Mutants is an excellent hand management conflict driven game.
Theme and What is it?
Mutants gives players the ultimate power. The power of genetic splicing and manipulation. Manage your hand carefully to breed critical advanced mutants, incubate ones at a disadvantage this round to gain an advantage next round, and ultimately attempt to crush your competition.
Mutants has a hint of deck building as you will occasionally shuffle used cards again and can use special powers to stack the deck. But unlike most deck builders where your decisions are entirely about gaining new cards or advancing victory conditions, Mutants is more of direct conflict card game at its heart.
On their turn, a player first manages their tableau of up to 3 in play mutants, then chooses one of three ways to advance the battle. They can play a new card from their hand and attack whatever arrival benefit the card gives, or they can lose cards from hand to breed a new advanced mutant and put it straight into play instead. Alternatively, the player can sacrifice a card this battle to incubate an advanced mutant that will be drawn first in their hand for the next round of play. When to use this option will be very important.
Each time a mutant arrives, something happens. Each time your battle spaces are full you will need to have one of your oldest cards leave to make space. And you probably guessed it. When they leave, something happens. These two types of abilities make the core of the gameplay experience. Some of them are as simple as gaining the power advantage for the current round. Others have triggered abilities, unique special powers, or the ability to directly attack your opponents’ cards potentially undermining their entire stratagem.
Mutants is a 5 round game with 6 cards in hand to work with. Since some actions require 2 cards to perform, it won’t even take 30 total turns to come to a conclusion. This makes the play time reasonably short. I expected a deck-builder, as that is how it was described to me. I spend a significant amount of my time playing games with deck-building elements and found this one to be a further departure from a pure deck builder than normal. This isn’t a bad thing, it just is worth noting that if you like or dislike deck-builders, you cannot judge Mutants purely on that basis. With 12 cards in the starting deck, the ability to gain new cards, and 5 total rounds to the game, shuffling will be relatively rare and shaping your deck will be of minimal importance compared to the more tactical way you play the current hand.
Game Build Quality
Mutants has a very nice insert and great wooden components for tracking score and power advantage. The cards are appropriately robust for the level of use they see during gameplay. The board is reasonably small but contains all the core information it needs. The player boards are even larger than the main board, but does contain almost all the player aid information and organizational markings required for play.
This is a big draw for Mutants. Check out the artwork in these pictures when making your considerations. When playing at a gaming club, many players will come over to check out what we are playing primarily because of the artwork style. It reminds me strongly of the style of art found in video games. In particular, I get a distinct Borderlands vibe from everything.
Each set of advanced mutants has very different possible play styles available. In particular, many of them will have a particular use in combination with other mutant abilities. Finding and executing these combination plays will be the most critical way to succeed in Mutants. Players can try to set up whatever power types they find most exciting. If you like culling your cards from your deck quickly and earning end game scoring in the process, that is a way you can go. If you like manipulating your deck and using that to pull out epic combos, that is a way you can go. If you like ruining your opponent’s plans by directly attacking and knocking out their mutants (disabling their abilities), that is a way you can go. So many possible routes to victory and adjusting to the actual conditions of each game will require adaptability to win.
Age Range & Weight
10+ might be slightly low but is close. Mutants is a fast-paced game with very few decisions to understand in a single play opportunity. The way everything fits together as a whole might be a little more daunting but is the perfect way to teach strategy as the tactical morphs into strategic without needing extra teaching. There are pre-constructed advanced mutant sets so that for the first few plays no one needs to make setup decisions and this will aid in the ability to teach new players or younger audiences. Teaching a core gaming friend Mutants took me less than 3 minutes total.
Mutants is an excellent hand management conflict driven game. The level of direct player interaction is controllable based on what advanced mutants are being used during the setup. If you hate direct take that attacking, you can just leave them in the box before doing setup. These exist in relatively small numbers and serve an important function in the game but can be stripped away without hurting the experience.
Overall, the way players gain power to have the advantage during the current round mostly just matters for some mutant powers or for who scores points for the current round. This is a great way to have conflict inherent to the gameplay without anyone feeling personally attacked when their power sinking lower. And even if they give up on winning the round, they need to be careful not to lose drastically or each opponent turn can earn end game points for crushing the competition.
It is a significant expansion and if your children love My Little......