There isn’t just one game mechanic that I like from Sentinels of the Multiverse, there are several, but most of them center around one thing: character building.
Sentinels may not be perfect—your Uncle Geekly will have to write an in-depth analysis about it after a while—but most of the design choices in Sentinels do something to characterize the heroes, the villains, and sometimes the world in which they live. Players feel like they’re heroes. They feel super. And that doesn’t happen as much as it should in board games with superheroes.
Some games like Marvel: Legendary (perhaps a better game than Sentinels overall) puts gamers in the role of someone like Nick Fury. You’re assembling a team of superheroes to deal with a threat. Others put gamers in the role of a superhero, but there isn’t an attachment to the character or the characters are flat. You are a unique hero in Sentinels.
While there may be some misses (in terms of character building), there are more characters like NightMist. She’s reckless. How do we know this? She’s just as likely to hurt her teammates as she is the enemy, and the mechanisms in her deck bring out that flavor. Legacy is the leader of the gang. A lot of his abilities promotes this identity. Visionary has a more hands-off approach and many cards in her deck reflect her personality.
The villains have just as much personality, and Sentinels does one of the best jobs in tabletop gaming of building antagonists. Some villains have no regard for their henchmen and prefer the heroes to squish them, others may care for their righthand man, but have no attachment to anyone else. Still others depend on no one else but themselves. These henchmen, if there are any, also tend to build on the eccentricities of the various villains. Citizen Dawn’s lackeys don’t behave like anyone else’s. Grand Warlord Voss has his own unique cronies. The Matriarch always has a murder of crows in tow.
There are even some villains like Akash’Bhuta who are more forces of nature than true villains. The Dreamer who is an 8-year-old girl whose dreams come to life, but she suffers from night terrors and therefore, she’s a victim herself. And Wage Master who’s the resident Mister Mxyptlk who turns game play upside down just because it strikes his fancy. The characters in Sentinels have plenty of—well—character.
Even the environment decks (that represent the location the game takes place) have their own sense of character. Certain environments like Wagner Mars Base aren’t so good for specific characters like Bunker (kind of like Ironman) or The Wraith (a female Batman) because it randomly destroys equipment, while other environments like Rook City (a Gotham City type) hates on all heroes because even the cops are crooked. There are even a few environments that handle heroes with kid gloves. I won’t mention them here. Greater Than Games has plenty of forums for that and many of new game copies rates each environment according to difficulty.
It’s easy to fall in love with Sentinels despite any shortcomings. It has personality. And personality is something more superhero games and antagonists in cooperative games need.
What do you like most about Sentinels? Is there another game that handles character building in a fun and interesting way? Let us know in comments.