Board Gaming · Strategy

Sentinels of the Multiverse Strategy: Absolute Zero

(Note: My friend, Steve, is a very skilled Absolute Zero player, so anything added in italics below indicates his additional thoughts on this…which will help to make this guide even better!)

Back in March you, the readers, voted on who I would talk strategy for next, and the votes rolled in for the frozen man himself, Absolute Zero. And after three months of tinkering with him far more than I wanted to, I have to confess that I still don’t feel like I can contribute a high-level analysis of how to effectively pilot his deck. However, for those who are wanting some clear direction on where to even begin with him, this might be a great benefit for you! Because wow, it took a lot of plays to start to feel like I was getting his deck to work efficiently enough to function!

The four versions of Absolute Zero

Standard version Absolute Zero – 29 HP, Power: Thermodynamics – Absolute Zero deals himself either 1 Cold Damage or 1 Fire Damage.

I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing, too, when I first pulled this guy out. What? His power is to hit himself? Yep. The key here isn’t apparent until you find some of his cards in the deck that synergize with this, allowing him to deal damage to non-hero targets or to heal himself via this baseline damage. Is it situational? Absolutely. Does it make no sense to do sometimes? You betcha. Can it be a good and worthwhile power? You’d better believe it. And that, in a nutshell, sums up Absolute Zero: he needs the right combos of cards to really shine.

Termi-Nation version Absolute Zero – 25 HP, Power: Violent Shivers – Until the end of your next turn, increase all Damage dealt to and by Absolute Zero by 2.

Hey AZ, you aren’t helping your own cause, here! 25 health isn’t that hot, and making it so you’re taking 2 more damage for a full round can be beyond dangerous. Yet there are some serious benefits, once again, that can be found in running this version. That boosted damage is N-I-C-E when you need it, and it works especially well when you’re dropping Ice damage on yourself in order to heal that much health instead. Or when you want to spike some serious damage onto the enemy(s) out there. I wouldn’t say this is his best version, but I do think it is a step up from the vanilla Absolute Zero in terms of feeling like it is useful.

Freedom Five version Absolute Zero – 28 HP, Power: Pilot Light – Absolute Zero deals himself 2 Fire damage. If he takes damage this way, search your Deck for an Ongoing Card and put it into play. Shuffle your deck.

This is the version of Absolute Zero that really starts to feel like there is some utility to that base power outside of situational plays. Again he deals himself damage, something you should be expecting by now. But in exchange he’s digging into the deck to pull out cards and put them into play. This is the AZ that can get set up a little faster with those essential cards, making him far less dependent upon good draws. They still help, for sure, but this version is great to run because he feels more efficient than the other versions. There is a sense of control that comes from this power, and it is equally nice to be able to reset quickly if you get an unlucky wipe of ongoings.

Freedom Six version Absolute Zero – 28 HP, Power: Elemental Wrath – Absolute Zero deals 1 non-Hero target 2 Cold damage.

It feels like this version is out of place. Almost like the developers kept hearing complaints about the difficulty in using Absolute Zero and so they catered with a base form that has a power that deals damage to something other than himself. It was the form I gravitated toward early when running his deck, and with good reason. This is definitely the best one when learning how to use this deck, but I don’t think it is the best version of Absolute Zero. I’d say it is better than the base version, but worse than the other two overall as you get more familiar with the cards in his deck and how best to employ them.

Opening Moves

Obviously, with no way to mulligan a bad hand an the restriction of drawing 4 cards, there are limited ways to affect this. You’re at the mercy of the card draw. However, these are the cards that get me excited when I see them to open play and why they are great this early in the game.

Glacial Structure

This card is nice because it helps you to start digging. It isn’t his best digging card, but it is going to get more of your deck into the hand and has a chance of pulling non-Module cards that you need to get set up. I wish it was a One Shot instead of an Ongoing, but it is still nice to get it out there early so you can turn it into more cards in your hand.

(Glacial structure is a card a lot of people wish was a one shot, but the way it’s written, it speeds him up by two turns. normally, in order to draw two cards you have to skip a full turn. glacial structure allows him to more or less either A.) skip a turn to draw 4 cards (play GS, use GS power, draw at end) or B.) use a potentially wasted card play to set up for a later power use that would be wasted to allow for flexibility to draw cards. it also works for Fueled Freeze Fodder.)

Onboard Module Installation

This one is one of the most likely cards to see in the hand, as there are 4 of them in the deck. It is an excellent card because it includes drawing a card, searching for a Module card, and then playing a card. Talk about efficiency! Unfortunately there are only two different modules this can pull out, but they are both excellent cards to get onto the board as quickly as possible.

Isothermic Transducer

This card is the one I will almost always dig for first of his two Module cards because it allows you to deal damage whenever he takes Fire Damage. There are plenty of ways for him to deal that damage to himself, but there are also ample situations that deal Fire Damage via Environment and Villain cards and those are the best situations when this is in play. “Oh, you want to burn me for 2 damage? Right back atcha, buddy, only this is going to be COLD.” Which gets even better if you can find…

Focused Aperture

This one is outstanding to play on the first turn because so much Cold Damage is in his arsenal. It pairs well with that Isothermic Transducer, allowing you to get even better on the exchange rate involved. I love that this card is simple and straightforward, something lacking often in Absolute Zero’s decks.

Cryo Chamber

The beauty of this card comes from pairing it with Isothermic Transducer. It is much like Focused Aperture in helping offset to damage balance of taking damage vs. dealing it, but in a more useful way because it reduces the damage you take from Fire while increasing your Cold damage. Which, with the Isothermic Transducer, means you’ll take one less damage to still deal out the same amount you would have without this card. Since AZ has a relatively low health to begin with at times, anything to reduce that damage coming in is really helpful.

***

An overall tactic that I tend to employ with Absolute Zero is to get set up as fast as possible, which can be seen by the favoring of card draw, retaliatory damage, and boosted damage. If you can get Cryo + Aperture + Transducer on the board in the first 5 turns, you’ll be set to really drop the freeze on the villains as the game progresses. Without those cards, you can often feel like his deck is treading water, relying on One Shot cards to do a little damage and hoping to get a useful Power off from time to time.

