Pixelated Sun Tzu Style Warfare – A review of Pixel Tactics 3



      Box and all

      Level 99 games was nice enough to provide me with an advanced copy of the game for this review of Pixel Tactics 3.

      As is often the case, hidden gems in the gaming community are often spread by word of mouth and recommendations taken more substantially from fellow players. Pixel Tactics from Level 99 Games was one of those games rec’d to me while first looking for substantial 2 player games that lacked the collection component. If you’re not familiar with its predecessors, versions 1 & 2 have become relatively known for being synonymous with engaging depth and expandability while staying compact in nature.

      Whether from its the under-the-radar success or low initial sales projections, the two forerunners have been relatively difficult to come by as of recently, and with the release of #3, a restock of Tactics 1 & 2 has tagged along as well. So how does a game that only features two decks featuring the same 25 cards actually work and continue to be successful? From Sun Tzu, “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”

      Basic Overview:

      For those unfamiliar with Pixel Tactics’s core premise, pixelized version of various archetypes across genres have been enlisted to form your deck of heroes waiting to be recruited to defeat your opponent in a 1 on 1 tactical combat game. The dexterity of Pixel Tactics provides is based on the latent potential of five separate yet useful abilities each card possesses that, on paper, you could wonder how it wouldn’t supersaturate the game and clog it down to a grind from analysis paralysis.

      Designated by a color scheme to match the row-by-row board set-up (more on that later), the options become slightly more manageable. The additional iconography to clarify abilities only further eases what could otherwise be deemed daunting textual prowess on the cards and instead makes it easily translatable into gameplay actions.

      This potential that Pixel Tactics taps into is that each of the five options laid out has the possibility of being useful, depending on situation and the course of the battle. The option you choose provides the identity for the hero after deciding placement on the game board.

      Setup is relatively simple; 5 cards drawn from the deck at the game’s beginning with one of these initially chosen to be your battlefield representative and Leader, whose death brings about your defeat. The “Leader” option is via the double edge mechanic and Leaders are much more influential and powerful evolutions/versions of the flip hero each with a unique ability that becomes the basis for your core strategy.


      Red = Vanguard, Green = Flank, Blue = Rear, Purple = Order

      The board itself is a 3 x 3 grid of 9 spaces to place/field heroes, each row with a specific name designation; the front “Vanguard,” middle “Flank”, and back “Rear” make up the board. The specific row a hero is summoned thus determines which of the abilities that hero utilizes while in play.

      For example, consider the Repossessor, a new character to this edition. His front row (vanguard) ability allows his to intercept, or prevent ranged attacks from hitting heroes behind him, and is useful for guarding your Leader who remains situated in the center of the 3×3 grid during the game. His second row (flank position) changes corpses from being sent to the discard pile and now are sent to the bottom of their owner’s deck when cleared from the battlefield. If placed in the rear row, the Repossessor’s attack allows for simultaneous cancellation of any ongoing order (i.e. bonus effect) an opponent has previously played.

      His Leader, Endrbyt, is a unique strategy unto itself. He permits you to use your Draw action to draw a card from your opponent’s deck, thus depleting his deck faster. The “order” ability for the card allows you to take a random card from your opponent’s hand and add it to your own. These last two options allow for exploitation of duplicate characters in your army but also permit a deck depletion strategy to defeat your rival’s army, because as Sun Tzu reminds us “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

      Other unique character entries into this version that are notable include:

      Alice Zero – allows for switching Leaders mid-game.
      Exhufern Le Marigras – reshuffle discard pile into deck and heal for each card done so.
      Doc Silnan – Protects so that maximum damage is 4 from any one source.
      Arret Draamivar – Able to recruit up to 5 heroes per row instead of 3.
      Cherri Seneca – All actions are free actions but cannot take more than 1 of each per wave. (my personal favorite currently)

      Gameplay:

      The beauty of Pixel Tactics is that each of the options can be helpful, depending on the situational dilemmas you find yourself entrenched. The reminder that your opponent has the identical pool of 25 cards matters quite little once you realize no two players will employ the same card in the same manner. This is by design but only remains successful because Pixel Tactics has been successful in maintaining a competitive balance between the 3 games worth of 75 unique characters.

