Sentinels of the Multiverse: Kismet

Jay: I don’t usually pair songs and games together. I know many folks love to have theme appropriate music while they wage war against orcs or travel the high seas. Hollywood has trained us that all epic moments come with their own soundtrack. I’m just not that kind of player. I’m so focused on the rules and the flow of the game that I tune everything else out, so anything I would play is drowned out by the chatter in my head as I manage the game.

This week, however, I decided to change things up a bit. I couldn’t help myself. The villain we are fighting just demands a theme song. You don’t have to look far, either, for the perfect fit. So with the smooth sounds of Frank Sinatra belting out “Luck Be A Lady”, I commenced battle with Kismet.

After the jump, charmed, I’m sure.

Tom: I haven’t read the backstory on Kismet, so I don’t know if she’s actually a “charmed” scoundrel, as the text on her cards says, or a “charming” scoundrel, which would make more sense. If she is indeed charmed, who is charming her? For what nefarious purpose? And shouldn’t we be fighting that person instead?

Jay: She must be the victim of an as yet unnamed villain who manipulates the English language for some nefarious purpose. For now I will assume that Greater Than Games intended her as a likable rogue, or at least a scoundrel with a smile.

Tom: I love the concept of Kismet. She has jinx cards and luck cards, and her basic state depends on whether she has her talisman, which boosts her attacks considerably as she puts jinx cards into play. The heroes can steal the talisman fairly easily, but then Kismet totally flips out and becomes a “deranged miscreant”. You can only hold out for so long against a deranged miscreant. If you thought Kismet hit hard when she had the talisman, wait till you see how hard she hits when she doesn’t have the talisman. Oof.

Jay: The battle with Kismet centers around her lucky charm. Like Tom said, when in her possession, Kismet is just that much more effective at damaging the heroes and disrupting their plans. Without it, well, you wouldn’t like her when she is angry. Bruce Banner could learn a few things from this lady.

Tom: So my first thought was, fine, let her keep her talisman. If she’s going to freak out when it gets stolen, I’m just not going to steal it. That didn’t go well. For every jinx card in play, she does an additional point of damage every time she does damage. Before you know it, every little piddling single point of damage turns into a powerful five-point wallop. It seems the trick of Kismet is figuring out when to steal the talisman.

Jay: Kismet reminds me of that Kenny Rogers song, “The Gambler”. You have to know when to steal the talisman, know when to hold it, and most definitely, know when to run. Holding the talisman may make Kismet furious, but it affords the heroes a huge advantage by allowing them to manipulate any deck in play. The talisman allows the player to examine the top three cards of any deck and put them back in any order. The talisman lets us take the sting out of Kismet’s luck based mechanics.

Tom: Kismet’s archnemesis is Setback, one of the new heroes from the Vengeance add-on. One of the reasons I played a few test rounds against Kismet is I wanted to figure out how she worked before bringing Setback onto the table. He’s new and weird and I don’t really have a handle on him. But now that I see how tough Kismet can be, it’s time to see how Setback fares. And just to make sure I don’t get too tripped up, I’m going to bring along a couple of old standbys. Setback, meet your new partners, The Wraith and Bunker. They should keep you out of trouble.

Jay: For my trial against Kismet, I brought along Ra and The Scholar. My intent is for Ra to hold point, tossing fireballs. He may be a simple character to play, but there is something satisfying about bathing your enemies in fire. Call me a hopeless romantic. The Scholar, meanwhile, appeals to my gentler nature. He has a tremendous amount of support abilities to offer the other heroes and it is my hope that he can keep Setback and Ra standing on their feet as the fight drags on.

Tom: During my test games, I used the Mobile Defense Platform again as my environment. I really like this environment for how it sneaks up on you. It slowly builds itself up over time, adding a shield generator here, a berth there. A turbo lift puts into play another shield generator. Whatever. I’m over here fighting the villain. But then you’ve got an impregnable fortress on the board and now some guard is firing at you every turn from a position of invulnerability. And, of course, there’s the propulsion system, which is the Mobile Defense Platform’s weak point that can ruin the whole game. Last week, my battle against The Dreamer ended with The Visionary watching helplessly from inside a telekinetic cocoon while the Mobile Defense Platform crashed and burned, killing everyone.

But this week, the die roll for a random environment brings Rook City into play. Rook City is full of bad things. On the first turn, a statue falls on The Wraith’s head. So that’s how it’s gonna be?

Jay: Now it is my turn to say “oof”. Rook City isn’t an environment so much as a destroyer of hopes and dreams. Every game I’ve played in Rook City has ended in disaster. There are so many ways for the environment to boost the villain, damage the heroes or destroy their cards that Rook City should be given a special section in the rulebook. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. See what I did there.