Mid-Game Strategies

This is where Absolute Zero can either start to shine (if the above combinations have been found) or really start to feel like he’s being pulled along by the other Heroes involved in the battle. Apart from seeking out the above combinations, here are a few of the cards that can be really good at this point:

Null-Point Calibration Unit

This card is nice because it helps to offset the damage Absolute Zero is soaking up (much by his own hand). There are a lot of ways for him to deal himself Cold damage, so you’re almost always going to be able to regain HP as needed when this is in play. It isn’t so much of an excellent early-game card, though, as you’re usually not hurting too bad for the HP. But you definitely want to get this out there before things get too far out of hand.

(I tend to dig for his null point faster than his isothermic, because the self healing can really help out in those opening moves, keeping him higher up.)

Coolant Blast

This card is fun. In some battles, you want to get this one out early because of the other card interactions out there. For instance, if you’re taking a lot of Fire Damage based on the matchup, you really want to get this into play so Absolute Zero can crank out the damage (which is hopefully reduced AND boosted with the above combos). This also works to use the Power on this card after hitting himself with a Frost-Bound Drain. I’ve gotten this card out too early and had it sit there for a long time without much benefit, which is why I think this is best to consider around the midpoint. If there is another card in your hand, it is usually better to play something else early unless you’re taking Fire Damage (from the Villain/Environment decks or just from your own powers)

Cold Snap

There isn’t a bad time to play this card, but it isn’t one I dig for early. If I have it, the card is absolutely going out because pinging everything for 1 (or 2-3!) Cold damage without using a card play or power each turn is fantastic. But I find that midgame is where I usually have a board state that calls for this to be played because those decks are ramping up in power and getting more things into play. This only shifts into the early state if I am facing something, like Grand Warlord Voss, that drops a ton of things onto the board during setup.

Sub-Zero Atmosphere

Another great card that I don’t mind seeing early but don’t necessarily dig for. At first I didn’t understand the appeal of this card. But then I started to notice that a lot of Villain cards that come out activate the the end of their turn, meaning they hit you before you can react. This changes that dynamic, effectively allowing you a chance to take down the worst of what their deck throws at you before they get a chance to activate. This card is better than any healing card out there or damage mitigation card. This takes the teeth out of their deck and puts it into your control whether or not they’ll get a chance to smack you around or disrupt your board state. Pound-for-pound, this may be the best card in the deck for the team.

(Sub-Zero Atmosphere is a great card, but I would argue that it’s an early game card for one point that you did not cover: it makes all villian card end of turn effects happen at the beginning of the turn….ALL villian cards, including the villain character cards. A lot of villains have effects that happen based on things that are in play or were in play, and this can stall them out and slow them down, exactly what the card was intended for.)

Impale

Continuing the trend, this is another card I’m happy to see early but don’t really dig for it. Big baddie on the board that is going to take a long time to whittle down? This helps by dropping 2+ Cold Damage every time AZ starts his turn. Even better is plopping it onto the Villain, allowing you to always get progress on taking him down even while dealing with what the decks are throwing at you. There are a few matchups where you can’t, or don’t want to, hit the Villain early, but those are fringe cases and eventually this card becomes useful when getting played.

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The mid-game Absolute Zero can be an absolute benefit to have on the team if he is set up properly. That Cold damage flows freely, smacking everything around and dropping damage when he takes Fire Damage himself. When everything is clicking, this deck feels like it could potentially solo some of the matchups out there and live to tell the tale, especially if he can drop some healing on himself as it becomes necessary. Unfortunately, he isn’t always set up perfectly and often I find myself having to deal myself Cold & Fire Damage without gaining any benefit of healing or bouncing back and doing extra damage to the threats on the board. Depending on what is happening during the game, cards like Modular Realignment can be absolutely critical here, and in other situations it can still be sitting in your hand the entire game and never getting used.

Absolute Zero’s Closers

The majority of his deck could be siphoned into this section, as there aren’t really many cards that are only good end-game like what Fanatic had in her deck. However, there are some cards that become better with time given the right board states and setups. Here’s a few that I find can be really fun and useful as the battle is grinding to its bitter end.

Fueled Freeze

Imagine a turn where every non-Hero card in play takes 8 damage. Sounds great, right? If you already have Cold Snap + Cryo Chamber + Focused Aperture in play then your opening turn drops 3 onto them all. In comes a Fueled Freeze, forcing you to destroy up to 3 Ongoing cards (anyone’s, not just his) to deal that much damage to all non-Hero targets. And it is Cold Damage, which means it gets boosted by 2. Dropping that damage will wipe out a lot of most boards, freeing you up to hit that Villain hard to close the game. It isn’t as effective of a board wipe as some other cards, but dropping that damage late while pruning some of the less-useful Ongoing cards can be a real benefit. I find that, too often, the early game and even mid-game are not great times to remove your cards. But when the Villain is on the ropes, this can help speed up the end of a battle.

(As for fueled freeze, you talk about needing to destroy ongoings, but you make it seem like FF requires you to destroy hero ongoings, but it’s great for taking out villian ongoings too.)

Hoarfire

Again, assuming a perfect combo world here (which AZ absolutely depends upon), this card is nice. Hit something for 4 Cold Damage. Blast yourself for a reduced-to-1 Fire Damage. Drop another 3 Cold on something else. Heal yourself for 3 Cold Damage. Hit yourself for a reduced-to-0 Fire Damage. Net gain of 2 HP, dropping of 7 damage onto the board somewhere. This card is okay without this combo. It becomes really good if all the cards are in place.

Thermal Shockwave

This is as close to a finisher card as he has in the deck, and it 100% depends on your HP being high enough. He needs to survive the X Fire Damage dropping onto himself in order to really make this an effective card. With the double boost, this already is throwing out 9 damage. He hits himself for 8 Fire Damage (because it would be reduced by 1) and then drops 10 Cold on something else out there. But that is just getting started. If Cold Snap is in play you might have thrown down 3 damage on every non-Hero card in play. So add more to that Fire damage coming onto AZ (let’s pretend there were only 3 targets). Now he’s done 3 + 3 to everything out there (18 Cold Damage), taking 17 Fire, and then dropping 19 Cold onto one target. That’s 25 damage he can drop on that Villain in the perfect situation, and that doesn’t even include the possibility of using a One Shot prior to activating this. Can you count on pulling this insanity off? Of course not. But if it does work out, he can make really short work of the Villain and bring the game to a quick close.

