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20Aug/087

Monsterpocalypse – First Impressions

Privateer Press brought a sneak peak release of Monsterpocalypse starter boxes and boosters to GenCon this year and I decided to pick one up to see how the game played.  I've never been a fan of collectible games but Monsterpocalypse's relatively lax rarity distribution seemed like it might not be too bad for casual play.  After a few games I'm not 100% sold but the game showed enough promise to be worth a critical review.

The first thing that's worth mentioning is the complexity of the game.  Giant robots and monsters rampaging around a city - complete with plastic buildings and a nice gridded map - screams beer and pretzels to me, but Monsterpocalypse is no beer and pretzel game.  Between dice management, territory control, terrain effects, positioning, and the models' special rules there is a lot to think about during play.

That said all of the Demos ran at the Privateer Press booth ignored the models' special rules and terrain effects.  These games ran faster and were much more beer-and-pretzel than the more complex games I played using all of the advanced rules.  Just playing with the basic rules are certainly a possibility if that's what you prefer and it's just as fun.

Now as I said I'm not a big fan of collectible games.  Personally I'd love it if Privateer Press took a cue from Fantasy Flight and decided to repackage Monsterpocalypse as a non-collectible game but I don't see that happening.  Fortunately PP has at least done a few things to minimize the impact of the collectible aspect.  First, all monster miniatures are going to be the same rarity.  That means you have a 1/10 chance of getting any specific monster in a blister instead of 1/100 for a certain rare.

Second, each Unit Blister sold will contain four models - two commons, one uncommon, and one rare.  Comparing this with the number of models in the first set (14 common, 10 uncommon, 12 rare) and you can see that the distribution isn't too terrible.  Still collectible is collectible and if I get into Monsterpocalypse it will be through the secondary market that is sure to develop for the game.

It's also worth noting here that you can use units from other factions in your army, but they cost you extra to bring into play.  So if you really want to play the Godzilla faction but your units are predominantly Martians you can still play the Lizard King, you'll just have less units on the board at a time.

As far as the game pieces themselves go, many of the models look far better in person than they have online.  The Terrasaurs and World Eaters are especially attractive, though the Martians and Shadow Sun Syndicate are both rather sub-par.  I think it's because areas on those two factions that aren't translucent plastic are typically unshaded metallic paints so they lack the light shading and highlighting of the better paint jobs.  Simply put, the organic models look far better than their metallic compatriots.

Terrasaur

The two major game pieces of Monsterpocalypse are a mixed bag.  The sliding damage tracker that is included for tracking the hits your monster takes is sheer genius - it completely eliminates the need for tokens on the board or dry erase markers for cards.  However this is offset by the failure that is the Monsterpocalypse dice.  Any game that uses "special" non-standard dice immediately loses points in my book.

Let's face it, we gamers can be clumsy folk, and especially when gaming in a game store it's easy to let dice slip (or be knocked off a table) and get lost in couches, under shelves, or what have you.  And since each of the city maps has the pools in which you place your dice at the outer corners it's not going to be hard for an errant elbow or rampaging offspring to send the dice scattering.  The smaller lighter dice PP has used means they'll be easier to lose and the non-standard sides means you can't just go out and replace missing dice by raiding your old board game collection.  They unique dice certainly add an interesting aspect of the game (and are required for the three die types the game uses) but in my opinion they're not all that practical.

A Mon-Poc game in progress.

As I mentioned in the intro, game play can range from simple to complex depending on which rule set you use.  The basic rules involve you having two pools of action dice - one for your monster and one for all of your units.  Each turn you choose to activate either your units or monster, and move dice from the appropriate pool into the other one as you move, attack, or perform other actions.  So as your monster rampages around the city he adds dice for to your unit's pool for them to use during your next activation.

All units have 1 hit point, your monsters have 5-9, and most attacks do a single point of damage.  However monsters take additional damage for being thrown through buildings or into fires and clouds of radioactive waste.  The game ends when your monster's two forms - his normal form and his "powered up" alpha or mega form - are destroyed.

From there you can ramp up the complexity by adding in the special effects of the map (rough terrain and cover) and special abilities of your monsters (which there are tons).  These advanced rules do add a layer of strategy that some people will enjoy but it pushes the game right past beer-and-pretzel level very quickly so the casual gamer may not enjoy it as much.

As a gamer who prefers slightly complex rules, I found Monsterpocalypse to be a nice game to play casually with my normal opponents as a diversion from our usual games.  Since we're willing to share our units and monsters to have a relatively even more interesting game the collectible aspect doesn't deter us as much but I am concerned when the game releases how big the "Victory through Credit Card" aspect will come into play.  But for now it's a solid game that's very enjoyable as long as you have the right expectations set regarding rules complexity.

Street Fight

Comments (7) Trackbacks (1)
  1. I enjoyed reading your review. 🙂 If you’re going to be covering Monsterpocalypse in the future, we’d be interested in having a link placed to the right, or within your articles when speaking about specific miniatures. We’d also be interested in placing your RSS feed on Monsterpocalyse on our new Team Covenant site (not launched yet).

