Mutants is a 2-4 player deck building game about mixing and matching a player’s gene pool to create the ultimate mutant warriors. These warriors are then used to best your fellow opponents in the arena.
Players score points by freezing their most valuable mutants and by dominating their fellow players in the arena. Mutant: Genetic Gladiators has some interesting diversions from the standard deck builder, with each player having a pre-constructed deck and their own private mutant market. Freezing mutants to score points is interesting and is reminiscent of the “entomb” action in Valley of the Kings and offers another twist to the gameplay.
Mutants is played over five rounds and a round ends when all players have played all their cards in their hand or when a player dominates all other players. During a round, players will perform various actions to breed new mutants, incubate a mutant, deploy mutants to activate their effect and activate and abilities for Mutants when they leave the arena.
The game comes with pre-constructed decks that a player can pick up and start to play with (there are variants to this gameplay – see more below). Every player starts off with the same starting 12 Basic Mutants (two Warriors, two Zombies, two Robots, two Beasts, two Demons and two Aliens) which all contain one mutant gene. Each player is dealt a hand of six, containing one of each Mutant. The rest are shuffled and form the player’s deck.
Each player then takes one of the pre-constructed decks, shuffles them and lays them out near their player board in three piles of four cards each, with the top card face-up, this forms the player’s own specific gene pool. Each player places their power token on the power track in relation to turn order with the first player being lower and the last player player being higher on the track.
Each player takes a turn, performing the following steps in order. Crush the Competition, Move Active Mutant and Take Actions. Players continue this way until they have either, Crushed the Competition or ran out of cards.
Crush the Competition
At the start of a player’s turn they must check to see if they have Crushed the Competition. If all the other player’s power tokens are in the red zone (the lowest position three positions on the power track, indicated on the main player board) and the active player’s power token is on the top space, then they are classed as having Crushed the Competition. At this stage the round ends immediately. All players discard their hand and the end of round scoring occurs. If these conditions are not met, then player continues to the next stage.
Move Active Mutant
If the active slot on the player’s board is empty, then this stage is skipped.
However, if there is a Mutant in a player’s active slot then they must move this to either the left or right slot. If both the left and right slots have Mutants in them the player chooses one of these Mutants to leave the Arena. When a Mutant leaves the Arena the “Leave ability” of that Mutant is activated and resolved and then placed in the discard pile. The Active Mutant space is now available to move a Mutant in to.
Once the Active slot is empty players can perform one of the following actions;
- Deploy Mutant – Players can select a Mutant from their hand and place it in their Active Mutant slot. When a Mutant is deployed this way the “Deploy Ability” of that Mutant is activated and resolved. Some Mutants have on-going abilities which are not activated when they are deployed.
- Breed – Players can Breed a Mutant by discarding two Mutant cards from their hand to acquire one of the advanced Mutants from the player’s gene pool directly in to their Active Mutant slot. The Advanced Mutants will have two genes displayed on their card and the Mutants discarded must match.
- Incubate – Players can discard any Mutant to acquire an Advanced Mutant from their gene pool (the genes do not have to match). The Mutant is placed in the incubate slot on the player’s board. At the end of the round the incubated Mutant is placed on top of the player’s deck. Only one Mutant can be incubated per round.
Once all the players have used all their cards or the Crush the Competition criteria has been met the end of round phase takes place.
Final Thoughts on Mutants: Genetic Gladiators
Mutants feels like a solid game that brings something more to the table than the standard deck builder. It offers some interesting twists on the traditional deck building theme with the individual gene pool for players to gain the Advanced Mutants, the Freeze mechanic where Mutants only score points if they have been frozen and the Active, Left and Right Mutant slots which forces a player to carefully think about when they remove Mutants from play. Although small, these additions make for a different feeling game over traditional deck builders with a common “market”.
The pre-constructed decks each have their own style and play different to each other, giving the game more variety when it comes to winning. The Power track works well in representing the Arena battle between the players with a lot of jostling for position, especially in a two-player game.
The rule set and gameplay is simple enough for it to be accessible to most people. However, there is a hidden depth in when to play cards for their Deploy ability and which cards to remove from the Arena for their Leave ability. There is only a maximum of 12 Advanced Mutants that can be “purchased” throughout the game so capitalising on the abilities is a must.
The Breed action is a great as it allows players to get Mutants in to their Active Mutant slot, but if it is used frequently then a player will soon run out of cards, giving the other players free reign to dominate you in the Arena. Incubating a Mutant is a good way to get the Advanced Mutants in your hand but takes longer as players don’t draw them until their next turn. But only a single Mutant is discarded of any gene type. This offers another interesting choice to make as to which Mutant to discard.
I really enjoyed the time I have had with Mutants. The preview copy I received contained four pre-constructed decks and several other Advanced Mutants to be used with the drafting variant. I am very interested in seeing how well this does on kickstarter, and I think it will be a big success and can imagine extra Advanced Mutants and more pre-constructed decks as stretch goals.
There is also room for future expansions with different Mutants and decks, and I can see this being a big hit with a lot of people. The rules are fairly straightforward, the game is pretty quick to set-up and it plays fairly quickly as well.
At the time of writing, Mutants has already had over 450 backers pledge just over £25,000. Head to the Kickstarter page to find out more.