(his different ongoings are affected by his different base power cards. thermal shockwave plays a HELL of a lot differently if he’s Termi-Nation vs F6.  I tend to use Thermal Shockwave as an opender or midgame, as the consistent damage and healing it’s capable of gets to ludicris levels very quickly)

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Closing thoughts

Overall, Absolute Zero can be an absolute beast if he’s got all of the right cards out on the board and in his hand. More often than not, he’s going to perform somewhere in between okay and great. But if you can get the cards to go the right way, he’ll be nearly impossible to kill and can drop all sorts of damage out there. If he’s getting close to death, then he can use the bound on Isothermic Transducer to hit himself with the Cold Damage just to keep afloat until the right things come along (assuming that Null-Point Calibration Unit is in play…). The fact that I had to add that (assuming…) part in there sums up AZ in a nutshell. His situational nature is what makes him feel really challenging to pilot as a deck because you won’t often have that ideal setup. Usually you’re running with a portion of it up-and-running and doing what you can while watching other decks hit their optimal point faster. But if he does get that board to fill out perfectly, there are few characters I’ve played that can drop the damage as fast as he can from round to round.

I feel like there are three fun pairings for him out of the base set. I like having him and Fanatic together because, as a duo, they can drop 40-50 on that villain late in the game when it all works out correctly. That is enough to salvage even the worst of situations and either win it, or at least give a shred of hope back to the heroes. I like him with Legacy because of the straight boost to power that Legacy often throws out there. He can use and abuse that with the frequent pinging with Cold damage that flows from him. And the most interesting pairing might be Ra, who could hit AZ with Fire Damage to have AZ bounce out an even higher Cold Damage attack. I wouldn’t use that often, but if AZ has the health to spare (or you really need the extra damage out there), this could be a fun tactic to employ. It also helps to work around invulnerabilities, such as when facing Omnitron, because you can shift the type of damage being done.

Coming Soon…

Instead of a ton of Heroes to vote on, here are three I’m looking to get some more plays in. Which of them would YOU like to see a small writeup about? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

Chrono-Ranger
Visionary
Tachyon

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Board Gaming · Strategy · Wargame Garrison

Strategy for 1960: The Making of the President – Part 3: Post-Debate through Election

Welcome to the second of a planned three-part series of posts on 1960: The Making of the President by GMT Games. I was provided a copy of this game in exchange for some strategy posts, and while it took some time to get the opportunities to try the game out, I am very glad I could experience this one. This game definitely encourages many playthroughs to become familiar with the entire deck of cards and how they can impact/influence the game. But I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are closer to my own skill level at the game: beginner. So rather than focusing on specific cards and maximizing their usefulness, I am going to cover some overall strategies that have proven helpful to me (or have been hard lessons learned) across the three phases of the game.

Part 1: The Early Turns

Part 2: The Debates

Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

*****
Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

Now we come to what is, arguably, the most critical time in the game. Your early turns can see a lot of adaptability to the cards being drawn and just plunking down cubes wherever feels like it is a good place. The debates are the part of the game where you can either press to make a huge swing on the board or you can simply ignore them and accept the losses. But you can’t be so free and loose with the final rounds of the game if you want to have a chance to win. You get an extra card every round, although you still play only five of them, and every decision in these rounds will feel critical. These are the final attempts to shift the board into your favor going into Election Day, and the process of election itself which can have some pretty radical ramifications if things go your way.

Tactic#1 – Plan early for the cards you’re dedicating to the Election

In the first half of the game you are saving cards to use in the Debate phase and it needed to focus on candidate symbols, issue markers, and CP. The four cards you save here (two per round) have a very different focus: the state shown in the bottom corner. The cards you set aside will let you draw three cubes from the bag in the Election round to try and place them onto that shown state. So saving a card in a state you are already carrying, or one worth minimal points, might not be an effective use of those cards. On the other hand, there is no guarantee of pulling the cubes you need, so not playing a powerful event isn’t ideal, either.

My personal approach is to look and see if any of those states are controlled by my opponent with only 1 cube on that state. Then I look to see if any match a high-point state my opponent controls. Those are the ones I want to consider first for saving into the Election round. On the other hand, if there is a state I control that my opponent seems to be aiming for, I might keep that card for the election phase to either increase my cubes on there or to wrest it back from them.

Saving the right cards can be important, although not critical. If you really need to gain a particular state, it might be easier to spend the CP during these two turns and take it that way, especially with media support.

Tactic#2 – Media Support is so very important, yet so hard to come by

The power of Media Support going into the Election Day cannot be overstated. The original benefit, which allows you to bypass support checks if your opponent is carrying a state, is worthwhile enough to make spending CP on Media a good strategy. Yes, you have to pull cubes from the bag in order to gain that support, but that also makes it incredibly hard to lose the support to your opponent. Media Support also allows you to continue to flip the position of two adjacent issues on the Issue Track, a key component for gaining momentum and endorsements (more on that in Tactic#3). But even that isn’t the real reason to want to be doing well in Media Support…

In the early part of the Election round, you gain cubes into the bag equal to the Media Support cubes on the board. PLUS those cubes already out for Media Support. This helps to seed the bag with those cubes you want to pull, either when you are trying to win something or as a block when your opponent is pulling cubes. More cubes = better chance that the events during Election Day will go your way. It might be tough to get that Media Support out there. But if you are in a reasonably good position on the board, or if your CP would all be burned just moving or doing support checks, it might be better spent gaining that Media Support.

Tactic#3 – Endorsements can be a board-changing force.

Endorsements can be a funny thing: either they will be extremely ineffective and rendered useless, or they will be a critical piece of your strategy. The only way to gain Endorsements comes from having the 1st or 2nd place Issue at the end of each round. You draw a card, place an endorsement marker in the region shown (or remove one of your opponents’ markers from that area). It serves no purpose until Election day, and even then it only comes into play at the very end. If a state has no cubes on it AFTER the campaign cards are resolved and Election Day events are completed, then the person with Endorsements in that region claims that state’s votes.

