Today’s lunchtime game was Sentinels of the Multiverse, a cooperative game in which the players take on the roles of comic book superheroes and unite to fight against one seriously evil overlord. We had three players, two of whom (myself included) had never played the game before, so the third opted to play the role of the villain and help manage the game so we could get a handle on it.
For my superhero character, I chose Bunker, an infantry soldier in a suit of powered armor that turned him into a walking talk. My coworker selected Fanatic, a young woman whose~ powers stem from a divine source. Between the two of us, we were tasked with stopping the megalomaniacal Baron Blade from using his TerraLunar Impulsion Beam to pull the moon into the Earth.
Unfortunately, after only a few rounds, the two superheroes were getting their asses handed to them not only by the villain, but also his minions and a variety of environment effect cards. We’re struggling to do two or three damage points to a target per round, and meanwhile we’ve got not only the Baron to deal with, but even frickin’ collapsing monorails falling on our heads and doing 5 points of damage to us every round. So our Game Master decided to jump in and take on the role of Legacy, a third superhero, to help bolster our attacks and absorb some of the damage we were taking.
The strategy seemed to pay off, as we started doing much better and dealing some decent damage against the villain and his crew. But by the time we finally reduced his hit points to zero, we were teetering on the brink of death. And did I mention that when you reduce the villain’s HP to zero, he doesn’t die? Instead, you flip his card over, and discover that he’s transformed into a super villainy version of himself, with 30 fresh hit points, ready to kill you all over again. Oh, the humanity!
Alas, I had a 1:00 meeting that I had to get to, so I wasn’t able to stick around for the endgame. Tomorrow we’re slated to play again, though, and now that we know the ropes, I intend to see the battle through to its conclusion. Hopefully we won’t turn over an environment card only to discover ANOTHER MEETING for me to rush off to.
Sentinels of the Multiverse offers a wide variety of both superheroes and villains to take control of, all of which are detailed on the game’s website. The artwork is firmly of the comic book variety, and some real thought has gone into all of the different cards and effects. Each turn, you’ll get the opportunity to play a card, use a power, and then draw a fresh card — although there are plenty of ways that sequence can be modified as the game progresses. There are also effect cards that require you to trash a card you were using, give up powers or make other sacrifices to save yourself or innocent bystanders. It makes it seem even more like you’re having an epic battle in the streets of some major megalopolis somewhere.
One other note: You’ll probably want a sheet of actual paper with which to keep track of all the hit points and damage being dealt, unless you have the upcoming Enhanced Edition of the game, which supposedly includes markers and other paraphernalia that will do this more easily.
Overall, I enjoyed this one and look forward to playing another game tomorrow!
In other news, my wife’s iPhone 5 landed in Alaska this afternoon, and my iPhone 4S finally (finally!) landed on Amazon’s doorstep. Now we’re both in countdown mode on the edge of our seats, her in anticipation of her phone’s Friday arrival, and me in anticipation of Amazon telling me whether they’re about to pay me a bunch of money or tell me to kiss off. I’m not even going to discuss this situation further as I fear jinxing it. But I’ll be going to sleep with all my fingers and toes crossed.
After our second game today, it’s clear that there are some balance issues with Sentinels of the Multiverse. These manifest in two ways.
First, you need to take stock of how many players will be playing as the superheroes, and choose your heroes carefully. Some of the characters, such as The Wraith, are best suited toward playing secondary roles — or in the case of Legacy, even supporting roles (as you can use his powers to apply bonuses to damage dealt by the other heroes, or absorb damage meant for them). If you get a lineup of all secondary heroes you are going to find yourself occupying a bag of hurt, as we were today over lunch.
Secondly, the original edition of the game was clearly designed to be played with a certain minimum number of heroes (I’ve heard four). Many of the villains and environments deal a fixed number of damage points, so if you’ve got just two or three superheroes with failing hit points, you could get trashed by a single villain card. The upcoming Enhanced Edition of the game is solving some of these issues by substituting h for these fixed values, where h is the number of superheroes in the game. This offers a more scalable approach. In the meantime, general advice seems to be that if you have only a couple of players, then each player should take command of two superheroes to help even things out.
We got our asses handed to us even worse in today’s game, thanks to a combination of our selected hero characters, the insane abilities of the villain himself (even though he’s a Level 1 villain!) and the environment effects. Going forward, we’re going to probably double up on the number of hero characters or self-apply some of the Enhanced Edition’s hero-based damage rules.