For me, Sunday is the gaming day. Almost every week, we gather the troops to play Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder (our current system). Every so often we’ll play another game like Arkham Horror, usually when the DM (me) isn’t feeling up to running a session. It seemed almost foolish to host a Pathfinder game after two solid nights of tabletop, but a DM has to have standards, you know? Even if those standards roughly amount to “being good enough at improv to keep up with the players and act like you meant to do this all along.”
I thought about calling off the game, I really did. Call me crazy, but it just seemed like it would be a mistake. Maybe I wanted to see if I could really go the distance, you know? Even if, in this case, the distance didn’t actually involve that much movement.
Well, to my surprise, we ended up canceling the Pathfinder game anyway due to being short a player, a player whose character had been killed and hadn’t rolled a new one yet, and still needing to level up after last session. With that bookkeeping out of the way, we decided to hold off on the game itself and play something in the meantime. That something turned out to be Sentinels of the Multiverse. (SotM)
SotM is a cooperative card game where you take the role of different heroes and fight against a single villain, represented by its own deck that runs automatically. The characters are archetypal in the best comic book tradition. There’s the Wraith who’s basically a female Batman (but not Batgirl!). Absolute Zero is an ice-based guy with a backstory that manages to involve heroic blackmail (seriously, it’s “here’s a suit to survive your tragedy, now fight for good or we’ll repo that shit”). Fanatic is your winged angelic crusader with a huge sword and a “smite the evulz” complex. I ended up as Nightmist, the paranormal investigator who ended up tapping into dark powers and now wields those powers against evil. Like I said, classic. Fun fact: there’s a few very subtle references to H.P. Lovecraft and the Arkham Horror board game worked in there. I appreciated that. There was also a reference to my home city in the Wraith’s biography. You don’t see many shout-outs to Rochester, New York, so that made me happy, too.
Each deck plays differently, but the basic mechanic is that you can play one card per turn, activate one power (such as the one printed on your hero card) and draw one card at the end of your turn. The card interactions for Nightmist’s deck were pretty intricate; I could see right away why she was ranked as one of the more complex heroes to play. My deck involved buffing my damage dealing ability, then using my power to damage myself to draw more cards, then using my amulet card to redirect all the damage I’d done to myself towards an enemy instead. It was pretty fun.
With 18 different hero decks to play (this is including the expansions) and just as many villain decks, there’s a lot of variety here. The decks interact with each other in different ways; as Nightmist, I was able to generate card drawing for my allies which helped out a few times when things got rough.
There are two things that really make this game stand out. The first is that it’s a self-contained set, so unlike collectible card games like Magic: the Gathering, you don’t have to build your own deck which lowers the entry barrier considerably. Secondly, the decks all seem to be built with cooperation in mind, so there’s plenty of interaction among the heroes. It’ll be fun to see which decks work well together against which villains, since each villain deck is designed to play different and offer a different challenge.
We finished the game around 11:00 pm or so. It was at this point that I passed out on the couch, having imbibed just a little too much during the course of the evening. At some point, I staggered into bed.
All in all, it was an excellent weekend, if unintentional. It reminded me fondly of the undergrad days, where we’d play Magic or D&D well into the early hours of the morning. There was a certain abandon then, a certain idyllic sense. Of course, this was just the geek version of partying all night, which is why I didn’t end up going to many parties in college. But I wouldn’t trade it if given the choice.
However, I was very glad that I had today to recover from my weekend gaming binge and I don’t think I’ll be trying to repeat the experience any time soon. Once a week should be enough for me, I think.
At least for a while.