Review: Sentinels of the Multiverse
Royce Banuelos/2017-03-27/Game Reviews/
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I have a confession to make…I don’t enjoy RPG’s. I’m a creative person and I enjoy storytelling but I just don’t connect with the structured format of the books. So when I heard all the great things about Sentinels of the Multiverse and how true to form of a comic book it was I was really excited to play it. The word I kept hearing about it was “feel”. It feels like you’re playing a comic book. In Sentinels of the Multiverse all players cooperate as super heroes to defeat a villain. So what makes this game tick and more importantly is it any good?
The rules are simple; play a card, use a power and then draw a card. Each hero is different and is represented by a deck of cards. The decks are all unique and vary in how they affect gameplay. There are also villains and locations, which have their own decks as well. On their turns you simply draw a card and play it to the table. So what are on these cards and how do you win the game? To win you generally have to reduce the villain’s health to zero and as far as what’s on the cards…well…it’s all different. It’s hard to explain but all the cards tell you exactly what they do, for example “Draw 3 cards, play 1 and discard the others.” Some heroes do a lot of damage, some take time to build up and start doing massive damage, some enhance other heroes, and some inhibit the villain deck…just about anything really.
There is a lot of reading involved and tedious upkeep as you’ll continuously have to check cards on the table. At the start of the villain’s turn there could be 3-4 cards that have effects, then 1-2 during the villain’s turn and finally 3-5 at the end of the villain’s turn. With so much variety and the random nature of shuffling decks of cards there is no limit to the number of combinations that could potentially happen. All this sounds like an inflated game of Fluxx but it’s really not. The decks of cards are so well designed that everything feels thematic.
Where SotM achieves so much success is in tying in the theme of superhero comics with a simple and engaging co-op card game. The art and graphic design all pull it together as well, as it feels very much like a living comic book. It’s like an RPG that does all the work for you and all you have to do is play the game. But it’s not without it’s criticism. There is a lot of reading and upkeep involved, you either need one player who wants to “run” the game or everyone willing to “do their part.” Without that the game can fall apart quickly as players find it tedious to continuously read cards on a table.
The text gets tiny at times and occasionally the comic book font is tough to read. So long as you accept these unavoidable faults SotM is a fantastically designed game. It’s a one of a kind game that decided to break several taboos within modern tabletop game design. The biggest taboo is the unbalanced decks, that can sometimes have cards that are way overpowered or just downright useless. In other games this can be a huge flaw but here it feels appropriate, like a DM who will occasionally throw a curve ball your way.
Besides Magic the Gathering I highly recommend SotM for game designers as it’s a treasure trove of simple mechanisms with a lot of theme and synergy. It’s a good game to learn that balance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and usually giving in to feel over analytics makes for a better game. The exuberant reading and upkeep in the game is a yes or no for players so if that is not within your level of comfort SotM is a game to pass up. However for the theme, replay value and simplicity of teaching/playing you can not find any better than Sentinels of the Multiverse.
Verdict: 9 out of 10