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Subject: Looking past that big box full of minis rss

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WD Yoga
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Mechs vs Minions is officially the best game of 2016 in my family.

At first, I bought it because of its components; my son loves playing with minis and I had been sure that he would love MvM. When MvM arrived and we unboxed it, the game did deliver. The components are beautiful and well produced. But there is more! The game is very easy to learn and very engaging to play. For one month my son and I played MvM exclusively during our week end gaming sessions and we still play it each week end (together with other games).

I tried to put my fingers on why I love MvM so. It's not about the big box, the minis or the price. While they help, without a solid game inside the box, I won't be playing it literally every week end! So, what are the factors which captivate me? Here they are!

1. It is a cooperative game but each player is independent in his/her own action, thus maintaining his/her agency throughout the game. This allows us to enjoy the game in a non-competitive environment without one of us (me!) being the alpha player breathing on other people's neck and dictating their actions.

2. There is a sense of progress when playing the game, which keep us motivated to play more and more and more. In computer games, this is known as "One More Turn" syndrome. Never thought I would experience that in a board game!

There are two aspects of progress in the game: the minion kill tracker (and unlocking schematics) and organic programming (when you build your program throughout the game). Minion kill tracker gives us short term objective (kill that minion to level up!) and each level up makes us feel more empowered. The schematic cards add to this feeling by rewarding us with more power to kill more minions.

At first, I did not realise the importance of minion tracker and levelling up until we played the Mechsball and the Mechs vs Boss fan made variants, which did not use minions, and found the games were not as fun as the original missions. Apparently, the lack of appreciation (in the form of tracking kills, levelling up and unlocking schematics) took some fun away from our games. We modified the variants to use minions played Mechsball and Mechs vs Boss twice each since then and the games were fun!

The organic programming, which allow you to empower/change your program throughout the game, also gives players a sense of progress. This aspect of the game has been acknowledged by players and reviews, and I concur with their opinions on how it gives players a sense of growth.

3. Simple mechanics yet complex decisions to be made. The basic of the game is very simple: draft card, use it and execute the command line. But the way the cards work provide players with multiple choice over what to do with this one (or two) card(s)!

First, each player has the choice to either slot or scrap card, which is good. Then, each player has more than one option on how to slot his card, which is fantastic! If I draft Skewer, do I put it on top of Skewer in Slot 1 or do I put it in Slot 2? Putting it in Slot 1 gives me 2 movement, which would be beneficial if I want to tow something but putting it in Slot 2 gives me 2 minions as shields against damage -but then, I won't be able to tow with two 1-move! Or should I put the Skewer on top of that Ripsaw in Slot 5? But that would disable my only attack. This chain of analytical thinking is captivating for us and I have to say that I am impressed with my son. Not only he can decide faster than his old man, his programming often works better as well!

4. Each mission is different than the others. Unlike some games whose different objectives do not change how the game is played, in MvM, the different mission objectives require us to think each game differently and program our mechs accordingly.

There is a tower defense-like mission which require us to buff our offensive capabilities (and Fuel Tanks!). There is a racing mission in which movement cards (and Fuel Tanks!) are more valuable than attack cards. There are several "protect the VIP" missions which require at least one mech to be programmed carefully. Later missions introduce more game mechanics which subtly change the game and encourage us to think differently. As I have written in my session report, it took us two hours to complete Mission 8 because we had to do it meticulously, more than any other mission!

5. Flexible difficulty. The game incorporated a Doom Tracker to determine the difficulty (and sometime to play as in game timer). Some of the missions provide the Easy mode just by adjusting the Doom Tracker. Playing with the Doom Tracker the other way around (increasing the boss' health instead of reducing it) can increase the difficulty of the missions.

6. Interesting design on damage. Getting damage is inevitable in MvM. Getting damage is a "oh no, I am screwed" moment for us but never frustrating enough to make us want to quit the game. The damage can screw our programming but sacrificing a card can repair it. But, the most interesting question is: do we need to repair the damage? Often, the answer is no.

