Somewhere, back in time, a tiny peaceful city is surrounded by dangerous monsters, ready to attack.
All the citizens are now preparing to defend the city and fight monsters. Like always, they need all the people, including peasants to work and fight. They will work to construct buildings and help warriors, clerics, knights and mages to fight monsters and defend the city of Rowan.
Meeples & Minions is a bag-building engine builder game and was designed by Ole Steiness (Champions of Midgard – a game that I like a lot).
I have played the retail version of this game so I don’t have the tower expansion and the solo mode included (i am very sad about this, I play a lot solo) and of course, meeples are not screen printed (will discuss about this later on ).
The game is pretty straight forward and kinda friendly. I will detail this later on.
Flow of the Game (quick overview of the rules):
The game takes place over several Turns. The end of the game is triggered after the last of the 3 cards (Dark Council Arrives cards) is drawn from the monster deck, thus following 2 more complete turns for each player. The monster deck is made up differently depending on the number of players. Thus, for fewer players, there will be fewer monsters, so the game will be shorter. Of course, it can speed up the game, fighting monsters as fast as possible or it can take a long time, trying to upgrade your fighters before going to battle.
Each player’s turn have 3 phases:
Each player starts the game with a few meeples in the bag (peasants and corruption). Following that later, depending on the actions that each one does, he will fill his bag with better and better meeples.
During each player’s turn, the player draws a certain number of meeples from the bag, and put them in the Tavern, depending on where the game is located, ie how many cards (Dark Council Arrives cards) have been drawn from the pack of monsters.
With those meeples, player can perform various actions on the board: builds building in order to upgrade the town, for more powerful actions in later turns, taking more meeples, upgrading meeples, fighting monsters.
At the end of his turn, the player places all the meeples obtained in that turn, as well as those used for actions, in the lodgings, because they are exhausted. Exceptions are meeples that are lost as a result of actions.
When the bag is empty, it is filled with all the meeples from the lodgings.
During the game, players will get quests that, if they complete them, they will earn points – both on the spot and at the end of the game. Unfulfilled quests will eventually be scored in MINUS.
Points are also earned from defeating monsters. The monsters are on 3 levels of difficulty, those that surround the city and there are boss monsters, of the highest level, which can only be fought in the last 2 rounds of the game. They offer higher scores and bonuses depending on certain conditions.
The player with the most victory points wins.
Once again, I want to point out, that this review and play through summary is for the retail version so I didn’t cover the towers and solo mode.
Components & Artwork:
Components are ok. Good cardboard, normal meeples, maybe the cards are a little too glossy for my taste, I prefer linen finish.
The artwork is very colorful and I like it. Unique monsters, heroes, cartoonish style, but very pleasant to the eye.
The iconography of the playing cards seems ok and intuitive to me.
Contrary to other opinions, the rule book seemed ok to me. It achieves its goal. There are maybe 2-3 slightly ambiguous things, but that’s all. Nothing to make me say that I didn’t understand how to play and that I couldn’t play the game.
The complexity of the game I would say is somewhere around light-medium. On BGG is rated at 2.3 and I think is a good complexity rating.
It is quite a friendly game and without interaction between players.
At the end of each player’s turn, the main board becomes empty, so that all the places for meeples are vacated, so you can’t block the good places for other players.
The only thing you can do that can confuse or bother a little some other players would be for a player to build a certain building in a certain place on the main board before another player . And eventually fight certain monsters that maybe another player would have wanted to defeat. Because monsters, in addition to points, also give certain specific abilities for fighters to make them stronger.
Drafting from the bag is an interesting mechanism but this also implies the need for a drop of luck.
For example, in the last 2 turns, when you can fight boss monsters, if you draft week meeples you will not be able to fight those monsters. Of course, this also depends on the engine built during the game and how you “made” your bag.
Players need to try to create an engine, using abilities earned from defeat monsters in order to strengthen their warriors. They can have nice combos using multiple type of warriors combined with some abilities.
For example: white meeples (peasants, are weak, only 1 point of strength, but combined with some blue meeples abilities, can be very useful and powerful ) you may want to have less in the bag so that you can have a less diluted bag (more powerful meeples: red, blue,green etc ) but some abilities for blue warriors are that a player can use white extra meeples in battles from lodgings or the white meeples used in combination with blue meeples have a +1 strength in battles etc.
So some strategies can be followed, some monsters with certain abilities can be followed to defeat etc.
Now, I have some pros and cons, from my perspective
* Good quality production – Nice cloth bags, very good quality and large enough, very good cardboard for boards, wooden meeples.
* Artwork is very nice.
* First of all, I find the idea of the game itself very nice and interesting.
* I really like the fact that you have different fighters that you can upgrade. You increase their level, thus becoming stronger and eventually gaining some special abilities. And the upgrade is done by paying with victory points, so a balance must be found between losing those points and the possibility of gaining more points later, defeating monsters that give more points.
In addition, you can upgrade them through the various skills or specific actions gained by defeating the monsters.
* Quests are also very interesting. Apart from the fact that they themselves seem ok built, again, you have to choose during the game whether to take more quests, which you can complete or not, so you can earn points or lose points or leave the quests and to focus more on building the engine to make your bag as good as possible for the draft and to fight with as many monsters as possible and as powerful as possible.
*so overall, you still have to make some decisions during the game that may be good or bad. The game is still quite flexible.
*as for the duration of the game, it can be quite long, considering that the complexity of the game is not high. However, I tend to think that if you play 1-2 games and master the rules well, will get better…buuuuut…
*what is good, and a PLUS, is that due to the fact that at the end of each turn of a player, the board is cleaned, the next players can plan their turn during the turns of the other players. This way you don’t get bored waiting for your turn and when it’s your turn, you already have the plan.
Cons or what I felt was missing or not good or could have been improved (in my opinion):
*Maybe there are too many monsters for 2 players in the deck and then it gets longer, especially if the players are not in a hurry to fight them and eliminate them. In more players, more monsters are added, but not many, so I don’t think that too much time is added to the game, especially since if there are more players, more monsters will be defeated.
*Maybe some interaction between the players would have been good, especially since we’re talking about heroes, fights and monsters.
*Maybe, for more variability, it would have been nice to have more boss monaters.
*It would have been nice to have the solo module included in the retail version.
*Player markers are too small.
***Even though I didn’t play the deluxe version with silk printer meeples, I saw some videos with playthroughs and images and I tend to agree with most of those who played this version, namely the fact that due to the design on meeples, at some point , once you have a lot of meeples on the player board, it becomes very difficult to distinguish them, which color has each one and you get to play with them on the unprinted side.
First, I think that in the future will come a big expansion for this game. To fix some issues, to improve some aspects and bring more variety.
A big hint for this would be that on the Boss Monsters (and score) board, the spaces for monster cards are not pre-printed (like the ones for the basic units. So in a future extension new boss monsters may be added.
Overall, I like the game. It feels good playing it. Being of a lower complexity, it is a game that you can put on the table when you are not in the mood or you are too tired for a complex game and I think it can be introduced to beginners in board games.
So it is worth trying at least once and possibly keeping it in the collection.