This is a way that the Kennedy player, for example, can sweep up a lot of those states in the West that would otherwise default to Nixon.

If there are a good number of vacant states, or if you are playing cards that have a chance of emptying a state your opponent controls, then Endorsements can be really vital as part of your strategy. On the other hand, a board where most worthwhile states already have cubes on them, this might be something you can ignore completely.

The good thing about getting Endorsements in a certain region, though, is that it forces your opponent to react. Such as in the case of being Kennedy, and getting control of Endorsements in the West region. All those states that Nixon was ignoring, assuming they would fall to him, are now up for grabs. This may force them to play defense, moving and spending that critical CP to place cubes over there instead of doing something more devastating.

Tactic#4 – Know when to cut your losses and focus elsewhere

This is something that can be difficult to do. You’re wanting those points in a California or a New York. You feel like you’re behind and that could swing the game in your favor. But they are carrying the state (or, worse, they have their candidate there). You could spend CP after CP pulling cubes from a bag in a desperate attempt to wrest it from them.

Or you could focus elsewhere, and make actual progress that isn’t up to random chance.

The problem with high-scoring states is that they are tempting targets. The good thing is that your opponent likely has more than a few decent states that aren’t nearly as hard to crack. You are more likely to win those battles than getting stuck in a power struggle over a single spot on the board. Trying to get that 45-point state and failing is far worse than picking up 25-30 points in other states. Every point you take from them is really a 2-point swing for you. They can win the five biggest states on the board and still lose if you control enough area. Don’t forget that!

Tactic#5 – Look for events that let you place 5+ cubes throughout the board

One of my best plays in this game came in the final round, playing a card that essentially wiped my opponent out of the South and allowed me to pick them up. He had focused no time down there and had a ton of states with just 1-2 cubes. I was able to spend 7 cubes down there, no more than 2 per state. While he was off winning California from me, I took far more points in two actions (that card, and then an Election Event that took 2 additional states he controlled in the South and made their votes not count). It had been a very close contest until that point, and even though he had a bag seeded full of his cubes the rest of what followed didn’t matter. It caught him off guard and flipped the board in a very meaningful way.

Cards cap out at 4CP. Anything that lets you place 5 or more with a single action are almost always going to be worth playing for the event. This is the time of the game when you need to be dropping cubes like a madman, whether they go onto the map, into the Media Support, or onto the Issue Track. Anything else almost feels like a wasted action.

Tactic#6 – Shoot for 269, but don’t forget to have fun

This part of the game can become mathy. With the wrong players, this can really bog things down if a person looks at their hand and tries to add up the best sequence of cards to play in those final rounds. Be considerate of the person sitting across from you. Yes, this is a game and you’re likely trying to win. So are they, and only one of you will walk away victorious. Don’t suck the joy out of the experience by trying to math out every possible move here.

Instead, target something that you know will provide a strong swing if successful. It doesn’t have to be the “perfect move” to be the right move.

This isn’t a game where you’re simply trying to score more points than your opponent. Every point you score is also a point taken away from them. It is more of a tug-of-war struggle than it is a points race. This can open wounds that you wouldn’t expect as you sweep the board under your dominion.

The point of gaming is to win, but more importantly to have fun. Don’t sacrifice the fun, for either side, in the interest of trying to win. A close game is more likely to earn you a rematch than a one-sided beatdown, after all.

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There you have it, the final piece of the strategy guide for 1960: The Making of the President. This is, overall, a really fun and challenging game. It is far more interesting than the theme might make it sound, and there is a lot of tension to be found from round to round. This is a game that rewards repeated plays, as getting to know the various cards in that deck will help you be able to plan better and know what events should get prioritized for play. I have a long, long way to go to reach that point where I feel like I’ve mastered the game enough to know those things. But these three articles should, hopefully, help you get started down the path of making subtle changes to improve your overall results in the game.

What are some other strategies you might pass along to a newer player of this game?

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at some strategies to employ for the game. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Board Gaming · Strategy · Wargame Garrison

Strategy for 1960: The Making of the President – Part 2: The Debates

Welcome to the first of a planned three-part series of posts on 1960: The Making of the President by GMT Games. I was provided a copy of this game in exchange for some strategy posts, and while it took some time to get the opportunities to try the game out, I am very glad I could experience this one. This game definitely encourages many playthroughs to become familiar with the entire deck of cards and how they can impact/influence the game. But I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are closer to my own skill level at the game: beginner. So rather than focusing on specific cards and maximizing their usefulness, I am going to cover some overall strategies that have proven helpful to me (or have been hard lessons learned) across the three phases of the game.

Part 1: The Early Turns

Part 2: The Debates

Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

*****

We come to what is likely to be the short center of this three-part series. On Monday I covered six strategies to guide you through the early turns of the game. On Friday I plan to cover strategy carrying you through the end of the game. But today I cover that awkward 6th turn: the Debates. This is arguably the shortest round of the game, and some might write it off as being unimportant. And yes, you can still win the game if you do poorly here. You could make a case for “throwing” the debates in order to keep your focus elsewhere. Yet 9 cubes can provide a good swing in key parts of the board and shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.

Tactic#1 – Go into the game with a Debate strategy from Turn 1.

This can be a difficult thing to decide, as you have no knowledge of the hands of cards you will see in turns 2-5. Or what your opponent will keep. At best, you are likely to win 1-2 issues during the debate so keep that in mind. There are a few paths you can walk down:

1. Save two really good cards for two issues (4 cards total) to increase your odds of winning those issues. The final card you save can either be a card you don’t want your opponent to use the event on during regular rounds, or it could be a card of your opponent’s in that third issue category. Why? See Tactic #2 below!

2. Save two really cards for a single issue (2 cards total) and play to win the third issue in the debate for 4 cubes. This will let you “toss” up to three cards that would favor your opponent during those early rounds. Spotting them 5 cubes in the debate should be a reasonable compromise here, as some events can place 5-7 cubes from a single card. If everything plays out how you imagine, at least. Even giving them 7 cubes, winning the first issue in the debate only, could be a very worthwhile play.

