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Mechs vs. Minions» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Mechs vs Minions First Impressions rss

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James Palmer
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Hey everyone. So I got an opportunity to try out Mechs vs Minions this week, and play it a few times, and thought I'd share a few of my first impressions of the game. Don't worry, I'll keep this as spoiler-free as possible. I'll discuss the tutorial and first mission, but only in terms of general feel of the game and the rules that get introduced, but not the story or what you specifically need to do. This is more of first impressions rather than a full review; I'll assume you've watched or read something about this game and understand the basic gist of what it's about.




Components

There's not much to say about this, except that like some of the reviewers have said, the videos and pictures don't quite do it justice. The game really is heavy (I'd say at least twice as heavy as any other board game I own), and there is just so much attention to detail to everything inside. For instance, there are little symbols on the lid for the tray that holds the mechs matching the faces of the yordles, showing you which mechs go in which slot, and for each section that cardboard tiles or cards fit into, there is always a spot for your finger to reach down to grab it and pick it up. And there are many more details that you can find in the inserts, that are just there for fun.

The mechs are gorgeous - best prepainted minis I've seen in a game. And the wash on the minions really make the details pop. The cards are thick and of high quality, and just every piece is as high of quality as you could possibly expect.



Tutorial

The tutorial does a great job of introducing you to the game quickly. It plays very fast - I've played it a few times now and each time it takes around 20 minutes or so, including rules explanation. Some games take just that long to explain the rules, but for MvM, by time you're 20 minutes in, not only have you learned the rules but you've played a game start to finish. There's no way to lose the tutorial, so it's been especially fun to play with my 6 year old son, who loves grabbing whatever looks interesting and seeing what happens as his mech evolves and grows more powerful.



Mission 1

The first mission is where the real gameplay starts. At a certain point in the game, you start to use the timer when drafting cards. The timer gives you just enough time to read all the cards, and quickly let the other players know what you want before picking stuff up. The second round where we had the timer, we did end up having to deal the last card out randomly, when we caught ourselves discussing more than we should have.

The first time minions spawn, it was a pretty awesome moment, when you really realize what this game is about, as all of a sudden literally almost half of the available board space is taken up by minions, and you have to figure out how to deal with them.

There was this great evolution in our play of Mission 1, where at the beginning things don't look too bad, but your Mechs are weak and kind of useless as you build them up. Just as you're getting your Mech to a point where you feel it's useful, it's at that point where you find yourselves overwhelmed and surrounded by minions, and the mission feels in real jeopardy of not being able to be won. But then your mechs evolve some more, you unlock a schematic or two for your mechs, and you find yourself with a real minion mashing machine, and the game starts to tilt back in your favour with just enough time to finish the objective. At least, that's how our game panned out, and it was a lot of fun.

Our play of Mission 1 lasted around 30-40 minutes. If luck went a bit different, I think it could have lasted longer, or if we were really unlucky, might have ended even quicker.



Rules and cards

There's been some talk about the rules and how good they are. Overall, I'm happy with the rules. The tutorial rulebooks lay things out nicely and clearly with lots of diagrams, and some banter between the characters as well to keep things interesting. The way things are laid out, you learn just a couple rules at time, so there's never more than a minute or two downtime and then you're back to playing the game. It makes learning and getting into the game fun and fast-paced.

There are, however, some ambiguities and inconsistencies in the rules. We quickly discovered that how you take damage is described slightly different in the tutorial book than in the reference rulebook. If you have multiple minions in contact with you, the tutorial says to draw all damage cards, and then play them one at a time. But the reference rule book seems to imply that you would draw and play a single card, then repeat until all damage is dealt. Since damage cards can move you, causing minions who were beside you to not be beside you anymore, and other minions to now be beside you that weren't before, these 2 interpretations make a difference in gameplay. I popped a message to Chris from Riot Games, and he quickly got back to me and confirmed my suspicion that the tutorial book was in fact correct. There have been a few other such inconsistencies, most of which are clarified in the FAQ, and generally for all of them, if you take the interpretation that makes the most sense, game or theme-wise, you will do it right.

