Designed by: Erik Lang
Published by: Cool Mini or Not
Review copy provided free of charge by Esdevium Games.
I‘ve been sitting staring at this damn screen for what feels like an eternity, the ghastly flu I’m battling having basically stripped my mental reasoning down to that of a brick. A really stupid brick. I’m supposed to be writing an intro, but I can’t think of one, so instead I’ll say this: flibble. Hornswaggle. Butt. That is all.
Opening up The Others reveals a fairly small selection of highly detailed miniatures waiting to do battle in this one versus many game, the star attraction of which is obviously the towering Avatar of Pride in all of his tentacled glory. He should find himself some work in hentai rather than boardgames, really. The rest of the minis don’t disappoint, either, with the Avatar of Sloth a close second and the rest of the evil minions and heroes looking rather fetching too with a pleasing amount of detail. If you love to paint then the minis Cool Mini Or Not have crafted for The Others are just calling out for a sweet lick of paint.
The rest of the components are generally solid, with all the tokens and character sheets made of good card stock. Small plastic tentacles and hearts for corruption and wound tracking are also included in a nice thematic touch. The only thing that I feel lets the game down are the modular map tiles, which don’t look very interesting in my eyes and are surprisingly only single-sided. No matter the layout of the tiles each map ended up looking the same.
Flicking through the rulebook quickly reveals that designer Erik Lang cared about the backstory for his game, with a fair amount of text devoted to snippets of conversation between the various characters. You’ll be playing as F.A.I.T.H. agents trying to stop the Sin player who controls the forces of Sin, which in this core set is either Pride or Sloth. Despite the name on the box if you want the other five sins you’ll need to pick up the add-on boxes which feels a bit cheeky, really. There’s quite a bit more fluff to be found in the manual which fleshes out this little universe, but I won’t get into it here.
Frustratingly despite what can be found in the rulebook I didn’t find The Others to be a very thematic game with a few little things that irked me. The conversations and other bits of fluff you can find in the rulebook read like they were written by teenage me, including a part about a skin-tight catsuit. It’s bloody awful. There are some disconnects in the missions, like rescuing one innocent person to win while others just get slaughtered. Then there is the fact that as detailed as the minis are, they’re also just yet more generic tentacle monsters with the Avatar of Pride failing to invoke any sense of the actual sin it’s based upon. It’s also just a muddled world where we have giant monsters running around a futuristic city, while the heroes include a vampire, some scantily clad chick with tentacle arms, a vampire and a werewolf. It’s a hodge-podge of stuff that doesn’t come together. Again, it’s like teenage me came up with it all while binging on porn and generic fantasy and sci-fi novels. Once everything was on the table it felt so…forgettable.
What you need to know is that in each game everyone will decide which mission to undertake from the six included in the box, all of which include two layouts for added replay value. These are split into different styles of story, dealing with the corruption of the heroes or rescuing people or just killing everything that happens to get in the way. They also offer up a choice of objectives, bringing a little flexibility to proceedings and a bit more replay value. The player who has been tasked with controlling the forces of Sin has a very simple goal; kill ’em all. Evil is not very subtle.
On a heroes turn they can do two things other than moving; cleanse an area of fire or corruption tokens, or start a fight with whatever monster happens to be in the area. We’ll start with moving since it’s obviously one of the things you’ll be doing the most of. Basically, each tile is divided into street sections and a central district, and you’re free to move through these as you wish, up to two spaces per turn, not counting any bonuses from loot or other stuff. However, you’re hampered by the prevalence of corruption and fire tokens that are not only laid out according the to scenario setup but that the Sins player gets to place more of throughout the game. Every time you enter or leave an area containing one or more markers you have to roll a die for each to see if you take any corruption or fire damage. This is easily the part of the game that annoys me the most because in a single turn you could potentially end up having to stop and roll dice up to eight times which doesn’t create a nice rhythm
You can at least attempt to get rid of these tokens using the cleanse action, which lets you roll dice equal to the amount shown on your character sheet. Each eye symbol removes a token, although there is only one of these symbols per die so the odds aren’t great. Despite how annoying stopping to roll for these tokens actually is and how they can pose quite a threat I generally found players forgoing trying to get rid of them, refusing to waste an action on it unless the story deemed it necessary.
