Moonbreaker Finally Made Me A Miniatures Guy

There’s a version of me who’s a full blown Miniatures Guy. I have a room in my house filled with hand-painted minis. I go to Warhammer 40k tournaments on the weekend, and host a modest YouTube channel where I demonstrate different painting techniques. I fantasize about being a Mini Guy the way other people dream about becoming rich and famous. If I just had more time, more patience, and more energy, I could finally take the plunge and turn my fascination with war gaming into an actual hobby. Will I ever actually do it? Outlook very unlikely.

But what if there was a way to enjoy collecting, building, and battling with minis without all of having to do all of the actual work? Moonbreaker, a new digital miniatures game that launched on Steam last week, is just that. The early access title offers a competitive turn-based strategy experience using highly-detailed collectible miniatures. It combines familiar aspects of deck builders and board games to simulate a tabletop war gaming experience that is both deeply strategic and fairly approachable. If you really want the full mini experience, you can even hand paint your miniatures using Moonbreakers impressive in-game art tools.

The closest I’ve ever been to real minis was during my Kill Team review, which is a skirmish version of Warhammer 40K that uses small armies of no more than ten units. Even that simplified version of Warhammer required an encyclopedia-size rule book and a significant money and time investment to keep up with. Moonbreaker’s battles are at a similar scale, but you won’t need more than ten minutes to learn the basics and jump into your first PvP match.

Beyond the focus on PvP, Moonbreaker does a few things to set it apart from other tactics-style games. Both players build teams of ten units around a captain, who acts like the king piece on the proverbial chess board. If your captain falls, you lose the game, so it's imperative to build a team that can protect them and support their playstyle. How you construct your team is as important as the moves you make on the battlefield. Captains have large health pools, strong attacks, and a variety of powerful abilities, so it's often strategically necessary to put them in harm's way. Positioning, timing, and quick thinking are the name of the game, and you’ll have to utilize all of your units efficiently in order to win.

Moonbreaker just launched last week and there are already more than 40 minis to collect via in-game loot boxes. There are no race or ‘culture’ restrictions to team building, which makes filling out your rosters a little overwhelming at first. The developers at Unknown Worlds, best known for Subnautica and Natural Selection 2, wisely designed each mini to have simple rulesets and strong identities. The non-captain units, or Crew as they’re called, only have a cost, an attack stat, and some combination of one ability and/or passive trait. It’s simple to understand what role each figure plays on your team but the huge selection means there are endless possibilities for team building.

The way a unit behaves is tied to its visual design exceptionally well. There are plenty of examples, but one I’m particularly fond of is Crankbait, a woman on a junker-style hover bike that throws around a rope with a big hand on the end of it. Crankbait is a support unit that can pull enemies and allies next to her using her grappling chain, and when you see her on the battlefield, she’s instantly recognizable. I only had to play a few matches before I started to recognize most of the popular figures and start theorycrafting better ways to build out my teams. With Mistborn author Brandon Sanderson behind the lore, it’s no surprise that it has great characters.

The painting system is something I’ll have to spend a lot more time with before I can critique it, but based on the several hundred hours I’ve spent watching painting tutorials for my fake hobby, it seems like a fairly robust system. You’ve got a range of color palettes to work with, as well as different techniques you can layer in like wash, dry brush, stipple, and airbrush. Luckily, every mini comes pre-painted, so don’t let that aspect deter you if painting isn’t your jam.

Moonbreaker is fairly limited at the moment, having just launched in early access, but it's a promising start. As I Founder’s Pack owner, I already have the entire roster of minis unlocked, so there’s no use in opening packs. Duplicates unlock currency that can be used to increase the rarity of units to change cosmetic aspects, but that system is still a work in progress. There’s a versus A.I. mode that currently costs paid keys to play, but the developers are removing that requirement in an upcoming update.

I’m a huge fan of the tactics genre, but I’ve never found a competitive tactics game that clicked with me until now. Most games aspire to be simple to learn but hard to master, yet so few manage to strike the right balance. Moonbreaker already feels like the kind of low barrier to entry game that’s destined to be a hit. The big question mark, as always, is about the frequency of new content. Like its tabletop counterpart, Moonbreaker will need a constant stream of new units, arenas, and game modes to keep interest high – and to keep people spending money on booster packs. A $30 game with loot boxes is going to turn a lot of people off, even though it isn’t difficult to earn enough currency to unlock all of the minis right now. For me, it’s a chance to live out my Miniature Guy dreams. I’m excited to see where Moonbreaker goes from here.

Source: Read Full Article