      That same feeling of options-heavy yet tactical focused gameplay is maintained in Pixel Tactics 3. Player One takes two actions in the current wave (row) then Player Two takes their two actions in the same row. This repeats until all three waves are done, then player order switches and you begin again at the vanguard wave. With such short-term lifespan of heroes, combo planning and survival strategy plays a large role. Attacking no longer may take precedent when your Leader is left exposed open to damage. Or maybe casting an order prior to drawing a card to replenish for further deployment floats to the top of the need-to-do list? Think about restructuring to move a hero to a new row in order to utilize a different advantageous ability? Or remove the smell of those space occupying cluttering corpses? If only you had selected the leader who allows you to do one of each action per turn for free?

      “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” –Sun Tzu

      Choosing actions with forethought and with prudence becomes the key to victory…and defeat.

      Final Thoughts:

      The game is refreshing; it fulfills gamers’ sense of engaging complexity and depth without feeling like a clingy ex-girlfriend trying too hard win your adornment. Even in its third iteration, it shies away from revolutionizing or rebooting itself. The fact that the games themselves are cross-compatible only adds to the replayability. My general feeling is that this version places a little heavier emphasis on the “order” ability as well as they seem to be more powerful and used more often my play-throughs.

      I like the new Leaders (my favorites being the ones noted above), another additional layer of variation to the franchise and a little more emphasis on deck management strategies in this edition as well from abilities, if you’re into that sort of thing.

      If you’re a fan (or not) of the original or its sequel, then the third will do nothing to change your opinion of the game. The complexity that remains its greatest asset, however, is the source of its limitation. Casual and or non-gamers will have a harder time being as enthusiastic to engage with this type of game. Even regular gamers might find themselves slow to go on their first go around or two. The game truly shines when two players understand the depth to which the game can function.

      Across three games, balance has been emphasized and achieved, which can further the game by allowing players to customize their own decks between versions. Playing with more of a “house rules”, two players could easily mix and match between the series without fear of over/underpowered teams. The price tag is an affordable breath of fresh air in the every increasingly expensive quagmire of new tabletop games; each version will only cost you about $10, (paper playmat included) to pick up, so buyer’s remorse is a low penalty even if you’re concerned it’s not for you beforehand.

      It’s worth a look simply because of how clever it plays with such little time commitment. Pixel Tactics 3 as a game and as a franchise in whole knows its strengths and continues to successfully utilize them with this third adaptation.

By |May 31st, 2014|Article, Review|2 Comments

Issue #179 – Ticket to Ride, Designer Wisdom

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
May 30, 2014 – Issue #179

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Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride turns 10 this year! The widely popular game from designer Alan Moon is getting the royal treatment from publisher Days of Wonder with a new 10th anniversary edition with high end components and featuring all new artwork and graphic design. If you want to add this new edition to your collection then pre-order now from your favorite store as the new version should be releasing soon. More info can be found on the publisher’s website.

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Issue #178 – Snitch; I Say, Holmes

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
May 28, 2014 – Issue #178

TOP NEWS

  • Happy Mitten Games and @BoardGameHour have partnered to bring you BoardGameVS
  • Portal Games has announced a new edition of Neuroshima Hex published by FunBox Jogos.
  • The Coming Storm has arrived for the L5R card game from AEG

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Elementary, My Dear Watson

A review of “I Say, Holmes” – By Chris Meeusen
Though first said by Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, the phrase The Game is afoot was made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary literary sleuth. It rings true here as well with the latest tabletop offering featuring the intrepid Sherlock Holmes in I Say, Holmes from Victory Point Games. This game is currently funding on Kickstarter, and with still 10 days left, they’ve hit over 300% of their original goal with over $31K raised. They were nice enough to provide me with a prototype copy for this board game review as Sherlock Holmes is probably one of my most beloved fictional characters, and it always gives me trepidatious goose bumps when a beloved character or series is used for commercial purposes…..(read the rest)

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Snitch

You’ve probably heard me mention Snitch already. This is the great new game from my personal friend Karl Fenner at Common Man Games. Karl has done a great job of putting together Snitch: It’s a law enforcement themed pickup and deliver game featuring easy to learn euro mechanics while providing great decision points and deep strategical situations. Snitch has less than 48 hours left on Kickstarter and you can pledge for a copy for just $40!

