Mechs vs. Minions is a cooperative board game. Recently, I played through the game’s campaign with a group of friends. Here’s what I thought.
Competitive board games
When I was young, I played Monopoly, Risk, and the game ‘mens-erger-je-niet‘, which translates as ‘don’t get frustrated’. To me that last is really more of a warning to not play the game than a catchy name.
All of these games pit one or more people against each other, and within the constraints of the rules, one of them wins. As anybody with siblings or more than one child over five knows: that’s a recipe for fights. As I became older, I started to realize that a large part of my frustration stems from the fact that most of these games are largely governed by chance.
There are strategies for games like Monopoly, of course, but if everybody follows those same strategies, chances are good that the winner will be the person with the most luck at dice throwing.
If the game isn’t based on luck, which is very rare, then you’re still pitted against your friends.
As an alternative, enter the cooperative board game, like Mechs vs Minions.
Cooperative board games
I don’t like competitive board games very much. I like the emotional high of winning, but I don’t like losing, and I don’t like playing against friends. One of the fun things of having friends is sharing fun experiences together. And in a competitive board game, one player’s fun experience — a good roll of the dice, or that great strategy paying off — is at the expense of another player’s chances of winning. Cooperative games, on the other hand, allow you to share that fun together, because the players are all in the same boat.
In a cooperative board game, it’s not the players fighting each other. It’s the players fighting together to overcome a common foe. This common foe is defined by the rules. Usually, the rules use decks of cards and dice rolls, combined with the progression of the players, and responds according to a set of rules.
Mechs vs Minions
So how does a cooperative game work in practice? Mechs vs Minions gives each player a mech to control. The players battle against waves of minions over the course of a number of missions, even including several boss fights.
The mechs do nothing out of the gate. Each turn, a stack of cards with mech functions (move, fire, turn, etc.) are drawn and the players get to choose one card each. They can slot those cards in a command track with a capacity of five. Stacking similar cards together increases their usefulness. The functions are then executed in order, giving the player some control such as how far they want to turn, but not that much.
The rules determine when new minions spawn, where they move, and how they try to thwart the players. The players, armed with a sometimes finicky command track, try to achieve a mission goal.
The result is utter chaos. There are some fifty minion figurines or so in the box, and you need a lot of them, even though they die in droves each turn. Mechs vs. Minions is clearly based on the League of Legends computer game, where minions also die in droves.
There is a joy when the four of you are trying to figure out how you can use your four command tracks to achieve a sensible result each turn. Can you take out that minion, then I’ll push you forward toward the finish line? I’ll take out that one, but I’ll be taking damage after, will that hurt the mission?
Mechs vs. Minions is a really good game, I have to say. A cooperative game like Kingdom Death forces you to choose between multiple horrors, which can be hard. Mechs vs. Minions just makes you choose between shades of chaos. It’s a reasonably simple game, but with a lot of depth, and it just feels good when you kick a dozen minions off the board in one turn.
In short, it’s great fun to create utter chaos and defeat some minions on the way.