Exercise Your Envy with The Others: 7 Sins

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The Others: 7 Sins is the new all-against-one boardgame from CoolMiniOrNot , Guillotine Games, and Studio McVey games, designed by Eric Lang. Set in a Hellboy style post-apocalyptic mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror; players create a specialized strike-force of protagonist to fight the denizens of the seven sins.

Your tabletop will be full of gorgeous components, but with a considerable price tag, is The Others the right game for your group? Let’s gaze into the abyss and uncover the virtues of the seven Sins.

The Briefest of Overviews

The antagonist selects one of the available Sins to play (not all Sins come in the core set of the game) which will inform the choices she has and the theme of the travails that the good-guys have to struggle through. If an antagonist manifests the Sin of Sloth, for example, the protagonists will have to pay to maintain normal mobility; if she selects Pride, then protagonists are penalized for their hubris if they leave the safety of the group.  A story is picked to play through and the corresponding board is created with square tiles. The protagonists assemble their strikeforce from a large array of possible characters with unique abilities and consisting of the gaming archetypes you’d imagine- some good at brawling, some good at supporting others etc.  Bad-guys are placed on the board, along with raging fires, civilians to save, altars of sacrifice, that sort of thing. Some stories have the theme of corruption, some of redemption; but in general the protagonists move around the board splitting heads, upgrading their gear, cleansing troubled areas in the city, all while trying not to die from giant rampaging avatars of sin. The game flow proceeds with our heroes taking their turns around the table with the Sin player able to react at half the activations of the heroes. This turns structure adds to the tension of the game as the protagonists are never sure when the distended piles of sores and tentacles will shamble for them.

The Good

The Others is one of the lushest games of 2016. The miniatures are incredibly imaginative and very well rendered (check the gallery at the bottom of the page). The game world depicted feels completely thought-out and real, and you get the sense that the game is showing you only a glimpse of it. The art in the books is top quality and the mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror all runs together in an organic way (of course my were-wolf will access the orbital laser, why is this the first game to allow me to do such a thing?)

The mechanics of The Others are very tight, consisting of icon matching and cancelling on customized dice. There feels like the potential for a vast amount of replay as the amount of combinations of Sins, stories, characters, gear, and backgrounds is staggering. While that vast potential is there though, at any given time the player has a manageable set of options in front of them to consider, and those choices all are meaningful.

The way the themes of the specific Sins comes across in the game also feels very natural and thorough, but the stand-out aspect of the game is the way in which the game mechanic of corruption embodies the nature of temptation. On the player board, you track a stat of corruption. When you make a roll you can voluntarily gain a corruption to gain a set of benefits. You have limited opportunities to do this, and if you max out your corruption bad things start to happen, but also the benefits of taking just … one… more also increase. In a game, all about fighting sin, this mechanic that blends risk /reward, picking your moment, and embracing your inner darkness to cleanse the world is very engaging and may just be my favorite mechanic of 2016 so far.

The Bad

To some extent the lavish design of The Others whispers a promise in your ear that feels somewhat unfulfilled at the end of a session. The very detailed scenarios and lush world design scream out for a campaign experience, a solid narrative where things develop, decisions and events over sessions interact and build on one another- but that’s not this game, these are one-off scenarios. There is a benefit to that of course, the scenarios being self-contained are more likely to run in balanced fashion, but that doesn’t stop the feeling that these stories should run together. There is plenty of room for a campaign-style expansion if the publishers go that route in the future, and if not, I would be surprised not to see some player-created variants to create such an experience.

Comparison to its peers

Running around a board of square city-tiles, seeking out gear, and killing monsters;  this may at first sound like The Others is the successor to Zombicide – another CoolMiniOrNot game – but they are fairly different gaming experiences. While Zombicide is playfully brutal in its anxiety-producing crush of rampaging hordes, The Others has a more thoughtful approach in how our heroes try to thread their way through a seemingly impossible set of challenges.

Other popular all-against-one games of Descent and Imperial Assault spring to mind with having well-balanced mechanics themselves, and campaign modes to boot. The unique patchwork of genres in the theme of The Others, along with the pervasiveness of the different styles of Sins and endless combination of characters, gear, scenarios allows The Others to go toe-to-toe with those big-name titles. Imperial Assault in particular sometimes suffers from the game incentivizing the antagonist to clutter up the board with goons to stop the heroes from progressing, meaning that the antagonist’s best path forward and the group’s funniest path forward are not always in alignment, and so far I haven’t seen The Others suffer from this.

So is it good enough?

The Others: 7 Sins is not cheap. The core set runs around $80 American, but you get what you pay for. The fun, if anxious play, with high replayability, and great use of themes makes the game an easy recommendation. If the lack of a campaign does not put you off, then you may find it even superior to Imperial Assault or Descent. If a campaign mode is important to you, also check out Arcadia Quest (another Eric Lang game), that has some similar elements to The Others, plus a campaign and heavy PvP. For, strictly speaking all-against-one style combat games though, The Others: 7 Sins may be in the front of the pack.

What’s your favorite all-against-one game? Already there have been several variants suggested online for The Others, do you have any to recommend? What other games offer a lush and unique world you’d love to see explored in some fashion?  Let us know in the comments.

All Image Credits: Guillotine Games, Studio McVey Games, and CoolMiniOrNot.

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