As most of you are aware, Bioware decided to allow fans to choose the official appearance for the female Commander Shepard on Facebook and I was lucky enough to be at the Bioware-Base when the six candidates were announced. The scene was utter-mayhem and I can honestly say there were almost as many females as males present at the event. However here is where things get a bit tricky.
Many gaming crews can trace their roots back to fun nights spent sitting around the table playing tabletop games. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to get together on a regular basis; the phrase “life gets in the way” comes up a lot when trying to figure out why those nights are few and far between. Enter Minion Master, from BitFlip Games, with a very strong entry into the digital tabletop gaming arena. Minion Master blends table-top and card-based gaming mechanics, while automating a lot of the laborious work that makes tabletop gaming time-consuming. And at PAX Prime 2012, we got a hands on look at an in-progress build that more-than delivers on the screenshots and videos we saw going into the weekend.
The game presents players with a familiar hexagonal map, where tiles represent different types of terrain at different elevations. Each player in the game is represented as an avatar, which looks like a giant Rook chess piece. Your goal is to destroy your opponents’ avatar while defending your own. An interesting twist on the game comes in the use of customized card decks. Your deck is used to summon forces to the game board, and buff those forces with modifiers.
As a tabletop player, what was most surprising is that all of the minions are controlled by the game engine. That is to say, all of the minions are programmed with their own behaviors, deciding where to move, and what to attack. Initially, I was sort of put off by this — why would I not want to move all my characters? The answer is simple, the game was designed to support EPIC battles — large maps with many players with an exponential number of characters. This was the a-Ha! moment of the demo, for me.
The key idea here is that each player submits their turn, then all of the actions are executed by the game engine, appearing as a continuous-time, massive battle. It is spectacular. The minions you choose to put into your deck is what dictates your play style. The team also realizes that you may want to change tactics during a match, and that’s why minion modifier cards exist in the game. Some simply buff your team, while others make them more aggressive, for example. Naturally, at this point, I had a slew of customization questions…
Can you build your own decks? Yes. Can you play against AI? Yes. Can you play mixed games online? Yes. Can I build my own maps? Yes. Can I share decks and maps with friends? Yes. Can you form teams within the game? Yes. Do you plan to add more cards / factions to the game? Yes… I think you get the idea.
The BitFlip Games team leaned on their gaming experience to add a slew of great features into the game that enable players to enjoy the game the way they like. Minion Master has a dead-simple map editor that will even mirror the terrain to the number of players (i.e. 6 player map, where each player’s terrain is identical). Even better, your game license is account based… meaning that the game is currently on PC, but should it appear on mobile, all of your account information (including deck builds) will transfer between platforms.
Minion Master is feature packed and functionally impressive in it’s own right. Couple this with the fact that the team consists of just 3 full-time (and 2 part-time) hard-working people. They take feedback from the community, play community games online to help new players learn tactics, and comprised the crew that busted their asses bring the game to the Expo. If you’re into digital card games, tabletop gaming, strategy and/or RTS, it’s time to get your mitts on Minion Master.
Seriously…. busted their asses to bring this game to you.
Minion Master is also now up for voting on the new Steam Greenlight program. Show some love.