Matriarch

Tom: This week’s villain is The Matriach, who rules over a bunch of crows. This week’s random die roll situates us in the Wagner Mars Base. Here we are, fighting birds on Mars. You can’t make this stuff up.

Jay: I’m glad we don’t have to, as Sentinels of the Multiverse provides so many wonderful, quirky interactions. I’ll let the readers in on a little secret as we begin. This is the game that made me fall in love with Sentinels all over again. The ebb and flow, tragedies and triumphs, made for a story worthy of a Hollywood production.

After the jump, birdocalypse.

Jay: It helps to know who the Matriarch is and her relationship with her archnemesis, the hero Tachyon. Lillian Corvus grew up under the shadow of her smarter, more talented cousin, Meredith . Jealousy festered and changed Lillian, who longed for power and respect. Opportunity was all she lacked. She found her destiny in the form of a simple costume mask. The mask was ancient and filled with the wondrous power, all the power Lillian needed to control the world. That’s how she became The Matriarch. Meanwhile, Meredith because Tachyon. So while both Lillian and Meredith gained super powers of one form or another, they used those powers to very different ends. The nemesis mechanic has never been so sweet.

Tom: Most of The Matriarch’s deck consists of fowl cards with a single hit point. When you draw a fowl card, you immediately draw another. You basically keep drawing fowl until you draw a non-fowl card. Sometimes you draw a card called Darken the Sky that tells you to put into play all the fowl cards from the discard pile. It’s a steady stream of birds.

But these fowl cards only do damage at the start of the villain’s turn, before they’ve been put into play. So that gives your heroes a full turn to try to whack them out of the sky. Unfortunately, The Matriarch does a point of damage every time someone kills one of her birds. This is going to get tricky, but there’s one thing I know for sure: we’re going to need some crowd control. So alongside The Matriarch’s nemesis, Tachyon, I’m bringing along Haka and Tempest. Haka tends to just Hulk out and damage stuff, sometimes indiscriminately. But Tempest is particularly handy against The Matriarch because his default power, Squall, is to do a point of damage to all non-hero cards. There’s my crowd control, available from the get-go, no matter what cards I draw. Tempest Bird-Slayer.

Jay: For my game in Atlantis (and no, I have no idea how the birds get down there), Haka and The Scholar will join Tachyon in her family feud. The Scholar and Haka are ideal for shrugging off fowl damage. The Scholar in particular has a wonderful card called “Get Out Of The Way!” It deals a point of damage to every non-hero target and then heals a number of hit points equal to the number of targets damaged this way. Handy when you are facing a horde of angry birds, no?

Tom: I was worried Tachyon was just going to be a liability, since she can take a while to wind up. But she’s immediately useful for a one-shot card called Hypersonic Assault. This does a point of damage to everyone and prevents the damaged villains from doing any damage for a full turn. So Tachyon sweeps the sky of birds and furthermore keeps The Matriarch from retaliating. I manage to play a pair of these early on, which buys time for Tempest and Haka to get some helpful powers going and get in a few licks at The Matriarch.

Jay: The Matriarch is the best example of Greater Than Games’ genius when it comes to villain design. Normally, Tachyon’s turns go by quickly and you just hope she doesn’t drag the group down while you wait for a card called Lightspeed Barrage. The Matriarch flips this concept. It is almost as if the folks at Greater Than Games wanted to make a villain that matched up perfectly with Tachyon as a nemesis, and then found a theme they could wrap around the new complimentary mechanic. No matter how they came up with the Matriarch, my hat is off to them for her design.

Tom: Tachyon’s Lightspeed Barrage does damage based on how many burst cards she’s got in her discard pile. I’m sitting on a pair of Lightspeed Barrages, using Tachyon’s various card management powers to fill the discard pile with bursts. I use the hit point markers on top of Tachyon’s discard pile to note how many burst cards are in there. It’s gratifying to watch the markers stack up while I’ve got a pair of Lightspeed Barrages in my hand. Four. Seven. Nine. Eleven. Go, Tachyon, go!

Jay: Tachyon is holding on to two of these cards in my game as well, waiting for the right moment to unleash her fury. Like Tom’s battle, I’m biding my time, trying to thin the flock as it comes out. I also have to deal with the pain that is Huginn and Muginn, a pair of mythical ravens each represented as a card called a cohort. These have unique and complementary properties that are causing me no end of grief.

Tom: No sign of the cohorts in my game yet. Instead, I’m getting grief from the Wagner Mars Base with its Self-Destruct Sequence and Oxygen Leak. Tempest uses a Flash Flood card to wash these away easily enough. But then there are cards called Villainous Weaponry. These add a point of damage to every villain attack. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But in the hands of The Matriarch, villainous weapons double the single point of damage she’ll do when I kill each of her birds. This keeps me from preventing the damage using Tempest’s and Haka’s one-point damage reduction shields. I’ve gotten both shields into play, but for how long? The Matriarch’s deck is getting smaller, and somewhere in there is Huginn, who will start carrying away the hero’s ongoing powers.

Jay: I hate the other cohort, Muginn, even more. He buffs the Matriarch’s damage and reduces the damage she takes. Remember Tachyon’s Hypersonic Assault? With Muginn’s damage reduction, she’s unaffected by a Hypersonic Assault and therefore deals damage when her birds are killed. This makes thinning the flock much harder. Things are at a tipping point, when the story kicks into high gear. As the heroes traverse the tunnels of the ancient city of Atlantis, looking for the Matriarch, they hear a terrifying sound.

