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Subject: Sentinels of the Multiverse - A Mixed Review rss

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David Debien
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I have played Sentinels of the Multiverse 7 or 8 times now and my conclusion thus far is that this is a very uneven game. The games I have played so far have ranged from incredibly tense and exciting to far too easy to hopeless and tedious. I have introduced the game to 7 other people thus far and of those players only one person liked it. To be fair that person loved it and will be purchasing a copy of the game as soon as he can find a copy. All of these people are gamers and quite a few are comic book fans.

First, the negatives.

Once the game gets going, there will be quite a few cards in play that will affect other played cards and powers. This can become quite tedious and it is easy to overlook certain combinations if you are not paying very close attention and literally stopping to look at every played card on the table to see how it interacts with the currently played card or power. This can really kill the flow of the game as it is all about developing a narrative. Imagine pausing a movie every 15 seconds to study the scene to make sure everything is where it should be.

Some of these combinations can have affects that it is hard to believe the designers saw coming or intended. I was trying not to have specific examples in this review, but I know I will be called out on this one if I do not include one. So, here it is:

Villain Omnitron has a card called Electro-Pulse Explosive (15 HP) – At the start of the Villain Turn, this card deals each Hero target X lightning damage, where X = the current HP of this card.

Hero Visionary has a card called Wrest the Mind – Play this card next to a target. Whenever that target deals damage, you may redirect that damage to another target. If you do, the Visionary deals 2 psychic damage to that target and 2 psychic damage to herself. If the target leaves play, destroy this card.

So, this card combination would do a mountain of damage, most likely to the Villain card. Assume 4 players, this would do 15+13+11+9 = 47 damage to the villain character and 10 to Visionary and the Electro Pulse Explosive card. Under normal circumstances 5+ points of damage is a lot. Doing 40+ in a single shot is almost an order of magnitude higher. This combo could have the effect of making the game insanely easy, adding to the unevenness of the game. In that, Sentinels is typically either way too hard, or way too easy. Finding that happy medium is very difficult.

Secondly, Sentinels of the Multiverse does not scale very well at all. Most of the Villains seem designed for 3 or more Heroes. So, if you regularly play the game with only one other player, you will have to play more than one hero each to be able to handle the more difficult Villains. This has its own problem in that now you have fewer players available to keep track of all the card combinations mentioned previously.

Third, most games I have played so far were so difficult that once the game ends in defeat for the Heroes it was obvious to the players that they did not really ever stand a chance. While this may not be the case, their perception is what counts. On the flip side, we had a 5 player last night against one of the more powerful villains and we won the game so handily that the players were bored and turned off by the tedium of keeping track of all of the card combinations, of which there were quite few due to the number of players.

I will admit that a lot of this comes from me not knowing the best number and combinations of Heroes required to go up against a certain Villain/Environment combination. This, in itself, is another problem. The designers could have easily included a bit about how many Heroes are suggested to go up each Villain and which Hero combinations work best. Instead, the approach is to let the players discover which combinations are best for themselves. I get that, but I think for the casual gamer who doesn’t want to sink 10+ games into Sentinels to know what they are doing, this is a bad idea. I like the game and want to keep playing it but at this time, no one I have introduced it to will be giving it another chance, aside from that one person who loved it. So, I am now faced with the 2 player complaint from above.

The Environment decks are also a bit disappointing as well. There are only 15 cards in each deck with a number of duplicated cards within these decks. I would like to see larger Environment decks with less duplication.

The cards themselves are relatively thin. I am not a fan of sleeving my cards. For one, sleeving 400+ cards with decent sleeves can double the cost of the game. That said, I would gladly have paid $10 more for the base game to have some thicker cards. For those that do sleeve their cards, the game box will likely be too small to hold the game. For me, having not sleeved my game, the box has enough room for the cards and for 20 or so dice used for tracking hit points. Having now played the game close to 10 times, I am starting to see some wear on the cards. This is just something I have had to come to terms with. After all, my 20 year old deck of Grass has character, not wear.

This is not necessarily a positive or a negative, but it bears mentioning that this is a co-op game. For fans of co-ops, it’s a clear positive. For those who do not enjoy co-ops, they are not likely to enjoy Sentinels for the same reasons. Of course, being a co-op, Solo play is a definite option as long as you don’t mind keeping track of all the card combinations by yourself.

Finally, a lot has been said about the lack of a mechanism provided within the game for tracking hit points. This is a non-factor for me as I have a solution using dice to track HP (d6’s mostly for minions, and percentile dice for Villains and Heroes). You could just as easily use a scratch pad, poker chips, glass beads or any number of other systems. Be imaginative and use what works best for you.

A word about the art work: those I have played the game with who are comic book aficionados (which I am not) had less than good things to say about the art. I like the art. I think it matches the feel and theme of the game very well.

Ok, on to the positives.

Playing the game is very simple. I am not going to discuss the mechanics as others have done this very well already. Suffice it to say that the game play is fast and intuitive. The complexity of the game play builds organically throughout the game as various cards come into play that interact with other cards, creating interesting combinations of effects. This is really the meat and potatoes of the game strategy as each player must consider carefully the effect a played card will have on other heroes, the Villain and the environment. Since these complexities grow gradually throughout the game, it’s never overwhelming.

The theme is great. I don’t like comic books. I don’t even like movies based on comic books. But, I still love the theme of this game. You really do feel like a super Hero fighting against a Villain in some fantastic setting, err…Environment. The narrative told by the game is unique with each play. You never know quite what to expect from round to round. The interplay between the Heroes, Villain cards and Environment creates some of the starkest images of action I have ever experienced in a game. So, if the story being told by the game is important to you, Sentinels delivers in spades. It is this aspect of the game alone that enables me over look the inconsistencies and unevenness of the game as a whole. It is unusual for me to forgive a game so many flaws for the sake of one satisfying element, but Sentinels does this so incredibly well that I am willing to forgive a lot for the sake of it.

The game can be very tense. When Sentinels is not busy being incredibly (some players have said stupid) hard, or boringly easy, it can be a pulse pounding, edge of your seat adventure where each new card adds a new dimension to the narrative as it unfolds. Every card and every action counts.

As a co-op game, Sentinels does what the best co-ops do: that is, it really encourages players to work together. Each Hero has cards that interact with the other Hero’s cards. Finding that magic combination of powers and abilities is what makes the game fun and is in most cases required by the game. A group of players that goes into the game where each Hero just concentrates on dealing with the Villain on their own without considering the strengths and weaknesses of their allies are not only making things more difficult on themselves, but are entirely missing the point of the game.

There is no player elimination. Even when a Hero is reduced to zero hit points, they still have a limited set of unique abilities they can use each turn. So, there is no player elimination. While vanquished Heroes certainly have a reduced role, chances are the game is nearing completion when the Heroes start to drop, so you will not likely find yourself waiting long for the game to end once your character dies.

There are plenty of difficult decisions. The players need to decide which cards to put into play on their turn and which Villain cards and Environment cards to deal with first. Despite this, analysis paralysis does not appear to be an issue. Game play flows pretty smoothly and only bogs down when some of the more complex card interactions come into play.

Game length is a great plus as well. Sentinels is more than a filler, and your average game should last around an hour which is perfect for what Sentinels delivers.

Sentinels provides tons of replayability. Ten Heroes, four Villains and four Environments with more Heroes, Villains and Environments on the way via expansions provides for many unique combinations during game setup. That said, two games with the exact same setup of Heroes, Villain and Environment is likely to play completely different from each other.

In conclusion, this is a great, but flawed, game. I don’t think the flaws themselves are insurmountable, but as it stands the game does not seem to be entirely ready for release. Sentinels needs a few tweaks; some advice on character combinations and Villain/Environment decks along with a few card/deck changes here and there. For now, I am done introducing this to new players. Until I can wrap my head around these combinations and know which Villain/Environment combo to bring into each game situation, I am not going to risk spoiling this game for more players. The fact is, there are many other great games out there, that are enjoyable and balanced from the first play and I do not see myself investing the time this game requires. I will continue to peck at it, but I ultimately see this one not hitting the table due to the uneven game play. And that really is a shame because there is a fantastic game lurking under the surface.

