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Subject: Lovable Theme, Stomped by Flaws: 6 out of 10 Stars rss

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Dustin Whitmire
United States
Pilot Point
Texas
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Welcome to my review of Monsters Menace America (MMA) by Avalon Hill (Hasbro).



This review will breakdown several categories and concludes with overall thoughts and a final scoring. The scoring is based on a 10 point scale. I would greatly appreciate any tips of you might award; I am trying to acquire a GeekBadge.
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Cost: 7
As of the date of this review, the cost is a little hard to quantify. MMA has gone out of print, and likely will not be reprinted (hat tip: Sphere). Amazon has it listed for new at roughly $100, which is entirely unreasonable. At the same time, I am seeing the game for sale from various vendors for $30 to $45 (used) depending on condition. Any price under $50 should be acceptable for the average buyer. I am assuming that this game can still be acquired at that price point.

Components: 8
MMA’s components are certainly above average. The models for the monsters are well done and durable, with plenty of detail. The board of United States is well done, as well as the tokens, cards, and figurines for the military. I like the tablets (which document the health and stats of the military and monsters) also; they are thick and sturdy. Nothing jumps out at me as being particularly grand, but there is nothing of concern either. The only slight issue is that the game uses plastic notches which slide up and down the monster tablets to document the changing health of your character, and overtime with use, these start to snag and rub and wear on the tablet edges.



Artwork 8
The artwork has a more cartoonish flair which gives the game a light-hearted, surreal feel; after all, you’re stomping through The Corn Palace and Graceland on your way to becoming the biggest, baddest tortured lab creation this side of the Western Hemisphere. At the same time, the artwork definitely has a violence to it, and not merely what you would naturally expect from tearing across America. There’s a gleam in the eye of Tomangi as he topples towers, tanks, planes, and buildings while mercilessly crushing a chain of trains in his grip. Captain Colossal looks like he broke out of a high security penitentiary, and is ready for some monster flesh and an ear necklace. All well, I suppose. It’s dirty work saving America.

Theme 9
This is the stuff of movies, so you might expect it to translate well in a game, and it does. You definitely feel like New York just got reduced to a foot print, because, well, that’s all you see of it when you’re done. The size of the monster figures almost makes you feel like they are intended to scale in size as they appear on the map; large and domineering. When the military starts to surround you, you laugh at the pint sized ants. “Is this all of you?” you think to yourself. And the military feels competent, but out-matched for the task, as you might aspect. There’s a lot to enjoy and take pleasure in as you go about your business of redecorating North America.



Game Play: 7
The gameplay is simple and straightforward. There are 4 steps to a players turn and they happen quick and fluidly. While there can be some analysis paralysis, I think it’s mostly apparent where to go and what to do, and where to send the military you control. That’s not to say there aren’t strategic decisions to be made, and that they aren’t consequential. With that said though, the game can reduce down to a race to certain locations where everyone is going for “high health”, “high infamy”, and a mutation site or two. There are only a few cities that have 3 dice for health, and the game can soon devolve into grabbing 1 dice cities and low infamy sites. Honestly, I don’t know if I would change this or keep it as is. After all, you do want to have limited choices/resources, but there is a lack of “something” else that the game feels like it needs; if only another viable option instead of infamy, health, or another mutation card.

Learning Curve: 8
I don’t see a problem here with the learning curve. 90% of the game probably comes quite intuitive, and it’s not a big brain burner to know what to do with that lush HP city right nearby, or how to best put your monster’s special ability to use, or where best to put your military. It goes without saying that an experienced player is going to pick up on the nuances in the game and nudge himself into a better position, but the core of the game strategy is relatively easy to identify and act upon.

Interactivity 8
The majority of the interactivity comes into play when stomping cities and using your military. First and foremost, once you stomp a city, it’s gone. Dust. Ashes. Obliterated. The next player will not be able to get anything from that square for the rest of the game. So, you want to race to certain locations and take advantage of them. Secondly, the military is primarily used to weaken a fellow monster so that ultimately they are in a worse position for the finale. I have played this game close to 10 times, and I have never seen the military “kill” a monster, or as the game calls it, “Send them to Hollywood”, but it is possible, though unlikely. When a monster is sent to Hollywood, there are some disadvantages, but the player is not eliminated.

Luck Factor: 5
Luck shows up in several different ways. I don’t mind luck in games, but I think MMA suffers in its overuse of luck. There is dice rolling for health when stomping certain cities. Mutation cards are drawn at random, and several are certainly better than others. The monsters you choose at the beginning of the game are drawn in a fixed order, and some are certainly better than others, potentially leaving you at a disadvantage when the ones you want are already chosen. Attacking monsters with military is done by dice roll, as well as monsters fighting each other in the Monster Challenge. You can get a free mutation card because a 1 was rolled on certain attacks that targeted you. And there are other examples. Most notably, when the final “Monster Challenge” phase begins, you might find yourself in a position of total lack of control; for example, someone can be attacking before you, use a boatload of “infamy” they have, and kill you before you even get a chance to go. Now if you don’t mind some of the things I just listed, than consider my 5 rating in this category a little lower than you would give, but just realize that luck is undoubtedly a big factor in this game.

Length 8
MMA has a good duration. When I finish a game, I actually feel like it went a little fast. Namely, the game transitions into its closing phase after all the stomp tokens are used up. As a player, you will look at those remaining stomp tokens and think “dang it, I want to go here, and also here and here, but I’m not going to be able to do that”. When games leave you with wanting it to last just a little longer, they’re probably hitting it pretty close to where they should on a time frame. Not to mention, if you want, you can adjust the rules and add or subtract from the designated number of stomp tokens (which are set by the number of players).

