[Ed. note: This is a preview of a non-final, pre-production demo of the game. Our opinions reflect that of the game at the time we played it; the final product may feature some variation in game play, art, and/or components.]
Oh, those fickle faithless humans. Here you have given them life and breath, bread and hearth. How soon they forget and plod along in their miserable lives. Olympus can no longer suffer such insolence. Zeus demands that it’s time to show the salt of the earth just who to put their faith in once again. And what better way to vent your wrath than with legendary monsters!
How It Plays
Monstrous pits players as vengeful Greek gods and goddesses seeking and competing for the favor of mortals who so easily have forgotten them. By summoning and deploying mythical creatures, each deity will try to sway various locations throughout the Hellenes to vie for the people’s faith.
The design’s mechanics are downright simple. Throw your monster cards to hit 1 of 5 location cards which are set-up in a determined manner upon the table. When you do, you’ll earn that city-state’s designated faith – the game’s victory points. Hitting other players’ monsters can earn faith, too, and be beneficial in numerous other ways.
The oversized location cards are set up to look sort of like an ‘X’ on the table and each immortal begins with a number of monsters comprised from an identical deck of 12 mythological beings depending on the number of players. After shuffling their cards, players draw 3 and are ready to toss. Locations provide various benefits when hit while each monster has unique powers.
On a turn, you will choose one of the beasts from you hand, toss it at a location and resolve any effects. This is done in a strict order. If you hit a “trap” monster with a red label already on the table, you must resolve that first. Then apply your monster’s ability, if applicable. Determine the location’s benefit next, if you landed on one. If so, then you’ll finally gain a number of faith tokens equal to that place’s designated faith. As soon as one immortal tosses his/her last creature, the game will conclude. Any monsters not in play – that is in your deck, hand or discard pile – are subtracted from your points. Then the god or goddess who has garnered the most faith garners Zeus’ favor throughout all Olympus.
Clash or Titan?
There are very few games that genuinely succeed across disparate venues and with a broad range of gamers. Monstrous is very likely one that does. It’s so very elementary, but still offers an engrossing challenge that will leave players desiring just one more throw and one more game. There is a simplified variant that is perfect for a family with kids. That version would fit well for social occasions and even as a party game. This can also be filler, played fast and furious and hilariously. Yet the design will have staying power with serious gamers.
That’s because while the mechanics are infinitely accessible, game play itself can be tactical and fluid when playing the advanced rules where monsters all have unique abilities and effects. Monstrous isn’t just about tossing some cards down to hit for a few points to never see them again until the next session. Both monsters and locations constantly interact with each other all across the board – banishing some to the underworld, sending others back to decks or hands, winning cards to your hand and awarding multiple throws per turn. Hitting the right areas and creatures allows you to gain extra points, mess with other players, and control the board. A keen strategy and careful aim is the key to manipulating all of those affects in you favor.
Monstrous sustains a strong replay value, as well. There are 11 locations of which you’ll only use 5 per game. Each one affects play very differently and you’ll actually adopt your plan of attack accordingly. Players also wind up with slightly varied creature decks and the combination in which individual ones appear influences a session’s development. For example, the Gorgon discards any other monster that subsequently hits it. If she comes out early, she can potentially lock down a location until another player can manage a different power to hopefully discard it. For an even wilder game, you can include Underworld which allows you to take opponents’ cards from their discard pile. And keep an eye out for an epic stretch goal which may add even more mythical beasts – can you say, “Release the Kraken!”?
You can also tailor the difficulty level to your group’s “talents” and preferences – certainly age and background. A smaller table might be ideal for introductory games and children. Then graduate them to a set up on the grand dining room table. You could make players stand back a specified distance to really ramp up the challenge. We even tried dropping them from a second story balcony to the table below in a hotel lobby! Experimenting with your wrist flick proves half the fun and provides half the boasting.
The artwork is captivating and the cards have a nice, heavy linen finish. They may become sticky after repeated plays, but I’m not sure sleeving is a solution as then they’d likely slide clear across the table! Everything else in the pre-production game is well made. The player aids are tremendously helpful. Small cards clearly outline each action step. And larger cards list the abilities of all locations and monsters, which you’ll need to reference frequently as everyone’s cards start accumulating around the various locations and covering up all the text. About the only drawback is you might have contention on whether or not players are throwing legally and not crossing the table’s edges!
Without a doubt, Monstrous is a blast to play and fits so many gaming milieus – family nights, casual gatherings, bonding with the kids, party game, filler or even a strategic battle amongst serious gamers. Up and tossing within 5 minutes of explaining the rules, this could likely be your new go-to card dexterity game. Its simple card throwing mechanic will appeal to most anyone, and hilariously make everyone look equally inept! With tons of variety, plenty of replay value, fun choices, great art and surprising strategy, the design really does succeed on a variety of levels.
Monstrous is currently seeking offerings on Kickstarter. If you have faith in the game, head over now to the campaign page. For $29 ($36 in the EU) you can get this card flicking good time, which includes any stretch goals the campaign reaches plus shipping. Hurry now before the whole project becomes the stuff of legend!
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