Stuart Gillies unleashes his minions!
BitFlip games have returned to games development with a flourish, their first medium sized game from their small sized company is Minion Master. Looking at the history of Minion Master, you get the feeling that it was created purely for the development team. Apparently they once tried to throw a party but only half of those invited turned up. However sad but true this story is, the game is great, plays well and has tremendous scope for multiplayer battles with friends and strangers alike. BitFlip claim to have spent lots of time developing the game and testing it, so it looks like they made an effort to find a target audience other than themselves.
Minion Master combines Real time and Turn based strategy games. The table top gaming elements from where the game draws its inspiration is shown through the figurines battling within the game. Maps have a hexagonal based design which allow for front, back and diagonal attacks. It supports up to 6 player co-op as well as versus matches.
BitFlip games wanted to create a game that held true to the physical RPG board and card games but featured elements that could only be created virtually. I say they succeeded and created a brilliant game that has taken up a lot of my time, mainly from multiplayer battles and level creation.
When getting the game you need to choose what kind of deck you are going to go for. I chose the Sorcery deck, as I prefer playing as something that I am not (I am always me). You are not confronted with a lot of information as to what each deck is good for, but I play as a mage in other RPG’s so I will be true to what I am (virtually).
The in-game tutorials that were added in the last patch are brilliant. As a noob to table top gaming I felt it necessary to run through the tutorials, not only because I was reviewing the game. The tutorials are simple enough to follow but offer enough knowledge to the player that they can build upon them. There is also a tutorial on how to build your decks which can be accessed through the tutorials tab or on the first time opening of the deck builder tab from the main menu. Rube +5 intelligence.
There are two separate factions, spread across different decks, Fantasy and Horror. Each faction is good for its own reasons. I preferred the blitz rush deck which uses cards from the Fantasy faction, as it allows the spam summoning of kobolds, which are very weak but you can have ridiculous amounts of them. As well as their being the separate minions to summon in each faction you are able to enhance them. With the blitz rush deck you can make your kobolds unbelievably powerful; if you have say fifty kobolds, you can make one of those kobolds have an amazing amount of attack by using a card that increases a single kobolds attack power by ten for each kobold that is already summoned. That’s +500 atk! Their defence is still naff though.
The gameplay is round-based. This isn’t every ones cup of tea but it is most definitely mine. The development team say that this is a turn based game with elements of RTS. However, there is little RTS elements within the game. The user can micro manage their armies, at the expense of Mana, the currency within the game. It accounts for how many minions you can summon and what cards you can use per round. Discarding cards raises your mana based on their discard points. Each turn has a time limit which is predetermined and when you don’t use a turn and allow the timer to run out you lose one point of health. Each game revolves around you trying to keep your “Avatar” alive. In essence when you summon your minions to the game they are spiritually linked to your avatar. When your minions die your avatar loses health. The avatar can also be directly attacked by the enemy if they have made it all the way to your side of the map.
The single player missions are basically extended tutorials; you get thrown into a combat scenario without any prior input from the user. Once in the scenario you just play to win. They are all pretty similar, up until the point when you get more than one opponent. In these cases the game becomes more interesting. When you face an AI opponent you know that they will throw everything at you; it’s the nature of the game. However, in numerous single player missions you play against more than one. This is far better than the usual scenarios, this is where you have to put more thought into the game than, summon > enhance.
The Level Editor for the game is what you’d expect, there’s no fancy “Create my dream Level” button, but you can get pretty close with some imagination and persistence. Once you have failed many times (many, many times) at creating a decent level, you will get the hang of it, don’t you worry. You will create a genuinely brilliant level, through hard work or trial and error. I’ve created two now. It does take a while getting used to having to continuously switch terrain and so on but you will create a level that has differentiated height and terrains with multiple points for optimised battle for both ranged and melee Minions.
The whole point of the game is to battle other players of the game, not to face the built in AI which serves mainly as a self confidence booster. All the aspects of the game other than multiplayer are just training you, letting you make the mistakes you will undoubtedly make without getting owned by a real life player and receiving the metaphorical tea bagging taunt of supremacy.
The multiplayer chat room is like any other multiplayer chat room, you can host and event challenge, ask and so on… So far I have asked and hosted but for a couple of days I had not played with anyone other than the AI which was saddening, but owning the AI time and again is a great confidence booster. My first chance at facing another player was good, but the game bugged out and halved my amount of health points before the game started, but that didn’t matter to me, I was determined to win. I didn’t, but it was pretty darned close.
I’d say the best deck to start off with is the blitz rush deck, it gives your opponent a lot to think about as you have so many of your kobolds flying towards them at once, although they are cannon fodder as they have little health and do little damage. Ideally once you have gotten to grips with the game creating your own deck would be the best, a mix of the Zombie summoner and Kings decks proves hard to beat, along with whatever enhancement cards you can think of that will annihilate your opponent.
The best things about the fact that this is a virtual game than physical. No setup time required prior to the match, no need to look for lost pieces, cards or counters and dig out the trusty measuring tape. The bad points about the game is having to choose your deck before you know what the decks can do and also being unable to carry mana on from a previous turn. This is purely my opinion, but I felt that some decks were suited more to first timers than other decks, such as the blitz rush deck, which definitely suited me. Kings or Zombie summoner were better for me as I got progressively more skilled. I admit I can see where carrying Mana over from a previous turn could get ridiculous and not allowing it means players have to take more time in the development of their decks.
I would definitely buy this game. It is a brilliant card battler and the developers have put thought into the multiplayer aspect of the game, which is great for community building for the game. It might not suit today’s youth though, as they are used to receiving everything their hearts desire with a smile and a curtsey as they yell “NOW NOW NOW”. The multiplayer is fantastic and reminiscent of those teenage years huddled round game tables battling heartily with your friends and if you are losing you can annoy your opponents by committing your move just before the timer runs out.
8 tabletop top triumphs out of 10