Nikola Adamus
Poland
Warsaw
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If you are just looking for simple comparison to “Legandary”, skip to the end of the post. The review was also posted on my bloghttp://polandfinlandplayground.org/2016/03/30/the-heroes-you...

Long time before I bought my own copy of “Sentinels of the Multiverse”, I’ve started playing this game with my friends who discovered it on Steam (I will explain that later!). It’s a card-driven board game with superheroes, but not with ones you know.

When I think “superheroes”, I usually see the image of Marvel or DC characters, because hey, they’re so popular, but Badell, Bender and Rebottaro decided to make a board game about completely unknown, even non-existing in the comics.

Well, not in the comics you used to read at least. Heroes in “Sentinels of the Multiverse” appear in the comics created especially for the purpose of this game and which you can read for free here. Players take a role of superheroes (called “Sentinels”) and fight against very evil villains. Heroes and villains have preset decks which are being used during a game. In this post I will talk about a core game and tackle the expansions later.

First glance

Let’s take a look at box and cards. The box is of a good quality and what is more important – it’s pretty efficient when it comes to keeping cards organized. As you can see in the photo, it has an additional layer of cardboard and it’s divided into two parts. Apart from cards, a player is provided dividers which ease the pain of looking for a particular type of a deck (and we can put them in the alphabetical order!).

I’m really satisfied with this box – I’ve seen my friends traveling with it and so far the box is doing pretty well. It also has more space (and dividers) for cards which can be found in the expansions. I rarely see good board game boxes (the one for “7 Wonders” is so inefficient that once or twice I made one by myself for my friends).


When it comes to tokens and cards they are durable and even after many plays they still look very well. The graphic design of cards is readable and I haven’t ever encountered any major problems with understanding the effects cards. The visual side of them is very interesting – they are not drawn in Marvel or DC style. They are more cartoonish, less detailed and you might actually not like them at the beginning, but trust me – they are convincing and eye-catchy. Cartoon-like style really fits all the characters which I will explain a little bit later.

Mechanics

As I already mentioned, this board game is card-driven and every hero and villain has their deck. Apart from them there is also a deck called “environment” which represent setting where our mighty Sentinels fight with evil meaning that you need to defeat some vicious villain.

Sentinels and villains are pretty straightforward – each of them have special abilities and hit points (HP). Villains die when reaching 0 HP (or at least the game ends, though the newest expansion “Villains of the Multiverse” changes that a little bit). Sentinels do not die necessarily.

Because superheroes don’t die.

If they did, they would be useless, wouldn’t they? Sentinels don’t die. Yes, if you lose all your HP, you aren’t leaving a game. Each hero card has second side with defeated (but alive!) character who can still do something using rest of his or her strength. Each “defeated hero” can do three different things, it might be letting another player drawing a card or similar – it varies from hero to hero. Not only strengthens the “superheroicness”, but also keeps players engaged through whole game even if their hero(es) (because players might control more than one!) lost all their HP and it’s not that difficult to achieve that in this game. Moreover, it is sometimes profitable to let a villain defeat you for the sake of abilities which might be used afterwards. Villains and heroes in their decks, apart from simple actions (called “one-shots”) have a wide array of choices of equipment, devices, relics, even minions!

Environment cards are a little bit more complicated. They affect both villains and heroes and the best way to describe what they do is… STUFF. It really depends on the deck – some of them are more “player-friendly” meaning that many cards do not try to kill you as soon as possible or try to kill also villains. Some of them are tricky to play with because they might make whole game more complicated due to such effects like forcing to discard, decreasing or increasing damage and similar (or weirder which is, of course, a pros). At this point you probably figured out that environment is not neutral and it shouldn’t be. After all, superheroes fight in hostile settings, right? But what is more important is that the environment decks do not feel unbalanced. They are very different from each other affecting heroes and villains in various way. Environment might also provide them interesting equipment and other means to defeat their opponents.