As a free action during your turn, provided you’re in a district, you can spend a district token to claim whatever rewards that specific district provides, such as healing or even being able to move a satellite around which can destroy enemies. It’s from these actions that you’ll also be up able to grab gear from the four available face-up cards, a stock that gets replenished as cards are removed. This gear ranges from bio-hazard suits that let you ignore some fire or corruption token damage to blessed swords and rocket launchers. Kitting up is vital to winning, I found, and there’s a nice sense of progression to be had from turning your character into the equivalent of Rambo while laughing at the fact that you’re somehow carrying a ton of stuff despite not even wearing a t-shirt.
Combat presents what is probably my favorite mechanic in the entirety of The Others; corruption. By voluntarily taking one level of corruption you can claim all the benefits from that level and the ones before, as listed on the character card. These include adding extra dice to your roll, bonus defense and guaranteed hits. It’s so incredibly tempting to just take that one more bit of corruption for the greater good, to kill the baddie or remove tokens from the board. But of course just like taking corruption damage from enemies every level brings you closer to death because once corruption is maxed out any excess taken counts as wounds. Risk vs reward. In my group of players it was typical for the Sins player to attempt to goad heroes into taking that little extra bit of corruption, and it was wonderfully easy to fall into that trap and ultimately wind up dooming yourself. It’s a beautiful piece of design.
However, wounds get in the way of this. Each character can only absorb five hits before going down, and each wound marker covers up one of your corruption benefits. You get to decide what gets covered up and the very first space is basically a freebie, but after that you’ll have to lose useful things, creating interesting little decisions.
The actual act of combat boils down to rolling a bunch of dice. When a fight breaks out it involves the active hero and every enemy in the space, and both the hero and the bad guys get to roll, so keep in mind that even though you started the fight everybody gets to swing their weapons. The hero gets dice equal to that shown on their sheet, plus one for each other hero currently occupying that space, so it pays to stick together. They’ll also get any bonuses from equipment cards and that whole voluntary corruption thing we chatted about. As for the Sins player he or she gets dice equal to the total listed on the sheets for all baddies in the area, which can be quite a lot, plus bonuses from tokens in the area or Sins cards, something we’ll be covering soon.
Then you can settle down to dealing with the fact that not enough damn dice are included in the game for most fights, resulting in players having to remember what they rolled or having to mark it down. Hero dice have hits, shields for canceling enemy strikes and anti-corruption symbols which, you guessed it, negate one corruption symbol. They also get a F.A.I.T.H.symbol which not only can act as any symbol the player wishes but also lets them roll an extra die, which in turn can also be a F.A.I.T.H. symbol that triggers another die roll and so on. To kill a monster or enemy they simply have to have enough rolled hits to exceed the foe’s defense value, and those hits can be assigned to any enemy in the area, so more than one baddie can be killed at a time.
As for the Sins player they follow more or less the same procedure, except they don’t get any defensive symbols because clearly evil doesn’t believe in not getting itself killed stupidly. What they do get are hits, corruption and exploding hits which count as a strike and let you roll another die and so on. Basically, the Sins player excels at hitting stuff and makes up for the lack of defense by sheer numbers. Should the amount of hits rolled exceed the hero’s defense then it gets dealt as wounds, hopefully resulting in a gruesome death.
Speaking of death in The Others the likelihood is that one or more heroes are going to bite the dust at some point, be it valiantly while battling an Avatar of Sin or just crossing the street and falling afoul of an angry fire token. This is why you actually have a team of seven heroes available each mission, so that one player’s current hero dies he or she takes a new one and carries on like nothing ever happened, except that everybody else at the table is silently judging them. The Sin player wins if there are no heroes to bring out left. This is a pretty cool concept as it means you might get a chance to play as two heroes or more in a match.