The same goes for the cards. The majority of the cards are clear, but a couple have some awkward wording, or use some wording that is inconsistent with other cards. Although for a couple cards I had to stare at them for a few seconds to grasp what they meant, all of them I was able to figure out without doubts in the end.



Player Count

I've played the game solo, with 2 players, and with 3 players. It worked well in all cases, but here are some additional thoughts:

SOLO:
While solo works, and there is nothing at all preventing you from playing it this way, I can understand why Riot Games advertises the game as 2-4 players, rather than as a solo game, for a couple reasons.
A big part of this game is the collaboration aspect to it - it's the metagame that is really the heart of the game. You need to discuss and (sometimes quickly) co-ordinate with your teammates to get the job done. In one of my games, I had things all lined up to do a chain lightning attack that would kill several minions. But then my teammate went before me and killed the minion that would have been the first one I hit, and so my whole chain lightning fizzled out and did nothing. If I were playing it solo, I would have more or less worked through both mechs, and solved the puzzle on my own. As a team game, there is another whole layer of play, in communicating what you are going to, or want to, do. That collaboration aspect is lost in a solo game.

The other part of the game that lends itself to more players is just the silliness of the game. From the text in the dossiers, to the crazy moments that happen when your mechs don't do what you want, there is a lot of humour going on. The game can just get silly. So just like you wouldn't want to play Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity by yourself, the same goes with this game - without people to laugh along with and enjoy the silly aspects of the game with, it will lose a certain spark, to say the least.

WIth that said, I need to reiterate that you can still totally play this solo. I think, assuming you're using the timer, that trying to play more than 2 mechs is going to be difficult though. But if the above 2 caveats don't concern you, then go ahead and play solo.

2 OR MORE PLAYERS:
I found the game worked equally well with 2 or 3 players, and think it would also work well with 4. There's been some discussion around which would be easier or harder, and I think in the end it's well balanced, but likely will depend on the mission. One of the big advantages of fewer players is getting to choose 2 cards. I can't overstate just how powerful this is. In a 4 player game, you will pick a card having no idea what you'll be able to take next, but in a 2 player game, you can pick cards that go together and create the combo you need, each and every round.

The advantages of having more players is obvious though - you can have more mechs in more places doing more different roles. As you get schematic cards, it will mean more and a greater variety of special abilities that you can perform.

I'd have to play it more to be sure, but so far, I feel like the game is decently balanced between player counts.



Radio Play, Tutorial Video, and Soundtrack

For our first time trying the game, we played the tutorial video for everyone to watch before we started, and then did the radio play as we went along. It really added a lot to the game. It did a great job of fleshing out the characters, and made the whole thing feel more like a real story that we were part of. I tried out the soundtrack for one of the games, and enjoyed it as well. It's just some interesting sound effects, but it adds atmosphere without being distracting. At first I hoped it was music, and was disappointed that it was just a sound effect track, but after playing, I prefer it as is, and plan on using it whenever I can.



Final Thoughts
So that's about it so far. I have to say I'm really enjoying the game, and am looking forward to playing more missions. Everyone I played with also enjoyed it immensely. My 6 year old is especially excited about it - he's talking about it nonstop now and is making minions and mechs out of Lego. Any missions beyond the tutorial will take some adjustments to play the game with him, but I think it will still be quite doable.

This game is quick to learn, but I think at the same time, there is some real depth here, and I know as the missions continue, more options, and thus more interesting decisions, open up for the players. And as I mentioned above, there's a certain evolution to the game, where the beginning, middle, and end of the game have a very different feel.

I highly recommend the game, and am looking to play it some more! If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll answer them as best as I can.



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Baker Odom
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Great review! I was especially pleased to read that 2 players seems to balance well. My primary gaming partner is my wife so there will be a lot of 2 player plays of this in the future.
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Bruno D
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Yes, great review! Thanks!

What are your first impressions on replayability ? There has been some talk about replaying the missions on a harder level, but, besides that, do you see yourself replaying the same missions multiple times as you would replay other games ? Or is it more a campaign that you could play a few runs of (with the varying difficulty) and then that's it ?
 
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James Palmer
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teg2 wrote:
Yes, great review! Thanks!

What are your first impressions on replayability ? There has been some talk about replaying the missions on a harder level, but, besides that, do you see yourself replaying the same missions multiple times as you would replay other games ? Or is it more a campaign that you could play a few runs of (with the varying difficulty) and then that's it ?


If the tutorial and first mission were all that there were, I would consider it an incomplete game. That said, I'm happy to play these missions again, and I'm sure there is some decent replay value.

I think the replay value of the missions will go up significantly as the campaign continues, because:

1) The missions get larger and more complex, and thus each game has a bigger chance to have greater differences.

2) You build up schematics cards, which means that playing with different characters gives you a different game, and choosing different schematics gives you a different game. In the tutorial there is no difference between the characters, and in the first mission, the difference is fairly small (as you only have 1 schematic card each and are unlikely to reach overdrive mode.) But this will not be true in later missions and of course, with the "hard" mode, which I believe has you starting over with all the goodies you built up over the campaign.

So I can't give a truly qualified response on this, as I haven't gotten far in the game, but I believe that there will be a lot of replayability once more missions get unlocked.
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Huckleberry Carignan
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Awesome review! Thank you for taking the time to share!
 
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James Palmer
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thebaker1983 wrote:
Great review! I was especially pleased to read that 2 players seems to balance well. My primary gaming partner is my wife so there will be a lot of 2 player plays of this in the future.


Yes, this played great with 2 players. I think some missions will be a bit easier with 2 and some will be a bit easier with 3 or 4, but easier/harder doesn't mean more/less fun in this case.
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James Palmer
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huckleberryfinn wrote:
Awesome review! Thank you for taking the time to share!


You're welcome! I've only done a couple reviews before, and that was years ago, so I'm glad you enjoyed it. I couldn't resist writing something for this game though - the folks of Riot Games have really done something special here.
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WD Yoga
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Thanks for the first impression, James!

I am planning to play this with my son as well, in fact, I am buying this for his birthday present. In your experience, is the game easy enough for children to play? Which part needs house ruling, if any?
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James Palmer
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Esvath wrote:
Thanks for the first impression, James!

I am planning to play this with my son as well, in fact, I am buying this for his birthday present. In your experience, is the game easy enough for children to play? Which part needs house ruling, if any?


Great question. This will depend on your child - his age and his abilities. For our 6 year old son, he has played with me the Tutorial and the first mission, and has been able to play them without any changes to the rules.

For the first mission, I at first tried not using the timer, and I made the difficulty of the mission as easy as possible by moving the Doom Tracker (in this case the health of something that needed to survive) all the way to its max. A few rounds into the game though, and he was asking if we could use the timer, and I said sure, and it wasn't a problem. As a kid, he makes decisions pretty quickly and impulsively anyway, and so the timer didn't cause any issue. In the end, I also wouldn't have needed to set the Doom Tracker to a different level either, as we would have won on standard difficulty.

However, I am confident later missions get much more difficult, and a bit more complex as well. My plan is to play the mission solo or with my wife before playing with my son, and then adjusting as necessary. I'm thinking most of the time, just adjusting the Doom Tracker will be enough. There's always an "easy" version for each mission, and I'll just make a "very easy" version by taking what's done for the easy version to a larger degree. If the "easy" version pushes the doom tracker up by 2, then maybe I'll push it a few more, or all the way to the end, or possibly even remove the lose condition altogether.

