When it comes to tabletop, “feelie” games, I tend to be a fan of the idea. There are lots of games out there that have my interest. I mean, I would like to try them. Sadly, due to spending quite a bit of time dealing with people throughout the day that I tend to be an introvert in my spare time. The few people that I enjoy spending time with typically would not be interested in this type of thing, so I tend to give them a pass. So, when the digital game version of the Handelabra Games Sentinels of the Multiverse card game rolled around, I jumped on it. I am certainly glad I did; I love it. I have some reservations recommending it to everyone, though.
When I say this is a card game, I want to stress that this is not a CCG. This is great for me as I haven’t had the patience to customize decks and dig through booster packs since the excellent Battletech version. (R.I.P. my friend.) The idea instead is to take three to five heroes, each with their own premade deck, and face off against a powerful super-villain. If you think that going five against one is tough, don’t worry. The villains are are insanely over-powered and can certainly provide a stiff challenge. While contending with the villain and their henchmen, the player must also watch out for the environment, which factors in as an additional deck that can work for or against the player and adversary.
The basic flow of the game is deceptively simple. At the start of the game, the villain plays a turn, then each hero. After that, the environment plays, and back to the beginning. The turns themselves are “play card, use power, and then draw.” It’s what the cards and powers do that still consistently surprises and intrigues me. Some pieces of on-going equipment or one off “specials” might initially seem counter-productive. For a basic example, the hero Absolute Zero’s power is to inflict either fire or cold damage to himself. If you have played the proper card, though, cold damage would actually heal him. Rest assured, it gets much more complex than that. I am still in the period of experimentation to discover which heroes work best with each other and against the different villains.
The cards themselves are, for the most part, ingenious. The various powers and moves that can be played all come straight from the super hero books I read growing up. The actions and moves found here painted a vivid picture of the battle in my mind. The design of this game is a pitch perfect homage to comics. I do have to say, there are a few exceptions. In the city environment, a paparazzi card can be played that prevents heroes from using their powers. This doesn’t make sense to me. If I was a superhero and the world was in peril, I wouldn’t shy away from doing everything I could to save it. Even if my power was explosive, precision sniper bowel movements, I would drop the boxers and let loose even if there were cameras around. You’re welcome, world. (Ah, but I plagiarize myself. My views on the use of superpowers were taken directly from my ivy league entrance essay. As a side note, I have to call into question the work ethic of the people in charge of admissions. They still haven’t contacted me.)
When it comes to the art and appearance of the game, I am a fan. What follows might seem like a backhanded compliment. It is not meant as such. The character and power art on the cards look like they were done by an extremely gifted amateur. I consider this a bonus as it feels to me like I am creating my own fight scene with my own limited talents. I personally feel that an overly slick and professional look would have robbed the game of personality, making it feel cold and sterile. Even though I was on my own, it brought to mind youthful afternoons wiled away creating heroes and villains with friends. The intentionally cheesy music also helps the mood.
I hope it is clear that I love this game. The battles are deep and entertaining. Giving it an unqualified stamp of approval is impossible in its current state, though. As a package, it is very light on content. There is only a handful each of heroes, villains, and environments included, reducing the value here. As there is no overarching campaign or multiplayer included here, the purchaser is left only with two modes: the tutorial and quick play. If you are using this to introduce yourself to the game, that is quite alright. Players who are already familiar with the actual game will find themselves less happy. The opponent A.I. occasionally makes bone headed decisions and never chips in for the beer and pretzels that add to the experience. At least it doesn’t hog them.
If you are considering Sentinels of the Multiverse, think hard. I will never say that it’s not fun. I personally loved my time with it and will play more. People who need copious unlockables, a campaign, multiplayer, something more will not come away happy with this purchase. There’s not much meat on these bones, but they are wrapped in Spandex.