Type: Co-Op / Card Game
Time to play: 45-60 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)
Best played with: 4 Player (1 – 5 Players)
Want to be a superhero? Want to team up with your friends and form Justice League / Avengers style? Well the base game of Sentinels of the Multiverse is just that – form up a team of 2-5 heroes and go for it.
In this review, I am just looking at the base game in the box and on Steam downloadable version of the game. It’s a simple and straight forward game that you can teach as you go and pick up very quickly. As ever, this review will hopefully cover the basic mechanics of the game and the way the game plays. There’s plenty in this one!
So what exactly is this then – it’s a simple card game built out of a series of small decks (one for each hero, villain and environment). You can pull together any combination of these to form your game and that means that in the base game alone there is a huge amount of variety. The game offers up enough villains, heroes and environments to keep changing the game experience each time you play.
Each hero has an asymmetric deck, a deck that will allow you to contribute your own unique ability to the team. You could be Legacy, a character driven to prevent damage to others. Bunker, a character that builds up through the game to unleash an arsenal of firepower in the late stages. There are many characters, many familiar themes and structures, but you will be able to throw them together in any combination to create your bespoke team.
Each villain is completely different. Each starts in a simple format and evolves and develops as the game progresses. Perhaps getting more aggressive as they run out of life, or building a minion army to attack.
Each environment can change the game as well – small critters indiscriminately attacking players and villains, or large damage being built up for the future. Combining these with the way your heroes and villain work is exceptionally subtle and complex, but so simply constructed by picking the deck out of the box and lining it up.
All these little mechanics build up a player experience of battling through an increasingly difficult fight, losing one or more heroes along the way, but reaching a final moment – either you will win or you will get crushed by the growing strength of the foe. It’s a crescendo to a heroic moment or the inevitable collapse under the pressure of the game.
This is common in co-ops, a growing sense that the game will defeat you if you give it enough time. A sense that you are always pushing towards a goal, a victory condition or some achievement but with the constant risk of loss and the games overwhelming ability to create new problems / new fires to fight and more damage to your character. That’s just the same here, you are fighting to get the villain but knowing that as each character falls you are getting closer to losing.
The distinctive way this game plays out is through the usual drawing of cards by each player, the individual choices of each player and the opportunity for each player to contribute meaningfully to the team’s victory. The environment and the villain are controlled through the text on the cards – controlled by the game automatically. You need to focus on the heroes’ choices / responses.
Now that brings one issue to the forefront. The administration in this game is very heavy and very regular. Lots of cards to read, and lots of effects to apply. When you play the game in Steam on the computer, it runs all this for you – this is invaluable to me, but many players love uncovering the actions of the villain and the minions, working these through. However, I would prefer to focus on the positive actions of the heroes and having a computer run the rest is helpful.
Also, whilst this game is innovative and compelling there is a challenge in this game – the game can feel like a puzzle that plays out from the choices you initially make. These choices that you make on heroes, villain and environment play out through the game – sometimes making the game simple and sometimes making the game seemingly impossible. This feeling that the biggest decisions are at the outset has led some to say this is a puzzle that you choose a path from at the start, and then see through.
These challenges aside, there’s a highly thematic and engaging game built on a comic book genre of its own. If this is your kind of game, then there’s a lot of variants here for you to enjoy.
- If you like highly thematic traditional co-op games, this is one for collection and has loads of expansions to keep the variation going
- If you hate small text and lots of reading – this takes a long time to get used to, so be patient or download the computer version
- If you win, try a new set of heroes and a new villain