New South Wales
The old rules still had the meat shield concept. But yeah, the minions made the enemies spread out attacks against everyone they could target and so on. They were quite brutal. Here's an excerpt from the Work In Progress rulebook:
MD WIP Rules (not current) wrote:
If the Enemies form a Mob (Boss + Minions), allocate Minions
in this order:
(1) One Minion joins the Boss in attacking the target Hero.
(2) One Minion for each additional Hero within Range and Line
Of Sight, regardless of Experience. If there aren’t enough Minions
in the Mob to attack all eligible Heroes, players choose.
(3) Any remaining Minions are set aside. They bring support to
their Boss for its Attack roll (see P. XX).
Support was defined as additional Hits. The Minion joining the Boss rolled its dice too (so you would usually be facing twice as many dice, although they would cap).
Also, you specifically targeted the Minion group or the Boss. When targeting the Minions, you would roll the combined defense pool of the Minions (again capped).
So yeah... a lot more brutal. This all got swept away and replaced by Counter-Attacks pretty much.