I am currently in a card game obsession phase. Absolutely in love with a lot of well designed card games. My two current favorites are Netrunner and Sentinels of the Multiverse. Of the two I feel there is a small preference for Sentinels because of the fact that it can be played with more than two-players, and it is even more fun and engaging with the increased player count. So lets dive in and examine this absolutely wonderful game, the greatest cooperative, fixed deck, comic book themed game in the multiverse.
The game takes place in a series of turns, each one has three distinct components: The Villain Turn, the Hero Turns, and the Environment Turn. Each of these distinct types of turns can be further broken down in a few stages. Each one has a specific "Start of.." and "End of.." turn phase, that really only matters for triggering various effects and abilities. The Villain Turn also involves drawing and playing a card from the Villain deck. You will also most likely be dealing with Villain specific powers that relate to either the beginning or end of the Villain Turn. This type of triggered ability seems to be common across all the Villains in one form or another.
After you've resolved the Villain Turn you then proceed to the Hero Turns. These also each have the "Start" and "End" phases, as well as the following in order sequence: Play a Card, Use a Power, Draw a Card. This can be a simple and straight forward sequence of events, or a complex interplay of abilities and triggers depending on the hero.
The third turn, the Environment Turn, is quite similar to the Villain Turn. You trigger and "Start" and abilities, then draw and play an Environment card, then trigger any "End" abilities. After that you head back to the beginning and do it all over again. This repeats until you've either lost, by all the heroes being incapacitated, or you've won, by reducing the villain's hit points to 0 or less. The basic rules and framework of the whole thing are quite simple and elegant. All the complexity comes from the variety of cards and abilities associated with each of the heroes, villains, and environments.
The variety of all of these different decks is perhaps my favorite element of this game. When you count the expansions and the couple of promo decks you have 15 heroes, 13 villains, and 8 environments. While all of them operate similarly enough to not require any extra learning curve when switching between them; they also all feel very distinct and flavorful. You have heroes that are just plain damage dealers, heroes that build up to complicated combos, and heroes that help other heroes shine. You have villains ranging from criminal masterminds with armies of underbosses and thugs, to deadly mercenaries with impressive arsenals of devices and weapons. The environments range from the Ruins of Atlantis to a Mars Base. Each one is fun and interesting in its own right, which is quite impressive.
So far I have played in I believe 6 games of Sentinels, with two of those being solo play throughs to just test out new decks. The game does not have formal single player rules, so I was basically playing the roles of two actual players, but it was still somewhat enjoyable. The game really shines in the teamwork and interaction with other players though. You really feel like a band of valiant superheroes, all working together to take on the big and bad evil villains that threaten the peace and safety of the world. The game definitely gets easier with more players, and the more the merrier is always true in the majority of board games IMO. But I can still see it being fun with 2 or 3.
Now let me see if I can remember the participants in each of the games I've played in.
Game 1: Me, John, Emily, and Armaghn. We faced the "easy" villain Baron Blade, a sort of mad scientist type. The heroes that we fielded were the Wraith (kind of a female Batman), Ra (Egyptian themed fire god), Expatriate (chick with lots of guns), and Fanatic (holy/angel themed hero). We won, but it was kinda tough.
Game 2: Same players. The bad guy this time was Akash'Bhuta (or Osh-Kosh Bagosh as we nicknamed him), a giant tree creature. Wraith and Ra were played again, but this time they were joined by Nightmist (spellcasting supernatural private eye chick) and Legacy (kind of a Superman type). We won again, this time a little easier.
Game 3: Me, John, Emily, Armaghn, and Gabe. We faced Grand Warlord Voss (Thanos/Darkseid type). We had Bunker (Iron Man-esque), Ardent Adept (hippie bard music powered type), Ra, Tachyon (combo between the Flash's powers and Reed Richards intellect), and Unity (Gadgeteer chick). Another tough battle but we won.
Game 4: Just me. I faced off against the Deadpool-like Ambuscade. I used Haka (maori warrior brute type) and Mr. Fixer (Luke Cage/Ninja). I barely won, and I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have, I probably forgot to do quite a few things by not paying attention.
Game 5: Me again. I faced off against the giant evil robot Omnitron. I had Absolute Zero (kinda a tech using Iceman) and Tempest (Storm-like powers in an alien form). Stopped at about halfway through in order to start up a game with actual other people, but it wasn't looking great for me.
Game 6: Me, Emily, Armaghn, and Ron. We had to face the infectious Plague Rat. We fielded Haka, Legacy, Visionary (psychic hero), and Mr. Fixer. We won pretty handily.
As you can see, I'm not the only one who really enjoyed playing and was willing to do so multiple times. I'm definitely looking forward to more games, and I really think I could do an interesting spin off or two using similar ideas.