3. Ignore the debate strategy completely. Every card you toss will help your opponent in some way. This is especially important if you are getting at least one overpowered event for them each turn and you simply don’t have the Momentum to preempt the event and/or they are never low on Momentum. This becomes the easy decision of avoiding the worst thing in your hand each turn, knowing that they will simply get 9 cubes to place in Turn 6. At least this way you can plan accordingly prior to the debate and try to set up the board so this won’t be as harmful in the end.

Tactic#2 – Try and trigger the first issue for your opponent

This sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a good reason to want them to win first: the first issue to resolve awards 2 cubes. If you want them to win one issue, you want it to be the one that scores first. Alternatively, if there is one issue you want to win then you want it to score last so you can net 4 cubes for the victory. This makes the playing of the cards really interesting, as it only requires the placement of a 2nd card on one side of an issue to trigger it.

What really becomes interesting is when both of you start by playing cards on the opponent’s side. Do they have a 2nd card of that same issue to trigger that issue you saved cards for? It can be a gamble to open by placing on the issue you want to win last. It can equally be a gamble to place completely on their side. Which is why…

Tactic#3 – Initiative matters sometimes.

There is an important benefit to having initiative in the debate: if two issues trigger on the same round, the person with initiative chooses the order that they resolve. There is a cube of difference between 1st and 2nd, or 2nd and 3rd. It doesn’t sound like much, but this is a game where a single cube can make all the difference. Having the ability to choose the order in which they resolve gives you the power to play more aggressively on their side to try and give them the early victories so you can get more cubes on your own issues.

Tactic#4 – Know where to use those cubes you earn

Repeat after me: No support checks = good. Like, really good. Over-powered good. Knowing how to use those cubes effectively is vital to coming out of this round feeling good about the rest of the game. 9 cubes can take a New York or California from being carried by your opponent and make it so you are carrying it instead. That is a huge swing in points. It can be spread across multiple states, allowing placement without spending CP to physically move into that region (Alaska and Hawaii are particularly obnoxious). With even 5 cubes, you can take a state from being carried to having one of yours on it. That is huge. No bag pulls to see if it works. It simply happens. If you are okay with whatever your opponent does here, great. Let them run away with the debates. If your opponent lets you dominate the debates, you can make them pay dearly here by wresting control from their #1 state. Or seeding the board at will. But you need to have an idea of how those are best spent: taking control of a carried state, bumping big states to being carried by you, or gaining control of states far from your candidate.

And there you have it, four simple tips to help with going into the debates. Some might write them off as unimportant, but they can have a big impact. Yes, it might be for a few cubes but those can have incredible power.

What is your preferred approach to the Debates in 1960?

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at some strategies to employ for the game. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Board Gaming · Strategy · Wargame Garrison

Strategy for 1960: The Making of the President – Part 1: The Early Turns

Welcome to the first of a planned three-part series of posts on 1960: The Making of the President by GMT Games. I was provided a copy of this game in exchange for some strategy posts, and while it took some time to get the opportunities to try the game out, I am very glad I could experience this one. This game definitely encourages many playthroughs to become familiar with the entire deck of cards and how they can impact/influence the game. But I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are closer to my own skill level at the game: beginner. So rather than focusing on specific cards and maximizing their usefulness, I am going to cover some overall strategies that have proven helpful to me (or have been hard lessons learned) across the three phases of the game.

Part 1: The Early Turns

Part 2: The Debates

Part 3: Post-Debate through Election Day

 

Part 1: The Early Turns

Unless you are very familiar with the cards in the deck, those early turns can feel like you’re drowning in water. Six cards come your way, and at least half of them are likely to contain your opponent’s symbol on there. You need to play five of these (in most cases). The one you don’t play is likely going to be the one that benefits you the most. How do you handle this situation? Here are a few pointers on what to emphasize, the things to keep a close eye upon, and some overall tactics that have been successful in their implementation during the games I’ve played.

Tactic #1: Momentum Matters

One of the most important resources in this game comes in the form of those Momentum markers. You get some at the start of the game. Half of them get discarded when the round ends. You stand a chance of getting a few at the end of a round based on the Issues Track. What are they and why do they matter so much?

The Momentum markers are used for one of two purposes: to trigger the event of a card your opponent plays, or to prevent your opponent from triggering the event on a card you play. The first time you look at a hand of cards you will likely groan as you see the events that your opponent would love to trigger. There is a pretty good chance that they will trigger at least one of them during the round when you play cards. One of the keys to success would be to entice them to spend those markers early in a round on something that sounds great, but isn’t nearly as powerful as another card you’ll be playing later. But you don’t want to always have that best event be the very last card you play in a round – they might catch on and save a marker for that final card.

If your opponent is spending markers on triggering events, that means they aren’t spending them to prevent you from doing the same with their cards. Depending on who is producing more Momentum in a turn, this might not be a bad position to be in. The real key comes in knowing when to pay those markers to preempt the card you are playing. This can be a tough thing to do – it costs two markers, which means two cards you aren’t going to be able to trigger the event if your opponent plays them. A card which will swing the board in your opponent’s favor is something you don’t want to see played. Something which lets them gain Momentum, or trigger a permanent event, are also very worthwhile to preempt. This is a tactic that I am still working on trying to get right for timing. Knowing the deck, and what cards can really flip the playing field, will help you to better understand when preempting is important.

If you, as a Nixon player, can preempt Greater Houston Ministry Association, do so at all costs. That one card wrecked me several times when Kennedy played cards that couldn’t be triggered by Nixon because this was in play.

Tactic #2: Balance the gain of CP with the gain of Rest Cubes

It might seem like the best strategy is to play all those cards that give you the most moves during your turn; however, many of those high CP cards are balanced out with low rest (if any at all) when playing the card. But I must emphasize the importance that Rest plays in this game. I had a play of the game where, at the very end, almost every cube in the bag belonged to my opponent. It made it so everything went in his favor, which complexly flipped a few areas of the board and prevented me from securing more on my turn. Most of the game is spent with the bag draw playing a small impact (unless you are vying for Media Support or trying to take an area where your opponent is located or carrying). Yet the opportunities to dump in more cubes are rarer than you’d expect. Don’t sacrifice a great play for the sake of an inferior event that provides rest; however, when faced with a decision between two cards and you are torn on which to play, always go for the one with more rest. It will pay off by the end of the game.