Hope that helps. I'm looking forward to figuring this out myself.
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WD Yoga
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Thanks for the reply!

Yes, I guess it is easy to adjust difficulties using the doom tracker. That's my first thought after watching Rodney's videos as well.

Looking forward to reading your impressions after more plays!
 
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Michael R

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This is a great review. I've ordered the game and now anxiously await its arrival. Your review just makes me more anxious!
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James Palmer
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McBamf wrote:
This is a great review. I've ordered the game and now anxiously await its arrival. Your review just makes me more anxious!


Glad you found it useful - I hope you enjoy the game as much as I have!
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Matt D
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Felkor wrote:
McBamf wrote:
This is a great review. I've ordered the game and now anxiously await its arrival. Your review just makes me more anxious!


Glad you found it useful - I hope you enjoy the game as much as I have!

Great review James! I'm looking forward to receiving my copy.
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Tim H
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Felkor wrote:
My plan is to play the mission solo or with my wife before playing with my son, and then adjusting as necessary.


Do you think this is a good idea? In my opinion losing is an important part of gaming. It's just that after losing a game, it feels so much better winning it the next time. So why not play with your son without any changes to the rules and in case you lost, you just play again with a slightly lower difficulty - or even without any changes, depending on how close the defeat was.
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Lance Holly
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Thanks for the impressions! As someone who has kids involved as well, it's good to know that you can make custom changes simply to make it more or less difficult. I like that aspect.

Question though: I know there are a bunch of different boards, and you can flip/rotate them for different missions. Is is possible to simply make your own missions up? Like, arrange boards randomly and set an objective? My thought was that after playing a few missions you'd see a pattern of objectives (reach this spot, kill this many dudes, move this thing, whatever) so you could simply create whatever board you want, throw in an objective, and go. Is that possible? Thanks!
 
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James Palmer
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ymd_fallen wrote:
Felkor wrote:
My plan is to play the mission solo or with my wife before playing with my son, and then adjusting as necessary.


Do you think this is a good idea? In my opinion losing is an important part of gaming. It's just that after losing a game, it feels so much better winning it the next time. So why not play with your son without any changes to the rules and in case you lost, you just play again with a slightly lower difficulty - or even without any changes, depending on how close the defeat was.


The goal is not to make the game impossible to lose, but to see if I can make it "close". A close loss or a close win is always the most fun (for me at least.) While I haven't tried Mission 2, I've watched gameplay videos of it, and I think if I played it 2-player with my son, we would have no chance of winning on normal difficulty, and a very small chance of winning on "easy" mode.

So I agree, I generally am not wanting to rig the game to be completely unlosable, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't make adjustments for someone's whose age is 8 years younger than what Riot games is recommending.
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James Palmer
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Glancr wrote:
Thanks for the impressions! As someone who has kids involved as well, it's good to know that you can make custom changes simply to make it more or less difficult. I like that aspect.

Question though: I know there are a bunch of different boards, and you can flip/rotate them for different missions. Is is possible to simply make your own missions up? Like, arrange boards randomly and set an objective? My thought was that after playing a few missions you'd see a pattern of objectives (reach this spot, kill this many dudes, move this thing, whatever) so you could simply create whatever board you want, throw in an objective, and go. Is that possible? Thanks!


I haven't seen all the missions in detail, just the first couple, although I've read some vague descriptions of other missions (like I know there's a boss battle and a lava wave chasing you.) My impression is that each mission is quite different.

But, I think that would just give more ideas on what you could do to create your own missions. I think creating your own missions wouldn't be terribly difficult, although balancing them for difficult might be hard. You could certainly try changing up some current missions a bit by moving some boards around, or adding an extra board. I think the game would be pretty flexible.

What I'd really like to see is software that lets people create their own missions, upload them, and then vote on them, so that we have community-created-and-curated missions to play.
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Lance Holly
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Agreed, that would be great!
 
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