There is ranged combat in the game, too, with certain heroes bringing firearms to the fight while certain gear lets otherwise melee focused characters do some long-range death-dealing as well. Like regular combat the hero gets to roll their dice, but unlike regular combat the Sins player has to suck up any hits. Should the target be left alive the Sins player can move it up to two spaces toward the hero in order to fight back.
It isn’t that the combat is bad. It’s not. It works well enough. But it’s also the thing you do the most in The Others and thus I quickly found myself wanting…more. It doesn’t quite manage to differentiate itself from other similar styles of game and the moment to moment decisions aren’t that engaging. You go in, toss some dice, kill a few things and repeat.
As for the Sins player he or she doesn’t have turns in quite the same way as the other people around the table. Instead, you get reaction tokens equal to the number of players which can be spent after a hero finishes up their turn in order to move one monster two spaces and then start a fight, although you are only permitted to start a fight with the hero who just completed their turn. With so few reaction tokens, though more can be gained, the Sins player gets considerably less agency than the heroes who all boast two turn tokens each by default, so there is more emphasis on the Sins player carefully picking their moments in order to gang-up on the heroes. With this said the Sins player gets quite a lot of extra bodies to throw into any given situation in the form of acolytes, the controller and minions. These might sound cool, but really they boil down to a couple of different stats and one minor power.
Some extra muscle gets provided by Sin cards that do a variety of things such as letting you shift extra monsters around or deal more damage. For every altar token on the table you get to draw one new Sin card at the end of each round, something which heroes can stop by simply being in the same place as an alter token, forcing them to choose between the mission and trying to curb the amount of chaos the Sins player can wreak. I like how this creates a fun little decision amidst the action; as a hero should I make a run for an altar or not? Is it worth the effort? As the forces of Sin I often found myself letting the altars act as bait if my hand of cards was already strong enough.
The Sins player also tends to get more powerful the longer the game drags on for thanks to the Apocolypse track, which advances through a few different ways. As the track is moved along the Sins player can get more reaction tokens and extra buffs, or they might get to draw a card from the Apocolypse deck which can do quite a few different things, including summoning members of the Doomsday Club to the board.
As a final bonus at the end of each round the Sins player can bring minions back from the dead, including the Avatar of Sin, again emphasizing the idea that the longer the game goes on the more likely the Sins player will be to win.
I did feel rather let down by how similar the Sins feel, though. Each one has a unique power, such as Pride forcing lone heroes to roll one less die, but in terms of stats they are exactly the same. The Avatar, controller and acolytes all roll the same amount of dice regardless of which Sin you opt to play as, and all the acolytes have exactly the same power. There’s the deck of Sins cards, but even then many cards are shared across the two sins, with only some providing truly unique benefits or abilities. I even went and checked out the other five sin expansion, and sure enough they all have the same stats and many of the same cards. I’d like to have seen more variation because right now the two Sins included in the core box don’t feel as distinct as I would have thought. It doesn’t make picking up the rest of the Sins that appealing, at least to me.
At its core The Others is a simple game of heroes moving around and fighting stuff. The meat comes from the decisions: you’re stronger if you stick together, but bunching up can make the Sin player’s job much easier. Districts can provide extra loot and rewards and chasing altars can weaken the Sins player, yet the more you move around the more damage you potentially take from fire and corruption tokens. As much as I dislike having to stop to roll for those tokens I can’t deny that they do force you to focus on what you want to do. But ultimately those decisions aren’t very interesting, the combat lacks any spark and the brilliance of the corruption mechanic can’t make up for the fact that the theme feels like a hodge-podge of stuff.
I do at least need to give credit to the game for feeling very well balanced. In many games of this type it can feel as though the player in charge of the enemy forces has the upper hand most of the time and almost has to guide the game’s difficulty. Here, though, both sides are free to play as hard as they can.
In short my own verdict here is that The Others: 7 Sins is purely an okay game. It plays well enough and may certainly be worth grabbing for someone who really, really loves one versus many games, but nothing about it says you need to own this, especially given the quite expensive price-tag. With all that said if you want something that looks pretty cool on the table and lets you kill stuff then it might be for you, although I’d probably recommend Conan over this or maybe something like Zombicide: Black Plague.