Thank you for checking review #67 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
A mad scientist holds the world hostage with his terrifying inventions. An alien warlord from a far away galaxy brings his limitless army of bizarre minions to conquer the planet. A giant rampaging robot cuts a swath of destruction across the coast, destroying major population centers. And who will stand in their way? A team of heroes, all with impressive powers and abilities stand between the world and the forces of evil. Will you help them? Answer the call to protect the multiverse!
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative, fixed-deck card game with a comic book flavor. Each player plays as one of ten heroes, against one of four villains, and the battle takes place in one of four different dynamic environments.
Each player, after selecting one of the heroes, plays a deck of 40 cards against the villain and environment decks, which “play themselves”, requiring the players to put the top card of the appropriate deck into play on the villain and environment turns. On each player’s turn, they may play a card from their hand, use a power printed on one of their cards in play, and draw a card from their deck. Each round starts with the villain turn, continues clockwise around the table, then concludes with the environment turn. Each villain has various advantages, such as starting with certain cards in play, as specified by the villain character card. Play continues until the heroes reduce the villain to 0 or fewer HP, or until the villain defeats the heroes, either via a win condition or by reducing all the heroes to 0 or fewer HP.
Gameplay differences for 1 Player
Technically, even when playing solo there should be a team of 3-5 heroes facing the villain. So the real difference here is how many hero decks you are willing to control during the game. I find 3 to be a nice number for making a balanced team, although I’ve gone as high as 5 in the digital version of the game (review on that coming soon…). By controlling all of the heroes yourself, there are some serious benefits and detriments that pop up.
The benefit comes from an ease of coordinating a strategy among the team of heroes. This allows you to tackle some mighty challenges that could otherwise get thrown off with imperfect information and imperfect coordination. It also allows you to make that perfect pairing without personal preference for heroes getting in the way of the ideal match-up.
The drawback is keeping tabs on what you have in each hand as you go. Some characters can end up drawing a ton of cards, forcing you to try and remember everything you’ve seen so far.
This is the superhero game I wanted when I first discovered Marvel Legendary a few years ago. As a fan of the superhero genre, this delivers the experience I would want and more. The base game provides ten unique heroes, each feeling different to play as than the other ones in the set. It provides four villain battles that can, and most of them frequently will, push your team to the limit. Each villain operates differently as they work toward their own dastardly plan. The only tragedy is that there aren’t real comics featuring these characters, bringing their stories to life.
I want to emphasize here: every single character, villain, and environment deck in the game feels unique. As you branch out into expansions you’ll get some with similar strengths (i.e. several characters who are really good at hitting things hard) but how they accomplish that can vary wildly. Even in the base game, there are a lot of character combinations that you can run against each villain and environment pairing to get a different challenge each time.
The gameplay on this is simple in structure: Play a card, use a power, draw a card. I love the simplicity of the game, and how MOST turns are that straightforward. Certain heroes can break that mold, but rarely in a way that really bogs down and ruins the flow of the game. Even the environment and villain turns are pretty easy to navigate, as they involve resolving start of turn effects, playing the top card of the deck, and resolving any end of turn effects.
The game scales well based on Hero count, which is a great strength and also why it wouldn’t be ideal to play with fewer than 3 heroes (damage that is H-2 becomes 0, for instance, which is not the intent. The baddie should almost always hit when the card intends for it to hit). When playing solo, any combination of 3-5 heroes will play well for you because the enemies scale in power with the number of heroes.
Even when a hero is knocked out of the fight, they aren’t completely out. I love the idea that they still can help support with their reverse side. Is it as interesting as playing cards from your deck? No. But this solves the problem of player elimination in a game that will frequently exceed the advertised 30-60 minute time printed on the box.
I am putting this as a strength here, but some might view it as a negative (my wife might be one of those…) – every card in every deck will tell you what it does. Some are simple in the effect, while others have a fair amount of text. Everything you need to know is self-contained on the card, but you’ll have to do a lot of reading of the cards. Not just your own, but the villain and environment cards as they surface, too. And the villain card itself. There is a lot to track, which excites me as a player as it adds layers to the gameplay. But there will definitely be those who see this and run far away in the other direction.
