Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Minion Hunter

I played Minion Hunter with Han and Chong Sean on 5 Jul 2009. At first sight, I thought this was a game from the 80's, but it was actually published in 1992. The Monopoly-like outer track made me a little suspiscious at first, but the game turned out to be more innovative (for a 1992 game) than I had expected. For one thing, this is a cooperative game.

America is being invaded by 4 factions of enemies. The players need to work together to fight these enemies. Every time an enemy faction makes a successful attack, its marker advances on a damage track (I forget the name). If any of the four enemy faction markers reaches 20, the players lose (a little like Sauron in Lord of the Rings!). Attacks (and other events) appear from the plot deck. At the end of every player's turn, a plot card will move from the plot deck towards a discard space. Once it reaches the discard space, it will take effect, usually causing one of the enemy faction markers to advance. Each plot card is specific to a city. To defeat the plot card, the players need to visit that city, and use their abilities to defeat it. If you win, you keep the card. If you lose, you go to the hospital. It will take at least 3 turns to recover from your injuries. To win the game, the players need to last until the last event from the plot deck takes effect or is defeated.

Minion Hunter is also a role-playing game. Each player character has 4 traits - combat, empathy, contacts and stalking. In the early game, every character is at skill level 1. You need to train your character up before you try to defeat any enemy. That's where that outer track come into play. The outer track represents a kind of training centre. You start in one corner, and you roll a die to move along the track in either direction. Some spaces increase you skills. Some spaces give you equipment. Some spaces throw challenges at you, and give you a reward or a penalty depending on whether you succeed at the challenges. Some spaces allow you to move to a city on the map.

In our game, we tried to specialise in different skills. Han and Chong Sean got rich very quickly. When you draw an equipment card, you can either spend money to buy it, or you discard the card and gain some money. They both drew some very expensive equipment (one of them was a jet plane) early, and thus were swimming in cash. Other than buying equipment, money can also be used for traveling quickly on the map - bus tickets or plane tickets. If you're poor, you walk.

We did quite well in fighting the enemies, despite ending up in hospital many times. I joked about pretty nurses, and then to my delight, found that there actually is a hospital recovery die roll result about a good nurse who helps you to recover quicker. We eventually won the game. The Fey faction did come close to defeating us. It's marker was at 19. Another successful attack would have caused us to lose, but if I remember correctly, by the time that marker reached 19, there were no more Fey events remaining in the plot deck (but we didn't know at the time). So the game probably wasn't as close as it seemed.

The game supports up to 6 players. The back row are the four enemy factions.

The gameboard. You start with a thick stack of plot cards. There will always be two plot cards showing. The back of the cards tell you the location. The city names are fictitious but are based on real American city names.

Some equipment cards.

More equipment cards. That jet is a joke. How are you ever going to be able to have $3,250,000 in cash?! But it's good to draw this card, because you'd discard it to earn $65,000, which would last you a long time. I find that equipment usually don't last long, because whenever you lose a fight and go to the hospital, you are forced to lose one equipment. I wonder whether that's just because of how we played, or it's normal.

The three-box track on the upper right (where the yellow and blue pawns are) is the hospital. You usually enter the hospital after losing a fight, and go to the red intensive care unit. Then on your next turn you roll a die and hope to recover to the next space, until you fully recover and can be discharged.

Some of the enemies that I have defeated. You can try to escape from fighting, and sometimes you want to do that. E.g. when the plot card is one of those "fame" cards (like on the lower left) which don't do any damage, or when you are too weak in the skill required for the actual fight.

The Fey faction was only one step away from destroying America.

Minion Hunter is definitely full of flavour. There is a lot of die rolling, and looking up die roll result tables. There are decisions to be made. However overall I think it is quite tactical. You can't really plan very far ahead. The plot cards move very quickly. They move face down, so you won't know what they are or what skills are required to defeat them until a player encounters them. So there is a fair bit of luck. The game can get a little repetitive, because you are always responding to urgent threats. To have a longer term or more strategic view, I guess it is possible to count how many plot cards for each enemy faction have appeared, which can help you assess how big a threat the remaining plot cards for each faction are.

This game is probably out of print. But if you get a chance to play it, just immerse yourself in the theme and enjoy the ride! And say hi to the nurse.

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