In the comics, superheroes never seem to end their nemesis’ campaigns of terror once and for all. Something about moral codes prevents them from straight-up murdering their enemies, so they instead focus on disabling them and then getting them sent to prison.
Unfortunately, this often leads such vile villains to escape and once again attempt some dastardly scheme that the superheroes have to stop.
How It Plays
You’ve played Sentinels of the Multiverse before, right? You should probably check out our review if you haven’t, but here’s a quick summary: one villain. Four (or five, or three) heroes. The villain takes a turn, which is automated, and involves drawing a card from the villain deck and activating any available powers. Then, each hero player gets a turn to play one card and use one power. Each superhero has a unique set of abilities that allow them to attack enemies, defend themselves and their allies, and provide buffs and boosts to the team. The game ends when all the heroes are defeated, OR when the supervillain is destroyed. That’s it in a nutshell.
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance is just like that, except with more heroes and more villains in the mix. Oh, but wait, there’s more.
You see, Vengeance actually adds an entirely new mode of gameplay; instead of fighting a single massive supervillain, you’re fighting a whole TEAM of supervillains. Each round, instead of the Villian-Players-Environment turn structure, you’ve got a villain acting before each individual players turn. Villain-player, villain-player, villain-player, etc. The villains involved are not as massively powerful as the single villain opponent from other games, but together they form a mighty force that’s constantly dealing damage, boosting each other’s abilities, and generally making a hard time for the players.
Spider-man 3, or X-Men?
In the movies, later sequels tend to get bogged down as, in an attempt to escalate the danger for our plucky and now-experienced hero, the writers throw in a bunch of villains at once. Unfortunately, what often results is a clunky mess where the villains don’t get much development and the plot is chaotic.
Fortunately, in Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance, the effect is pretty much the polar opposite. In fact, Vengeance might be my favorite way to play the game.
Let’s get my criticisms out of the way first; one longtime complaint I’ve had about Sentinels is the amount of “paperwork” required to keep track of everything that’s going on. It’s easy enough for players to manage their own hero, but when it comes to the environment and villain turns, there are a whole lot of cards and powers to resolve before you actually get back to playing the game. The Enhanced Edition added a bunch of tokens to help track things which made a difference, but you still have to deal with that phase of upkeep. (I believe there is a companion app you can get now that helps resolve the villain turn, but it is not free and I have not tried it out).
Vengeance does not remove any of the upkeep. If anything it adds more, as you now have four or five villains to manage in between player turns. Even if each individual villain is much simpler than the single massive opponents of previous expansions, the overall upkeep is still there, and now you have a wider variety of global effects to remember.
On the other hand, instead of one big turn of upkeep, you spread it out between each player. If everyone manages the villain to their right, it spreads out the work and the game comes to a halt far less frequently while things are resolved; villain turns go by pretty quickly now. In fact, the villains turns almost feel like simply an extention of the player turns.
The fact that there are five villains now (one per player in each game, so you might not face all five. But you might) makes the game that much more interesting. See, another of the frustrating things about previous Sentinels games is that as a player you can get stuck. When things are humming along, you have a lot of choices in what to do and which minion to tackle, or you can decide to boost your opponents or do some nasty damage yourself. However, if you lose your ongoing cards that you’ve built up (which happens annoyingly frequently), the 1 card/1 power limitation starts to hurt, and you run out of choices. Usually there’s really only one useful thing you can do at that point, if anything at all.
With Vengeance, you now have five villains to tackle, which means you have to choose where to focus your efforts, and there are ALWAYS a lot of choices. Do you go for the weakest villain in hopes to take him out sooner and even up the odds? Do you go for the most powerful one so that when he’s destroyed you have a significant advantage? (Incidentally, “most powerful” is a variable designation, depending on which superheroes are in play and what the supervillains are up to). Or, do you go for a spread of damage, keeping each villain down as much as possible so you don’t get stuck at the end with one strong villain when your team is beat down to almost nothing? There’s a lot more room for dynamic discussion and team planning, as each villain will drop some threats from different angles, and you’ll have to figure out what to deal with first. The choice is not usually so obvious anymore, and that’s a good thing.
And as you smash down one villain, the others grow more powerful, leading to an intensifying and climactic battle, yet not one that is hopelessly stacked against the heroes. Neat!
The box also includes one of my new favorite heroes, which is actually a team of heroes in and of itself. The Sentinels features four unique heroes with different abilities that work together. Individually they might not be as strong as your average Sentinels hero, but together they strike fear into the hearts of their enemies! More importantly, their deck includes cards that represent the team helping each other out, whether that involves boosting each other’s damage, protecting each other, or even restoring health points to each other. Perhaps most importantly, with four heroes on the team, you’ve got four innate powers to choose from each turn. Sure, you can only use one of those powers per the rules, but you’ve at least got options. And the variety of powers means you’re almost always useful, whatever the situation may be.
Other heroes include Knyfe, the hand-to-hand expert with a cool psychic blade, The Naturalist who calls on different animal forms for his power, and Parse, the woman with superhuman mental prowess (and archery skills). You’ve also got the hilarious and unique Setback, who has a tendency to royally screw things up but can build up enough karma to eventually unleash something awesome. Fortunately, while Baron Blade’s new team of villains can only be used in the new Vengeance mode of play, the heroes can be used in a normal game (and old heroes can still be tossed into the Vengeance mix).
While the “paperwork” aspect will still bog some people down, Vengeance definitely breaths new life into an aging sytem. It’s the first expansion to add a new mode of play, and while I’d like to see even more options that stray even farther from the original mix, it’s nice to get this one, which turns out to be particularly enthralling. Don’t let the threat of multiple villains to manage get you down; Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance is totally worth it.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Greater Than Games for providing us with a review copy of Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance.