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.
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…
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.
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.