Until you know the decks and how they operate, you can get stuck in some bad situations. The game doesn’t tell you not to bring a team of The Visionary, Tachyon, and Absolute Zero against Citizen Dawn for your first game. You’ll likely get crushed, as The Visionary and Tachyon aren’t known for dropping a lot of damage (they have some ways, but that isn’t their focus) and Absolute Zero is an absolute beast to effectively play (which is why I have a strategy guide for him!) and Citizen Dawn is arguably the most difficult villain in this box to face. One really bad first play could ruin the experience enough that it never sees the light of day again. Thankfully, many decks are fairly intuitive and can find some ways to work together with whatever other heroes they pair up with so the horrible situations are few and far between, but there is definitely going to be a learning curve on how to best use any of the heroes and to know what cards are in their decks.
While there is a lot of replay value in the box, it is limited at the same time because this game benefits from variety. There is a ton of expansion content you can pick up to expand the game, and you’re going to want to eventually pick them up. If you’re looking for a one-time purchase that you can be happy with for a hundred plays, you can certainly find that with this game. But odds are you are going to want to expand after a dozen or two plays, especially playing solo and controlling 3-5 characters. You’ll get the hero experiences a lot faster than if you always play this with others.
This game’s greatest strength can also be considered its greatest weakness: everything is unique. Playing as Legacy a few times does not prepare you to play The Visionary’s deck. Fighting against Baron Blade does not prepare you to fight against Omnitron. There is a steep learning curve on how to effectively pilot each character’s deck, as well as how to fight against each villain and how every environment deck interacts with said villain. It will take many, many plays to get to a point where you can intuitively construct a strong, well-rounded team to handle the exact challenges that said villain and environment pairing can throw at you.
If there was one complaint that I would wager on hearing, it would be that this game is “fiddly”. I don’t find that to be the case, but I know enough about the term to understand that a player who dislikes having to do upkeep, move cardboard pieces around, and remember to trigger beginning of turn and end of turn effects might find this game to be an unfavorable experience. I have never found the task to be too challenging, and the game includes some excellent cardboard reminders you can place on cards for effects that they have triggered. Also, d10 are a godsend for tracking HP values on cards, as they allow you to see quickly who has the lowest/highest HP. They don’t come in the game, but are the one investment that will definitely help with some of the upkeep on the game.
This is one of those weird games to define for me, personally. I love this game and the superhero theme that it perfectly executes. This is everything I could ever want from this type of game, and one I will always enjoy playing. But I doubt it will ever be among my absolute favorite games (read: Top 5), even though I really, really enjoy the game. And I can’t really put my finger on the reason why. Maybe I haven’t experienced it enough yet, having only about a dozen non-digital plays (and another 6-7 digital). I don’t have all of the characters and combinations available, nor have I mastered every character I do own right now.
This is a game I’ll pull off and teach to any who are interested and willing. I have a friend who I regularly watch the Marvel films with, and he’s the first on my list of friends to teach this game to. It is a game I know my wife will never love, despite her willingness to watch superhero movies, due to its cooperative nature and the amount of text reading this requires in a hero deck. And I’m okay with that – thus why the review is from the solo perspective rather than 2+. But I have played it with more, and it provides a fun and interesting experience at all player counts. I prefer 1-3 as the range for players, as the rounds move faster. I would be hard-pressed to play at 5, unless they are all experienced, just because of how bogged down it can become.
Yet this is a game I really enjoy having in my collection, as I love throwing together a few heroes and clashing against a massive villain. I doubt I will ever find a character I love to play more than Fanatic in this game, but I have not met a hero deck I couldn’t at least appreciate playing (even if there are some I definitely do NOT play well…I’m looking at you, Tachyon). The lore behind this game is mind-blowing, and I want to jump out there and start writing short stories about some of these events (or side events that never “appear” in the card game) that are talked about on The Letters Page podcast. With the release of Oblivaeon into the hands of players, the card game has reached its conclusion in terms of content so now is a great time to dive in – you can pick up the box that appeals most to you in terms of the heroes you want to play.
So while this may never be a Top 5 game overall for me, it definitely has earned a place as a Top 5 solo game for me and is one I enjoy just as much when playing with other people. Almost every battle feels epic in a good way, especially after that first round or two where your team of heroes has already lost half of their health and you see no possible way of winning. Until you begin to chain together some impressive cards onto the table, gaining power to hit back hard and take those threats down.
My biggest gripe with it, as a solo game, is that I win too often. Yet it does a great job of making every victory (well, almost every victory) feel like a hard-fought and hard-earned victory. And while I know my wife will never become a convert to the great experience of Sentinels of the Multiverse, I look forward to the day when my children are old enough to play this (with some help reading, perhaps) with me and we can bond as superheroes taking down Baron Blade before he can pull the moon into the earth. And then make our own stories about our favorite heroes and heroines from the game…
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.