still play games together.

Maybe, the learning about life, the learning about positive human value from playing games have taught us to appreciate years of friendship and everything that we now have. Although all of us have different personality, we still play games together regularly, no problem at all.
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Patrick Wilhelmi
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A great help for learning all the rules is the Sentinels app (the game app I mean).

You cannot do anything wrong since the game does all the calculations for you. It also helps to find out how and in what sequence everything is handled.

Since online gaming is now part of the app you won't have to wait for another session with your group.
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Colin Marsh
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This is a great review. You did an excellent job of explaining what makes this game so enjoyable to play. The game really does encourage player interaction and problem solving. it also really captures the feeling of being a hero (in most cases)
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Jin TS
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arenson9 wrote:
I very much enjoyed your review.

Like most things in life, picking the people you're with makes a big difference. If you're not enjoying playing SotM with a particular person (because, perhaps, they're not being as much of a team player as you would want them to be), then you'll want to take that into account in terms of either choosing to play with other people or choosing to play other games. Unless you think you can change them. (That's sarcasm).


Our regular SotM group is careful to pick combinations of decks that suit our mood and available time. If everyone's energetic and we have lots of time, then we'll relish digging in to more of a challenge. Sometimes, though, you just want to have a bit of more straightforward, easy fun. We'll do things like playing with Team Leader Tachyon or playing in The Block or Freedom Tower in order to reduce the difficulty.


And individual players have their quirks. Our group never plays against Spite because a couple of people in the group dislike Spite's theme so much that they simply can't enjoy it. I almost always veto the Realm of Discord because it has such a swingy effect on the game that I feel like it takes away from enjoying our particular villain and heroes combination.


colinmarsh wrote:
This is a great review. You did an excellent job of explaining what makes this game so enjoyable to play. The game really does encourage player interaction and problem solving. it also really captures the feeling of being a hero (in most cases)


Thanks for your encouraging feedback, it was indeed my pleasure to write a simple review about the game I really enjoy playing. modest
 
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