Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sentinels should be feared...

Not laughed at.

Yet somewhere down the line these killer robots turned into Keystone Cops, buffoonish oafs that can't carry any weight in a fight. Just like in the cartoon battles between GI Joe and Cobra, nobody gets hurt in a fight with the Sentinels (except the sentinels). Even in the cartoon Jubilee, who's only power is to create fireworks, easily evades and dispatches the mutant hunting menaces.

I blame Saturday morning (PG rated) television standards for their current reputation. Additionally, as robots, the X-Men have no moral quandary when fighting Sentinels, and can unleash full neck snapping, eye-gouging force that can't be used against, say... Magneto and Toad. At least not until robots march on Washington for Civil Rights.

This week WizKids unveiled the first of 6 colossal figures available in the Giant-Sized X-men expansion due next month, a Sentinel Mark II.

This is the game's third attempt to introduce a competitive Mutant stomper,

and unfortunately it falls a little flat. Fans were hoping for something that would strike fear into the hearts of opponents (and mutants) everywhere - a figure capable of holding its own at 300 points.

Sentinels have a history of getting beaten up. sure. As mentioned, they're ideal villains to fight - they constantly replenish themselves, and heroes don't have to face a murder charge when they rip off a head or two.

Sentinels also have a long standing history of crushing mutants. In the Days of Future Past story arc, the Sentinels eliminated most of the heroes and mutants of their timeline with ease.

Even powerhouses like Jean Grey

and Wolverine got PWNed,

not to mention the world's most powerful mutant,
Fantastic Four offspring Franklin Richards.

Yeah, I know. It's the future, it's an alternate timeline, and it's a bit of a "What If" tale, because you can't kill your mutant darling cash cows. Still, the Sentinels are no joke when they show up in comics, having devastated the island of Genosha (killing 16 million mutants in the process) and hounding everyone.

From the Avengers

to the Champions.

So what's wrong with the new dial design? Let's start with what's right - lots of damage reducers are a plus, along with the Indomitable ability. However, that upfront Invulnerability quickly fades mid-dial into a naked defense at shameful values of 15 and 16. Damage drops at the point making it harder and harder to KO mutants.

Sadly, these robots are missing all the components that kept them competitive in a 300 point environment.

First and foremost, the original Sentinels had the capture ability:

It didn't matter if you had a 300+ point Cosmic Spider-Man, or a 41 point Wolverine, Sentinels could capture any standard based figure up to two figures at a time, removing the number of threats from the board. Nothing says "fear" more than losing the team's quarterback to a giant purple fist.

Tent pole figures had good reason to be afraid.

Original Sentinels could also act every turn, and featured Multi-attack, to offset being out-actioned or tied up too long. Finally, the first Sentinels ignored certain powers like Mind Control and Poison.

New Sentinel has some significant upgrades in the defense department, and a power that rewards it for KO'ng mutants, but it lacks a certain flavor, like automatic regeneration, and modular design seen here in this page from New Mutants #48:

Sentinels have always had a history of respawning, as well as adapting to the targets they fight. A special power representing WoS Wolverine's regeneration, or Deadpool's Ridiculous Regeneration trait would have been in order. Even a Nanobots ability could have benefited the big guy.

Another problem with WizKids new Mark II also has to worry about Line of Fire issues - Stealth will wreck his 10 range, 2 target attacks. Compare it to the classic comic book Sentinels that can scan mutants miles, even when they're hiding:

Again from NM #48, showcasing Sentinels detection abilities. Finally, Sentinels attack in packs of three or four, and at 300 points, Mark II doesn't have a lot of room for friends while remaining competitive. In a 600 point fight, two Mark II's will easily get out-actioned, Outwit, outclassed and outplayed.

Here's hoping the other Sentinel in GSX adds a little synergy to this model, or that we'll see additional rules to accompany these purple mutant eaters and restore them to their Days of Future Past glory.

Until then, we'll just have to wait for the next design, the new hotness, the Mark III.

Whenever the Sentinels return that is.

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