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“Excellent! I cried. “Elementary,” said he. — A review of “I Say, Holmes”



      Though first said by Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, the phrase “The Game is afoot” was made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary literary sleuth. It rings true here as well with the latest tabletop offering featuring the intrepid Sherlock Holmes in “I Say, Holmes” from Victory Point Games. This game is currently funding on Kickstarter, and with still 10 days left, they’ve hit over 300% of their original goal with over $31K raised. They were nice enough to provide me with a prototype copy for this board game review as Sherlock Holmes is probably one of my most beloved fictional characters, and it always gives me trepidatious goose bumps when a beloved character or series is used for commercial purposes.

      The Basics:

      Though a competitive game, it informally feels more semi-competitive as it uses a turn based card play strategy to ultimately arrest the reprehensible villains or allow them to escape into the night. The game itself is a deck of a hefty 125 cards belaying the artwork of our noble story’s heroes, villains, locale, and tools of the trade. Obligatory main character cards a la Sherlock’ian files are present, but the majority consists of location, travel, suspicion, or clue-like cards in order to progress to and facilitate end game objectives.

      In a sense, this game plays out like a Victorian Holmes’ian themed Uno. Each player is a dealt a 6 card starting hand, and in some sense tries to whittle it down as the game progresses to help achieve the arrest or escape conditions (more details regarding those in a little bit). Hand cards played are placed in front of adjacent player in a clockwise manner. The subsequent player then lays a card that matches the “story sequence” square(s) (by either name or type) located near the bottom of the card, as able. The “London” location card pictured below means that any of the those 4 named cards are acceptable to be played as well as either of the types of movement cards.

      These squares are color coated to match the border of the cards in the deck, similar to color based matching in Uno. If players are unable to play, similar to Uno, they must draw 1 card (which can be played immediately if usable). Otherwise, the previously fielded card passes to the next player.

      The introduction of the “I Say” cards, which conveniently are the named non-villain characters, are the exception. These have their own spots in the sequence but act more like wild cards, usable when no other option is to be had. They’re quite strategically strong so players must not waste them carelessly as their timing becomes an important aspect to triumphing.

      As bonus, when played during sequence, they earn you 3 venerable clue tokens, which provide potential victory points. Of note in an antagonistic sense, villain cards are unplayable; think of them akin to the “Old Maid” or the Princess in Love Letter; not necessarily bad to have, can even be used to win the game, but if someone knows you’ve got it, then that’s when difficulty arises.

      The Purpose (i.e. How do I win?):

      End of round/game occurs in one of two ways previously mentioned; via an arrest or escape. Arrests occur after playing the not so subtly named “Arrest” card during sequence but also can happen as an “impromptu” arrest event. This is triggered when a player runs out of cards in their hand. The player “arresting” accuses another player whom they think is holding a villain card. The accused is then forced to show the accuser their entire hand. If a villain is found, the round ends and “Case Closed” scoring occurs.

      What’s to prevent an imbalance in gameplay and potential mass accusations? Counteracting this, the game has introduced “Alibi” and “Mastermind” cards. These cards act as “interrupts” to negate negative actions that target you, whether that involves drawing extra cards, revealing card(s), or being accused/arrested. Certain few specific cards cannot be alibi’d out, but the rarer Mastermind card acts as a more powerful trump able to neutralize anything. Along with these cards, the institution of a penalty for false accusations acts as a deterrent. A player who accuses an innocent player (i.e. without a villain card in their hand) must add all of the accused player’s cards to their own hand (thus potentially increasing their hand size substantially) while the innocent player then draws new cards from the deck in the same amount they previously held.

      Escaping as a villain is the other option to bring about the end of a round and occurs if at any time your hand is left with only a villain card &/or additional “interrupts” (i.e. alibi/Mastermind). The round ends immediately and the winning person gets the corresponding villain victory point token to the one that “escaped.”

      In an arrest situation that ends the round, the scoring system awards the winner a “Case Closed” book token, each one thematically named for Holmes’s most infamous cases. They each have sequential point values on their front side, and the one awarded depends on the sum of card values (found in the upper left corner of each card. The London card previously shown has a 1) remaining in all the players’ hands at the end of the round. To determine how to use this number, the “Case Closed” token with the highest point value that does not exceed the summed total is given to the winning player.

      Let me clarify.

