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Subject: [Review] Monster Quest rss

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Tom Vasel
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As a young teenager, I created piles of board games with winding tracks of encounters and interesting events. I had fun with them and so did my brothers, but they were really quite bad; and we only enjoyed them because of the inside humor I included. In retrospect, they were really quite bad, and I was immensely surprised to open the box of Monster Quest (Axel Games, 2007 – Roy Curtiss) and find one of the games I had designed years go! Of course it's quite different, but this fantasy role-playing board game has winding, interconnecting tracks and piles and piles of cards.

However, there is nothing for me to recommend about this game – it's as if a teenager designed a game and managed to get it published. The game mechanics are a mix between Dungeon, Careers, and Monopoly with some tremendously annoying facets. The components are bland, to say the least, with some horrible choices – such as the board pegs. The time is entirely too long, and players will likely be begging for the experience to end. I wanted to like Monster Quest, as I'm a sucker for fantasy games of this style; but this one absolutely drove me crazy.

The board is made up of a large outer track with nine smaller tracks emerging from it at different points, as well as separate town and dungeon tracks. Each player places their piece on the starting space and decides whether they will start on the outer track or the town track. Players receive a player board, in which they use pegs to denote that they have thirty-five hit points, five platinum pieces, fifteen gold pieces (five gold pieces equal one platinum piece), and fifteen silver pieces (five silver pieces equal one gold piece). Players receive four spell cards, five map cards, and six wisdom cards with the remainder forming large stacks near the board. A pile of monster and location cards are also placed near the board, as well as six-sided and eight-sided dice.

On a player's turn, they can do one of the following options:
- Roll two six-sided dice and move around the outer or town track.
- Use up to three wisdom cards and move the distance shown on them, whether forward or backwards.
- Use a map card, going to the space shown on the card.

Depending on where a player lands, different things may happen.
- If a player lands on another player, or if that player lands on a dungeon space, they must go to the dungeon. They must travel around this circular twelve-space track until they either land on the exit, land on the guard (paying two silver pieces) or go around six times (to escape back to start).
- If the player lands on the entrance to an inner track, they may pay the costs to enter that track and then proceed on that track on the following turn, using only one six-sided die to move.
- If the player lands on a property, they may buy that property for the amount listed. Each property gives a different ability; and whenever other players land there, they must pay the owning player a certain amount of money.
- Some spaces cause the player to lose hit points.
- Some spaces cause the player to go to a specific spot on the board.
- Some spaces force the player to spend money or give the player money.
- Some places are marked with a "B/W" symbol (better or worse). A player must roll two six-sided dice then roll them again. If their second roll is equal to or greater than the first roll, they gain the good property of the space (likely getting money). Sometimes there is a negative effect if they fail.
- Some spaces cause the player to fight the monster. Players find the monster from the monster deck, and the player fights the monster by rolling two dice (two six-sided or two eight-sided, depending on how hard players want the game to be). If they hit the monster, players then roll one six-sided die to see how much damage they do. If they miss, the player takes the amount of damage the monster deals out. Players can continue until they or the monster are dead or may quit and leave the space the following turn. If the player dies, they go back to start, starting at their original levels, but losing any upgrades or cards that they might have gained.
- Some spaces allow a player to pay for healing.
- Some spaces allow a player to purchase armor, which subtracts from monster damage.

A player can use wisdom or spell cards to assist them in fighting monsters. When they defeat a monster, they gain the treasure on the monster's card. Six of the monsters have special jewels, when a player collects all six, they win the game. There are a few other rules, such as a player who owns property may move backwards on the main track, or players get bonuses when they complete inner tracks once or twice; but that's most of the game.

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The box is large and square and too big to fit on many shelves. I could easily forgive that, if the stuff inside was better. It's not. There is some artwork on the board, which is okay – but not one of the 450 cards in the game has artwork on them, save the game's symbol! I want to see the monsters I'm fighting; I want to see the different items and spells. This, combined with a huge board with hard-to-read spaces that point in every direction and are in a difficult font, makes the game less than appealing to play. The monster cards are especially annoying, as you have to hunt through the deck each time you fight one, and there's no indication which ones have the jewels on the board. This means that players have to either memorize the monsters that have the jewels or hope that the monster they fight has a jewel. And the pegs! They are monstrously tall pegs that don't fit into the boards properly.

