I’m going to leave Essen for a bit, and head over to Kickstarter. First up:
Mutant Meeples was designed by Ted Allspach, owner of Bezier Games. In the past, Allspach has designed several quirky titles, including Start Player (giving you an alternative to those stupid or nonexistent start player mechanics I’m always complaining about), Tie Breaker (giving you an alternative to rejoicing in your shared victory), Ultimate Werewolf (including lots of varied roles), and lots of Age of Steam expansion maps. He’s also a cartoonist, producing the Board 2 Pieces comic that you can find over on Opinionated Gamers. Mutant Meeples is his latest title, playing in 45 minutes for 2-6 players aged 8 and up. The game is a superhero-themed puzzle game where you’re trying to find the quickest path to a crime scene. It’s currently up on Kickstarter – as of this posting, with 14 days to go, it’s $461 short of its $10,000 goal, so go back it if you’re interested.
The game comes with a double-sided 18X18 board showing the streets of Meeptropolis (with the East-West streets named after game publishers, and North-South avenues named after designers – all are alphabetically organized, A-R). Also included are 8 Mutant Meeples – perhaps I should explain what meeples are for the uninitiated. “Meeple” is short for “my people”, or “miniature people”, depending on who you talk to. It’s a generic term used for anthropomorphic player pieces, and is most famously associated with the person-shaped followers in Carcassonne. These Mutant Meeples take that shape, and add art on the pieces to denote powers. Anyway, eight of those plus eight placeholders. There are also 48 Mutant Meeple markers, 6 player boards, a location and key, a scene of the crime target, a timer, 16 movement counters, and 18 location tiles.
At the start of the game, the Mutant Meeples and their placeholders are randomly distributed onto the grates that form a diagonal across the board. Movement counters are spread out, and location tiles are shuffled up. One player (randomly chosen at the beginning, the winner of the previous round in subsequent rounds) draws two location tiles, assigns one to an avenue and the other to a street, and places the Scene of the Crime at those coordinates. Now all players look to see how many moves they need to reach the Scene of the Crime.
The first thing you’ll need to consider is movement of the Meeples. This is fairly simple – just go in a straight line until you run into something (a building, the map edge or another Meeple). Apparently, you can’t control your super speed, so you can’t stop early. Once you’ve stopped, you can start another move in a different direction. Another thing you’ll need to consider is trying to get Meeples to work together. You can move up to three Meeples, and you may need to position some in order to give others a stopping point. The last thing you need to consider is Mutant Meeple superpowers, which can each be used once per turn:
- Blue Beamer (blue) can teleport to any beam symbol on the board.
- Forrest Jump (green) can leap three spaces away in an orthogonal direction, even over buildings or other Meeples. He can’t land on an occupied space. He stops after his jump.
- MC Edge (yellow) can go off the edge of the board and reappear in the same place on the other side, continuing to move until hitting something.
- Ozzy Mosis (gray) can move through one building and continue until hitting a second.
- Shortstop (brown) may stop one space short of an obstacle that would otherwise stop him.
- Sidestep (red) may move one space orthogonally and stop.
- Skewt (white) may move one space diagonally and stop.
- Carbon (black) may use the powers of any Meeple not currently on your super team.
As soon as someone has figured out their move, they move the appropriate MM markers onto their player board, indicating order and how many moves that Meeple is going to take. You’ll then add the moves, take the corresponding movement marker, and flip the timer. That’s how long the other players have to figure out if they can do better. Once the timer has run out, the player with the lowest movement marker executes their moves. If successful, they take the MM marker that reached the Scene of the Crime and flip it over to its check-marked side – it is now on your super team and unavailable to you for the rest of the game. If unsuccessful, they must flip one Meeple from their super team back to its normal side.
Once someone has successfully reached the scene of the crime, move the placeholders to where the Meeples now stand. The winner of the round draws a new location. You continue until someone gets six Mutant Meeples on their super team.
I really like puzzle games, and this one seems like it would be pretty good. It’s getting some comparisons to Ricochet Robots, and Allspach has acknowledged the inspiration. I’ve never played RR, and always felt like it was too much multiplayer solitaire for me. This one adds some interaction with people competing for moves, and also by removing Meeples from your availability pool. Thematically, I’m not sure that works – isn’t the point of a team to keep them working together, not to retire them as you add them? Mechanically, it’s a good idea. At first I thought that maybe the superpowers wouldn’t be available until you had added a Meeple, but the real way is more of a catch up mechanism.
The Kickstarter campaign includes an expansion – Sidekicks. This adds two more Mutant Meeples – Nacho Fast (move any number of spaces once) and Swapmeet (exchange places with one other Meeple). For $60, the whole thing can be yours. It seems a little expensive, but I’m guessing a lot of that went into the Meeples. It’s a game I would like to play sometime, I just can’t back it at this time. Maybe someday. Thanks for reading!