Tom: The grappling hook is one of the reasons The Wraith is here. A grappling hook can deal with Kismet’s jinx cards. Jinxes are a type of card called “ongoing”, and the grappling hook is a one-shot power to destroy any ongoing card. Setback has a card called Cause and Effect that can also destroy ongoing cards. If The Wraith gets killed, she can still help with jinxes. When a hero is killed, she gets to choose from one of three posthumous abilities when it would have been her turn. These are usually consolation prizes. Sorry you got killed, but here, now you can heal one hero one hit point. Stuff like that. But one of The Wraith’s posthumous powers is to destroy one ongoing card. The Wraith helping out from beyond the grave!

Jay: I rolled for an environment and got sent directly to jail. It would appear that in my timeline, Kismet was once apprehended and will be attempting to escape from the prison known as The Block. The Block is full of burly prison guards and angry inmates. Neither cares a whit about you or your battle against the master villain. Everyone gets caught in the crossfire. I’m sure nothing can go wrong playing a hero and a villain that manipulate luck, all while navigating a prison filled with angry super villains.

Tom: Setback is awfully fiddly, and unlike other fiddly characters such as Argent Adept or Absolute Zero, there’s no guarantee the fiddling will pay off. In a game already driven by the randomness of card draws, Setback adds a whole new layer of random. He’s just as likely to kill himself as punch the villain.

Jay: I can attest to Tom’s experience here. In my game, Setback was his own nemesis.

Tom: Rook City has two good cards in it. Dr. Tremata is a forensic investigator who helps the heroes. She won’t last long, but while she’s in play, she lets you look at the top two cards on the environment deck. You put the one you like back on top of the deck and the one you don’t like on the bottom of the deck. This is how we get Tony Taurus, the other good Rook City card, queued up. He’s a private eye who lets us similarly manage the villain deck.

Meanwhile, I’ve carefully calculated how to amass seven unlucky tokens for Setback’s karmic retribution card. He’s got six in play, and I can use his default power to add one token and then play the top card of his deck. Then, when it’s his turn again, I can play karmic retribution, which will drain the seven tokens from the unlucky pool to deliver a punch for seven damage.

The trick is that we have to wait until after Tony Taurus has come into play. Because Kismet has a card that directs whatever damage she takes to the top card of the environment deck. If it’s a target that can take damage, that card takes the damage. If it’s not a target, Kismet takes the damage. So if we attack Kismet at this point, it will damage Tony Taurus, which means he won’t be in play very long.

So I’ve got this whole careful plan set up, and I just have to get past Setback’s top card, at which point I’ll have seven tokens ready to go. But it turns out his random draw is the same karmic retribution card I needed to delay for a turn to wait for Taurus to come into play. Now I’ve got to do seven points of damage, and if I attack Kismet, she’ll deflect the damage to the top of the environment deck, killing Taurus before he even comes into play. So what happens? Setback punches Dr. Tremata to death.

Jay: Once again, I have a wildly different experience from Tom. The Block, it turns out, is the perfect place to hold Kismet. Block Guards, which are correctional officers that attack the target with the lowest hit points on the table, are the perfect mechanic for bouncing the Talisman back and forth between Kismet and the heroes. Each time the Talisman changes hands, Kismet becomes confused and loses some of her bite. The Block Guards give the heroes a few turns to gear up. Ra and The Scholar don’t disappoint and immediately start draining Kismet’s substantial health pool. Setback, true to his name, struggles to keep up, mostly due to a poor arrangement of his cards. This is one of the few cases where I’m not enamored with gameplay and theme remaining tightly coupled. Unlucky indeed.

An odd thing happens though. Kismet suffers the exact same fate as Setback. She could not get her deck to work and never manages more than one or two ongoings on the table at any point. Sure, she gets out plenty of damage with her one-shot cards. She even exacts revenge on the environment by wiping out all the Block Guards, but she never manages to gather that head of steam and pose a threat. Instead, she just flails around, while being roasted alive by The Scholar and Ra.

Tom: I end up playing four games against Kismet and losing all of them terribly. The closest I come is getting her down to 30 hit points from 70 hit points. She has a number of nasty tricks, including a jinx that breaks our equipment, which is particularly problematic with Wraith and Bunker. She has a card called Lady Luck that gives her a chance to save her jinxes when I try to destroy them. She keeps getting into play the card that redirects damage to the villain deck. But mostly it’s a matter of all those jinxes coming into play, simultaneously debuffing my characters and strengthening Kismet. Unfortunately, this week is another loss for the heroes. I blame Setback.

Up next: avast, time pirates!
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