By: Mr. Saint with input from Mrs. Saint
Note: Review originally published on BGG September 2018.
Like many other BGG members who love Sentinels of the Multiverse, we eagerly awaited the receipt of the game’s final Kickstarter effort. We read every Kickstarter update with eagerness, hoping to hear of the game’s impending arrival. The game was originally planned to arrive in January of 2017. We mostly forgot about backing OblivAeon at all, only to have the massive package arrive while we were at Gen Con 2018.
The OblivAeon encounter is fought over two Battle Zones, with OblivAeon himself being represented both with a cardboard standee and a multi-page booklet. The booklet is evocative of a videogame end-boss, where each heroic success is met with a new challenge. Combine this with the Inevitable Destruction Track and the Devastation Token Pool, and OblivAeon feels suitably multiverse threatening. These two counters act as the game’s clock, destroying one of the five pre-selected environments if the heroes are taking too long to stop OblivAeon. If all five environments are destroyed, it’s the end of the Multiverse.
The Battle Zones are essentially treated as separate games of Sentinels of the Multiverse, complete with minions (Aeon Men), an environment, and possibly multiple full-scale villain-level threats (the Scions). The heroes can move between the Battle Zones at the start of their turns, and sometimes are forced to move by a card effect.
OblivAeon also features a new card type, Missions. These represent the heroes reaching out to various Multiverse characters and asking for aid, and usually require a set of conditions to be met in order to gain a reward. Most of the rewards scale to the difficulty of the conditions that must be met. These are handled via an additional phase at the start of each hero turn, allowing heroes to gain new missions, swap existing missions, or shuffle the top of the mission deck.
Mr. Saint’s Thoughts:
I love everything about Sentinels of the Multiverse. The game oozes theme. The mechanics are solid. The various heroes, villains, and environments help forge a narrative about the current battle that differs from game to game. And it does all this within an hour and a half (4 hero game, setup and teardown included, not counting Vengeance scenarios), making it one of the Mrs.’s and I’s go-to weekday games. Needless to say, I was very excited for the final battle of the Multiverse, and when Mrs. Saint asked “Do you want to try it?”, I didn’t hesitate to unpack everything the expansion had to offer.
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We started the game at 3pm, thinking that it would probably take around the same amount of time as a Vengeance playthrough (usually around 3 hours in my experience). By the time we had to break for dinner, we had only managed to disable OblivAeon’s shields. All-told, the OblivAeon encounter took us about 6 and a half hours to complete.
The OblivAeon encounter takes one of the greatest strengths of Sentinels, the amount of fun it compacts into a relatively manageable time period, and chucks that out the window. Admittedly, we had to reference the rulebook more than a regular game (mostly to see when it was appropriate to add/remove tokens from the Devastation Pool), but that can’t account for more than 30 minutes of time at most. The sheer amount of moving parts to keep track of means that the time of an average round is probably 4-5x greater than a normal game. OblivAeon showed me the absolute limits of book-keeping that I would allow a game to require of me. The concept is an epic battle across the entirety of the multiverse with all reality on the line. The execution is a chore, even with effect markers and sharing the book-keeping between two people.
There are moments of greatness in this otherwise glacial experience. The Mission cards add a strong narrative element to the OblivAeon encounter that I really appreciated. Do Expatriette and Citizen Dawn put aside their differences in the face of a greater threat? Can you impress Kaargra Warfang so that she will aid you in the fight against OblivAeon? Perhaps there is a powerful relic in the Ruins of Atlantis that could serve as a mighty weapon in the battle for the Multiverse. As a fan of the Letters Page podcast, I found the story that many of the Missions told to be very exciting. The Missions gave us secondary objectives to focus on that felt completable in a reasonable amount of time (usually not more than 1 or 2 rounds) and provided rewards that significantly boosted the strength of the heroes. They could even be transferred to other heroes, a nod to the fact that individual heroes will almost certainly be incapacitated during the OblivAeon encounter.
Another high point is the introduction of some of the new heroes that came with OblivAeon. I especially enjoyed the reformed villains. These heroes play in interesting new ways that are often a call-back to fighting against them previously (such as Luminary’s doomsday devices or Stuntman’s mechanic of being more powerful during others’ turns, references to the Baron Blade and Ambuscade fights respectively).
Mrs. Saint’s Thoughts:
I enjoy playing Sentinels. I like testing out new heroes against new villains in different environments because in my mind, each game is a comic book unfolding. OblivAeon did something no other game of Sentinels has done for me before. It caused me to despair that we might actually not succeed and that the multiverse we’ve come to love would be destroyed. Heroes were regularly incapacitated in this variant, something that we find quite rare in a more standard game of Sentinels.
I confess I feel we only won our first playthrough because of a lucky break. Early in the game, we ended up in an environment with OblivAeon while all the Scions and their minions were in the other environment. This allowed us to focus on OblivAeon himself, and through luck of the draw, he did not change position for a very long time. If I was to give advice to anyone about to play against OblivAeon, I’d say to make sure one of your heroes is a support character or able to act in a tank roll to mitigate damage to other heroes. As an example, we made excellent use of the Scholar’s high starting HP and ability to maintain high levels of damage reduction to keep heroes alive long enough to have significant impact against OblivAeon.
From a gameplay standpoint, it took away the one thing I love about Sentinels, the ability to finish a game in just a couple of hours. Six hours is one of the longest stretches for a single game we’ve played of any of our games. We will probably tackle the OblivAeon fight again, but not for a long time.
All in all, OblivAeon certainly offers a unique experience, different from any other game of Sentinels we have played. However, the hugeness of it just makes it feel like a worse game. We’re hopeful of finding some way to integrate the Missions into regular games of Sentinels, as they really do add something special to the experience. The completionists will have already bought this expansion. If you own everything else already and are looking to add more hero and environment variety to your regular games of Sentinels of the Multiverse, then OblivAeon remains a good pickup for some of the more unique designs it offers in that regard. People with an incomplete collection would be better served by another expansion. If you’re looking for a be-all, end-all fight against a supreme, multiverse destroying, cosmic being, we think you’ll find it involves a lot more accounting than it’s worth.