Metal Minds: Preview

Little did you know Fairway is a psychic agent from the planet Kal-Purnika. Or at least he was while he previewed Metal Minds, a resource-gathering card game from Nifty Games and currently on Kickstarter. Find out whether his psychic ability was ability was able to deliver the precious rift orbs to his corporate masters, or whether it was all just in his head. 

Metal Minds is a two- to four-player hand-management and resource collection game. Players each take on the role of psychic agents vying to gather the requisite number of “rift orbs” in order to win the game.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. The sci-fi art is very well done. The players all enjoyed how well it fit within the theme.
  2. The game was easy to pick up and learn with intuitive game play.
  3. While billed as a strategic game, there was a fair amount of luck involved.

Game play ^

In Metal Minds each player is tasked with collecting eight “rift orbs” in order to win the game.  At the start, players are given a resource track and a unique role.  The unique role in the game is given its own special power or ability that focuses on different aspects of the game. In addition, each unique role has a role-specific hand limit and gadget limit (which I’ll explain shortly).

Each player is also given a resource track to track four different resources: tetracyte, bilbadon, and exorilium (the resources) as well as rift orbs.  The first three resources are used to construct machines and gadgets as well as use powers in the game. The rift orbs are essentially the victory points.

The game follows a very simple pattern: play cards, use powers, discard down to a hand limit, and then draw two cards.

At the start of the game, each player starts with a hand of two cards.  There are essentially two types of cards: maneuvers and devices.  Maneuvers are one-time use cards that usually give the player one of the resources or some special actions.  Device cards are either gadgets, which provide a one-time, use boost or engines which are installed and can be used repeatedly.  To use a device, though, they must be built and installed.

Each of the profile provides for a number of devices that can be placed (gadget limit). The higher the gadget limit, the more a player can build without having to scrap the device.

Players take turns going through the game until one person ends the round with at least eight of the rift orbs.

On the green ^

Art. The game leaves a lot to be desired, but the card art is nice. The art definitely adds to the sci-fi feeling of the game.

Iconography and card design. Like the art, the iconography worked. Everyone understood easily what needed to be done with the cards, how to play them, and what the costs were to construct.

Easy to learn and play.  The game also is relatively quick to learn and easy to play.  Even with four players, there was very little downtime and players were quick to assess which cards to play and when.

Where it comes up ^

The story.  The designer clearly invested heavily in the story, but it sort of falls flat as implemented in the game. I didn’t really feel like a psychic or psychic agent. My only interaction with my characters was to use their power predictably on my turn. The powers rarely felt psychic: like converting a resource into a card draw.

Variable powers.  And on that point, I appreciated the attempt to have variable powers, but they weren’t balanced.  Players with the ability to generate rift orbs at-will (in exchange for gadgets or cards) typically won the games since they were the only ones who could reliably create them (see the next note).

Similarly, my first character’s power wasn’t great but it was “useful”: pay a resource to get another card. This was almost always worth it to do, but mostly just to get another opportunity in hopes of getting a rift-orb generating cards. By contrast, another ability was to discard a card to get a resource, which was used infrequently if ever.

The balance on “hand limit” and “device limit” also seemed off.  Having a low device limit is way worse than having a low hand limit and the trade off isn’t the same. More on this below.

Rift Orbs.  The game is billed as a strategic card game. The problem is that the victory condition was almost entirely the result of luck of the draw. There’s no game play mechanism that reliably let any player convert resources to rift orbs. Those aspects are relegated to either a player’s special power (huge advantage) or luck of the draw for the right maneuver or machine.

This fact alone seems to undermine the strategic nature and deviates from the standard resource gathering paradigm: you’re collecting these things to convert them into known other things.

Resources.  In most of our games, players didn’t have any trouble gathering resources. There seemed to be an abundance of them.  However, when faced with a choice, there was no particular rhyme or reason to why you’d select one or another, unless you were going to spend it immediately. A few engines gave powers that let you extract particular resources, but whether you needed that element at all was a guessing game.

Device limit.  Besides the ability to generate orbs, the other big determiner of who’d win or who was having fun was the device limit.  Unlike the hand limit (which ultimately mattered in very few cases), not being able to construct devices was devastating to your chances of winning.  DJ Bass could only have two things built at a time which severely limits your ability to actually use your device cards.

In the hole. ^

Metal Minds tries to weave a unique science fiction story into a resource gathering card game. With nice art, straight-forward game mechanics, and short game play time, it would make for a light filler game. But without the ability to construct a strategic path to victory and an array of unbalanced powers, this game comes up a bit short.

Metal Minds is in the hole for one over par. ^

Fairway was sent a copy of Metal Minds to do this preview, but was not otherwise compensated for this review.


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