Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of Sidekick Saga from its designer and publisher, Richard T. Saunders.
What is this game about?
Sidekick Saga is a superhero-themed game in which the heroes have all disappeared—and you are the sidekicks they've left behind. You'll be working to find your missing mentors, while also trying to keep criminals in the city at bay.
The goal of any game of Sidekick Saga is to take out the main bad guy of the scenario. But to do that, you'll need to work your way up through the less potent enemies who are protecting their boss. Each scenario offers a different configuration of enemies to deal with, and you'll all be battling each other at various locations across the city.
During the game, you deal with a "bad news" card that helps time your game, then move from location to location, choose whether to spend your turn as a hero or as your "regular" self, combat enemies, use hacking to take bad guys out of commission, collect leads, and draw cards from the location decks to acquire useful abilities and tools. The game is a "green legacy" that introduces new rules, keywords, and characters over the course of multiple scenarios, but if you wanted to, you could reset and play the story again. Sidekick Saga also comes with a skirmish mode that offers challenges outside of the main storyline.
How does it play solo?
Sidekick Saga is a cooperative game, so it's a simple matter to solo it by playing two-handed and running two sidekicks.
Sidekick Saga is a functional game, but I wasn't feeling it. There are several things that it does well. One of these is the introduction of new mechanisms over time—the scenario books are printed as comic book "issues" that reveal a bit more story and a few new tricks each game. The power upgrades and access to new characters are well timed, and the inclusion of a skirmish mode outside of the storyline is thoughtful. I also like that hacking is an element of combat to help you trip up enemies you can't outright defeat—it allows you to spend your turn taking them out of commission, but it's only temporary, and it keeps you from going after more immediate threats.
That said, Sidekick Saga is a personal dream, not a polished product from a major publisher—and you can tell. I feel bad saying it, because what is Kickstarter if not a place for people to turn dreams into realities? But the rulebook needs an editor, the graphic design is chaotic and sometimes sloppy (there can be 3 different fonts on a single card), and there are aspects of the game that could have been smoothed out with more playtesting. The gameplay works well enough, but it isn't as zippy and fun as I would want from a game with this theme—typically a turn is spent digging through location decks, and not feeling like a burgeoning superhero at all. There are also aspects of the game, such as the "Suspect of Interest," which represents how much enemy attention you're drawing, that you are required to pay attention to, but that make you work more than they add to the drama of the game.
And in a market that is full of very strong superhero games, it's not possible for even a pretty good game to get traction. Sentinels of the Multiverse and Marvel Champions are both absolutely fantastic games. I enjoy Marvel Legendary, there is a DC deckbuilding game that I hear is decent, and I am very excited to see what the Sadlers have done with their upcoming superhero game, Hour of Need. (The art alone for that one is stunning so far.) In a world where gamers are spoiled for choice, a game that works isn't quite enough anymore.
Do I recommend it?
No, not unless you are absolutely jonesing for another superhero game. However, elements of this design show promise and I would be willing to try the next game published by this designer.
Overall rating: 2.5 stars
5 stars - I love it!
4 stars - I really like it.
3 stars - I like it.
2 stars - It's okay.
1 star - Meh.