    You can check out our site here:

    http://covenanttcg.com

    And should be able to find monsterpocalypse content here soon:

    http://teamcovenant.com

    And for all those interested in pre-ordering monsterpocalypse you can go to our store here:

    http://covenanttcg.com/store/miniatures

    Zach

  2. I’m not sure how big of a presence Monsterpocalypse will have here locally after launch so I can’t tell how much I’ll actually be talking about it at this point. Really it will depend on how much I play.

    You’re welcome to link back here if you’d like but for I’d prefer to keep my content here for the time being. Thanks though.

  3. definitely enjoyed your review but one thing i can happily correct u on is the dice. while non-standard, lighter, and freaking tiny as crap, the dice ARE possible to substitute, u just have to have a lot of dice to replace them and keep track of which dice represent what. My friend picked up a set of tiny black and white d6, 10 red d6, and 4 blue d6 since he didnt want to shell out $25 for another starter kit. the idea is that the b&w dice roll hits on 4-6 with 6 being a double, blue is 3-6 to hit, red is 2-6 to hit. a lil more complex but not too hard to remember. u could also substitute in any color or type of d6 u want, u just have to have a way of tracking which ones represent action vs boost vs power. theyre also solving this problem by introducing the red and blue accessory boosters, which will be GODSENDS for ppl like mewho might want to run multi-monster games. the only things i think they couldve done better with this game are:

    -put the health tracker in with each monster u get, not exclusively in with the starter or accessory booster. the dice i can understand but to have to buy another booster or starter that has all of those dice JUST for another health tracker? thats ridiculous!

    -randomize the units included with the starter like they did with the monsters, we dont HAVE to have the same units listed in the step-by-step guide to figure out how to play the game.

    -drop the price on the boxes just a little to make it more approachable ($12 for boosters and $25 for starters is nice but if they dropped it to $10 & $20, id almost BET that theyd see a sudden increase in sales. ppl naturally like to think in denominations of 10)

    -more media coverage! this is a monster vs monster rampaging-thru-the-city world-class beatdown game that is relatively easy to collect yet still very money-intensive. start working up the already-lucrative comic book angle and consider branching it to a cartoon and ull have evry kid (old enuf to understand the rules and play it) fishing cash from their parents to play it.

    -IF they go that way to get in the younger crowd, work out a distinctly different ruling system from basic play to advanced play. sure they could probly understand the game but little kids playing with tiny lightweight dice while there are monster figures right there in front of them? game over, time to rampage with the minis, lol.

  4. What you’re proposing with the dice is a substitution, not a replacement. And that’s the problem with the choice to use special dice. While I think substituting regular dice is doable the effort to either track and remember what number means what or mark on all the dice – let alone the effort to convince an opponent that they are in fact the same as the dice that come with the set – makes it an impractical solution. Sure, you can beat the square peg into a round hole with enough effort but you really should be using the round pegs. And when those round pegs are micro-sized custom dice, that’s a problem. 🙂

    I think there are a lot of things PP could do to package Monsterpocalypse better, but I still think top of the chart is removing the collectible aspect. I’ve already decided that if I get into the game (I’m waiting for wave 2 of the monsters to come out in a couple months) I’m doing it through the secondary market.

  5. oh i actually did almost all of my collecting by ordering single minis from Popular Collections. good way to build the army u want for a reasonable price. and yeah, its not impossible to substitute the dice but once the red and blue accessory packs come out, itll cost about $12 for a new set of dice, monster health tracker, and a set of colored ID rings. hopefully down the road they might consider selling these individually since who really needs 3-4 sets of dice in order to get 4 health trackers? i DO like the collectible angle for this game tho, since it would cost an arm and a leg to package ALL of the monsters and units together as a single game. even splitting them into individual buyable factions would turn into a debate over why they chose this unit to send 3 of and not that unit or specific strategies. i honestly believe that this game couldnt function as it does WITHOUT the collectible angle, since any one person’s play style and strategy factors as much into what army they front as what minis they can find and afford. the minis are already massively available as singles for sale online and sellers on ebay are making a FORTUNE off of the ppl who bid on them without checking other online vendors for prices first. the only majorly collectible problem to this ive seen so far is the Mega forms of the monsters and the fact that its next to impossible to find them anywhere for less than $40 apiece, if that.

  6. I really liked your review and have the same feelings about Monsterpocalypse . I am what you would call a causual gamer and sell real beer and pretzel games. You can check them out at http://www.quickandeasygames.com

  7. Monsterpocalypse now sells accesory packs that come with dice, a health tracker, and “rings” that you can put around your monsters, units, building for a two on two game so you can keep track of your guys and not get them mixed with the opponents. These packs run for about $14 and there are two versions, red or blue, depending on which color “rings” you want. Why it runs more then a booster pack I dont know but if youve lost those tiny dice or want to do a two monster fight, its worth it since ive seen alot of tornaments that are two on two and you have to have a health tracker for both monsters.


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