Crack.

“Don’t move,” whispers Tachyon.

Water starts pouring into the tunnel and Tachyon realizes there is a leak in the room, as per an aptly named environment card called Leak in the Room. This is a disaster. In game terms, it means the heroes cannot play cards during the next round. The Matriarch calls forth a huge flock, capitalizing on the heroes sudden vulnerability.

Tom: Folks, let this be a lesson to be careful fighting in sealed environments like Mars bases and underwater cities! Meanwhile, I’ve cracked something even more precarious than a sealed environment. I’ve cracked the game itself. I only realize a few turns after the fact that I’ve broken the rules. Tempest has a card called Into the Stratosphere which lets me put a villain card back on top of the deck. I use this to cap the villain deck with one of those annoying cohort ravens. This means The Matriarch will draw that card instead of a fowl card to start an unending flow of re-draws every time a fowl card comes up. I’m staunching the flow of flock cards. Except — oops — I note later that Into the Stratosphere can’t be used against indestructible cards. The Matriarch’s two cohorts, Huginn and Muninn, are indestructible until she flips to her other side. I guess this game gets an asterisk.

Jay: Fortune has not forsaken my heroes! After they patch the leak in the room, they discover an Atlantean Font of Power. The font forces me to play the top card of each deck in turn order. The Matriarch fails to take advantage of this artifact, calling forth her last bird. Tachyon finds a card called Fleet of Foot. Each player may draw a card and Tachyon gets to play a card now. Nearly giddy with joy, Tachyon plays Hypersonic Assault, flitting from bird to bird, pulling them from the air. Haka is pounded by the Matriarch’s psychic retaliation, but he withstands the barrage and the heroes have prevented certain doom.

Tom: Hey, didn’t you just break the game? When a fowl card is put into play, whether it’s by an Atlantean Font of Power or otherwise, The Matriarch should play another card. So when she played her last bird, you should have shuffled her discard pile into her deck to play another card, which would flip her to the side where she inflicts an additional point of damage when she attacks.

Jay: Oops. I guess my game gets an asterisk, too. Someone needs to make this game for a tablet so I don’t have to keep track of all these pesky rules.

Tom: A friend of mine is fond of pointing out that — in his opinion — only 5% of all boardgames are played correctly. In the other 95%, someone has accidentally neglected a rule or misunderstood how something works or forgotten to perform some step in a sequence. This is particularly a hazard in solitaire boardgames, where there’s only a single pair of eyes connected to a single brain running the simulation! Anyway, back in my asterisked game, Haka gets in a solid hit with Haka of Battle, a card that lets him determine damage by the number of cards he discards. I empty his hand and whallop The Matriarch for a solid nine-point attack. In the same turn, I’m able to use Tachyon’s HUD goggles to play two cards. She lets loose with a pair of Lightspeed Barrage cards, each fueled by a discard pile with 11 burst cards in it. Adding the additional point of damage for being The Matriarch’s archnemesis, she inflicts 24 points of damage! Minus four for that stupid raven Muninn’s protective powers.

Jay: At this point, Tachyon has had enough and lets her cousin have it. Back to back Lightspeed Barrages bring the Matriarch to within striking distance. The Scholar is eager to finish this fight and get back to his boat and his beer. He plays Know When To Turn Loose, which discards his hand and blindsides the Matriarch, searing her for 14 lightning damage. Then it happens: release the Kraken!

Tom: Now I’m down to the bottom of The Matriarch’s deck. The very last card is Darken the Sky, which puts into play all fowl cards from the discard pile. Now The Matriarch has in play both cohorts, 15 fowl cards, and her magical mask. But she’s down to 16 hit points. Tempest kills the fowl cards with his Squall power, and now each one will do a point of damage to the hero with the most hit points. That would be Haka, who has in play the Ta Moko, a card that reduces all damage by one point. So The Matriarch’s fury at all her dead birds plinks harmlessly off Haka. She has played in one turn every single one of her birds, and I have killed in one turn every single one of her birds. It’s a birdocalypse. Or birdageddon.

Jay: The Kraken is a beast of Atlantis, protector of its treasures. Each turn it does 5 points of melee damage to the non-environment target with the least hitpoints. The birds provide a distraction for it. While the birds are out, everyone is safe.

Tom: On the final turn, I can’t quite get The Matriarch down to zero hit points, but I can get her close enough that the Oxygen Leaks on the Wagner Mars Base will kill her. An oxygen leak does damage equal to the number of discarded environment cards. This is currently eight, and there are two Oxygen Leaks in play. These would kill my heroes, but according to my reading of the rules, once the villain is reduced to zero hit points, the game is immediately over. I don’t need to resolve the rest of the turn. So the first oxygen leak kills The Matriarch, which results in an immediate win for the heroes. Which is a good thing, because that second oxygen leak would have killed all my heroes as well.

Jay: But what happens with the Kraken when no more ravens darken the sky?

The Matriarch spat at Tachyon, defiant to the last.

“You and your puny friends will never defeat me!” she roared, feeling for the presence of her minions, desperately searching for a way out.

A single tear fell down Tachyon’s cheek. Wearily, she whispered, “You are correct, cousin. I won’t defeat you. It will.” Tachyon raised her head to look above and behind her cousin.

Turning in horror, the Matriarch screamed as the Kraken’s huge tentacle smashed down, obliterating the latest threat to the multiverse and ending the Mad Queen’s reign of terror.

Tom: A giant octopus is a way better way to go than suffocating!

Next week, there’s a villain in our midst!
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