Because damage is just another form of command card, we can program our mechs around it and relatively fine with it. Some damage cards are even useful. There is no damage card that I can remember which make disable mechs or make mechs totally useless. If the damage cards are more punishing (like "Your Mech can not move this turn" or something like that), getting damage will take our fun away. But now, getting damage is another form of excitement which triggered our groans and laughters at the same time.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
With regards to this, the worst damage card is not "getting damage from eight side" but "your minion kill is not added to the tracker". While the first does make the damaged mech whirls and moves unpredictably, it does not take the mech away from the game. The second does; it takes the mech' contribution to level up, explicitly slowing down the progress of the game.




All in all, I found my enjoyment in MvM because of these aspects, which constitute and dictate the overall gaming experience. While I understand that Riot has not officially stated what their future plan for MvM is, I hope that they will continue supporting the excellent game by producing expansions or new missions for the game.
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David desJardins
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Esvath wrote:
5. Flexible difficulty. The game incorporated a Doom Tracker to determine the difficulty (and sometime to play as in game timer). Some of the missions provide the Easy mode just by adjusting the Doom Tracker. Playing with the Doom Tracker the other way around (increasing the boss' health instead of reducing it) can increase the difficulty of the missions.


They undermined this for me by making the default difficulty too easy, and not providing guidance for a harder difficulty setting until you unlock everything. The problem is that when you're setting up a new scenario it's hard on your first playing to know how hard it's going to be and to set the difficulty accordingly. So I think just like providing an Easy mode they should have provided a Hard mode. I like the gameplay but I kind of lost interest in setting up the scenarios when I realized that however easy or hard it looks at the beginning, we're certainly going to win if we just don't do anything stupid.
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WD Yoga
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Esvath wrote:
5. Flexible difficulty. The game incorporated a Doom Tracker to determine the difficulty (and sometime to play as in game timer). Some of the missions provide the Easy mode just by adjusting the Doom Tracker. Playing with the Doom Tracker the other way around (increasing the boss' health instead of reducing it) can increase the difficulty of the missions.


They undermined this for me by making the default difficulty too easy, and not providing guidance for a harder difficulty setting until you unlock everything. The problem is that when you're setting up a new scenario it's hard on your first playing to know how hard it's going to be and to set the difficulty accordingly. So I think just like providing an Easy mode they should have provided a Hard mode. I like the gameplay but I kind of lost interest in setting up the scenarios when I realized that however easy or hard it looks at the beginning, we're certainly going to win if we just don't do anything stupid.


I can understand that for more experienced gamers, the Normal mode is too easy. I hope that Riot can provide Hard mode without winning the last scenario first and release this updated rule with Wave 2.
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Manuel Gracia
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Great review!

Bought this to play with my nephew, so I'm totally cool with the difficulty and can't wait to reach hard mode.
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Ben Nietzel
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What age of kids are you guys playing with? Wondering if I could play it with my 6 year old daughter... with lots of guidence. I mean, obviously she can sit next to me while "we play" Mage Knight, but would she be able to actually take on some operations in this game and feel like she's really doing something?
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WD Yoga
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Nitz wrote:
What age of kids are you guys playing with? Wondering if I could play it with my 6 year old daughter... with lots of guidence. I mean, obviously she can sit next to me while "we play" Mage Knight, but would she be able to actually take on some operations in this game and feel like she's really doing something?

My son is 7 and can control two mechs well. For the note, he already played lots of games this past years and his favourite before Mechs vs Minions are Arcadia Quest and Dungeon Petz.

I think you can play with your daughter. The basic mechanic of MvM is very easy. She might not be able to program efficiently but since this is coop, you can always fulfill whatever role she is lacking. At the very least, she can help levelling up by shooting/trampling minions
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Esvath wrote:
Nitz wrote:
What age of kids are you guys playing with? Wondering if I could play it with my 6 year old daughter... with lots of guidence. I mean, obviously she can sit next to me while "we play" Mage Knight, but would she be able to actually take on some operations in this game and feel like she's really doing something?

My son is 7 and can control two mechs well. For the note, he already played lots of games this past years and his favourite before Mechs vs Minions are Arcadia Quest and Dungeon Petz.

I think you can play with your daughter. The basic mechanic of MvM is very easy. She might not be able to program efficiently but since this is coop, you can always fulfill whatever role she is lacking. At the very least, she can help levelling up by shooting/trampling minions


I have an 11 and 6 year old, but am more worried about my wife getting it. Lol.
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