Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Mutants

Game: Mutants

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Designer: Sen-Foong Lim, Jessey Wright

Year: 2019

Mutants is another game from Lucky Duck Games that bases its theme on a popular app. It seems like apps are proving to be a great resource for them to produce really engaging games, with some ready-made fan base. Mutants Genetic Gladiators is an app from developers Celcius online. As a newly recruited Psy Captain, use your unique Psychic Skills to control and lead a selection of genetic gladiators, train and cross breed them to unlock new attacks and discover new species of mutant. Assemble a powerful team that will vanquish your opponents in worldwide competitions to become the ultimate Psy Captain.

The board game really hooks onto the theme of cross-breading your gladiators as part of the mechanisms in this deck-building game for 2-4 players. Mutants battle each other in rounds of combat, but ultimately only one team will be victorious.


Gameplay

At the start of the game each player will choose a mutant team (or create one), a deck featuring 2 each of a set of advanced mutants. After dealing the advanced mutants into 3 equal piles they will take a player board and a deck of 12 basic mutants. They will then draw 1 of each basic mutant into their hand and play can begin.

Almost every mutant in the game has 2 effects, 1 when it is played and another when it leaves a player board. There are 3 slots for mutants on your board, a left and a right slot along with a central space. At the start of each turn the central space *must* be emptied ready for your new mutant, this is done by moving the mutant in the centre space into the left/right slot. When doing so you may knock the mutant in that spot off of the board, triggering it's "leave" effect. Players turns consist of clearing room in the central space followed by 1 action, either playing a mutant, or recruiting an advanced mutant into their deck.

There are many different effects that mutants have and each team is designed to have certain combos available to them. The most common effect is to grant you power, power tracks how well your team is fighting off the other teams in this round of gladiatorial combat. alternatively if you manage to posh all of your opponents into the red area you can actual end the round early in a total victory! When all players have run out of cards the player with the most power wins the round and therefore the lions share of the points. The points reward increases over the 5 rounds of the game allowing for players to recover from a bad start. at the end of the game you add the points earned during the game to end game points earned by freezing mutants (trimming them from your deck).

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Mutants is a very intriguing deckbuilder, it isn't the kind of game where your basic cards will all get trimmed from your deck, but in their defence the basic cards are actually reasonably good! You usually don't get the opportunity to freeze much more than half a dozen cards and you have to choose whether to freeze your expensive advanced mutants which are worth more points when frozen, but also more powerful during the game.

This ties in nicely with how you recruit the advanced mutants, simply throw away 1 card and you get to incubate a mutant, you guarantee to draw it next round, but you can only incubate 1 mutant a round. If you want more you can discard 2 mutants (with matching symbols) to not only recruit an advanced mutant, but play it immediately, is building your deck up work having less actions in this round of combat? These decisions plague your every move, it can be really hard to decide the best course of action.

Mutants is a strange mix between in-game deckbuilding as seen in Dominion, and out of game deckbuilding as seen in Magic The Gathering. The suggested teams are almost like having a pre-constructed deck, with the advanced rules letting your mix and max for your own strategy. This makes it a bit more limited than most deckbuilders, as while you will be customising your deck during the game, it will only be from the limited selection you choose before the game. For me this doesn't take away from the experience, Mutants is a great game with a huge amount of player interactions and a delicate line to be walked if you want to come out on top!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Mutants is colourful with great art and graphic design - it really brings theme to a deck-building game, in contrast to many other games in the genre. I love the names of some of the mutants and the mechanisms really bring out the genetic modification theme as you use two mutants of the correct type to create another for your team.

We've really enjoyed exploring the different pre-constructed decks in the game. Every game has felt completely different, and even when you're playing with the same deck, a different shuffle will give you a completely different game experience as you encounter different cards that will combo in new and interesting ways. We've experienced a lot of variety without even exploring the possibility of constructing our own decks from the many extra cards in the box.

Mutants is a game that we have really grown to enjoy over a number of plays. You actually want to make some quite intricate plans in order to trigger abilities in the most effective way. You also need to think very carefully about which mutants to freeze and how to time this to ensure you have a strong deck, whilst also banking some end game points. The programming elements and the constant struggle between good deck-thinning and end game points, really add something more to Mutants above and beyond another deck-building game.


You Might Like...
  • The game rewards repeat plays as you get to understand the specialism of each deck. This feature and the variety in the play style of each deck give the game good replay value.
  • Mutants has some of the interesting features of Valley of the Kings, a deck-building game that we love, with its freezing mechanism.
  • There is something new in the hand management aspects of the game and how you carefully manipulate the order and position of mutants on your board to trigger interesting combos.
You Might Not Like...
  • We found that Mutants wasn't an immediate hit in the first couple of games.
  • There can be moments where an opponent ruins a chain of events you've worked really carefully to curate.

The Verdict
Mutants is a pleasingly asymmetrical deck-building game. You have to think carefully about every decision to effectively trigger combos that score you in game advantages, whilst also thinking about your end game points in the freeze pile. It's a quick game with huge amounts of replayability that creates many varied strategies that add up to a really engaging game.

Mutants was a prototype copy kindly provided to us by Lucky Duck Games. Check out their Kickstarter campaign, launching on October 30th 2018.

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