Review – Masters of Mutanite

With Dominion about to have its 15th anniversary, “deck building” is hardly considered a shiny new toy. But the mechanic continues to be used with frequency, and in new ways and new settings. Masters of Mutanite falls into the latter category, combining deck building with a superhero beat-em-up.

Masters of Mutanite features a colorful collection of heroes (if they’re on your team) and villains (if they aren’t) battling across Dash City. The city/play area is populated by trees, ice cream trucks, barrels of toxic waste, water towers, and other terrain for the characters to pummel each other with. The unique characters – Crackjack, The Claw, Crush, Plasm, Katalyst, Ominous, Adria, and Bionica – have a range of concepts and possible starting traits, such as electricity manipulation (extra damage with electricity attacks), spiky skin (deal damage when an enemy moves into your space), a healing factor, super swimming (enhanced movement in areas with water), telekinesis (enhanced ability to throw objects), or marksmanship (better ranged attacks). Not only do those characters and powers interact with the terrain, they terrain and powers also interact with things like fire and water tokens on the board. Waters towers might result in more water tokens in an area, which can put out fires but also increases electric damage. Getting hit in the face with an ice cream truck might freeze a character. All of the characters, terrain, and tokens are colorful standees of thick cardboard stock.

The deck building element comes from the four cards that a character can play per turn, representing their various attacks. Characters at the start of the game can only punch, kick, fling, and cleanse themselves (or move by discarding any card), but they will claim more cards from the board as the game progresses (because these power cards come from a common deck, there is no forced thematic coherence to characters’ powers – Plasm might get more acid attacks to go with his Acid Hands trait, but he might also pick up fire, lightning, or movement powers). Powers have evocative names – “Teleport” lets the character move anywhere, “Fireball” inflicts damage and lays down fire tokens, venom fangs deals damage and puts poison cards into an enemy’s deck, etc. Some defensive powers can be played as reactions on other players’ turns. If you’re experienced with deck building games, you can see that the deck building element in and of itself isn’t doing much new, beyond the superhero flavor – it’s the placement of that mechanic in the context of other mechanics that differentiates Masters of Mutanite (they call it a “spatial deckbuilding game”).

Mutanite itself is generated by acquiring new powers, which allows the purchase of more traits, which provides permanent boosts to the character.

Masters of Mutanite can be played cooperatively or competitively. In competitive mode it’s a battle to see who’s the last character standing. At any given point in time a character’s enemies are only the players on their left and right, but this necessarily fades when it’s down to three players left, because now everybody’s your enemy. And, yes, Masters of Mutanite does have player elimination. In cooperative mode all of the players are a team fighting against a team of villains (this is designated “Villain Mode” and is the only time the characters are formally heroes or villains, rather than just brawlers). The backside of each character board is a villain version, with a programmed set of moves. After each characters goes, the villains will attack the heroes, starting only once per turn and growing more prolific until they spend their mutanite to gain another trait and have to build back up again. The players win if they down all of the villains first, and lose if all of the players go down first (although you could turn this up to hard mode by requiring that all of the players survive).

Players who are into the superpower theme will want to check out the vivid components and the interaction between characters, terrain, and powers. And it is just kind of fun to throw a car at someone.

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy. Strange Assembly may earn commissions from affiliate links in this article.

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