Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Warlock's Review: Sentinels of the Multiverse (Enhanced Edition)

As I've mentioned a few times before, when we can't manage to get everyone together on our Friday night game nights, we typically default to a board game night to unwind after a long week.  With the PlatinumChick still suffering the aftereffects of an upper respiratory infection and our newest arrivals at the table AWOL for the evening, we decided to break out my newest acquisition:  Greater Than Games' Sentinels of the Multiverse: Expanded Edition.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Expanded Edition
by Greater Than Games
I first became aware of SotM last year at Origins.  Since the PlatinumChick and I arrived later than our Witt-going comrades, our first day was punctuated by some time in the dealer hall, where we sat down for a demo of SotM.  While I was intrigued by the game--we both really enjoyed the demo session and were interested in an eventual purchase--we were told by one of the >G gang that they'd soon be coming with the Expanded Edition with better packaging and a higher-quality cardstock, so we held off on the purchase for the time being.  However, I stumbled into an Amazon giftcard for Christmas, and decided to pull the trigger on SotM.

Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative card game set within the fictional world of Sentinel Comics.  Players take on the roles of the Sentinel Comics heroes, but any comics fan will immediately note the similarities between these heroes and the various DC and Marvel mainstays.  The Indestructible Bunker, for example, is an unabashed Iron Man homage, while The Wraith is a female pastiche of Batman.  Legacy combines Captain America and Superman, while The Visionary evokes Jean Grey.  Even the villains and environments--controlled collectively by the group--evoke classic Silver Age tropes, including a sentient robotic AI, a "lost world" trapped within a frozen wasteland, and even a rampaging alien warlord.

Gameplay is quick around the table and easy to understand, even as the rules on individual cards stack up.  In a given turn, a player plays a card, uses a power, and draws a card.  Individual cards, representing attacks, equipment, or unique powers, can alter this pattern, though the fundamental rhythm remains the same.  At the end of the heroes' turns, the environment and villain each flip a card from their own decks, representing villainous weaponry, minions arriving on scene, or even events like volcanic eruptions or train collisions.

While one would normally expect such a routine to seem redundant, the exact opposite proves to be true.  Rather, the static pattern allows individual games to run quickly:  a single game at our table, with five people each controlling their own hero, ran around 45 minutes each, which allowed us to try out all the heroes, villains, and environments in the set.  However, what really struck me about SotM--and what really made the game for me--was how unique each of the individual heroes felt, despite using the same fundamental mechanics.  Tachyon, a female speedster, benefited most from burning through her deck as quickly as possible, while Bunker relied more on lasting equipment and alternated through three "modes" which allowed him to focus on either acquiring cards, assembling equipment in play, or laying down the hurt on the villain.

The "Sentinels" of SotM: EE.
Each with their own deck, each with their own theme,
each with a totally different feel!
Even characters with relatively similar roles felt significantly different:  Tempest (a Storm/Aquaman mashup), Ra (a fiery Egyptian homage to Thor), and Absolute Zero (a unique take on Mr. Freeze and WonderMan) are all nominally damage-dealer-type heroes.  However, while Ra can lay down huge amounts of single-target damage via his innate powers and one-shot cards, Tempest spreads around the damage with numerous ongoing cards representing his ability to summon storms.  Absolute Zero, mind you, plays differently than both the aforementioned heroes, redirecting cold and fire damage to both damage his foes and to regenerate his own health.  At the very least, this provides fantastic replay value, but the differences between heroes make each one an enigma to be "figured out," even as you're subject to the whims of the shuffled deck.

I only really have one niggling frustration with Sentinels:  while SotM supports play for five players, we found the game fairly easy, winning all five games we played.  Our closest match was one against the alien conqueror Grand Warlord Voss, as the group of heroes we had chosen weren't able to pump off enough damage to take out Voss's dreadnaughts efficiently.  Even then, we still pulled out a narrow win, with two of our heroes finishing off Voss while the others 'assisted' from their incapacitated states.  I get the impression that the game would be more challenging with either three or four heroes, as we were able to control the flow of the game even from the very outset with minimal difficulties.  We even took down Citizen Dawn--a superhuman-supremacist pastiche of Magneto--on her "advanced" mode without many difficulties whatsoever.  Visionary and Haka (a Maori version of the Hulk) managed to lock down her minions with ease, while Bunker and Tempest laid the proverbial smackdown, with Legacy providing support and buffs.  I'd like to try running a three-person game of SotM in the near future, just to see how the game runs with less players at the table.  It seems like four might be the magic sweet-spot.

Sentinels has proven to be a wild hit since its release in 2011, leading to three expansions and a fourth on the way, after the massive success of the SotM: Shattered Timelines Kickstarter.  Each expansion carries its own theme, bringing new heroes, villains, and environments to the table.  Word is that these expansions also increase the difficulty, as the villains and environments in each are meant to challenge experienced players.  That could be a welcome addition, providing additional variety to an already-varied game with tons of replay value.

Sentinels of the Multiverse was really a hit around our table and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next from Greater Than Games.  I'm hoping to pick up Rook City and Infernal Relics--the first two expansions--sometime soon, though I can't say how soon that might be.  FridayNightWill came away from the table looking for where he could buy his own copy, which might be the highest recommendation I could offer.  These guys are doing it right, and it's great to see a self-funded independent project become so successful.  I have nothing but praise for SotM--pick it up, if you're able.


  1. I've heard it said that the base game tends to result in player victory, especially with certain character combinations. The expansion packs are supposed to make things much harder, although some have complained that the pendulum swung too far with the early ones.

    One thing I especially liked when I played the game was that players who are out can still do something on their turn by giving mechanical benefits to other players. Helps take the sting off of being eliminated.


  2. Much agreed! When we took on Grand Warlord Voss, my hero was incapacitated about midway through the game. However, I still felt like I had a hand in manipulating the game, allowing the remaining players to take additional actions, removing hostile cards, and aiding from the sidelines. It's a nice touch that keeps the game from ending up like "Red Dragon Inn", where ousted players simply have to watch the others finish the game without them.

    I'm eager to see how the expansions amp up the difficulty. I may pick one up sometime soon, just to see how it turns out.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Chaosmancer11:54 AM

    I recently purchased enhanced edition and both expansions (yay christmas and birthday being within a month of each other) and I agree with most everything said. 4 hero games are more difficult for me, but my only partner is my little sister which might account for some of it.

    If you really want to ramp up the difficulty though get Rook City. The Chairman and The Matriarch are two of the most difficult villains in the game from what I've heard. I've been too busy (and a little too nervous) to play them yet, but just looking at their decks I think the rumors are true. Matriarch can get ridiculous numbers of her bird minions in play in a single turn, and deal you decent damage for each one. It's a nightmare I've heard


  4. FridayNightWill and I played against The Chairman, running two heroes each, and managed to take him down with not too many problems. Our heroes managed his minions pretty easily, though we did have some difficulties in terms of The Operative.

    I've heard horror stories about The Matriarch, primarily because much of the strategy surrounding defeating her comes from clogging her deck, rather than defeating her minions (as you'd expect from The Chairman or Warlord Voss). I'll be interested to see how she plays out!

    I'm hoping to pick up the expansions at one of the coming conventions. I'm half tempted to push the Guild towards asking the >G gang to come to WittCon--they're only over in Indianapolis!