Score 6.5/10.
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Chad Ries
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I remember back in 1993 when a little-known card game hit the market. It had ridiculous balance issues. Some games cold be done on the first turn, some could stretch on for more than an hour. Some cards were horribly unbalanced, while others were close to useless and never played. And don't get me started on playing for ante. There were hundreds of cards to memorize to be competitive. The handlers of the game, however, did their best to address those issues in further expansions to the game, streamlining rules, compiling FAQs. Despite all their efforts--at one point though--the design got so bad that the game almost died. Luckily, it was saved from obscurity by bringing the right people on board to save it. Today, the game is thriving. Some say it is more popular than ever.

That game--even to this day--has a multitude of card interactions going on at all times in any given game. With thousands of cards in its canon, this once little card game is no longer so little, and if a player is not familiar with newer or older cards, there is a lot of time spent reading cards and assessing that card's effects on the game space and on other cards, leading to some games becoming a tedious experience. That card game has an almost infinite amount of information to keep track of, yet the game is thriving.

The main reasons that game survived its growing pains were because it was a great game despite its flaws, it had immense feeling of story, and it was just plain fun!

Sentinels of the Multiverse is in good company.
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Jeffery Bass
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Well done! Thanks for providing such a well thought out review. I think you very clearly expressed the good and the not-so-good about this game. For me, the depth of the character universe the designer created provides a degree of enjoyment because the creator's style is bold, assured and permeates throughout. The "charisma" of the designer's imprint on a game makes up for a lot in terms of how the game feels and how I react to it, beyond the game play, alone. Perhaps others feel the same. Of course we are all looking for those perfect games that hit on all cylinders. Again, thanks for a great review.
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Great review - I think I'll hold off on this one in light of it. I'm tough on the art itself and from what I can see it's not that great (just my opinion, though)...
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magehammer wrote:


The main reasons that game survived its growing pains were because it was a great game despite its flaws, it had immense feeling of story, and it was just plain fun!


Please tell me that you're not referring to M:TG when you say "it had an immense feeling of story" because it absolutely had nothing of the sort when it first came out - especially its first several years, when it proffered up some of the most bland, banal background tripe ever published in a fantasy-based game.

That being said, these days, it's way cooler in that regard and I find it mostly interesting now compared to its fugly past.
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David Debien
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magehammer wrote:
I remember back in 1993 when a little-known card game hit the market. It had ridiculous balance issues. Some games cold be done on the first turn, some could stretch on for more than an hour. Some cards were horribly unbalanced, while others were close to useless and never played. And don't get me started on playing for ante. There were hundreds of cards to memorize to be competitive. The handlers of the game, however, did their best to address those issues in further expansions to the game, streamlining rules, compiling FAQs. Despite all their efforts--at one point though--the design got so bad that the game almost died. Luckily, it was saved from obscurity by bringing the right people on board to save it. Today, the game is thriving. Some say it is more popular than ever.

That game--even to this day--has a multitude of card interactions going on at all times in any given game. With thousands of cards in its canon, this once little card game is no longer so little, and if a player is not familiar with newer or older cards, there is a lot of time spent reading cards and assessing that card's effects on the game space and on other cards, leading to some games becoming a tedious experience. That card game has an almost infinite amount of information to keep track of, yet the game is thriving.

The main reasons that game survived its growing pains were because it was a great game despite its flaws, it had immense feeling of story, and it was just plain fun!

Sentinels of the Multiverse is in good company.