      For example, the Case Closed tokens (as seen above) display a range of points including 0, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 75 points. If the total of the all the cards was 45, then the winner would get the token with the 40 on it. The catch here is that the game ends whenever the 0 point token is awarded. This happens if all the other Case Closed tokens have been previously given out (i.e. a maximum of 6 rounds) or if the sum of all the cards left in players’ hands is less than 20. This means it’s possible for the whole game to end in even 1 or 2 rounds if the total is low and/or the other lowest tokens values have already been awarded.

      So how does the actual victory point scoring work? Clue tokens, telegram tokens, Case Closed, and villain tokens have various victory points on the back side of them that is only revealed at the game’s conclusion, so it’s only possible to imprecisely tell who’s in the lead until the final reveal.

      What I enjoyed:

      The aesthetics were basic but clearly influenced and portrayed well the theme of the Victorian era setting matching its style and color schemes. The best and most notable cards were the main protagonist character cards that stood out due to their differing background structure and more detailed features setting them apart from the rest of the cards in the deck.

      Once gameplay was sufficiently understood by all, the actual rounds themselves were smooth. At no point does the game suffer from analysis paralysis. The cards themselves and their actions are for the most part easily understood and not at all text heavy. The element that elevates this game beyond being merely enjoyable was the ability to card swap and trade hands. For example, one card causes players to contribute a chosen card from their hand into a central pile and subsequently those cards are randomly distributed back to each player, effectively potentially swapping randomly one card within the group. Other cards allow for two players to swap hands, or even cause the whole group to pass their hand to the adjacent player to their right.

      The inclusion of these tactics creates tension where it would otherwise be absent, potentially allowing victory to be snatched from the jaws of defeat or vice versa. This also subtly allows for passing of otherwise non-usable villain cards as a strategic move in order to know who to arrest in future turns. In one round, I actually ended up losing because I had to pass my soon to be only remaining card (a villain) just as I was about to win.

      A problem often seen with card games where the goal is to (potentially) want to get rid of cards is that there is a tendency to draw and accumulate multitudes of cards and more so can bring it to a point so that it becomes not feasibly possible to catch back up when only 1 card per go-round is played. The addition of the Holmes’ian “Deduction” facet accounts for this and allows for two cards to be played during your turn anytime you find yourself with 7 or more cards in your hand on your turn thus trying to restore competitive balance.

      The scalability of the game is a nice feature in that it plays all the way up to 8 players but for a typical session, my estimation is that 5 people would be an optimal size to provide adequate game length, social interaction, and depth. Having played with 4, the game was on the shorter end of a medium length tabletop game spectrum. The KS mentions 30 minutes per round (which is probably generous) but ours were typically about 10-12 minutes per round with that many (4) players. The game definitely has a playtime curve; the more comfortable you become, the faster it plays, similar to a 7 Wonders-type vibe of play speed minus the simultaneous analysis paralysis.
      Another genuinely positive surprise was the victory point system. Those tokens I mentioned earlier? Every single one has a hidden value on the backside only revealed at game’s end. And there’s more than decent variability between values, with negative values, zeros, and even points given to adjacent players available. Winning players had only low single digits or barely reaching double digits, so parity was present regardless the length of the game.

      Criticisms:

      The rulebook was muddy in a few select areas, mostly dealing with wording of in-game terms. The rulebook tries so hard to stay true to the theme throughout, trying to stay consistent and “in-character” which is a very nice effort but pays the price by making it a little wordy frustrating in parts. For example, “Story sequence” is a bit confusing at first but ultimately just means that you can almost “follow suit” (i.e color/card name) in this case. It’s definitely not a game breaker but makes going through the first time not nearly as intuitive as other card based tabletop games with similar complexity.

      The most notable other criticism also regards the rulebook. While it may have due to not being familiar with the original, several rules and terms seem to be…incomplete in their explanation. One little spot on the back-page of the rulebook located in a “Reminder” section is the only location that states how the clue tokens are obtained (from playing “I Say” Character cards, but only in sequence). An additional but important caveat that each player can have only one of each of the three different clue tokens total is similarly seemingly only present in that location. A mention of it earlier would undoubtedly make it clearer. The rule itself is vastly underrated in importance as it keeps point piling from occurring due to repeated “I Say” card use because it keeps in check the randomness of the draw for those cards. This fact did leave our group a bit of confusion at the beginning about how and when they are actually are obtained.

