So Sentinels of the Multiverse launched on Steam last Monday and, as predicted, I spent a good part of last week playing through all the heroes, villains and environments. On Steam, $15 buys you the electronic equivalent of the core Sentinels set, also known as the Enhanced Edition: ten heroes, four villains and four environments. As far as the game itself goes, this is the Sentinels of the Multiverse you know and love. The rules are implemented faithfully, though sometimes it’s hard to track quite where one is in a turn, or why something’s happening at a particular moment as the program automates steps like the villain turn.
As far as the implementation goes, the Mac version provided via Steam is what I infer is the tablet interface ported for desktops. The interface is divided up into panels in the style of a comic book, with the villain and environment and their cards on one side, faced by the heroes in an array of smaller panels, and the active hero’s cards in play and and in hand in panels below that. It’s a fine layout, but what bothers me about it is it feels like I’m supposed to be dragging and swiping, as on a tablet. So far, I haven’t been able to use arrow keys or any other keyboard shortcuts to page among cards in hand, for example, or call up the “effects in play” overlay — which is super helpful for knowing how many burst cards are in Tachyon’s trash, or how deep Wraith has stacked her stealthy damage reduction. I get that in a card game, there’s going to be a lot of dragging virtual cards around to the various zones, but I’d be happier with some shortcuts and right-click options implemented, so it felt less like a tablet game, with the dragging motions confined to the space of my track pad.
Over the two-ish weeks since the game launched on Steam, I had fun playing through all the different decks. I’ve become a lot more familiar with all the core hero decks. I think I get how Absolute Zero’s damage loop works; he did a whopping 20 damage to himself, and then to a villain target at one point, which I never would have pieced together if I was doing all the math myself. I’ve unlocked all the variant cards, which is what the computer implementation calls the promo identity cards. So far, you can get G.I. Bunker, America’s Newest Legacy, Super Scientific Tachyon, Rook City Wraith, Cosmic Omnitron and Mad Bomber Blade.
Currently, in the base game, there’s a nice set of variability among heroes, though repeated plays have started to show me the always-good choices, like Tachyon, Wraith and Legacy. The villains are starting to feel a little more lackluster, unfortunately. Baron Blade, Omnitron and Voss are generally fine to play. Citizen Dawn is still annoying enough that I rarely find myself thinking it’d be fun to play against her. Fortunately, yesterday Handelabra Games announced their plan for adding expansion content to the digital version of the game in 2015. In addition to building out the boxed expansions like Rook City and Infernal Relics — divided once more, I notice — there will be packs collecting the singleton expansion decks. The first such pack collects Unity, Ambuscade and Silver Gulch, 1883, so you get a hero, a villain and an environment. I will be interested to see what the price point is for these add-on packs, as I felt $15 on Steam was a little steep, considering the same game is $10 on iTunes, especially as the network multiplayer functionality is still to come.
Playing Sentinels avidly on the computer and still wanting to keep up with the Joneses in the tabletop arena is going to be weird. I want to play all the heroes and understand how they work, which pretty much calls for buying their digital implementations. But to be up to speed in the tabletop area too means buying everything twice. I can remind myself all I want that I only have to buy what I want to play, but there’s a real “gotta catch ’em all” mentality that I struggle with, and rarely triumph over.
At the moment, I’m at a standstill with playing Sentinels of the Multiverse on the computer. I’ve played enough to learn everyone’s deck for the most part, and don’t feel especially challenged — though certainly there are the villain’s advanced modes to contend with — so I feel ready for new content to mix things up. Considering that it’s been less than two weeks, that seems a little soon to feel done with the core game. And I still want to play the game with friends around a table whenever I can, but sitting alone, optimizing plays — maybe abusing the rewind feature to optimize use of Super Scientific Tachyon’s “draw two off the bottom of a deck” ability — I feel like I’ve hit a limit that would only be broken with access to new content to make the game fresh and unpredictable again. Since that happened less than two weeks into owning the game, I’m a little hesitant to stake continued enjoyment on smaller infusions of content like the scheduled digital expansion packs.