Tactic #3 – Don’t ignore the power of the numbers.

I’m not talking about the obvious numbers here, such as New York and California, because their importance is immediately obvious. It can be easy to get caught in a power struggle over those high-valued states because it feels like you need those to win. In some games you may very well need to spend several cards trying to wrest New York from your opponent’s grip. But don’t underestimate how critical the rest of the states may be. Especially in the Midwest and the West. Some of those states feel unimportant, especially when dropping to 4 points for whoever wins the state. However, there is power in numbers and controlling a good majority of the map is oftentimes more impactful than focusing your effort heavily in 1-2 big states.

Tactic #4 – Think ahead to the debate phase, but don’t assume your highest card is the one to throw

My first debate round was a complete disaster on both sides. I tossed three cards in for a single issue. My opponent tossed four on the same issue, and his other one showed my symbol instead of his. He won the first issue, leaving me to sweep the rest by default. There was no excitement, no tension. Only frustration and the feeling of being too dumb to play the game.

There are three factors to consider in the card you are saving for the debate round:

  • Make sure the card has your candidate’s icon on there. If you keep a card that doesn’t have your icon, that means it has to be played on your opponent’s side of the issue which could potentially help them to win. Ideally, a card with both is what you want to save to allow for maximized flexibility. Triggering your weakest issue first by playing on their side can allow you to reap greater benefits when the later issues resolve.
  • Look closely at the issue icon shown on the card. It will have one of the three issue icons: Defense, Social, or Economic. Don’t be like me and save too many of the same issue. At most you will get to play two cards on a single issue, so anything over that is a wasted card! Plan on saving 2-2-1 as a spread so you can maximize your placement.
  • CP matters on these, as that is how you determine the winner. This will get covered more in the next post, but you don’t want to toss the lowest numbers over here. Depending on the card(s)/situation, you may not want to toss the highest, either. A nice moderation of 3CP cards is likely the best plan without any in-game context.

Tactic#5 – Don’t neglect the Issue track and, by extension, the Media Support

It can be so easy to focus on the cubes on the map and try to maximize your influence out there. A hand full of events and high CP cards can give you dreams of swinging states under your control or bolstering your cube count in a key state. But the Issue track is so critical that you should plan on dedicating at least one CP move toward the Issue track. But why is it so important?

Remember that discussion of Momentum toward the beginning of the article? Yep, this track is the #1 way to gain said Momentum as each of the three placements can reward the winner with a Momentum token. Sweep the issues and you can get three more at the end of the turn. Even winning one is important as it will keep your flow of markers going. Nothing is more favorable to your opponent than having no momentum, because it will allow them to freely play cards for CP without any care for the event text.

The other important thing would be Media Support. The player with more overall Media support gets to flip the placement of two adjacent issues on the track at the end of the round. This is key, as it allows you to boost your own standing while dropping your opponent. Winning that 1st place issue is so powerful in the long-run (see more on this in the 3rd installment when it goes up on the Post-Debate strategy).

Tactic#6 – Don’t forget about your candidate card!

The final piece of advice is a simple, yet forgettable one. You have a candidate card which is worth 5CP. That is higher than any card in the deck. But, even better, this “replaces” playing one of the cards in your hand. Got a really nasty event that you know your opponent will trigger when played? Use the candidate card instead so you can discard this one at the end of the round. There are few ways to flip it back over, so don’t be too hasty in using the candidate card…but don’t forget this is a very viable option when you need the CP or to avoid playing a specific card.

*****

There you have it, six tips on playing the early rounds of 1960: The Making of the President. The game is one of being able to adapt to the hand you’re given, to make use of the events, and to balance that with spending enough CP to make a difference throughout the game.

Are there other strategies you’ve found useful in the early game? Are there questions you’d like answered regarding this part of the game? Leave a comment below and I’d be happy to discuss with you.

 

Hopefully you found this review to be a useful look at some strategies to employ for the game. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon.

Board Gaming · Strategy

Sentinels of the Multiverse Strategy: Fanatic

A brief history on my experience with Sentinels of the Multiverse

My friend won me over to Sentinels of the Multiverse in the right way: he asked me what I liked to play as if I were playing a D&D campaign. Without hesitation I told him Paladin, and so he gave me two options: The Sentinels or Fanatic. I grabbed the Fanatic deck, took one look at her and a few of the cards to get an idea of her background, and knew it was meant to be.

That first play was everything I had hoped for in a superhero game and more. We quickly played a second, and I used Fanatic again. The next time we got together I pulled Fanatic out to continue testing her out. My friend sent me a code to get the base game on Steam. Every game I’ve played has included Fanatic.

Last night, for the first time, I used a deck other than Fanatic. When we quickly took down Baron Blade, I asked for a my buddy to set up a challenging scenario. Environment: The Court of Blood. “Good thing you aren’t playing as Fanatic”, he told me. Then he pulled out Apostate. “Really good thing you aren’t playing as Fanatic. This setup would wreck you hard.” I blinked and slid my KNYFE deck back across the table.

“Apostate? He’s my nemesis. I have to play as Fanatic now.”

He was right, that setup wrecked me. But I did survive…barely. And we won…barely.

I’ve played over a dozen games with Fanatic for sure. I’ve played once using someone else (well, on Steam I use 2-4 other decks but I always have her), and that was a Baron Blade slaughter. Her style fits me well, and I absolutely love filling that role of walking the line between taking damage and dishing it back out. I’ve had an impressive come-from-behind-victory when all hope seemed lost, all thanks to Fanatic. There are others who are probably more qualified to write this than I am, but I want to weigh in with my own tips on how to run this deck. It is unconventional at times, to say the least, and can definitely be a source of frustration to the person who isn’t prepared for her tactics. Therefore, this is the article I shall write:

The four Fanatics

Standard version Fanatic – 30 HP, Power: Exorcism – Fanatic deals 1 Target 1 Melee Damage and 1 Radiant Damage.

