Posted on 22 May 2019 by Jay Shaw

Minion Masters

The Defence

Developer: BetaDwarf
Publisher: BetaDwarf
Genre: Action, Card, Indie, Strategy, Tower Defense
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 24 May 2019

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i3 @2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GT 240
AMD equivalent
DirectX: 10
Controller: None
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Minion Masters is a tough game to describe. It’s kinda MOBA-ish (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena – think League Of Legends), but not quite. It’s kind of a collectible card game, but not quite. Minion Masters has you build a deck of spells and minions, assign a hero, and then lob them into two lanes to advance on the forces of another player who’s trying to do the same to you. First one to die loses. Does Minion Masters have the mana to keep up spell slinging, or does it fizzle out?

The Trial

The genre blurring of Minion Masters will be more familiar to players of free to play mobile games like Castle Crush, which largely follows the same structure, but doesn’t really have a direct comparison on PC that we’re aware of so we’ll be referencing MOBA qualities quite a bit to describe things.

The structure of a match is fairly simple: you have a (roughly) rectangular arena with a hero atop a tower at each end. The arena is then split into a top lane and bottom lane with bridges separating the left and right halves. As minions are cast from your hand onto the field they’ll progress up whatever lane you put them in towards the enemy tower and attempt to kill anything they come across on the way. The bridges provide more depth, with certain heroes’ skills requiring a specific bridge to be held, but also by providing extra experience points to level up your hero and activate their three unique skills and a fourth skill – Mana Frenzy which does exactly what it sounds like.

Now the game starts to get complicated: some minions will only attack buildings, some will attack in melee, or at range, or with AoE (Area of Effect), some will even heal or transform when damaged a certain amount. There are spells ranging from a hail of daggers to black holes to curses. There’s a crazy amount of stuff that can happen in any given match but Minion Masters manages to keep it all easily understandable thanks to deck size limitations and easy to understand descriptions.

Sometimes it's hard to choose just ten cards for your deck.

You can only take a 10 card deck into battle; both minions and spells occupy this limit. Some heroes may add an extra card or two to the deck as they level up in a match but that’s your lot. Even in the most varied 1v1 matches you’re only ever expected to understand around 20-25 things at once. A lot of the information is conveyed through the excellent design of the appearance of units on the field. For example, a horde of small units probably don’t have a lot of health or damage but will have decent DPS due to attacking en-masse. A huge hulking minotaur looking guy with a sword that’d make Cloud envious however probably has a decent amount of health and does wide sweeping attacks.

The amount you specialise your deck is entirely up to you, viable tactics are so broad that almost anything can work so long as you have an idea of what you’re intending. An early game spam of fast, light hordes of units can quickly tip the balance in your favour long enough for your hero to level up and get an ability off; for example a hero called Ravager can summon a powerful unit called Brutus as his first ability, making it a perfect compliment to a fast horde. You might even go for the random spawn spells or Future/Past Presents – on first cast they transform into another card at a reduced cost for the rest of the match. The unpredictability can let you throw out units your opponent isn’t expecting or form a surprise synergy with another unit in your deck.

Regardless of your strategy, units working together remains an important aspect. There’s little point in launching a giant building stomping golem if the field is full of enemies that will chip its health down before it can reach anything. Supporting it with units to clear the way and heal can ensure a decisive blow. Snipers and Assassins are also units that require good positioning and support; both can deal a huge burst of damage but are incredibly fragile and only attack infrequently so keeping them off the front lines and away from groups of enemies is vital to their continued existence.

Bahra is one of my favourite special units.

It’s not all about survival, sometimes a sacrificial unit is just as satisfying to use. That might mean a Boomer, a suicide bombing ghoul type monster, or casting a horde of Scrats (basically Kobolds) to occupy a hard-hitting single-target enemy while another unit kills it safely. Other units are partially sacrificial like Wolf Among Sheep which summons four Legionnaires but one of them is a Werewolf and will transform into such when his health drops to fifty percent. The Werewolf usually doesn’t live long but the surprise and ferocity of it can enable a breakthrough.

In addition to the 1v1 battles there are multiple other game modes: 2v2 matches doubles the amount of players and units on the field. Expeditions put you onto a map where you can explore and choose your battles, earning rewards and facing unique AI opponents as well as other players. Draft mode has you pick a hero and cards as they’re presented to you rather than using a pre-built deck. Challenges put your skills to the test against themed AI opponents in exchange for rewards. Finally, Mayhem mode features themed events like battles where all minions are frenzied or other game changing modifiers.

Minion Masters is a free to play game, so it wouldn’t be fair to talk about it without addressing the bugbear in the room: microtransactions. Yes the game has them. Yes they range from a couple of quid to tens of pounds. Yes, some of them enable you to get more heroes or minions. Ouch, that sounds bad when we put it that way. Rest assured though – the game’s so incredibly well balanced that your starting deck and hero is just as formidable when played properly as someone who has the newest hero and named minions. It’s important to point out that spells and minions are “different” not “better or worse”. A rotating cast of free heroes changes each week and provides you a chance to try out new strategies or get a look at a hero you’re interested in before buying them.

Different heroes have different strengths and require different tactics to level up effectively.

In-game currency isn’t too stingy either. You’ll earn a decent amount of gold, shards, and rubies (premium currency) as you play and level up. You’ll have to earn something new through playing a fair bit but unless you’re just obsessing about unlocking everything then there’s not really a feeling of grinding for rewards. The joy of the game is in playing, not getting new stuff. Unlike other free to play games such as War Thunder there’s no power bumps either, you don’t get knocked down a peg or two because you got the next thing and have to build it up.

