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Just outside Meeptropolis…

November 22, 2013

A good friend of ours recently gave Miss B a card saying that he wanted to buy us a game as a present but didn’t know what to get, so here was some money for Miss B to spend as she saw fit. Thankyou, G. That was a wonderful gift.

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Can’t see who was getting to the crime there, but I think it was a team effort.

Anyway, the next weekend we took a trip to Reading to visit Eclectic Games, which we knew would have a great selection to choose from, and Miss B spent a while caught up in option paralysis. There were a number of games that caught her eye and her imagination, including a fun looking one about witches racing on electric sweepers (having upgraded from broomsticks) and another on mixing peppers to prepare the perfect salsa. In the end, a combination of cover artwork and a daft background story on the back of the box resulted in our purchase of Mutant Meeples. (What’s a meeple? Here is an answer.)

I must admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced for some reason, but the game is based on Ricochet Robots, which I played a couple of times many years ago and remember enjoying, and the rules for the day were that Miss B would choose, so we handed over the money and headed for home where we spent a little while applying the provided super hero stickers to the various coloured meeples.

So, Mutant Meeples is basically a competitive puzzle solving game. There are a bunch of the titular Mutant Meeples (who all have super powers) on the board and a “crime” randomly takes place somewhere. Players have to figure out how few moves they need to move a meeple to the crime and save the day. Once one player has stated their required moves, a sand timer is turned over to give a short period for another player to come up with a better move; when the time runs out, the winning bidder makes the move.

The trouble comes from the fact that the meeples are all super fast but can only stop by running into something (either a wall or another meeple) so often you need to position one meeple for another to run into and bounce off. Add to that the meeples each having individual powers to modify their movement and there’s quite a bit to think about.

Oh, and once you have made a meeple reach a crime, that meeple joins your team and for some reason won’t help you any more. Thematically it doesn’t make sense, but what it means in gameplay terms is that when you start doing well, the game gets harder for you, which is an excellent balancing mechanism.

Playing the game was pretty hard going at first as Miss B was really struggling to see what she needed to do, and she was insisting that she wanted to play with the full adult rules and not get any sort of head start or advantage. Despite feeling enormous frustration, Miss B battled on with the game, though she needed a couple of time-outs in order to keep herself together. I took my time over puzzle solving and managed to drop some hints to her as well as getting her to accept two turns of the timer to give her a bit more thinking time. Then I made a howling mistake and miscounted a move. This cheered the proceedings up a little, though Miss B expressed her annoyance at me being rubbish at the game.

Then I made another mistake. Please believe me that these were genuine mistakes and I really wasn’t trying to give her an advantage. This of course corresponded with a couple of rounds where Miss B was able to solve the puzzle all on her own, so she ended up with a comfortable victory.

Miss B is still not good at spotting solutions that require moving multiple meeples, but she’s steadily getting better at it and combined with my generally addled brain this is going to be a game where she regularly gives me trouble, I think. It’s going to remain hard for her for a while, but she seems keen to play more.

The title for this post was Miss B’s idea, by the way.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾-and-a-bit): “I liked the contents because of the meeples on the camping trip and they got attacked by radioactive butterflies and the name Meeptropolis. I laughed at the idea. At first I got really upset because it was a bit frustrating but as I got the hang of it Daddy started miscounting. I was usually double counting to make sure that I would get the right amount of spaces away. I’d give it 10 out of 10.”

The game: Mutant Meeples (Pegasus Spiele), 2 to 7 players aged 8+.

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