2.) Theme: The lack of artwork is a problem that leads to the biggest problem – the entire lack of theme. Players are some generic hero, use very few weapons – and most of the cards in the spell and wisdom deck do the exact same thing. When going on any inner trail, you might be able to land on the space you want, but likely you'll hunt around forever. The monsters are all exactly the same, except with different attacks and hit points. The inner trails all feel the same, although you might get bit by a snake in one and get hit by a blizzard in another. Finding any specific spot on the board, with the apparently gigantic amounts of maps lying around, is difficult, because you have to read the spaces to find them.

3.) Rules: Here is a candidate for one of the worst written rulebooks ever. There is a ton of time spent on properties and how they work, yet there is very little instruction on the sequence of battles – one of the most important parts of the game. Everything is mixed up, and I had to hunt for a long time to find out what happened to a character when they died!

Arg – enough of this. Let me simply list my problems with the game, in no particular order.
- It's too long. Three to five hours for a game in which you simply roll, move, roll, move, roll, move is entirely too lengthy.
- The dungeon is idiotic. When you get sent there (which seems to happen to quite a bit), you have to travel around six times to get out. You might get lucky and land on a space to get out, but likely you'll travel around and keep getting hit on most of the spaces. And six times around the board, which is a pain to remember, takes a minimum of six turns in the dungeon. And many times I've seen someone finally get out, just to be sent in again. Whee!
- Monster fights are ridiculously hard, and the rewards are small (except the jewels). There is no way I'm playing on level "3", in which a player uses two six-sided dice to fight, it's hard enough on the normal level. And rolling a six-sided die for damage is yawn-inducing. When a villain has thirty-five hit points, and you roll a "1" for damage; it's very annoying. There's also no way to keep track of the hit points of a monster, other than someone reciting them out loud, as the other player wearily rolls the dice.
- While the inner/outer path idea (similar to Careers) is a good idea – it's of no use here, since a player has no idea what the point or difference between the paths are.
- I appreciate that they did the three different types of coins for themes' sake, but it's a pain to keep switching out coins for others. And using silver coins for anything is really a waste of time, since platinum coins are the only ones that matter.
- Properties. Who thought adding a touch of Monopoly would make the game better? The ratios of how much properties reward for how much they cost is strikingly disproportionate, and the "benefits" they give usually don't make sense. And what thematic reason is there for allowing a player to go backwards on the main track once they own a property?
- The game is mind-numbingly boring. It's one of the only games I've ever quit partially through (I would say halfway, but we were nowhere near finished). Even for fantasy geeks who love games like Talisman or Runebound, this one just wasn't even in the same league.

Good things.
- I liked the wisdom cards allowing movement instead of the dice. This is a nice mechanic from Careers that works well in games.

So you see that I can't remotely recommend this game, not for kids, not for adults, not for anyone! I feel bad, because I'm sure that the designer put a lot of effort into this game. However, I doubt they played it much outside their own gaming group, because a lot of the flaws that I've pointed out would have been caught. I'm always looking for a good fantasy gaming game that brings a little bit of the role playing experience to the table. This game is about as far away from that experience as possible.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"
www.thedicetower.com
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Jerry Hawthorne
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I appreciate all of your reviews Tom. Thanks for shedding light on this game that has caught my eye. Your review gives quite a different perspective than the game description here. Looks like you might have saved me some money.
 
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Sean Youngquist
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Stick with your Duel of Ages Tom.
 
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Scott Everts
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Wow, think that's the most negative review I've read of Tom's. Usually he's pretty positive. Either its a horrible game or he didn't give it enough chance.

Feel sorry for the designer. I'm assuming this is his first published game and considering the cost and difficulty getting a first game out I feel for him. But maybe another reviewer will find it more enjoyable. I can't imagine it being quite that bad. I'll agree that the components are lacking especially compared to how good they are these days from the big publishers. I'll keep this on my radar for awhile and see if other reviewers feel differently.
 
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Sean Youngquist
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Yes Tom's Review was very harsh and insulting. He needs to try and read through the rules and play a couple times at least before spewing out a review. He should also be aware there are impressionable people in this world that think very highly of his gaming assessments and be more professionally objective.
 
