Sentinel Comics Starter Set RPG from Greater Than Games – Review

Sentinel Comics Starter Set RPG from Greater Than Games - Review 1

This is some good old fashioned Silver Age Super Heroics. If you want to feel like a superhero, this is a good place to start.

Theme and What is it?

*Note* Copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes.

The City of Megalopolis has paid a heavy toll. A battle with the cosmic entity OblivAeon has left the city reeling. Though stopped by the defenders of truth and light the city is wounded. Buildings crumbled, citizens missing, and the Akash’Flora, a massive tree of mystical origin has sprouted in the heart of the city.

You play the Freedom Five, Megalopolis’ signature hero team. Though the battle is done, the work is not finished. You are now helping the city rebuild. Fixing the once iconic skyline that has been torn down by OblivAeon’s attack.

Sadly, evil never rests and a dark force has gathered in the shadows; waiting for its moment to strike. That moment has come.

Sentinel Comics is a pen and paper role play game where you take on the role of the Freedom Five or the game master telling the story and running the villains. As Megalopolis’ signature superhero team it’s your job to face off against the forces of evil. Sentinel Comics uses the world created for the card game Sentinels of the Multiverse as its backdrop. This is a superhero world styled after comics from the 50’s to the 70’s; the Silver Age of superheroes.

Tell me citizen, can you defend the city? Are you ready to fight back the forces of evil? Do you have what it takes to be a hero?

As a quick side note. I enjoy having photo’s for my adventures. Unfortunately, this is very much a theater of the mind game. I can’t use images from inside any of the books, because that’s either a spoiler or game content. I posted one photo from game play, but it’s just a bunch of 3×5 cards.That means, there are no photo’s for this one. Sorry folks. I’ll try and figure out something for the next time

Sentinel Comics Starter Set RPG from Greater Than Games - Review 2

Gameplay Mechanics

Sentinel Comics is a Role Play Game. One player acts as game master and the rest as the heroes. The game master runs the adventure, tells the story, and controls the non-player characters, villains, and threats that the players come across. However, the hero players are there to solve problems, overcome the forces of evil, and play as their characters in their quest for justice.

Sentinel Comics does this through a dice pool mechanic. When you decide on an action you will choose what power, quality, and status applies to the situation and these will give you three dice to roll. After you roll them you take the dice with the middle value as your result. Mostly this results in a straight success. There are four actions you can take Attack, Overcome, Hinder, and Boost. For all of these but Overcome the roll is a straight roll dice see what happens. For Overcome you check you result against a chart included in the rules to see how successful you were; to see if you get a twist.

For example: Let’s say you’re playing Unity, who builds robot friends. The evil villains Cyclon Laser is about to fire destroying several blocks of the city. You find yourself next to the laser and need to turn it off.  At this point you look at your character sheet and see if you can come up with what’s the best use of your abilities. Since the laser is made of metal you decide to use your power: Metal which gives you a D10. You decide to reroute the power supply causing a massive feedback loop that will short out the control panel using your quality: Creativity for a second D10. Finally you look at your status, you haven’t taken a lot of damage so are still at green, unfortunately the scene has a countdown timer and the setting has dropped to yellow giving you D8. You tell the game master your plan. They agree that it’s a good idea, however only the housing of the laser is metal, to fiddle with the workings he asks you to use your inventions power instead of metal; this gives you a D6. Your final pool is a D6, a D8, and a D10. You roll the dice and get a result of 3, 4, and 6. Not a great roll. On the chart a 4 is action succeeds with a minor twist. 

What’s a twist? There are two types of twists in the game minor and major. Minor twists are something small, not life threatening but annoying in some way. This can be a small amount of damage, something breaks or has an added effect, or something is lost. A major twist is something massive is destroyed, the battlefield has a major shift, or the hero takes a massive amount of damage. In both instances the twist does not negate success, you still complete the action, but something has gone wrong. Though with a major twist, the hero can volunteer to fail the action to avoid the consequences; which can include collateral damage.

Each character comes with two principles that have twists attached to them. In the above Unity example, she has the Principle of the Gearhead. For a minor twist, gearhead asks, “What mechanical device just shorted out?” This can be anything that is attached to Unity in some way. She builds bots to help with the battle, maybe one of them got caught in a feedback loop. She has a tool kit that lets her build bots and some of the things she has lets her give them all special abilities, maybe a tool had malfunctioned preventing her from using one of the special abilities on a bot for the rest of the scene. The game master will ultimately choose the twist, but the hero can and should offer suggestions.

 

These are the two big pieces of the games mechanics. There’re are a few other little bits and bobs but I hope this gives you a good idea about what happens.

Initial Impressions

I have played the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game, though I have not kept up on the story of the game. I was familiar with the characters and setting. I liked the game and enjoy the setting and idea behind it. I was anxious to see what characters were inside and see how/if they implemented some of the mechanics. After going through the rules and reading the adventures inside, I was excited to see the game in action.