Replay Value: 6
A couple factors hurt the replay value of MMA. The game is best played with 4 players so that all military branches are used, and if you can’t get a group of 4, you might decide on another game amidst a host of other options. Secondly, I argue that certain monsters are simply way better than others. Toxicor, Zorb, and MegaClaw have special abilities that readily help them prepare for the Monster Challenge. Tomanagi, Konk, and Gargantis have special abilities that are very situational. Who wants to play (competitively at least) when you are going to get stuck with an inferior monster; many will not like that, even if you don’t personally have a problem with it. Also, and this is a big one for me, the Monster Challenge can be incredibly anti-climactic for certain players. If you win, you probably think it’s great, but others can feel like they just spent 95% of the game building up to something that was largely futile. The Monster Challenge disjointedly turns a character development game into a dice rolling bonanza. In some ways this works, and in other ways you might wonder what just happened to the game you were enjoying 5 minutes ago.

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OVERALL: 6
Am I harsh? I don’t mean to be. I have sought to be objective, while giving my sincere opinion. I want to like this game more, but ultimately, the Monster Challenge transition of the game and the overuse of luck just don’t work for me. I love the theme. I think the components are great. I think there is a lot of satisfaction that comes from rampaging through the U.S. and controlling a branch of the military against your opponents. The game feels like it needs something though; like it lacks an additional factor or aspect to the gameplay to make it more engaging and rewarding. And where is an expansion pack? This game is crying for a further set of monsters and additional terrain. Sadly enough, I suspect that the underlying flaws don’t warrant the additional investment. It could have been better.

Edit: new information of the game being out of print added
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Geoff Burkman
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This is a very nicely done review, although I note one interesting disparity: the cumulative rating of your ten categories is 74 out of 100, which would seem to indicate that the game ought to have garnered an overall rating of 7 rather than the 6 you assign it.

This must truly be a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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dustwhit wrote:
It appears that MMA may have gone out of print (if only temporary).

Not temporary, it's been out of stock for years and I doubt there will be a reprint any time soon (if ever). King of Tokyo is a far better game (the figs from MMA work great in King of Tokyo).
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Dustin Whitmire
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MisterG wrote:
This is a very nicely done review, although I note one interesting disparity: the cumulative rating of your ten categories is 74 out of 100, which would seem to indicate that the game ought to have garnered an overall rating of 7 rather than the 6 you assign it.

This must truly be a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.


Yeah, you are right. I usually go to the trouble of making sure that my different categories reflect the Overall score. I should have done that here. Consider the Luck and Replay Value categories "weighted" heavier.

sphere wrote:
Not temporary, it's been out of stock for years and I doubt there will be a reprint any time soon (if ever). King of Tokyo is a far better game (the figs from MMA work great in King of Tokyo).

Thank you. I will make an edit and have that updated in the review.
 
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Michael Taylor
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The game feels like it needs something though; like it lacks an additional factor or aspect to the gameplay to make it more engaging and rewarding.

So how about a variant of some kind?

I like this game just fine, but this seems to be the general concensus.
 
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Nomadic Gamer
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See many variants in the section called: "Variants"
 
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Michael Brown
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We just played this again (after a five year hiatus where it used to be one of my favorites) and had an absolute blast with it. I think the real meat of the game comes from keeping military forces at bay while powering up. That's the real challenge. For us, the Challenge at the end is almost an afterthought because you could watch the tactics (and let's face it, luck) put someone in a great spot at the end.

In our most recent game, the player that struggled in the beginning was first eliminated, followed by the more aggressive player that left himself no resources (Infamy tokens), followed by the player who had plenty of tokens but very little life, leaving the winner the player who had enough life to survive a hefty long fight and deliver the final blow. Our winner was a monster without a real power (Gozilla-clone). The only real shocker came from that very last exchange, and that was what made it fun. A fistful of dice against just a few to see if the last health could be ticked off before being put out of the game.

I think the 7 is closer to the mark, but I will admit bias. :)
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D Wozniak
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Re: Lovable Theme, Stomped by Flaws: 6 out of 10 Stars -try these variants
One variant not in the rules: The attacker always rolls first. I find this works with any number of players, but especially more with 2 when the board doesn't have many military units. Makes attacking with 3 or less units worth it.

Another variant for those who don't like the monster challenge: Create your own stomp tokens and when American cities are all stomped out, the winner is the one with the most health. During the game monsters can attack each other for 3 rounds.

Another variant for those who think the military should all be on the same side: Really good for 5+ players - one player controls all the military units, places two units per monster turn or picks cards, and attacks monsters. Attacker rolls first. Winner is monster with most health or the military wins if all monsters are sent to zoo. You can play that monster is not eliminated until they are sent to zoo a second time.

A monster challenge variant (3+ players): Seed the monsters based on health and have a tournament. This way the monster who used the last stomp marker doesn't always have to beat the other monsters. I find this makes the last part quicker when you have 4 players.
3 player: 2(rolls first) vs 3; winner to play #1(rolls first)
4 player: 1(rolls first) vs 4; 2(rolls first) vs 3. Winners play with higher original health rolling first. You could also switch the final to the monster with the highest health at the time of the final challenge rolling first.

My biggest rule in the game I don't like is the monster who uses the last stomp marker both triggers and starts the challenge. Sometimes the person (a rookie) has no idea they triggered the next phase of the game. Others who do have an advantage here that may not be available to another simply because of turn order. I've also seen it backfire, where no one wants to start the challenge in the hopes they get a bye to a later round, and everyone makes dead moves (not attacking or stomping on a city, infamy or mutation site).

I find these variants may keep the game interesting and may improve your rating of the game.
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