As is seemingly obligatory for free to play games these days, Minion Masters also includes a seasonal battle pass feature. You can earn a decent amount of rewards out of one of these, including legendary cards, premium currency, and hero skins but you’ll have to put a decent amount of time into playing the game for it to be really worth the price of admission. If you only play an hour a day then it probably won’t be worth it to you, but if you’re putting in a few hours at a time then the rewards can rack up and make it worthwhile. That goes double if you’re the kind of person that enjoys getting that little tickle in your brain from a new reward unlocking.

The Verdict

Minion Masters is one of the most generous free to play games we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. I’ve personally played it from early beta and still keep going back thanks to frequent updates and it simply being a joy to play. It can be as laid back or intense as you like, as deep or as shallow as you care to dive in, and all for the low, low price of nothing. Everyone we’ve introduced to Minion Masters has loved it after getting to grips with the gameplay and you can consider that a glowing recommendation.

Case Review

  • King Puff: He’s a huge magical blob thing and has a crown and doofy face, like if Kirby was inbred European royalty.

  • Easy to pick up: You don’t have to understand what’s going off to have fun smashing minions together and seeing what works.

  • Hard to master: There’s a lot of strategic depth to explore should you be so inclined.

  • Hands off: Only having direct control over when and where to cast things takes away the requirement of accuracy and manual skill, making the game very accessible.

  • Landscaping: The simple arena is great for learning the game but it’s all there is, some variety could spice up the match structure.

5 Score: 5/5
Three words: Go play it.


  • General: Language selector, AZERTY keyboard support, double tap to play card toggle, and controller disable toggle.
  • Display: Quality preset choices. Fullscreen toggle, resolution selection, vsync, ragdolls, screen shake, camera movement, blood & gore toggle, and streamer battle UI. Advanced settings include: texture quality, shadows, shadow resolution, particle quality, extra lights, rendering mode, image effects (Depth of field, SSAO, anti-aliasing, heat distortion, bloom, vignetting, chromatic aberration, motion blur, and screenspace reflections), and world detail (decals, environmental effects, miscellaneous objects, dynamic coverage, and spectators).
  • Audio: Sliders for master volume, sound effects, music, and dialogue.
4 Score: 4/5

Beta is the new release for many games these days, and Beta Dwarfs latest game: Minion Masters (MM) is clearly in release state in all but name. That wasn’t true two years ago when I first picked up this charming strategy game on a whim. At the time I wasn’t expecting much from MM, it looked little different from all the other F2P time sinks that just want to interest you enough to buy a P2W buff or a new skin of some kind. I’m not the kind of player who often buys anything “in game”, the inclusion of micro transactions or even extensive DLC, will usually put me off even trying a game. However, I’m very glad that I gave Minion Masters a try.

The core gameplay in Minion Masters is very simple, very flexible, and, I have to say, very expertly balanced too. Although MM is a card collecting game, cards are played within a tug-of-war arena and usually spawn Minions (creatures of various types). The object is to destroy your opponents “Tower” before they kill yours but most of the battles takes place between the creatures trying to reach each tower. Fights are almost always over within five minutes, and sometimes within less than one minute. But within that time the action is totally absorbing and can switch between slow and deliberate and frantically fast paced with very little warning. The core strategy in MM is finding good combinations between your minions, and finding good ways to compliment them with your Master and Spells. There are well over 150 different cards in MM now, and you may be restricted to just eight per battle (you can create and save multiple decks). But that still gives you a huge number of variations and strategies to play with. Beta Dwarf are overflowing in  creative talent, the diversity of styles and creatures in MM in frankly amazing and bizarre. What’s more, each Battle-pass that Beta Dwarf create, add more than just coins and avatars for players to pick-up. They include whole new set of Minions (and other cards) too. This, in my humble opinion, is the only legitimate use for a Battle-pass in any game. To add new gameplay content that actually makes a difference. But isn’t that promoting P2W culture? Yes indeed it is. But, if you’re going to force players to regularly buy a pass to play a game they already own (No I don’t accept cosmetic only loot as a fairer system) then you owe it to them to add something tangible that improves the game (New cards usually come with a new range of strategies to experiment with too). Like many other Battle passes, MM allows you to take part, and collect important items without spending anything, if you’ve been playing for a while then you might have saved up enough game currency to pay for a pass for free. But in all honesty, if your serious about MM (you can play it for free for a while to find out) you’ll need to spend some money for premium (£15) or another package.

Battles in MM can be 1v1 or 2v2. You will usually be faced against random foes of similar rank, however you can choose teammates if you wish, and even plan strategies together, there are even guilds to join that facilitate this. Having a teammate in MM changes the dynamic drastically, and its important to support each other in order to succeed. The tutorial AI is a wimp. You need to be able to beat it in your sleep to stand any chance against experienced players. However, the ranking system is decent, the wait for games is very short (seconds), and you can shrug off one or two or three defeats in no time. If you pay attention and experiment with new strategies, then you will learn and get better very fast. At this point I’m a little concerned with the card collection dilemma for new players. There is a mountain of cards to collect. You can certainly face experienced players with a basic card set, and it won’t take you long to add more cards to it. But it’s really nice to be able to pick and choose your strategies from all those available. The most important thing with MM, as in any game, is to enjoy yourself, and that’s something I’ve managed to do in MM with nearly two years of constant play. I’m currently playing in the Greek Gods Guild. But if I can get these guys interested I’ll be starting the Judge of Pixels Guild soon

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