A Solo Review of Mechs vs. Minions: Programming 101
See the unique aspects that make Mechs vs. Minions an interesting solo experience with a detailed review.
Lately, my session reports evolved into mini-reviews. No wonder I haven’t posted a proper solo review in ages! I actually had this all ready to go back when I played through the entire Mechs vs. Minions campaign earlier this year. Better late than never, though! Find out more about what makes this both a fun and challenging game.
Game Name: Mechs vs. Minions
Publication Year: 2016
Designers: Cantrell, Ernst, Librande, Saraswat, and Tiras
Artists: Danny Beck and Tysen Henderson
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)
Average Setup Time: 10 Minutes
Average Play Time: 1 Hour
Play Area Size: 52″ x 24″
With quirky Yordle characters and their mechs, scenarios must be overcome. Programmed card sequences form the main gameplay element, yet watch out for the minions!
The Overall Objective and Paths to Victory
Individual operations state very clear win or loss conditions. With a distinct order, these missions form an overarching campaign, with ultimate victory coming from the final mission. Without giving away any spoilers, though, there are additional ways to continue playing beyond the initial campaign! Although a little limited, reusability exists.
The real challenge is finding out how to achieve each operation’s victory conditions. Randomized market cards ensure that not all options are available. Unexpected surprises or malfunctions can also send a mech in the wrong direction!
Anywhere from 2-4 characters may be controlled, though I had a blast using all of them. Teamwork also opens up new strategies to discover new paths. Excluding the early operations that act more as tutorials, there are many unique ways to succeed. Sometimes, even a malfunctioning mech can do exactly what’s desired! It’s all about trial and error.
Top Secret Envelopes
Throughout the 10 included operations, new cards and components are added into the mix. Each mech slowly gains access to new ways to find solutions.
Many of these options can be mixed and matched to find different ways to approach each scenario. Very fun!
The use of sealed envelopes was a nice touch. For the most part, I had no trouble opening up each one with minimal damage. These form long-term mission storage.
Having this campaign-style flow made each scenario matter. I felt invested in the story and what happened.
Relevant Component Information
As usual, this section isn’t an exhaustive list of everything included with the game box. Instead, I like to focus on the elements that help create a variable or interesting game. If you want these details, though, please feel free to ask away!
Everything comes together to create a variable sort of experience with the following elements:
- 96 Command Cards: 8 copies of 12 cards offer all sorts of options, especially with the ability to stack cards.
- 55 Damage Cards: Added in over time with the mission envelopes, these introduce new types of malfunctions.
- 40 Schematic Cards: Split across 4 characters, these offer different abilities that can be mixed and matched.
- 5 Double-Sided Map Tiles: With unique features on either side, these provide many possible combinations.
- 10 Mission Envelopes: Each individual operation has special conditions, along with new cards to add.
Note that damage and schematic cards are sprinkled throughout the mission envelopes, so not all of these are available out of the box. Still, the command cards provide the foundation for the programming sequences. A mech can turn into a flying machine (of sorts), do maximum damage, or even explode when damaged. The choices are many!
A Colorful World
A muted color scheme with dark and gritty undertones might have worked here. Yet the colors are bright!
All of the large tiles are double-sided to allow for all sorts of layouts. The operations have their own set maps with specific tiles, but there are plenty of other possibilities.
Spot UV can be seen in some areas, too. Watch out for the oil slicks, though! Or maybe use them strategically…
Earning a Major Award
Success leads to the unofficial presentation of a lovely certificate of achievement! This is a small detail, though it’s another nice touch in a game that includes so much.
I didn’t end up framing my copy… Maybe I should have? Ha ha! Yet reaching the end feels like an accomplishment.
Many operations will be played several times before success occurs. There are simple moments, followed by agonizingly difficult challenges. In other words… Fun!
It’s a joy to see each Yordle’s personality come to life. They’re not just mindlessly running those mechs. Usually.
One element that I used to overlook is the included storage. With minimal components, it didn’t matter. Now, however, storage helps tremendously with setup time.
This may be the best storage system I’ve ever seen, especially at this price point! There are layered tiers with a place for absolutely everything. And it all works well.
Minions have unique shapes, yet their wells are uniquely molded to house any of them. There are no assigned spots.
Clear covers also add stability without adding anything unnecessary. This is truly a feat of engineering beauty!
Beyond the Campaign
A single playthrough of the campaign reveals all of the surprises, yet there is another something waiting at the end… More challenges to complete for glory!
With the online tools and official challenges, this isn’t a game that ends when the campaign concludes.
In fact, there is nothing preventing another run through the campaign at any time. Since there are random elements, missions will rarely follow the same sequence.
To find the optimal programming sequences provides a sense of satisfaction, plus plenty of entertainment!
My Rating of Mechs vs. Minions
There are more than just a few elements that make Mechs vs. Minions stand out. High-quality components, including painted miniatures and an excellent storage solution, add to its table presence. A sense of progression occurs over the course of the linked scenarios, although the conclusion may feel a little underwhelming after all that work.
In a way, this is a game that probably won’t make it to a table that often. The main campaign provides a reason to play frequently, only to pack it up for some time. Yet the long-term value is there! Everything may be reused.
Finally, all of the card programming provides a fun challenge. Crafting a sequence, adjusting to damage, and stacking similar types for better effects all play a major role. To see a mech go from spinning around and moving aimlessly, to taking out half a dozen minions in a later round is amazing! The game handsomely rewards experimentation.
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- Each Yordle has a distinct personality that appears throughout the operations, often with a dose of comedy.
- Planning a programming sequence with the available cards takes short-term and long-term planning strategies.
- The set of 10 operations creates a connected campaign that can be reused as many times as desired.
- Everything has a designated place in the box with an excellent storage system that rivals many others.
- Quality can be seen in every aspect, from the easy-to-understand rules to the sturdy components.
- All of the rules are introduced slowly throughout the first few missions, and a reference book is also included.
- Some operations are much more difficult as the campaign advances, and winning feels even more enjoyable.
- Damage cards can block specific programming slots, yet there are ways to find benefits in these malfunctions.
- Post-campaign fun may be found in custom scenarios or other sorts of challenges outside of the 10 operations.
- Even though there is perceived danger with foes, the overall feeling is lighthearted with well-placed humor.
– Cons (Negatives)
- The amount of required table space is pretty extensive and the orientation often changes between operations.
- Although the rulebook recommends a timer for the market cards, this is unnecessary during solo play.
- Play time can vary wildly not just between operations, but also during the same mission based on randomness.
- There are rare situations where progress is exceptionally slow, or defeat is obvious long before it happens.
Continue the Conversation
What kinds of experiences have you had with Mechs vs. Minions? This might be more enjoyable as a multiplayer game, yet I had an awesome time controlling all of the Yordles. Did you run into any odd situations? I had plenty of laughs along the way! The unexpected damage effects provided unique challenges. Definitely worth the large table space!