Game Build Quality

This is a series of 13 books: basic rules, 6 adventure modules that make up a campaign, and 6 different heroes forming the Freedom Five and their former intern Unity. They’re all very nice quality. The paper is good and fells like it will hold up for a while. I think everything is laid out in a clear fashion and holds together very well. We kept track of things on sheets of paper so didn’t write on the pages so I don’t know how they’ll hold up to an eraser. I will probably cut the character folios and sleeve them for use with dry erase markers so they can be reused.

The cover doubles as a Game Masters screen. Unfortunately, I feel it should be a bit sturdier to be able to hold up or at least have a third partition or flap to give it more stability. For me it worked fine as a mat to keep on the table in front of me but of a GM’s screen it fell a little flat. (This may not be the final product)

 

The rules are pretty well written. My group was doing the twist thing wrong. We thought you checked the chart for every roll not just overcome rolls. As a result we were very bogged down with twists. Eventually, we got the rule right and the game went very quick from that point forward.

Artistic Direction

I really like the art. They really leaned into the Silver Age comics look for this game and I think that stuff has a wonderful appeal. Everything is bright and colorful with a ton of pictures. Every enemy has a picture I can show the group so they know what they’re fighting.

 

I like modern comics and how they look, but I have a special place in my heart for the Silver and Golden age art forms. I really dig the heroes in this game and how they look. I appreciate the effort they went through the give these characters the look they have.

Fun Factor

RPG’s have to strike a balance between storytelling and mechanics. How they lean is going to affect how you play. I think Sentinel Comics leans more towards story than mechanics. I think the mechanics are good and well defined but they sit in the passenger seat to story. 

The rules remind you to describe your action in comic book terms. “A punch isn’t a punch; it’s a devastating uppercut, your fist leaving a white trail behind it, your target lifting completely off the ground and landing several feet backwards.” While it isn’t necessary to talk like this, it does add to the way the evening feels. 

Age Range & Weight

The box doesn’t indicate an age range. I would tend to aim for mid-teens. I think the rules are easy enough the figure out but coming up with the descriptions of action and the reasons you get to use some abilities might be a bit above younger kids. That said, if you’re patient and willing to help them along you could easily play the storytelling portions of the game with younger kids. In the end it’ll be up to the GM and the rest of the party to decide on how much effort they want to spend here. 

Conclusions

Sentinel Comics is very narrative in focus. While you don’t have to spend your time figuring out what your heroes did and what dice they use it adds a bit of flair to the game. This ended up being used differently by the members of my group. One player found an ability he liked and just used that over and over again. It meant he didn’t have to plan the description of his actions and could just roll dice. Everyone else got into the story of the game where they tried to figure out the best use of their abilities. They would often use a dice pool that didn’t include their best possible dice because it didn’t make thematic sense. As you might guess, one player didn’t have as much fun as the rest of the group.

Most RPG’s are a mix of story and rules and that mix is what attracts people to certain games. I think the rules are decently crunchy to give you a good experience if that’s what you’re after. However, the main focus of this game is the story. While I think the mix is maybe 65/35 in favor of story I think if you are willing to embrace that you’ll have fun.

For me this game was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the narrative sampling as we went forward. For example, to travel from one scene to another we decided Wraith had a jet. There was little on the character sheet to indicate a jet but it made sense by the nature of the character. Yes we cribbed from a more well know existing superhero for this, but it made sense to us. It also allowed for some fun interactions in the next scene and a horrible moment where they pulled a major twist causing the jet to go down. Which added a crashing plane problem to an already tense scene.

I will say the adventure was good and leave it at that. To avoid spoilers I’ll say there’s a nice branching path and a collection of decent environments and challenges. I may write up a more detailed review of the adventure which includes spoilers at a later date. For now I’ll leave it at a fun time.

There are also two additional adventures you can download from the Greater Than Games site for free. I’ve not played them but they are available. I’m always a huge fan of free pdf content for gamers. I wish there were PDF’s for all of the characters in the set. I like having starter sets to introduce new characters to a system and I find it easier if I can give them copies of the characters they played; PDF’s help with that. However, it’s not a necessary feature, just one I wish was present.

There is a Kickstarter for the full rules to the game going on right now and I look forward to seeing the game in print. It’s a lot of fun and I had a great time playing it. I’ve gone through and watched a couple of the company’s videos on the system and look forward to getting my hands on character creation rules. I also hope for more notes on how to create my own villains and mooks; a couple of things I feel will be invaluable to making my own adventures.

I think this is my biggest stumbling block. At this point I don’t feel like I can create my own bad guys in a playable fashion. I might try it and see what happens.

Final point. There’s a lot here that’s good. The few dings against the game are basically handled by the full rules coming out. As always I recommend trying a game before buying it. However, if you decide to spend the $20 to give this a chance or get a discount at your friendly neighbor gaming store and want to see what your group thinks. It might be worth it. Just remember, you’ll have more fun if you tell the story.

 

Until next time true believers…

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