I was already thinking of reviewing #Scythe (with all the extras I have) and #Mechs vs. Minions this holiday. I have some free time and they are both games I feel deserve some extra tlc when discussing them.
I tend to have rambling reviews and this one is likely not going to be any exception. So let's get to it!
*NOTE* The mission I am playing is one of the ones with the boss in it. I've tried not to show it or much of it but there may be other minor spoilery things in here. This isn't some deep lore heavy game with a twist or anything but I thought I'd give everyone a heads up.
The Story Behind the Game
I am not a League of Legends player but I have a friend who is in to it big time. The story is that Riot Games makes the highly successful League of Legends game, but people were making fun of them for being called Riot Games but only having one game. (One highly successful billion+ sales game mind you.)
So they decided to make another game and just go all out on it.
Ok, let's just start out strong. The. Components. Rock. I can't imagine they make any money on this game but I don't think that is the point behind it. If this was a kickstarter I shudder to think how much it would cost.
Let's just take a look shall we:
Why am I showing you the cover again? Well, it's hard to see in the photo but the entire symbol is embossed in to the very thick cardboard that makes up the box. (And everything else in the box too.) Everything that can be blinged and made a bit extra fancy is.
The first layer of the box. You can see the missions, the characters, some crystals, and a big axe in a box in the upper left. Wonder what that is?
The characters all come prepainted, are extremely detailed and cute, and made out of great material (as best as I can tell). The plastic is stiff enough that they won't get bent but pliable enough they aren't going to snap with a drop. Just pure quality.
Here you see in the first tray. 2 six sided dice, the plastic crystals that have spots for minions to sit on them, 2 twelve sided rune dice, a bunch of minions, the metal rune coins and gears that I will show you in action later. Did those have to be metal? No. Is it awesome that they are? Yes!
Another layer down and we have a second tray full of minions. There are 100 minions in the box. I have played through the full game and it's possible to come close to running out.
The minions are also made out of great plastic and have a bit of a wash to them to get the details out.
Below that the actual spot where the mission briefings live along with more minions. They had space so why not put more minions in?
Below that you see one of the player boards, the sand timer, the bomb that is used in some misssions, the command cards, and part of the gear tracking board. Those player boards are large and made of very thick cardboard. This game takes up a lot of space once it's all setup.
You may be asking yourself, "Why is R0land showing me a closeup of the vacutray for the minions?"
The answer is that there are three poses for the minions. They made it so that ANY pose can go in ANY spot in the tray. You don't have to hunt around for where they go. You just put them anywhere. And you will be working with a LOT of minions during the game. This is a life saver.
You'll see more components as we go through the game but all I can say is that nothing is left blank or empty. There are cool touches everywhere and all of the components are excellent quality.
There is a tutorial mission that then leads you in to the next mission which leads you to the next mission etc. There are 10 missions total but they can be played with various difficulties.
I'm playing through mission 6. In the missions envelop we see the briefing and each character will get a schematic card to add to their characters collection.
Yes, there is a radio play online which you can play before each mission to get some character personality and add some flavour to the missions. They aren't something you have to do but they are a nice touch.
The mission will show you a board setup. The boards are big, beautiful, chunky things with shiny parts for the oil slicks etc. Crystals may go on the board, the bomb may go on, and the big figure in the box might go on too. There is also another tile for the starting base that has to be defended in some missions.
So setup the board, put the minions and other things on it, set your mechs up in the spots given, pick 2 of your special schematic cards to hopefully activate and away you go!
In the first round you do a double draft of command cards but other than that the flow you see here is followed.
Drafting Command Cards
In a normal turn the first player (which rotates every turn) draws 5 cards, turns the timer over and looks at the cards. They then take one of the cards to draft and pass them along. This continues until 4 cards are drafted regardless of player count.
If the draft isn't done before the timer runs out the remaining cards are handed out randomly until 4 total are drafted.
That timer is just a great addition to the game. It does two things: 1) it adds excitement to the drafting, which can get really intense with 4 people, and 2) it forces people to think quickly and stops drafting from turning in to a long drawn out affair.
It can definitely create some tension but I am really glad it's there.
Playing Command Cards
The players then decide what to do with the cards they drafted. Typically they will slot them in to a command slot. There are 6 slots on the board and you can place your cards in any undamaged slot. (Various things might occur if there are already other command cards there.)
Here's a couple of examples of command cards:
Omnistomp allows you to move your mech 1 space forward or to the side to start. Scythe forces you to turn 90 degrees then damage 1 target next to you.
The other thing you can do is power up your cards. By playing a card on top of another card of the same colour the card on top becomes level 2.
So here for example is a flamespitter card. It damages two targets in front of you. If we put a blaze card on top...
..the blaze card is level 2. Normally you move ahead one space then damage opponents beside you. At level 2 you move 2 spaces and damage and if I put another blaze on top it would be 3 spaces. Note, if I put a different red card on top then THAT card is level 3. The cards beneath it aren't relevant anymore.
You can also put it in the slot of a command card of a different colour which causes the old command card(s) to be discarded.
So turn after turn you are adding more command cards to your command line giving you more power and flexibility.
The other thing you can do is scrap a card you drafted to activate it's other power.
If you look at the bottom of these two cards the Omistomp lets you swap two undamaged slots if it's scrapped and the Ripsaw allows you to repair one damage if it's scrapped.
Execute Command Line
This is the fun and stressful part. In player order each mech executes their command line from steps 1 to 6.
So for the line above:
- The mech MUST turn 90 degree it then does a damage to any targets 1 space diagonal to the mech.
- It then MUST move 1 step right, left, or forward.