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Billy McBoatface
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delgard wrote:
Yes Tom's Review was very harsh and insulting. He needs to try and read through the rules and play a couple times at least before spewing out a review. He should also be aware there are impressionable people in this world that think very highly of his gaming assessments and be more professionally objective.
Wow. From the reviews of Tom's I've seen, I'd say that if anything he is too forgiving of a game's faults. I haven't played the game, but if Tom had really screwed up a good game badly enough to get the result he describes in his review, I'd be very surprised.
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Jerry Hawthorne
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delgard wrote:
Yes Tom's Review was very harsh and insulting. He needs to try and read through the rules and play a couple times at least before spewing out a review. He should also be aware there are impressionable people in this world that think very highly of his gaming assessments and be more professionally objective.
I would rather he just give his honest opinion, which is what he does, and his service has been invaluable over the years. There should be more like him.
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Sean Youngquist
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My comments are directed squarely at to many of us placing too much weight on what Tom and other critics say is "good" or "bad." I can't tell you how many times I've heard a critic belittle or boaster (with little thought of the impact) their feelings on subjects ranging from movies to video games. Much like others I've been burned in blindly picking up a game or seeing a movie I thought was interesting. But I've been equally as screwed following a critic's dribble on what they thought was wonderful or horribly disappointing.

My recommendations go with what you know. If you feel Tom best suites your likes and dislikes stick to following his guide to a good game. As for me I will follow my own judgement.
 
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Billy McBoatface
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delgard wrote:
My recommendations go with what you know. If you feel Tom best suites your likes and dislikes stick to following his guide to a good game. As for me I will follow my own judgement.
Well, duh. Too bad that instead of saying that the first time, you chose to insult Tom.
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Jim Carvin
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delgard wrote:
Yes Tom's Review was very harsh and insulting. He needs to try and read through the rules and play a couple times at least before spewing out a review. He should also be aware there are impressionable people in this world that think very highly of his gaming assessments and be more professionally objective.


From what he said in his review, Tom read the rules a few times. I also understand that Tom can't always play a game multiple times before doing a review and if he really hates the game, why would he bother anyway?

My tastes aren't exactly in line with Tom's but I do love fantasy games and I have to say that my experience with this game was EXACTLY as Tom described. I thought it was boring, waaaay too long, the components weren't great (and could have easily been much better) and the rulebook was unorganized and very confusing. I didn't get through a full game, due to the crappy pegs being knocked out but I admit I couldn't wait for it to end. I also read the rulebook a few times and had difficulty putting everything together, just as Tom did.

Take our opinions for what they're worth but as fans of many other Fantasy games, I think they're valid.
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John Markovich
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delgard wrote:
My comments are directed squarely at to many of us placing too much weight on what Tom and other critics say is "good" or "bad." I can't tell you how many times I've heard a critic belittle or boaster (with little thought of the impact) their feelings on subjects ranging from movies to video games. Much like others I've been burned in blindly picking up a game or seeing a movie I thought was interesting. But I've been equally as screwed following a critic's dribble on what they thought was wonderful or horribly disappointing.

My recommendations go with what you know. If you feel Tom best suites your likes and dislikes stick to following his guide to a good game. As for me I will follow my own judgement.


Sure I'll follow my own judgement. And I'll make that judgement based on... my own judgement. That's right, I'm going to be judging based on my own judgement based on my assumption about a game I've never played - that's what I'm going to do. Never actually seen it other than the pics, not allowed to read reviews about it (apparently), no chance of doing any of them without actually buying it, which I can't afford to do with every game, so I'll just form a random opinion.

Or, I can just read the manufacturers blurb, because they are always representative...

And I find it odd that you lambast him for not being 'objective', but actually imply that he should pull his punches - which would mean not being objective. Whether I agree with a reviewer or not, I want to hear their honest opinion. I really don't know what you want.

You know, I've got a crowbar.

It might help get that chip off your shoulder.
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Matt Drake
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Monster Quest was the worst game I ever played. Tom did pull his punches. Tom was as forgiving as he could have been. This was a pile of dog manure wrapped in a discarded bag of cat litter. If a handful of teenagers hopped up on pain pills and mescaline made a board game, this is what it would look like.
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PK WADDLE
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Pete and Matt, 2 of my newly-discovered favorite reviewers in the same thread.. I will have to jump in...

I indeed think this game sounds dreadful.. and I think I feel sorry for the designer more than ever:

Both the axelgames ( publisher) and the game itself's main website now seem to be gone forever. Perhaps they took y'all's advice.

Still feel sad for what a GIGANTIC process it must have been to print and create a game like this... and have no clue that it was overbloated and was going to be disastrous for all of that work.

Pearl Harbor/Heaven's Gate/Waterworld of games perhaps?
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