So taking all these cards into consideration, core game provides us:

10 different heroes
8 villains
4 environments

And you combine that as you wish (but as I mentioned, villains are tied to heroes and also environments, but it only acts as fluff in the core game, it changes a little bit in “Villains of the Multiverse”). There is so many options to exhaust and all the characters (evil and good) appearing in the game have so various abilities that it’s pretty difficult to get bored.

When it comes to Sentinels’ abilities there’s a wide array of choices, more and less sophisticated so of varying level of difficulty. Some heroes are pretty straightforward like Fanatic and others (for example The Visionary) aren’t that easy to play. It doesn’t mean that the game is unbalanced, it actually allows players to choose the difficulty level, so whether they want to play easy and nice game or challenging one, there are always cards for that.

The core game provide a couple of heroes and villains which might be described as “tanks” or “fighters”, some more sophisticated using spells and minions – sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? But even if our fighters aim to deal as much harm as possible, they do that in different ways – by sacrificing themselves or gathering equipment, supporting other players… And they’re usually quite easy characters play, but I have still fun and I’m rather experienced player (or at least a player who spent many hours playing and getting killed ).

Narrative

The idea of making a superhero-themed board game without any known heroes might sound like a risky or even bad idea. There’s just to much Marvel and DC franchise all around. However, “Sentinels of the Multiverse” are doing pretty well.

First of all, they have their own comics which you can read here, so it’s not like they’re totally out of the blue. Every character has its own background and personal story. Quotes from the comics are on the cards. Moreover, every character (especially hero characters) are inspired by famous superheroes, but they are not simple copies with different pictures. Designers combined many interesting motives from superheroes movies and comics and creates something exceptionally new yet pretty familiar for fans of superhero themes. You will easily spot that Legacy is actually Captain America, but a little bit better version than him (sorry, Cap, I still like you, though!).

Let’s take a look at him:

By the age of 12, young Paul began to exhibit an uncanny sense of danger, but also was more keen-eyed and fleet of foot than any of his peers. Joseph realized that his son had not only inherited his senses, but also was more capable than the average boy, and began training him, not just in the ways of silversmithing, but in the ways of liberty, of justice, and of defending the common man.

So we have here a little bit of Spider-Man, Captain America and Superman, but it’s not just a copy paste. Legacy does not bear any strong trauma, he is way more down-to-earth character than most of the superheroes we know, more believable and on the other hand some of his characteristic features are exaggerated – for example muscles. On one hand Legacy appears to quite mature, but on the second he is still quite funny due to all those references and exaggeration.

Similar combination of motives you can find in The Wraith’s background:

One night, at the age of 17, as Maia walked home from a night class with her boyfriend, a group of thieves surrounded the young couple and beat them severely, only fleeing when a passing patrol car happened upon them. Her boyfriend was pronounced dead at the scene, and Maia was left in a coma. Barely surviving after three weeks in intensive care, she regained consciousness and vowed to never be put into such a position again.
At her Maia’s request, her parents hired a roster of martial arts instructors and a team of personal trainers. Adapting quickly to the new training regime, she grew skilled in several forms of combat, including karate, kung fu, escrima, krav maga, jeet kun do, and kickboxing (…). Channeling the words of a father to a young girl, Maia began calling herself “The Wraith” and concealed her identity while on patrol with a homemade mask and cape. As Maia began to master the art of combat, she expanded her patrols to larger and larger portions of the city.


So basically The Wraith is a daughter of loving rich parents which is less traumatized then her “progenitor” Batman. She appears more rational and less driven by anger than Batman, however. Her story isn’t very innovative, but similarly as in the case of Legacy – The Wraith sounds more believable, easier to empathize with and being aware of all the references makes her only more interesting, because she is so different than Batman, actually. However, taking bunch of archetypes isn’t anything new, but designers showed a true mastery in that.

