Mechs vs. Minions
It was about 3 weeks ago at about 10:30 in the morning when the doorbell rang.
“Yeah that’s me”
It was the postman, red faced and beside him a hulkingly big box.
“Almost did myself a mischief carrying this from the van”
He laughed, I laughed, it got a bit awkward, I signed for the package and then rushed inside with it. I had been waiting all week for this and I quickly went to work on removing the outside packaging with all the finesse of a pug eating a chicken Korma. There it was in all its glory, Mechs vs. Minions by Riot Games.
A little bit of a back story before I jump right in. I have played League of legends for about 6 years. I’m not very good at it by a lot of people’s standards but it is a game I have plugged thousands of hours into and for the most part it is in a universe I really enjoy. Funnily enough most of the character that you can play as in Mechs vs. Minions are among my least favourite from League of Legends (looking at you Heimerdinger). Having played a fair few sessions now I can honestly say this game can and should be enjoyed by those who have never played the video game.
As soon as you open the box you instantly get an overcoming feeling of just how epic this game is. There are hundreds of components in the box all held together in layer after layer of plastic trays. The quality of the miniatures in this game is just phenomenal and I could literally write a whole article on just how good they are like some sick love letter to the plastic gods. Each layer you pull out fills you with so much excitement and so many questions.
“Do we need this many minions?”
“What’s that sealed box with the axe sticking out?”
The game is truly on to a winner before it has even been set up which is only made even more awesome by the fact the game is very good too.
The game is played over a series of episodic missions. Each of these missions is housed inside of a secret dossier which normally adds something different from the previous game. The missions are different enough that I feel you could easily replay them after having completed the campaign. It is also worth noting that within these missions there are “difficulty” levels which change the rules of the map slightly such as giving your objective more health. The missions come with a bit of flavour text that bind each of the undertakings together which will obviously be appreciated more by those who have previously played the video game.
The game itself is a programming/card drafting game. Each player takes on the role of a different character who for the most part function in the same way as each other. At the start of each turn players take it in turns to draw cards from the same pool and place them on their personal board. This board is essentially your mech. It has six action slots that determine what your mech will do during the action phase of the game. Cards of the same colour can be stacked up in the same slot to increase the potency of that ability on your turn. This allows each player to make their moves as short and sweet or as long and complicated as they like. The game is fully co-operative and players must make smart use of their command lines and work together to accomplish a common goal.
The game is for 2-4 players but the games drafting phase helps the balance of the game regardless of the player count. The lower the number of players the more cards you can draft and the longer you as an individual player can look to see which cards you want. That’s right card drafting is timed. Some of you are probably off put by this idea but it is so core to the fun of the game. There’s nothing more exciting that that tense feeling around the table as your wondering if your friends will hurry up and decide on the bloody card they want. If they fail to do it quick enough the remaining cards are shuffled and dealt randomly to the players who have yet to draft a card that turn. It also stops the ability for any one player in the group taking over and playing the game for everyone. At the end of the day your turn is your turn.
The idea of programming doesn’t sound appealing and usually makes you feel very restricted. This game does a great job of avoiding this feeling by making most moves feel meaty. Sometimes a few turns in and my mech can already mow down 6 or 7 minions in a go and this feels great. Another thing that also works in its favour is that although you can technically mess up someone’s command line with you own actions it doesn’t matter so much because of the fully co-operative nature of the game. You do your turn, you end up pushing your ally into the wall and now he spends his next turn running into that wall spinning around like a mad man. This sort of scenario often makes the game incredibly funny without the game trying to force a laugh out of you.
The game sounds very simple in concept but when you’re sitting around the table looking at the board set up everything gets very tactical. The map is covered with minion spawning runes, health packs and oil slicks. Every action you take is not just about what you do on that turn but what will happen when the minions do their movement. Do you stand on the runes to stop the minions spawning? Or will this put you too far away from the objective? Or will standing too close to the objective mean you will take too much damage from minions rendering your mech nearly useless?
The game gets very meaty when you think you’ve all sorted out a tactic and then none of you get the cards you needed to fulfill any parts of that plan. So, you must adapt. Some of you start to panic and mistakes are made but then out of nowhere one player destroys 15 minions at once and saves the game. Suddenly there’s fist bumps and high fives around the table only to realize you’re going to lose the next turn anyway unless someone can make another massive play. This constant pressure and movement of power between players that keeps the game fun and engaging play after play.
A pleasant surprise to me was the set-up time of the game. Component heavy games can be a nightmare to set up at times but the plastic trays and box layout really speed up this process. The “tutorial” set-up takes literally no time at all and gets you acquainted with the mechanics of the game a small piece at a time. Within 10 minutes you will know all the core concepts and you will only ever have to learn a new one as you trudge on through the missions. This is something I hope other games learn from because it has helped me teach this game to people who haven’t played any modern board games with ease.
If I had to find fault with this game it would have to be that at times it feels a bit grindy. Characters have special abilities which can only be used when your team have reached a certain number of “gears”. A team’s gear level is increased every time 5 minions have been killed on the board. Once the gear score you need to use your ability has been reached you can unleash havoc. This gear score doesn’t move down with ability use so it’s often beneficial for your team to grind out a decent chunk of gears before trying to attempt the objective. Obviously, each mission is different and not everyone has to be approached in this way.
In term of value for money I couldn’t have asked for better. At the time of writing the game costs $75/€75 from the company’s merch store. This is phenomenally well priced and I would be surprised if someone could point out another game currently on the market that has this level of quality and quantity in the box. It will be interesting to see if this helps drive up the standard that people will be expecting for in the industry as I would love to see more big box games of this caliber on the market.
Now if you’ve just scrolled down to the bottom to see if I thought it was any good then the answer is yes. If you wanted to know if I think it’s worth the purchase the answer is also yes. If you scrolled down looking for a score out of ten, then you’re probably looking in the wrong place but I will say it’s got the official thumbs up from me. Now if you’ve read the whole thing and wanted some sort of closing statement it would be this. It would have been very easy for Riot Games to make a very poor quality board game that still would have sold like hot cakes because of the huge player base that their video game has. What they’ve done instead is delivered and amazing, high quality experience in a box that can be enjoyed by just about anybody. It’s a game I would highly recommend and I can’t wait to see what the future of this game is whether it is official content or fan made.
- Last edited Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:31 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:12 am