The comparisons to Magic are going to be inevitable for this game. I intentionally avoided mentioning Magic in the review. As far as balance issues in Magic vs the same in Sentinels: Sentinels is an LCG and Magic is a CCG. That said, an LCg inherently should have a much stronger grip on play blaance due to the planned nature of the releases. To go a step further, this is a review of the BASE game. No expansions have been added at this time that will inevitably mess with the play balance. Given that the base game is already so uneven, expansions have a tall order to fulfill in that they need to not only expand on what is out there, but work towards a blance the game is currently lacking.
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David Debien
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SkyGazer wrote:
Well done! Thanks for providing such a well thought out review. I think you very clearly expressed the good and the not-so-good about this game. For me, the depth of the character universe the designer created provides a degree of enjoyment because the creator's style is bold, assured and permeates throughout. The "charisma" of the designer's imprint on a game makes up for a lot in terms of how the game feels and how I react to it, beyond the game play, alone. Perhaps others feel the same. Of course we are all looking for those perfect games that hit on all cylinders. Again, thanks for a great review.


I agree as well. I love what the game is trying to do and almost, but not quite, succeeds at. I am routing for the game designers to turn this into a real winner and I will continue to work on my own approach to the game. I so want to love it and I am almost, but not quite there. I keep hoping that next play will provide my "AHA" moment. When, and if, that happens I will be more than happy to provide a rebuttal to my own negatvies in the above.
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Chad Ries
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I trust the passion the Greater Than Games guys have shown so far for their creation will also translate to them heeding what needs to be improved in their games. I believe the game will only get better because they will respond to the criticisms with improvements and tweaks, and because its strengths far outweigh its flaws.

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Chad Walton
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The "Wrest the Mind" card you complained about (among a few others) has been changed. I know this because I had a post complaining about the same card...

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Erik Rodriguez
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I'll address a few of your complaints:

1. There are some broken card combinations

-Yes, but this is true of practically ever card game, hence the invention of card banning, card limiting, and card erratas (which there are several of on the official Sentinels of the Multiverse forums). Granted this is something that can be reduced with additional playtesting, but you have to remember that this is Greater Than Games' first game and the company is made up of only 3 people.

2. The game does not scale well from 3 to 5 players.

-This is a common complaint I see on these forums but it's not 100% true. Different villains and environments have varying levels of difficulty. If you are going to fight Baron Blade with 5 players in Megalopolis then you are going to face roll him. Now if you try to fight Citizen Dawn on Advanced mode on Mars Base you will get destroyed (this happened to my play group today ). It takes about 4 or more plays to understand how the environments and villains rank in difficulty (it can take more if you don't mix up the environments and villains you play against very much). Granted this brings up your complaint about having to play the game several times to get a better feeling for its difficulty levels which is a very valid complaint that I do agree with.

3. The game difficulty varies from very easy to impossible somewhat randomly

-I believe this is a side effect of having a card driven game. Sometimes the players get amazing draws and the villains and environments get sub-par draws (and sometimes the opposite happens).

4. There is too much to keep track of with all the cards.

-This is another complaint I see a lot here but I'm just not personally seeing it. I've never had trouble keeping track of what's going on. I keep track of the environment cards, villain cards, and all players' cards and have never had trouble with it (even with 5 players). This helps the game flow very quickly as I can keep people on track. An average round (from start of villain turn to end of environment turn) in a game that I'm running takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on how long the other players take to decide on their actions.

I have seen other players try to play the game without my help and I notice it runs much slower with a lot of card effects being forgotten. This makes me think that I'm just very good at this sort of thing and the game, as you said, actually has too much for the average person to track.

5. The environment deck is too small and repetitive

-I disagree. I think the environments do an excellent job of making the game feel like I'm actually fighting in different locations. When I fight on Insula Primalis (sp?) I actually feel like I'm fighting in some sort of Jurassic Park with all these dinosaurs running around chomping on minions and heroes.

6. Card stock is too thin.

-Yes. I recommend buying some penny sleeves to protect them (should only be about $6 to sleeve the whole set and they seem to do a great job).

Whenever I play this game I always have a good time. Doesn't matter if I stomp the villain (which happened in a group of 3 earlier today) or if I get utterly destroyed (which happened in a group of 5 today). The tactical play reminds me of a ccg and its always fun discovering new combos (Visionary's Twist the Ether with Ra and Flesh of the Sun God ).