Of course not all Sentinels have their equivalents among Marvel or DC superheroes – many of them is connected to more general superheroic motives and characters (for example Fanatic driven by her strong faith). What they in common, though, is that all of them add some twists to already known stories and motives making them more interesting, mature, but at the same time maintaining rather relaxed atmosphere. If you read this comic [link], you will see that it is not 100% serious. It doesn’t have to be, because this is what makes all the stories and Sentinels appealing – a perfect balance between seriousness and funny stuff and the some goes to villains.

What is also important is that, comparing to Marvel or DC, Multiverse is very diverse in terms of race and gender. Aforementioned Fanatic is from Argentina, The Wraith is scientist and there are also heroes with disabilities (for example Mr. Fixer who is blind). Not all characters are fit and muscled (look at The Wraith!). In fact, The Scholar (from one of the expansions) has a (probably beer) belly. As much as I love rather “white” and male-dominated universe of Marvel heroes, I also love diversity, because it makes game less boring and provide more interesting content to the narrative.

To buy or not to buy?

Superheroes, replayability, interesting story, good quality… This game do not really have any major flaws maybe except limited opportunities to get it outside the USA. Shipping to Poland is expensive (but it should be better while ordering via Planszomania or Rebel). And in Finland you can get it in Fantasiapelit, so it’s not that bad.

You might not like drawings and relaxed approach to the superhero theme, but even if, “Sentinels of the Multiverse” are worth giving a try due to its mechanics providing fun even after lots of hours spent on playing it. However, if you are still reluctant, you can try it on Steam [link] and play either versus AI or real players, because as you can see, “Sentinels of the Multiverse” is not only a board game – I just mentioned Steam, there are also comics and survey gathering information on your play statistics (and compiled info from over 1k games).

For those who play “Legendary”

– “Sentinels of the Multiverse” is fully cooperative, everyone wins or everyone lose
– It’s not a deck-building game, all decks are preset
– Better quality of cards

There are more differences of course, but I pinpointed the most important ones for me.You probably would like to ask which one is better, but I think these games are so different that it’s not an appropriate question. Deck-building mechanic is different than using preset decks and the games highlight different aspects of cooperation (“Yeah, we can cooperate, for a while, but I’m more important than you” vs “People, we need to work TOGETHER”). Both “Legendary” and “Sentinels of the Multiverse” represent a high level of replayability. Though I must admit that for now I prefer “Sentinels…” due to their freshness in narrative, diversity and simply my own preference to full cooperation rather than partial one, but I enjoy playing both of them, because they’re just different.
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Dániel Lányi
Hungary
Budapest
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Even though Legendary wasn't designed and balanced for it, you can just play it as a co-op game, so I think the most important difference beetween Legendary and SotM is... who exactly are you in Legendary?
In SotM it's clear that you are the hero whose deck you're playing, but in Legendary... my first idea would be you are a Nick Fury type character assembling a team, but that can't be true since other teams can have the same heroes as you. Oh and by the way, what do even cards represent? It's not the hero herself/himself, because there are multiple copies and types of cards of the same hero, but it's not illustrated or worded like it's an event type thing (I mean it's not "Cyclops shoots someone to help you", it's just "Cyclops").
I'm sure you can explain it somehow, but I suspect that explanation will be too convoluted to be intuitive.
Also I think the same is true for Dice Masters. I honestly think that anyone who says these games are thematic is just into the illustrations.
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Colin Marsh
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Thanks for taking the time to write this. it's rare i see someone spend so much time on narrative and theme. i really enjoyed reading that part of your review.
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Matt Jolly
United Kingdom
Bourne
Lincolnshire
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wallwaster wrote:
Even though Legendary wasn't designed and balanced for it, you can just play it as a co-op game, so I think the most important difference beetween Legendary and SotM is... who exactly are you in Legendary?


I prefer SOTM to Legendary, but still play the latter from time to time. I rationalise it where you are the editor of the comic book, trying to decide which panels to give to which heroes. The game starts slowly with the emphasis on villain actions, but the team of heroes gets more and more important. Where unexpected heroes are there I think of it like a Team Up, where the editors are fighting for page space for their own hero....

Cheers,

Matt
 
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