Number of Players: 2-5
Honest Playtime: 90 minutes to 2 hours
Playthroughs: 4 (Once as the Sin and three as a member of F.A.I.T.H.)
Overview: The Others: 7 Sins is an us vs. him game of tactical combat and tense-decision making with strong horror and science fiction themes; think of Event Horizon set on Earth (with more guns) and you’d be pretty close. It was developed by Eric M. Lang and released in 2016.
One player takes on the role of an embodiment of one of the seven deadly sins: Wrath, Pride, Sloth, Greed, and so on. The Sin player summons monsters, spreads fire and corruption, and generally makes life pretty terrible for the heroes and citizens of Haven–the fictional city where the game takes place.
The remaining players take on the role of members of F.A.I.T.H. (Federal Authority for the Interdiction of Transdimensional Horrors), a group of heroes that range from a werewolf, to a vampire, to a high-tech sniper, to a female Nick Fury-esque shotgun wielding, eye-patched leader. The heroes will work together to complete missions, clear corruption and fire, and, hopefully, drive the Sin from Haven. Many will not survive.
Gameplay: Games begin with the Sins player choosing their Sin of choice and the players together choosing which scenario and map set-up to play on. There are 3 main scenario types, each with different themes and missions for the heroes to complete: terror, corruption, and redemption. One terror game I played saw the city of Haven engulfed in flames and monsters. A redemption mission tasked the heroes with rescuing innocents from all over the maps. Corruption, I thought, was the most interesting mission type. During this game each hero is assigned a hidden “dark past” card that is flipped when their corruption meter fills. These range from annoying–the hero takes some damage–to terrible–the hero is entirely corrupted and joins the Sin player’s team. There’s enough variation between the mission types to keep things interesting and cause for a change in strategy. The heroes win when they complete their mission objectives, and the Sin player wins when the heroes enough are killed off and they can no longer muster any additional reinforcements.
There are four different hero classes for the FAITH players to utilize: fixers, leaders, brawlers, and shooters. Each hero brings their own unique abilities and stats to the game: the vampire brawler Morgana heals a wound every turn; the shooter Brad can detonate explosives that kill monsters but leave behind fire; and the demonic brawler Thorley can tank for other heroes. Over the course of a game heroes will almost assuredly perish. When this happens, a player simply gets to take a fresh hero from their remaining roster. If there are no remaining heroes on the bench when a death occurs, the Sins player wins. There is definitely a lot strategy to consider when deciding which heroes to start with, which heroes to save for later, and which ones to sacrifice for the greater good of the team.
At its heart, The Others is a pretty straightforward game of tactical combat–Star Wars Imperial Assault is a decent starting point for comparison, though The Others is a bit simpler (I was able to run through my first full game of The Others without having to refer back to the rule book more than once or twice). The heroes of FAITH will move around the modular board, complete objectives, collect loot and equipment, fight monsters, and remove corruption and fire tokens. The Sins player does not have traditional turns, but is able to react to the actions of the heroes by moving around monsters, engaging in combat, and playing reactionary Sin and Apocalypse cards. Combat is resolved through relatively simple dice rolls. If the player rolls enough damage to kill the monsters, he wins. If the monster rolls more damage than the hero has armor, it gives the hero a wound. It’s simple enough to pick up on and resolve quickly, though I did find myself wishing for some more complexity or decision-making at times.
There is one interesting caveat to the dice rolls in the game: the mechanic of so-called “exploding dice.” Each die has one side that acts as an “exploding” wild-card. If this side is rolled, not only does the hero get to choose the result, but they also gets to roll an additional die. This allows for a theoretically infinite series of additional rolls where the wild-card comes up again and again. The Sin player has a similar mechanic on their dice rolls as well, the only difference being they do not get a wild-card effect and instead can only stack damage. Because of this mechanic, victory is never entirely out of reach for the heroes or the Sin player. The most wounded, weak hero, could (with an extreme amount of luck) defeat the most monstrous creature the Sin player throws at them. Likewise, the most well-equipped and healthy hero could, if unlucky, perish by moving through a space that is on fire. I loved it.
Another interesting mechanic that I enjoyed and that makes The Others stand apart from other games in the genre is the ability for the heroes to voluntarily take corruption damage to temporarily improve their abilities. It leads to a great risk vs. reward system that leads to the players having to ask themselves some tough questions. Do I become more corrupted to guarantee victory, even if it could mean death later? Do I take corruption on this low-powered enemy now, or do I save it for going head to head with the avatar of Sin later? Is it worth it to take corruption to remove this blazing fire now, or should I just ignore it and take a point of damage instead?
Every game of The Others that I’ve played has come down to a razor-thin finish. Two of the games I played came down to a single die of the final dice roll. The other two came down to similar do-or-die situations on the final turn. The level of tension created in these moments easily rivals any other I’ve experienced while board-gaming. There is a great balance of power between the Sin and the heroes and it always feels like things are just one bad roll from spiraling out of control.
I enjoyed my time spent playing as the Sin and as a member of FAITH, but probably preferred acting as one of the heroes. Talking strategy, planning moves, and facing off against difficult odds as a member of FAITH was, for me, more fun than reacting to the heroes as the Sin player.
Art and Pieces: The selling point for The Others has to be the miniatures, especially those of the Sins and their minions. They are sturdy and detailed, with each individual tentacle, slavering tongue, and gaping maw lovingly crafted. I’m not a mini-painter, but can imagine that those who are will find tons of little details to love and agonize over while working on these pieces. Browsing the images of painted figures on BoardGameGeek gives a great idea of the possibilities someone with an imaginative mind and steady hand could achieve. If you are into minis, they could be reason enough to purchase The Others.
The other artwork in the game is less impressive than the minis, but serviceable. Item card illustrations get the job done, character boards feature large color illustrations, and the rule book is full of lots of cool, horrific pictures of corrupted, betentacled hobos and other monstrosities.
The modular map pieces are the weak point of the game’s art. In contrast to the minis, they feel boring and uninspired. Additionally, many map locations will have corruption or monster-nest tokens printed directly on them. These can be extremely easy to miss because of too-dark or busy backgrounds.
Conclusion: The Others: 7 Sins offers a strongly thematic game of light tactical combat and tense finishes, all carried out with gorgeously horrific minis.
There is enough variety in mission types, Sins, and heroes to allow for a solid amount of replayability, and games are quick enough that they can be played through in a week-night gaming session. I don’t, however, see The Others as offering enough depth to make me want to keep returning to it year after year.
For a game that focuses largely on combat, the combat itself can feel a bit simplistic and random at times. However, the exploding dice and the corruption system mechanics did enough to make sure I was never bored while playing.
With an MSRP of $100–selling on Amazon for $80 at the time of this review–for the base game (there are many, many expansion packs that introduce new Sins and hero groupings), The Others is certainly not an impulse-purchase type of game. Yet, for the mini-enthusiast, there is a lot of great stuff that comes in the base box.
I’d recommend the game to anyone interested in gorgeous miniatures, but might caution those more focused on gameplay to think before dropping the money on the game.
Overall Score: 7/10