Sometimes the strengths of a game are also its weaknesses, which seems the case with Mutant Chronicles Collectible Miniatures Game.
There are elements within this game which will appeal to many gamers, and yet those same elements are likely to turn other gamers away in search of alternative gaming fare.
Those elements start with the miniature pieces themselves.
For those unfamiliar with Mutant Chronicles, it's a rather well-known, and long standing sci-fi universe with faction waging war. So the miniatures here represent the different individuals in battle, both human, and those which of course are far more mutant in nature. The game publishers, Fantasy Flight Games, a company respected for high quality games, made the decision to produce the miniatures in 54 mm scale, and to ship them pre-painted. Most miniature games opt for smaller scale, 28 or 30 mm, so the pieces here are big, and that allows for a fair amount of detail.
The downside though is that most mini gamers play a number of different systems and often borrow miniatures from one to enhance play in another. Since these are out of scale with the vast majority of systems, they won't transfer well.
Having the miniatures painted is a plus for those who aren't skilled with a paint brush, or those entering the hobby and not looking to invest in a case full of paint, brushes and accessories. The paint jobs here are solid, although somewhat muted in colour patterns given the 'dark future- theme of the game.
Of course for many a big part of the hobby is the painting, and if you paint your own miniatures it does allow a greater range of 'looks' on the gaming table.
Again it depends just how you view painting as to whether pre-paints are good, or bad.
The miniatures are collectible, allowing players to buy additional forces to customize their play rosters. Unlike many games out there, these are not sold in randomized packages where you take your chances on what might be inside. These come in packs where you know what you are getting. That's a good thing since the larger scale here makes the minis somewhat pricey, but you are getting what you want, and don't have to paint them so the cost is not too out-of-line.
One downside is that there are variations within the models in terms of game play statistics based on the colour of the bases, while the miniature remains the same. It would have been better had the miniatures received a little different paint scheme too.
Mutant Chronicles is played on a board with a hexagonal grid, the hexes matching the bases of the pieces. The board system works, and it is sold as just that a board game.
However, for many miniature game fans, the attraction is the free form approach, where you put out some terrain pieces, and then have freedom of movement, mimicking real life more closely.
For starters in the genre the board is good, but veterans might soon want great freedom. Fantasy Flight would do well to at least offer additional rules to free the game from the confines of the board.
In general terms this game offers some nice features, the mini size being the most obvious. The pieces stand out on a table. The problem though is that they seem a touch over-produced for a board game that while interesting, doesn't exactly jump out as one of the better games of the miniatures genre. Then again this one is not so much a pure minis game as it is a board game.
Therein may lie Mutant Chronicles greatest dilemma. It ends up being a game that seems stuck somewhere between worlds; a board game that seems as though it should be a full form miniatures game.
If the theme catches one's attention, that of a dark future where corps battle it out with guns and magic and mutants, it's a game worth looking into, if you are OK with the larger pieces, the pre-paint aspects and the limitations set by a board. Otherwise there are better miniature systems out there.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan.7, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada