One of the common words I hear to describe some games with lots of upkeep is “fussy.”
That’s when there’s a bunch of stuff on the table, you’re trying to keep straight multiple different abilities and tracks and hopefully you don’t forget anything.
From what I have heard, the original edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse was the picture you see in the dictionary when you look up “fussy.”
I used to love playing the app version of the game because the app did all of that tracking and calculating for you!
Now, however, (and when I say “now,” I mean “in 2022”) they have released Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition which is supposed to greatly aid in all of that.
The game is designed by Christopher Badell and Adam Rebottaro with artwork by Adam Rebottaro. It was published by Greater Than Games.
Sentinels of the Multiverse (just assume I’m talking about the Definitive Edition unless I say otherwise, ok?) is a cooperative superhero game where players are a number of heroes (from 3-5) taking on a dastardly villain in some kind of environment, trying to stop their master plan from coming to fruition.
What is that plan?
Well, that’s not actually stated anywhere, but ultimately their plan is to defeat all the heroes!
And your plan is to defeat the villain.
You can defeat the villain even if only one hero is left.
How does that work?
Let’s take a look.
Each player chooses one of the twelve heroes (in the base game) to be. If you are playing a 2-player game, then each player will play two heroes since you have to have 3-5.
All of the heroes have distinctive abilities and powers, and their own deck of cards that they will be playing.
You then choose a villain and shuffle that villain’s deck as well.
Finally, choose an Environment that you will be playing in.
The turn begins with the Villain turn, followed by the Heroes’ turns (in player order, so it has to be the same each turn) and then finally the Environment turn.
(The rulebook has a nice turn sequence on the back which is really helpful).
For each turn, you follow the phases in it.
Turns start with the “Start Phase” (funny how that goes) where everything that’s on the table for that player/villain/environment with “Start Phase” in bold red on it happens. You then play the top card of the appropriate deck (villain/environment) or play a card from your hand (if it’s your turn). A Hero turn then has a Power phase where they can use one power. Players then can draw one card on their turn. Finally, all turns have an End Phase where all “End Phase” abilities on the table for that player/villain/environment happens.
It’s all really easy to see as the phases on the cards are very bright.
Villains are going to damage to the heroes/environment (sometimes a lot of damage if they have a lot of cards out!). Then heroes are going to either do damage to villains and/or environment cards or try to set up future turns, maybe heal their teammates.
Then the environment may hit everybody (villains and heroes) with damage, or maybe there will be some other effects happening.
Things go around like that until either the main villain is defeated (down to zero hit points) or all the heroes are defeated (down to zero hit points).
The trick with this game is that, even if a hero is defeated, as long as one hero is standing there’s still a chance!
Each hero has a “defeated” side of their card, which gives that hero one of three options to play on their turn. This will usually help the remaining heroes in some way.
Some cards heroes can play are one-shots, where they take effect then go away.
Some are ongoing cards, or even item cards that stay in front of them until they are destroyed or certain conditions are met.
A lot of these cards will give the players different power options. On your turn, you can use one power (though some cards will let you use an additional power, like “The Legacy Ring” above).
Sometimes there will just be an ongoing effect, like “Dauntless Durability” above.
That’s the basics on how to play, though obviously the card play combinations and synergies are what really makes this game.
The game ends as mentioned above, when either the villain or the heroes are defeated.
Is Sentinels of the Multiverse a powerful being who can move planets around? Or is it somebody who couldn’t defeat some 90-year-old grandmother?
I largely avoided the original game because of all the upkeep I had heard about. When I got the app and saw how much the app was handling, I stayed even further away from it.
But the game had always intrigued me, and playing the app intrigued me even more because it was such a neat concept.
This is the original cooperative superhero game (maybe there were others before it, but none of them have stayed around and Marvel Legendary came out a year later, in 2012). It has its own lore, interesting heroes with cool powers (sure, there’s a “Flash” type and a “Superman” type, but then you start getting into heroes like Absolute Zero, who does a lot with hot and cold attacks) and the villains are pretty neat too.
The Definitive Edition of the game streamlines a lot of the complexities of the original, making the modifiers easy to remember.
Before, it was like “I do +1 damage to all targets, but wait, this guy is immune to Cold damage…what type of damage do I do? Oh, hot and cold. Ok, so I do +1 damage with my hot attack but none with my cold attack…”
Now there are neat little markers that help you track all of that.
The order of the phases is quite easy to keep track of as well. If something takes effect in the Start Phase, the card will definitively show it.
If it has a power you can use, it’s quite distinctive as well.
I’ve always liked this game because it can put you at the edge of your seat.
The game starts with the Villain turn and the villain’s setup sometimes has you playing cards out from its deck even before you start the turn…by drawing the top card of the deck.
So heroes can be taking a lot of damage before they even get to go.
Often I would win the game (when I did win, which was never certain) with all heroes having single-digit health, and sometimes one or two of them were defeated.
Other times, you might defeat the villain easily or you may not have a chance because none of the cards you draw synergize well with each other.
Sometimes you can really get behind the eight-ball with a bunch of villain cards doing damage to you and not able to get rid of them too quickly.
Being a cooperative game, table talk is encouraged, though it makes it more immersive if you don’t talk about doing points of damage but instead say things like “I can defeat this guy on my turn” or “Can any of you get rid of this environment card on your turn? If not, I can.”
The artwork on the cards is really good, bringing to life the comics. I like that the cards look more “modern” than the first appearance ones do.
Each hero even has a “first appearance” variant with different powers.
I haven’t played with all the villains and heroes yet, and not the toughest of the villains, but the ones I have played are really fun to play with.
Some are more complicated than others (I think, based on the app version of the original game, anyway), with Argent Adept being probably one of the more complex characters (but also potentially the most fun!).
One negative for the game is that, while it’s definitely more streamlined than the original, it is still a lot to keep in mind and stay on top of each round, especially if there are a lot of cards on the table.
Which one of these did we already do the effects for? That sort of thing.
If that bothers you, then stay far away from this one.
The rulebook does do a good job of outlining everything in clear terms. It also has a glossary of terms (a shorter one on the back cover but also a more complete one inside) that makes things really easy to remember.
Having never played the original edition (except in app form), I can’t comment on any of the changes between the two.
I gather from reading Boardgame Geek that some of the cards and heroes have been tweaked or modified. It depends on who you listen to whether or not these new effects are good or bad, but I will have to demur on that point.
Overall, I am greatly enjoying Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition and can recommend it if you like cooperative games and superhero games.
Sure, there’s no license to go with it, but these characters are their own beings, and all that much more interesting because you’re not bringing any baggage to them from other places (like other comic books, or movies, or what have you).
Even better, with three players, you can knock one of these games out in a lunch hour at work (assuming you’ve done all of the preliminary choosing and shuffling ahead of time, anyway).
With a bunch of expansions on the horizon (one already delivering its Kickstarter, I believe) based on the expansions for the original game, there’s going to be a ton of content in the future for this game.
That really piques my interest.
Give this one a try if you can.
You won’t regret it.
(This review was written after 3 plays. Many thanks to Greater Than Games for the review copy of it)