Cooperative Game Review: Mechs vs Minions

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For shorter cooperative game reviews with a specific focus on how well they play with 2-players, visit my BGG Geeklist. And if you like painted minis check out Stu’s Painted Games BGG Geeklist.

Mechs vs Minions

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Credit: Riot Games
Designers: Chris Cantrell, Rick Ernst, Stone Librande, Prashant Saraswat, Nathan Tiras

Publisher: Riot Games

# Players: 2-4 players

Playtime: 60 mins

About (from BGG):

Mechs vs. Minions is a cooperative tabletop campaign for 2-4 players. Set in the world of Runeterra, players take on the roles of four intrepid Yordles: Corki, Tristana, Heimerdinger, and Ziggs, who must join forces and pilot their newly-crafted mechs against an army of marauding minions. With modular boards, programmatic command lines, and a story-driven campaign, each mission will be unique, putting your teamwork, programming, and piloting skills to the test.

Thoughts:

We were super excited about getting Mechs vs Minions. It’s one of the few games that I clearly remember us purchasing. It was 2016 and we were at Essen for the first time. We had got ourselves invited to Modiphius Entertainment’s preview evening with one of our favourite designers attending, Matt Leacock. A memorable evening for sure!

But tonight the pre-order for the much hyped Mechs vs Minions would open and if we wanted any chance of getting one of the first wave copies we needed fast fingers. The time came and Stu, extremely excited, dutifully took his leave of the preview evening and sat outside on his phone refreshing the pre-order page until the order button appeared. To his horror the page crashed when he clicked it!

Stu then spent the next 30 minutes frantically checking around for an alternative before they all sold out and amazing stumbled across the EU Riot Games site (in German!) who had a few English language versions left. Phew! He quickly bought a copy. Adrenaline calming and relief setting in, Stu returned back to the preview party just in time for the announcement of Modiphius’ upcoming games and then enjoyed a game of Thunderbirds with Matt Leacock.

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Some months passed and a monstrosity of a box turned up on our doorstep. It was Mechs vs Minions. The box was quickly opened and it wasn’t a disappointment. It was even big enough to put our daughter in!

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Inside lay tray upon tray (with lids!) of minis and at the bottom a set of tantalisingly sealed envelopes (plus of course the boss mini concealed inside a sealed box with just enough poking out to spark our imaginations as to what could be inside!).

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Our first thoughts turned to the amazing quality of the game – from the super-thick box, to the wash on every mini, to the beautifully painted Yordles, even the trays to hold the minis are amazing. It was a game to drool over, to treasure, to keep forever.

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And then we played it. The first mission we failed miserably, but it was fun. Really fun. We immediately played again and won this time having got the hang of it. Mechs vs Minions for the next few weeks became our go-to game. Several games in the mission we were playing called for us to flip the tiles to the underground area. This was exciting! What could this new area and mission hold?! We were even instructed to open the boss box and finally got to look inside!

Unfortunately, this is when the game started to feel unbalanced – it didn’t work with 2 players any more. So we tried with 3-players. Better but still unbalanced – for example one mission required us to collect 4 crystals shards no matter the number of players. From our playing (we played this mission 3 times), it’s impossible to collect more than 1 crystal shard per Yordle.

So then we tried playing with 4-players. The game became fun again for a couple of missions, but the games now just seemed too easy, and we were playing on hard mode. And then suddenly the missions became impossibly hard. They felt random. It seemed near impossible to control this randomness even for us, now experienced, players. To our disappointment, we didn’t find the game fun any more.

Then we got to the second to last mission and we did something we never imagined we would have done before we started this journey. Even though we failed it, we decided not to play that mission again. We went straight onto the final mission instead as we wanted to finish the game. We wanted to see how it ended. We shouldn’t have. It ended with us saying ‘I’m glad we’ve finished that now’ and not in a good way. The pieces were quickly and unceremoniously neatly tidied away in the box and the game was immediately put on our ‘games to sell shelf’. How could such an amazingly anticipated game turn into something that we ‘just wanted to get through’?

My biggest regret is that we didn’t stop playing when the game started to lose its magic for us. We are glad to have played Mechs vs Minions (and our young daughter absolutely loved playing with its minis), it’s just a pity it’s not a ‘keeper’ for us. On the bright side, at least it frees up some shelf space for some new games!

Summary:

Mechs vs Minions is an amazing game in many ways; overall it far exceeds the quality of any other game we own. It has some interesting and fun mechanics, and is easily accessible to new gamers. However, quality, art, theme and accessibility are not enough for a game to be great. The gameplay has to match it. Unfortunately, after the first few missions, Mechs vs Minions started to feel repetitive. It also doesn’t work well with less than 4-players (unless playing with multiple Yorldes). Finally, the game started to feel random, with some stupidly easy games (on hard mode) and others stupidly hard (on easy mode). It’s definitely worth playing and for the price is excellent value for money, but for us, although it is a game that we once drooled over, it is ultimately one that we won’t be keeping.

My Rating: 5/10 (first half of the game is a 7)

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