- It MUST turn 90 degrees again and does a damage to one target within 1 square of it.
- Then it does damage in the 2 spaces in front of the mech.
This is where the game becomes a delight (like many programming games). You repair, swap command lines, add in new commands, and then hope it works out and you didn't forget something. Or perhaps another player goes before you and messes up your plans unexpectedly. Or maybe you take a damage in the middle of your command execution and it messes things up. Or maybe everything just turns out better than expected!
Minions are both great and not great. They only take 1 hit to kill and just running them over with your mech is enough. So you can cut HUGE swaths through a horde of minions sometimes.
But they keep coming. There is no end to them.
Everytime a minion dies it goes on the minion kill board. Every 5 minions moves the gear up the team cards tracker. (Yes, I've killed 26 minions at this point. I think I got up to 45 by the end.) Remember those schematic cards you picked at the beginning? Well if the gear tracker ever matches the value needed for the schematic card you immediately activate it!
These two cards need 7 and 5 gears to be activate. The one on the left is an all the time schematic (see the save disk in the upper right corner) whereas the one on the right is a once a game activation (see the garbage can in the upper right).
In this particular mission I needed to destroy 4 crystals and then get to the other end of the map before the boss powers up his mega cannon. On turn one I managed to have Heimerdinger omnistomp to his right and then ripsaw the crystal.
By the end of the mission I was moving many squares and destroying swaths of enemies.
But the enemy is not sitting idle. Each mission has different rules around how the minions move. In this mission it was the more typical thing where you roll a rune die and move them according to the colour compass
So they all move in the red direction. They stop at the edge of the board and cannot move other minions or mechs out of their way.
Again, each missions may have its own variation on this. For this mission they just spawn at the runes on the map that match the rune die rolled for movement.
So if green was rolled then that green rune would be covered with a minion. In this case the red guy popped up.
Then the minions damage all orthogonally adjacent mechs.
Uh oh, that yellow spawn roll wasn't so great for Corki.
In turn order draw damage cards one at a time for each point of damage that mech took. Some damage cards are placed on the command line covering up the command cards beneath and are activated instead. At least until they are repaired. Others have an effect and then go away.
The anti-brake locks go in to slot 2 covering up whatever is there. Some damage cards will make the mech move or rotate and they must be executed when the command line is run. If a damage card goes over another damage card the first one is removed.
The dreaded glitch is a one time affect that swaps command slots. This particular one caused me to lose the game literally two commands away from winning! Curse you glitch!
I can't say too much here but there is a variety of missions you will have to overcome with various interesting challenges. Sometimes it's the map that is dangerous, sometimes it's the boss, sometimes it's trying to deliver something somewhere and so on.
Repeat the steps 1 - 6 plus any special steps until the game is over win or lose.
Underneath all of the flash of the components there is a really good game here.
Most games start off with a bit of an overwhelmed feeling. I have to do what? With what? And how fast?
But draft after draft your mech starts getting more and more powerful giving you more and more options. As your schematics come on line that gives you even further abilities that can turn the tide of the game.
Despite that the game almost always makes you feel under pressure. The minions won't stop coming, the missions frequently have a hard or soft time limit. And of course, you will take damage at some point and you will have to figure out how to deal with that while still accomplishing your goal.
I have had a mission where we just had everything go against us and we lost the game. But I've also had it go the other way where a mission we thought was going to be hard went smooth as silk.
Yes sometimes the damage is going to go in exactly the wrong slot at the wrong time. But it could sometimes also go in exactly the right slot and become a real asset for you. Luck is a factor in this game all over the place to one degree or another.
However, most of the time you will be able to use your wits to deal with the randomness and pressure the game throws at you. It feels REALLY good as a team to look at a tough situation and come up with a way to make it all work despite your damaged mech and seemingly hopeless board state.
Sometimes it doesn't pan out but even then coming up with a clever plan that didn't quite work out is still a lot of fun.
But sometimes you come up with a plan and it depends on the last players damage card in slot 3 rolling a blue to turn his mech to blue so he can get to the end of the map for the win. And it happens. Man, such a great feeling.
I have to take some time to talk about the missions. If the gameplay was simply "kill 100 minions" everytime I don't think the game play would hold up. The drive to accomplish the mission objectives really makes this game hum.
They get more and more difficult and complicated as they go along and the variety really keeps things fresh as you have to look at the game differently each time. Sometimes you need a lot of movement, sometimes you need fine control, and so on.
I think there might be online sources for additional missions but you can also play the missions in the box at different difficulties as well.
The game doesn't have an official solo mode but it is pretty easy to play 2 mechs. It is hard to keep track of the hour glass while you are looking at cards but I do my best. The synergy between the mechs is better with just one player but on the other hand you only have one brain working on the problem of how to accomplish the goals of the game with the resources the players have. I'd say it's a wash.
I've played 6 games solo and I do enjoy the games solo. However, I will say it is different from the tenseness of the draft and sharing the thrill of victory or agony of defeat with other people.
I prefer it multiplayer but still enjoy it solo.
I've played this game 17 times at this point which is a lot for me. I've played through the full campaign with my game group and I've been going through it again myself solo.
I think the gameplay of Mechs vs Minions is usually very good and sometimes great. It's not a top 10 game for me but it's likely top 20. (I've played ~300 different games though so that's nothing to be ashamed about.)
At one point when they were selling for quite a bit I had even briefly considered selling it.
However, when I open the box and see the treasure inside of it I know this game is never leaving my collection.
It's a cardboard fairytale showing us what board games would be like if they were made without limits or compromise! Well worth hanging on to!
Thanks for reading!