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Subject: Dark Minions - An "I'd Pay Retail" review rss

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Jeffery Hudson
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Dark Minions - An I’d Pay Retail Review

Overview: I make comments to my friends all the time that Coolstuffinc IS my FLGS...they just happen to be in florida while i’m in Utah. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my local store, we’ve just not had one in years, so ordering online became the thing to do. There’s also the cost….but you already know that, after all you're reading a review about buying games at ‘thrift’ prices and seeing if they would be worth “retail” cost. So, with that said, every few months or so my family and i get all our retail worthy considerations together and combine them so we can get free shipping on our CSI order.

Usually were shy a few bucks and have to find ‘filler’ items to qualify for free shipping, and that’s what leads us to today’s venture. It was the President’s day sale at our ‘local’ CSI and my brother had a desire to order him up some expensive retail toys (I think it was one of the Axis and Allies games). Being cheap, I of course, checked out the sales and came across an entry for Dark Minions. The box art looked attractive and caught my attention. After all, how can a gamer’s gamer turn down any box art that shows a bunch of evil looking minions sacking a city. That’s worth a look!

Now, $8 is $8, and i’m not about to waste my precious dollars buying some game ‘sight unseen’ (ok, that’s not always true...i’m looking at you Middle-Earth Quest and you were a lot more then $8), so off to BBG and the reviews. Ok...review. There was only one at the time, but Shere's Review still remains one of the most useful reviews i’ve ever read on BBG. Thank you. If you’ve not read it, go read it. It’s awesome.

But...back to business. Can President’s Day Filler be retail worthy? Lets’ find out….

The Reveal: In short, it’s a nice looking game. The box art is great and drives the theme home. Inside you will find a set of custom dice (White, Black, Red, and a single Yellow), player boards made of nice, thick card stock, with matching wood cubes/cylinders to match. There is also a set of cards depicting different overloards you may purchase in the game. My only complaint is the box is just slightly too shallow to really fit everything comfortably back in the box. This could be the slight concave dent in the bottom of my box though. Mind you, once you get it all back in and give it a good shake (with the lid on - don’t be silly) everything settles and fits well. The game is designed to be played and will weather the storm of any game group for years to come.

The Setup:
1. Each player decides what color they want to be and take the player tile and the 50 minions of that color. They also receive the starting 1vp and 2vp counters (which also double as skull counters). Each player also receives one of the black disks to use as a level marker.

2. The town tiles are separated into their letters (A,B,C,D,E, and The End) and stacked, face down in reverse order (The End on the bottom, A on top). Three cities are then flipped face up and set in the play area.

3. Each city has a number in the lower left corner inside of a box. This is the number of towers place in the city. Each city will always contain a level 4, 5, and 6 tower. If the town has more then 3 towers, then the extra tower used will be the same color at the number in the text box (not the background color).

4. Place the graveyard(s) (mine came with two even though the rule book indicated only one) somewhere convenient for each player to retrieve minions. And you WILL retrieve minions often.

5. Advanced Game) Deal the top 4 cards face up and place them by the draw pile.

If you are playing the basic game, remove any of the red bordered towns/cards, you will not be using them.

The Rules: The rulebook is not the best written rulebook out there, and we missed one crucial rule our first several games. There is a consolidated rule set on BBG that does a great job streamlining the rules. If you read the official rules, then the consolidated rule page you will have no problems with the game.

Overall, the game is a resource management game. You have 50 minions to conquer the world with, but like all great conquests, you have far too many objectives and too few minions to accomplish it all with. Your minions must be directed (spent) properly to achieve your goals before the other Overlords achieve theirs. The first player to the allotted VP limit is the winner. VP points are kept secret so there is a race aspect to the game.

So, how do you direct your minions? With the dice of course!

On your turn you will do the following:
1. Collect and roll dice. Your player sheet has a number of levels at the top. Collect the colored dice matching your current level.

There are three types of dice.
- Black Dice: This are the basic die of the game. If you roll a +1, add one to another die you have rolled.

- Red Dice: These dice are more powerful than black dice, showing greater ability to command your minions to greater tasks. You will earn these dice through level ups.

- White Dice: White dice are special dice that you may use instead of a back or red die. They tend to roll +1/+2’s and skulls and can be vital to reach higher numbers at lower levels or to re-spawn minions when you are low on or out of skull tokens.

2. Spend your dice: Spending your dice on different actions is where you will spend most of your time. Each decision is vital to victory, but like all great resource management games, you only have a limited set of actions per round. For each die you roll, do one of the following and each is considered to happen simultaneously.