      Final Thoughts:

      A potential issue I want to discuss that was noticed and it relates to my point earlier about scalability. Although the game plays 3-8; with 4 players we had end of round totals that were relatively low and never more than ~35-40 (on the high end). Now that might seem like plenty until you remember the end of round scoring/game ending decider. If the round goes relatively easily without too many additional cards drawn, you could find yourself at the games end after 1-2 rounds with sums never breaking 20. While that might not seem to be that big of deal, it changes what the game is essentially at its core.

      This can be seen either as strength or a liability depending on what you’re looking for out of this game. To provide a medium(ish) length tabletop game, it means realistically needing 5 people to obtain the interaction, depth, and length that 3 or possibly even 4 players probably can’t produce as reliably on a consistent basis. In contrast, if you only want a lighter filler version, the option to play with 3 or 4 is definitely still fun and worthwhile, and also definitely makes the game have a quicker turn-around time.

      I think that this final point is the probably the most telling on whether or not you would feel comfortable pledging to back it. The game itself lighthearted and entertaining but isn’t going to provide a depth of narrative (i.e. Myth) due to being a card-based game that some might otherwise hope for due to the Sherlock Holmes branding. That being said, I don’t think that missing that detracts at all from how it plays and how much fun it actually was on the table. It easily makes up for that with enjoyable and entertaining gameplay with game-length adaptability. I would argue that the best praise I can give “I Say, Holmes” is that it has great gateway game potential for the introduction of tabletop gaming to non-gamers without alienating its core demographic at the same time.

      They’ve hit a bunch of their stretch goals already including this:

      So if this sounds like something you’d like, whether you’re looking to add something card based to your collection that works as a clever entertaining gateway game, a Holmes fanatic, or just looking for a worthwhile quality game, I would seriously consider supporting this game on Kickstarter here. Pledges for the base game are $35 and estimated to be sent to be sent backers in July 2014, which again shows how much foresight and time has already gone into making this project a reality (and means you’ll actually get to play it sooner than later…).

Issue #177 – Happy Memorial Day

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
May 26, 2014 – Issue #177

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Today’s issue is just the links. I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend! Honor and respect to all those who gave it all in defense of freedom.

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Issue #176 – Splendor, Designer Wisdom, Minion Review

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
May 23, 2014 – Issue #176

TOP NEWS

  • One new release – Tantive IV (X-Wing) – and two new announcements – Bestial Forces (WizWar) / Cosmic Dominion (Cosmic Encounter) – from Fantasy Flight Games
  • Asmodee gives us the updates on their upcoming releases in their may newsletter

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What I Wish Smash-Up Was

A review of “Minion” – By Chris Meeusen
The premise of Minion is simple and straightforward; a card based game based on bashing your opponent’s life down to zero in order to win. You find yourself battling using minions (hence the name), spells and items to slowly chip away at your opponent’s life until victory is at hand….(read the rest)

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Splendor

Splendor from designer Mark Andre puts players in the role of renaissance merchants attempting to acquire gem mines and shops in an effort to gain the most prestige from the gemstone trade. Each turn you can collect gems, buy a card, or reserve a card – saving it for a later purchase. Cards provide gem bonuses for later rounds as well as prestige points which count toward victory. Splendor plays in about 30 minutes and is for 2-4 players.

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Dubious Alliance Fantasy Bluffing Card Game Press Release

Dubious Alliance Fantasy Bluffing Card Game

Brandon Raasch, May 17, 2014

1

Are you Orc enough to Join the Alliance?

Sunday, May 25th  Dubious Alliance will launch their Kickstarter campaign at KublaCon in South San Francisco. To add to the gaming convention frenzy, the Dubious Alliance team will be hosting a mini-game event and announcing Vanity Card options for Kickstarter backers.

The name “Dubious Alliance” is appropriate for this fantasy bluffing card game. Players are a band of Orcs working together yet individually vying within the group to trick, bluff, or otherwise outwit each other to collect enough weapons, magic and the prestige to win. You need to be careful, though, because if one orc dies from traps, monsters, the Colossal Dragon or player deceit, everyone loses.

2This is a fast paced card game for 3 – 7 players, and takes less than an hour to play. The game requires in-party fighting over treasure and reluctant cooperation to survive damage, just like a role playing game. Popular fantasy themes, a unique trading system, ‘old-school’ illustrations and a one page rule sheet make this a unique, fun, easy game to pick up and play again and again.