The Fanatic everyone should use first is rather unremarkable, yet surprisingly consistent. Being able to deal damage on turn 1 is a great benefit, allowing you to set up her board with other non-damage cards first if you happen to draw them. Splitting her damage across two types helps when running against enemies that can change their immunities. Boosts to attack power also get boosted twice in this way, so instead of a 2+1 = 3, you get a 1+1 and a 1+1 for 4 damage when pairing her with the standard Legacy. This role defines her well as someone who can consistently deal some damage, but usually as a supporting damager.

Redeemer version Fanatic – 31 HP, Power: Redeem – Fanatic regains 1 HP. Draw a card.

This role helps define the real benefit of Fanatic: by healing herself, it allows her to take more damage. The immediate thought is that you should be using her to take an enemy or environment attack whenever possible, and that isn’t a bad way to use Fanatic. However, the more optimal use of Fanatic is through her ability to deal damage to herself in order to dish out greater damage to enemies. This role is a good one to ease into the mindset of it being okay for Fanatic to get hurt. She can take it.

Prime Wardens version Fanatic – 29 HP, Power: Resolute – Fanatic deals herself 3 radiant damage. Play the top card of your deck. One hero may now use a power.

This is the version of Fanatic that really emphasizes the point that she is meant to absorb damage. There is a reason why she has so many healing cards in her deck, as well as a few that deal damage based upon damage received. This can be a very, very powerful ability depending upon the card that flips and the abilities of the team. There are plenty of situations where it is absolutely worth that 3 HP. Until you flip an End of Days as the top card of your deck. Just don’t write off this version when you see the first sentence of her power. It really is useful, and it could be argued that this is the best version of Fanatic out there.

Xtreme Prime Wardens version Fanatic – 28 HP, Power: Kill the Spirit – Fanatic deals 1 target 1 Radiant damage. Until the end of the next turn, redirect all damage dealt by Fanatic to that target.

If the above didn’t convince you that it was the best version, maybe this one will. Dealing 1 damage isn’t anything to celebrate, although it is nice having a way to do some damage from the start. The real benefit comes from the redirect. Have you ever drawn Sacrosanct Martyr and wondered why you would ever want to deal yourself 5 damage to deal 5 damage to an enemy? Wonder no longer: that damage is bounced, dropping 5 on the enemy while leaving Fanatic unscathed. The only downside is that you have to use this power every other turn, meaning you’ll average dropping 3 per round. Which is still nice if you haven’t drawn your Absolution yet…

Opening Moves

Obviously, with no way to mulligan a bad hand an the restriction of drawing 4 cards, there are limited ways to affect this. You’re at the mercy of the card draw. However, these are the cards that get me excited when I see them to open play and why they are great this early in the game.

Brutal Censure

This one is the most likely card to see in the hand, as there are 3 copies in the deck. Not only does this let you get a jump on dropping damage, it also allows you to draw a card. Few things are more valuable to Fanatic than getting extra cards in her hand (see closers section).

Final Dive

Most of the early games are spent trying to manage the board and keep it clean as long as possible. This one lets you instantly finish off a card with 4 or less health and deal up to 4 damage to the villain. Pound for pound, this is one of the best cards to open a game with unless the villain doesn’t have any smaller minions on the board. It doesn’t set her up for future turns, but it does slow down the enemy’s engine to allow everyone time to be prepared.

Undaunted

This is situational, depending on the villain you’re facing and their opening board. But if there is the risk of either smaller hits, or big damage drops, this one can really come in handy by reducing the damage Fanatic takes. Sadly, this is her only damage reduction card in the deck and it is very situational. But don’t let that prevent you from playing it early. Those 1 damage hits really add up over time.

Absolution

This is, hands-down, the card I want to see early in the game. It opens up a combo with Zealous Offense (see closer section), which is one of the best ways she can contribute to the greater good in the game. If you aren’t playing the standard Fanatic, I’d even consider playing it if she hasn’t taken any damage yet simply because it is her best card to get out early. The ability to choose a damage type also comes in handy when facing certain villains.

An overall tactic that I tend to employ with Fanatic is to conserve cards unless they serve a good purpose of building her board state or kill off minions. Card draw is important, and once she gets a few cards out she can coast on autopilot for a few turns without playing any cards. Unless you get lucky and happen to get an early copy of Desperate Prayer and Divine Focus in your hand together. More on that combination in the next section. You might be tempted to put out an Aegis of Resurrection as soon as it is drawn, but resist that urge until she drops close to 10 HP unless you know neither the Villain nor the Environment can make her lose Equipment cards in play.

If the team needs her to drop a Conscecrated Ground to get rid of a nasty Environment card, or a Holy Nova/Divine Sacrifice to ping a slew of enemies, then feel free to play those cards. However, the ideal situation is to hold those for either Divine Focus or until that 1 damage across the board is either boosted in some way or needed to really help clear the board.

Mid-Game Strategies

This is where Fanatic is a little harder to play at times. With the right opening board (a.k.a. Absolution), she can help chip away at all sorts of threats that pop out, or keep dropping damage on the main target. Here are a few of the cards that can be really good at this point:

Consecrated Ground

Sometimes those Environment cards can be brutal. Like, really brutal. If you have Fanatic going last, this is also a great way to wipe off those nice +1 to all damage cards that might pop out, letting you gain most of the benefit from your team but taking it away before the villains can utilize the boost a second time. If she is first, it can eliminate ones that interfere with card draws or reduce your damage dealt. Depending on the board, hitting 3 things (even for 1 damage) can be helpful, but this is mostly as a great way to remove otherwise-pesky Environment cards and should be held for those situations unless you can kill 2-3 minions.

Divine Sacrifice

My recent match with Apostate showed how important the irreducible damage can be in a game, so this one is already worth holding onto for that situation. But it can’t be overstated how important it can be to redirect damage. Especially if either: a) the enemies deal Radiant damage or b) Fanatic has her Aegis of Resurrection out. Keeping others alive can make a world of difference, and Fanatic exists to tank some damage because she has a way to heal a good chunk of it.