- Attack a City: Place one die value worth of minion onto a city tile.

- Capture A Tower: Use a 4/5/6 die roll to capture the corispoinsing 4/5/6 value tower in a city. You may use a higher value die to capture a lower value tower (Use a 6 value die to capture a 4 value tower). You may not capture a tower from a city you are also attacking. You must also send the tower’s value worth of minions to the graveyard (this is the rule we missed).

- Respawn Minions: Take one die value of minions from the Graveyard and place them back into your supply. You may not use any respawned minions for any other actions this round.

- (Advanced Game) Buy a face up overlord card. Some Overlord effects are immediate while others are turn specific.

Since each action is vital to winning, let’s look at each of those action in more detail.

1. Attack a city: Attacking a city is where the action is at. At the top of each city tile is a number which is the number of minions needed to topple a city. So, if you have a city with a 19 at the top, you need 19 minions, between all players, to topple that city. When a city topples, several things happen:

- The player who topples the city earns 1 VP

- The Player who has the most Minions in the city conquers the city and adds the city tile to their VP Stack. They earn the VP Value of the city (Left side of the card) and gain as many skull tokens as shown on the bottom of the card.

- The Player with the second most number of minions earns 2 VP.
- All minions in the city are sent to the graveyard.

2. Capture a Tower: The only way to level up is to Capture a ‘set’ of towers. You must collect a 4,5, and 6 value tower to form a set. To level up, simply turn in a set of towers during your turn. This is not as easy as it sounds since your opponents are also trying to collect towers. Not only do you get to roll the more powerful dice, but each level up is worth x VP.

3. Re-spawn Minions: You may spend a die value to respawn that many minions. You may spend as many dice as you wish this way.

4. Buy a face up Overlord card. You spend dice (not minions) to buy Overlord cards and my buy as many as you can during one turn. On each Overlord card there is a coin with a value in it. This is how many minions you may respawn when purchasing the Overlord. Overlord cards add all the exciting ‘gamer’s game’ actions you would normally expect from any great game.

Free Actions: There are also free actions you can take during your turn.
- Level up. Leveling up is a free action. You just turn in your set of towers and it happens.

- Using a Skull Token: Skull tokens allow you to re-spawn minions from the graveyard. One skull token =10 minions, Two Skull tokens = 20 minions, and Three Skull tokens = All minions. Remember, all Minions re-spawned in the turn are not available for you to use in other actions. This means you just plan out your strategies in advance. It’s also important to remember that Skull tokens are worth 1 VP each and the only way to earn them is to conquer cities or roll skulls on the white die.

The Judgement: In short, i really like Dark Minions. It’s a fine, well thought out game. The Dice Chucking is satisfying and the push your luck aspect is nice. The “downside” of the game, if you can call it that, is there is a lot of luck involved in the die rolling. You WILL have times you can’t do what you want to do, especially when it comes to towers. And I think that’s part of the charm. There is a lot of agonizing decision making, lots of calculating, lots of plotting the best time to step in OR step out of a fight. You CAN’T do everything so you must make due with what you have.

We only had two complaints in our group.

First was with the race to VP aspect. It meant we were always counting points, double counting, etc. and it got in the way of just enjoying the game. Luckily, the designers realized some groups might not like this and included a variant rule that the game does not end until the first “The End” city is toppled...then you count up the VP and see who wins. It still captures the ‘race’ aspect while making the game slightly more casual.

Second, we found the advanced game with the overlord cards unnecessary, we simply had more fun playing the base game. We tried one game with the overlords and the more casual players in the group found it just one step to complicated for their liking. It was another item to keep track of, another decision that had to be made. So...we now play without it. There is more than enough in the basic game to keep us coming back for more. As such, we’ve not even played with the expansion yet. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE DON’T APPRECIATE IT COMING AS PART OF THE GAME.

Sooo...there we are. We’ve come to the end of my review and now must answer the most difficult of questions...is Dark Minions retail worthy. Well, that depends on your answer of what is ‘retail’. The MSRP is $39.99 and I would not pay $40 for Dark Minions, there are better games out there for that price point. But...lucky for you most online establishments have the game for around $25, and i think that’s a fantastic place for Dark Minions to be. The $8 i payed was a steal! This is an underrated gem of a game that deserves more exposure AND higher ratings than it currently enjoys. So, if you're looking for a great dice rolling, resource management, ameritrash style player conflict game...this is a great one to have in your collection.
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