KublaCon goers can play the current, pre-production Dubious Alliance game deck. Additionally, there will be a “mini-game” event in the main lobby on Sunday to introduce new players to the basics of trading (and cheating) like an Orc. There is even rumor A Band of Orcs, the game’s featured heroes, may descend upon KublaCon. Watch out for wandering monsters!

The Kickstarter campaign will include stretch goals for new game cards to introduce new magic, monsters and more story paths. Exclusively on Kickstarter, backers can order a personalized Vanity Player card featuring your own illustration or photo. With Vanity Player Cards, expandable adventure paths and plans for secret backer development of stretch goal cards this is sure to be an exciting Kickstarter to follow.

Mark your calendar to become part of this fun game, and take advantage of ‘early bird’ pricing for Kickstarter backers.

Learn more about Dubious Alliance on Kickstarter or their website, www.dubiousalliance.com.

 

Issue #175 – Marvel Dice Masters

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
May 21, 2014 – Issue #175

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  • Ares Games has announced New Sails of Glory Ship Packs arriving on May 31.
  • WizKids will be producing new Tyranny of Dragons minis in partnership with Wizards of the Coast for the new D&D 5th Edition release just announced and coming this fall.

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Marvel Dice Masters

Marvel Dice Masters is the hot new collectible dice building game from WizKids. Each player plays a team of superheroes doing battle against their opponent. Each turn you draw out a number of dice and roll them to determine your options for that turn. Similar to a deckbuilder, throughout the game you can draft additional dice to place in your dice bag. Cards and dice are sold in collectible booster packs containing two cards and two dice for a dollar. Finding Marvel Dice Masters can be difficult as demand has greatly exceeded supply. If you can’t find it at your hobby store you may still find a few packs at Target or Walmart. Sets are selling on Ebay now for greatly inflated prices but these should drop as the second and third print runs arrive and increase the supply.

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Minion: What I wish Smash Up Would Have Been.



      The premise of Minion is simple and straightforward; a card based game based on bashing your opponent’s life down to zero in order to win. You find yourself battling using “minions” (hence the name), spells and items to slowly chip away at your opponent’s life until victory is at hand.

      I got to play Daniel Eichler’s mostly-finished brainchild a few times as the game winded down its successful funding on Kickstarter that just recently ended on May 11 going above and beyond with nearly $46,000 of the $26K goal. It arrived in a very unassuming Ultra Pro deck box, beckoning just so. The question remained; why were people keen on this project and why would it be so successful? Let’s go ahead and take a closer gander.

      Premise:

      More detailed gameplay rules and demo are located here and here

      It’s like taking the basic Magic: The Gathering game and condensing it down to one core deck of 120 cards and having both players loot from a divided center community deck in order to reduce their opponent’s life down to zero. Now imagine an illegitimate pun-y offspring of Despicable Me and video game culture that grew up in a fantasy world, in a really good way.

      How this differs:

      Take your basic M:TG gameplay. Then make it a semi free-form free-for-all that now can play up to 4 players against one another. Now remove the deck building aspect. Now add variations to the base game but let me go into more detail. The first twist relies on the fact that with the divided deck, one is face-up and the other face-down. So even the opening draw phase of the game becomes a step up more than strategic. So the visible card is the one you’re exactly looking for in order to smite your opponent? Or you don’t want to risk letting them draw it on the next turn? Grabbing them has its own peril as trap cards are deviously hidden within the deck to counter the knowledge of foresight that deck provides.

      Tilting is also a common M:TG tool that many other games employ. Each card has attack and defensive stats, of course, but Minion decided that wasn’t enough. So they added flipping to their repertoire. The flipping mechanism causes cards to be protected from damage or card effects for the duration of the time flipped. It also adds to offensive strategy as a weapon to manipulate your adversary’s cards so that they become unusable during their next turn.

      Minion is a self stated game of overpowered play. Many games try to balance cards out and adjust for strategy to compensate for this. Minion, instead, flaunts it and throws it in your face and dares you to pull a one-up type move against your opponent. For example, there are minions, frankly, that are so much more powerful that a majority of the rest in the deck. For those familiar with old school M:TG, think something like Icy Manipulator or Shiva Dragon. Minion self-acknowledges that and uses it to make the game even more ridiculous in a good way. Instead of relying on overpowered cards that are rare or hard to deploy, it puts them out in multitude and says to the players go wild with your gameplay to act, counter, and counteract again to put the screws to your foe.