I would speculate that the people in your group that were bored with the game probably don't enjoy the deck/card game genre very much. Everyone in my gaming group that I introduced this game to (7 people now) loves this game; however, when I introduced this game to my fiance she didn't like it (she doesn't like card games - she prefers Catan, Carcassone, Agricola, etc.).

I appreciate you taking the time to write this review. It sounds like you really wanted to like the game but its just not hitting the right note with you.

Edited a million times for spelling, grammar, tone, and clarity.
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A quick comment on sleeving:

I sleeved the game with the cheap Mayday 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 (green label) clear sleeves. The sleeve fit is good, and all of the cards will still go back in the box. It's close, but there is just enough space. It's almost like the box was designed for exactly that purpose. Of course, there's no way an expansion is going to fit in there now...
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Andy Andersen
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Excellent review.
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David Debien
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Orangemoose wrote:
Excellent review.


Thank you, sir. This was my first game review. I felt compelled to write it as all of the reviews for Sentinels at this time were filled with nothing but praise.

I do like the game, but I wanted to present a counter point to all the prospective buyers out there. I purchased the game based on the reviews and in retrospect am a little flabergasted at the efusive praise the game has received, especially after most of the people I introduced it to did not like it at all.
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Andy Andersen
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casualgod wrote:
Orangemoose wrote:
Excellent review.


Thank you, sir. This was my first game review. I felt compelled to write it as all of the reviews for Sentinels at this time were filled with nothing but praise.

I do like the game, but I wanted to present a counter point to all the prospective buyers out there. I purchased the game based on the reviews and in retrospect am a little flabergasted at the efusive praise the game has received, especially after most of the people I introduced it to did not like it at all.


Could not have guessed it was your first - don't make it the last.
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magehammer wrote:
I remember back in 1993 when a little-known card game hit the market. It had ridiculous balance issues. Some games cold be done on the first turn, some could stretch on for more than an hour. Some cards were horribly unbalanced, while others were close to useless and never played. And don't get me started on playing for ante. There were hundreds of cards to memorize to be competitive. The handlers of the game, however, did their best to address those issues in further expansions to the game, streamlining rules, compiling FAQs. Despite all their efforts--at one point though--the design got so bad that the game almost died. Luckily, it was saved from obscurity by bringing the right people on board to save it. Today, the game is thriving. Some say it is more popular than ever.

That game--even to this day--has a multitude of card interactions going on at all times in any given game. With thousands of cards in its canon, this once little card game is no longer so little, and if a player is not familiar with newer or older cards, there is a lot of time spent reading cards and assessing that card's effects on the game space and on other cards, leading to some games becoming a tedious experience. That card game has an almost infinite amount of information to keep track of, yet the game is thriving.

The main reasons that game survived its growing pains were because it was a great game despite its flaws, it had immense feeling of story, and it was just plain fun!

Sentinels of the Multiverse is in good company.


1) This game being "Magic" does not validate the problems in another game.
2) Just because Magic was a big hit, and perhaps the biggest monetary success doesn't mean everyone thinks this turned out to be a good game.
3) I hope the Sentinels engine is adaptable to become as mechanically great of a game as it is thematically great!
4) Great review OP. I believe my praises and critisizms will be the same as yours. But I'm still looking forward to exploring this game!
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[/q] 1) This game being "Magic" does not validate the problems in another game.
2) Just because Magic was a big hit, and perhaps the biggest monetary success doesn't mean everyone thinks this turned out to be a good game.
3) I hope the Sentinels engine is adaptable to become as mechanically great of a game as it is thematically great!
4) Great review OP. I believe my praises and critisizms will be the same as yours. But I'm still looking forward to exploring this game![/q]

1. No, it does not; nor does a lot of tracking of stats and a few design issues make a bad game.
2. Magic wasn't a great game or SotM not a great game?
3. It is already mechanically and thematically great. All great games have some growing pains.
4. A sound and fair review; I concur. The game is a good one. You will have fun exploring it for sure.
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casualgod wrote:
Orangemoose wrote:
Excellent review.


Thank you, sir. This was my first game review. I felt compelled to write it as all of the reviews for Sentinels at this time were filled with nothing but praise.