Smite the Transgressor

This is a very powerful card, and I wish so much that it wasn’t a One-Shot. Being able to use standard Fanatic’s power AND strike with Absolution? Yes, please. Absolution should absolutely be one of the two powers used on this, if at all possible, to help make sure you’re getting the best mileage out of the double actions.

Chastise

This card is excellent for allowing you to remain focused on the big picture of defeating the villain. We all have encountered those cards that drop a ton of damage, making you stop and put 10-15 damage onto them instead of the big baddie. This card helps to put those on the back burner where they belong, either for a few turns while waiting on the right cards or until the rest of the board is in a better state to allow you to focus your efforts.

Sacrosanct Martyr

It never seems like a good trade: 5 damage for 5 damage. And it can feel very situational (unless Xtreme Prime Warden Fanatic is being used), but don’t underestimate the ability to choose how that damage is being distributed. Need to take care of a threat that will hit everyone for 3 damage? Putting 5 on Fanatic might just be worth saving the 9-15 spread across everyone. Is someone getting low on health and there is something in play that hits the person with the lowest HP? Let Fanatic take some damage instead and get it off the board. Is Fanatic close to death with an Aegis on the board? Let her finish herself to “heal” that damage before something takes that Equipment away unexpectedly. There are plenty of situations where this card can and should be used, not to mention that Smite the Transgressor could let you use this AND Absolution to drop 10 on the villain in one swoop. That is the kind of power Fanatic is capable of.

Zealous Offense

Absolution is the card that you want driving this engine, although Sacrosanct Martyr could serve as well. If Fanatic does at least 3 damage on her turn, you get to choose two targets out there who won’t do damage this round. Say, what? This + Absolution is such a powerful board-control combination that it almost feels unfair when you pull it off.

The mid-game Fanatic is fun if the right cards come out. Absolution and Zealous Offense is the ideal situation, and the earlier you can get those both out, the better everyone will feel about the situation at hand. This is the time when you’ll want to consider putting an Aegis of Resurrection into play, especially if you’ve been taking extra damage along the way, because you’re rarely going to be high on health. You want to strike a balance between managing your health wisely and spending it to deal some damage or prevent hits on other heroes. That makes her tricky to play at times, yet it presents a fun puzzle. How much can she tank before you’re becoming too reckless with her health? I’m almost certain this is the part of the game where most people toss their hands up in frustration with Fanatic and write her off as an unplayable, not-very-fun character. But you’d be making a mistake because this next part is where she shines the brightest.

Fanatic’s Closers

Here is where I’ve found Fanatic to be the most exciting, and there are a few cards that are the MVP in her deck at this point. She’s helped me to close out a battle a round or two early, helping to skip a chance for the Environment and Villain decks to strike and take things from bad-to-worse. She’s helped me come back from the pit of desperation, with everyone on the cusp of death, and delivered an unexpected victory. Those moments aren’t always required, but when they are they grant the most memorable endings to this game. She’s been my MVP enough times to cement her place in every lineup I will ever do because I know what she’s capable of. Everything in the game leads up to this point, and she can help you win when all seems to be hopeless.

End of Days

I was going to put this in the mid-game category, but this one is always so situational that it could potentially appear in any of the three. Being able to wipe the board is so, so helpful. Sadly, relics are immune (curse you, Apostate, and your horde of relics!) but otherwise she clears it down to your heroes versus the villain at the start of the Environment turn. Late in the game, that wipe might be the difference between victory and defeat. Knowing this card is going to be played can allow everyone to focus their efforts on the vital task at hand: defeating that villain. I always try to hold one of these for as long as I can, until it is desperately needed, because it can get you out of the worst situations.

Desperate Prayer + Divine Focus

This is the combo that can speed up the end of the game. Fill up your hand with cards and then start chucking them at the start of every turn (other heroes, environment, villain) to drop 2 damage every time. Depending on the number of players and the cards in hand, this can be a lot of damage. Desperate Prayer will let you get back up to 6, either before the damage process begins or as a way to keep the chain going. This combo becomes less appealing if the villain gets some big-health baddies out there, as it targets the villain-target with the highest HP left. But it is beyond effective in closing a game out.

Wrathful Retribution

The deck has one copy of this card, but it could be the most valuable card in the deck. Tossing three cards to deal over 20 damage in one strike is the best trade you can ever make, and you definitely want to do more than 20 damage with this one. I’ve taken down an Omnitron, who had exactly 27 health left, when all I had remaining was a 3 HP Fanatic. I had written off the match as a loss about 5 turns earlier when my heroes were dropping off, but I had Fanatic and some Aegis or Resurrections, and was able to keep her in play long enough to draw and play this card. And oh, how sweet it was. That remains my best Sentinels moment, although I really wish it had happened with a group of friends instead so we could all talk about it. This is the card that makes it all click: you want Fanatic close to death so she can drop mega damage when this one turns up. Even if it leads to her sacrifice, that amount of damage helps ensure it won’t likely be in vain.

Overall, Fanatic is likely to thrive at this point if you’ve been holding back a few cards or get the right cards for the situation. Even in the worst case scenario, hopefully you have Absolution and an Aegis of Resurrection out and can chip away at the baddies with little threat of a final ending to Fanatic’s health. During those games she might feel a little unremarkable, but that is because she isn’t hitting her true potential. Those three cards in the closer game are what make her invaluable to the team’s effort. She can bring order and hope to a game where things spiral out of control.

Closing thoughts

In terms of power, Fanatic might fall somewhere near the middle of the pack. She is counter-intuitive to play at times, and often you’ll be setting up and then slow-playing the middle of a battle. She excels at control in the midst of chaos, as shown by cards such as End of Days, Zealous Offense, and Chastise. She thrives on bringing things to a close with cards like Divine Focus and Wrathful Retribution. While those can be far more situational than someone like Legacy, I know that if I left out Fanatic I’d be in a situation where I wished she was part of the team.

I don’t want this to be the last of my looks at the heroes in Sentinels of the Multiverse. There are so many of them out there, and even the core set offers enough choices to cover. So here’s a chance to vote: which core set Sentinels hero would you like to read about next?

  1. Legacy
  2. Absolute Zero
  3. Wraith
  4. Tachyon
  5. Bunker
  6. Haka
  7. Visionary
  8. Ra
  9. Tempest