      Take the Conji’s Book of Surprises card which allows for 4 different tilt options per turn: Draw 3 cards, heal 4, deal 4 damage, disable target card, or flip target card. The card “Common Thievery” is anything but as it allows you to steal an item from your opponent and put it in your hand.

      And of course there’s always…

      Art/Aesthetics:

      If you’ve read any of my other reviews, this is the type of art that I enjoy. You can tell that someone put a lot of time designing each individual card to look different and yet all in the same cartoonish play on the stereotypical generic fantasy realm. Again, this artwork really jives with and gives a cohesive theme to compliment the rules and gameplay of Minion. The fact is that Minion recognizes what it is and is not, and plays to its strengths in this regard. It uses its satirical absurdity to its advantage. This to me is a huge positive selling point and displays foresight into making sure all aspects matched.

      I had a media review copy so there were a good portion, say 70% or so of the cards that hadn’t had their art finalized yet, so there was a little faux disappointment with the fact that I couldn’t put a face to cards like “Small Wet Dolphin,” “Conji’s Book of Surprises,” and “Piano Cannon.”

      Thoughts after playing:

      Is it the deepest game? No.
      Were there brand new mechanics introduced to revolutionize the genre?
      Not really but the cleverness in their gameplay twists to make it not feel like a retread.
      Was it easy to get out and play/did I enjoy playing it? Absolutely.


      From left to right: Plumber Fireball, Might Morphing Power Exchanger, Generic Dark Lord, Bottle of Weaksauce, and Poke Monster

      There’s little fuss or muss. The set-up is bare minimum. The puns are clever and the art entertaining to the eye. The 120 card deck is just about the right size. This size allows for multiple run throughs before starting to see cards show up annoyingly often and yet remains a respectable scale that isn’t Marvel Legendary overwhelming. The self containing deck concept removes barrier to entry and gives gamers who would prefer to avoid the CCG or LCG models another entry point into the card based gaming realm. Games are furious in their ability to constantly and repeatedly knock out other players minions and cards and momentum changes like the wind.

      Will it hit the table often? I’m not sure yet, but I like the fact that it’s a nice, relatively quick game and particularly good for those times you’re not in a serious-type gaming mood or for non-gamer friends looking to be entertained.

      So what’s my opinion?

      Worth it. When I originally heard about the game Smash Up, this is the type of game that I imagined and wanted. Something a little more creative and whimsical. If you backed this and this is your sort of game, you won’t be disappointed because chances are you’re already into this sort of thing and I think it will more than whet your appetite.

      It’s a nonsensically satirical yet uniquely clever rift on the deck based game in the M:TG genre. I think that the unlocked stretch goal of the expansion decks is just the add-on kick in the butt that the game needs to avoid becoming stale after multiple plays as is often the complaint from games with limited decks or like Cards Against Humanity. They’re currently in the process of setting up a dedicated website to the game and more details can be seen in the latest Kickstarter update here.

      Minion knows what it is and its audience, and that’s a great thing.

By |May 21st, 2014|Review|5 Comments

Issue #174 – Diamonds, Podcast + Agents Review

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
May 19, 2014 – Issue #174

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In the Game

Reviews, previews, walkthroughs, and more…

Diamonds

Just announced from Stronghold Games: Diamonds from designer Mike Fitzgerald is a trick-taking game where players collect diamonds (not the suit, but acrylic crystals included with the game). Unlike most trick-taking games if you can follow suit you get a special “suit action” based on the card you do play. Diamonds comes with 60 cards and 135 diamond crystals and is expected to be available at GenCon 2014. Keep your eye on the Stronghold Games website for more info.

Articles

Interviews, strategies, and opinions

Spy vs. Spy

A review of “The Agents” – By Chris Meeusen
The Agents is an uncomplicated, complicated Spycraftian game from the mind of designer Saar Shai. It takes a spin (pun intended) on the Agent vs. Agent perspective with the addition of the double-edge card. My devotion for card games notwithstanding, I love even more the introduction of a mechanic allowing players new ways to manipulate in game outcomes that allow for change the way the game is played…. (read the rest)
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