I do like the game, but I wanted to present a counter point to all the prospective buyers out there. I purchased the game based on the reviews and in retrospect am a little flabergasted at the efusive praise the game has received, especially after most of the people I introduced it to did not like it at all.


This was your first review wow? You could have fooled me. You provide ample reasoning behind all of your claims and articulate it beautifully.
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Yeah, great review. Please review more games so I can add you to my 'watch' list.

Jorune
 
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Jorune wrote:
Yeah, great review. Please review more games so I can add you to my 'watch' list.

Jorune


My second review is here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/715649/an-attempt-at-a-b...

Thanks for your kind words!

Regarding writing more, I have a lot to say about a lot of games. Fortunately, this site already has so many great reviews that most of what I have to say has already been said. I refuse to write a review simply to regurgitate what others have already said. I wrote this SotM review to rebuttal all of the gushy reviews about this game that came before and I felt that my Space Empires review addressed many issues others were having with the game.

I should be receiving Mage Knight Board Game tomorrow and I will be playing it a lot over the holidays. Once I have had a chance to play it and compose my thoughts, I will consider writing a review of it if I have anything new to say about it.

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Nice review! This is one of the top things on my list and I'm interested to see what people think of the new edition. That said I'm still waiting, I can only spend so much on boardgames and my budget is spent. Also this is something I think will continued to get printed. It looks like a solid product that will get better as time goes by.
 
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miar wrote:
Nice review! This is one of the top things on my list and I'm interested to see what people think of the new edition. That said I'm still waiting, I can only spend so much on boardgames and my budget is spent. Also this is something I think will continued to get printed. It looks like a solid product that will get better as time goes by.


You can get Scratch & Dent (only box affected, not cards) versions for 50% off -- http://greaterthangames.info/store/
 
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Matt Ramsey
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arenson9 wrote:
miar wrote:
Nice review! This is one of the top things on my list and I'm interested to see what people think of the new edition. That said I'm still waiting, I can only spend so much on boardgames and my budget is spent. Also this is something I think will continued to get printed. It looks like a solid product that will get better as time goes by.


You can get Scratch & Dent (only box affected, not cards) versions for 50% off -- http://greaterthangames.info/store/


I thought about that but if I do get it I would much rather have the new version than the old. I'm not in the US which ups the price because of the shipping. I also don't see this disappearing anytime soon.
 
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Yup, get the new version! But the downside is that you can't play this game until August.
 
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magehammer wrote:
I remember back in 1993 when a little-known card game hit the market. It had ridiculous balance issues. Some games cold be done on the first turn, some could stretch on for more than an hour. Some cards were horribly unbalanced, while others were close to useless and never played.


You're talking about Magic: the Gathering. Gotcha.

casualgod wrote:

The comparisons to Magic are going to be inevitable for this game.


I don't think it makes a lot of sense to compare these two games. Here's why.

Magic invented a game genre. There was nothing even close to Magic before it was made. (If I'm wrong on this, please someone educate me.)

The influence of Magic is still seen in a large number of other card based games, CCGs, LCGs and stand alone card games like SotM.

Unique decks per player, tapping cards to show they've been used, the difference between one-shot cards and permanents, graveyard manipulation, card advantage, there are more I'm sure.

SotM builds on what has come before. WoW the CCG has a card that represents your character's base stats, a deck which represents your capabilities and it can be played against a raid deck, much like the villain deck in SotM.

SotM uses paper AI but that's found in most co-op games so that's not new either.

None of this is meant as a knock to SotM. But SotM has not invented a genre, it has not invented a unique style of play.

Magic's longevity is partly due to the fact that it is a constantly evolving rule set that allows for a variety of forms and levels of competition. The ability to design one's own deck (or copy someone else's) is a huge draw as well.

And that's before we get into the metagame aspect of Magic which has been a part of it since the beginning.

SotM has none of that. It's a game that comes in a box and its pieces are static. The only variation is the set of pieces with which you choose to play any given session.

It might be more appropriate to compare this to some of FFG's LCGs, but even those have more in common with Magic than SotM does.
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