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Subject: A Deeper Than Expected Monster War Game rss

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Jonathan Moodie
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About 6 months ago, I decided that I wanted to get back into a collectible game of some kind. Back in the day (we’re talking 4th Edition and Tempest here), I was quite smitten with Magic: The Gathering. Buying a booster and cracking open that little pack was something of a religious experience. Building a deck from what you had and trying to come up with a new combination of cards and creating an engine of destruction was what drove me to acquire ever more. But far and away my favorite part of an ongoing game universe is the sense of community that builds around them. I missed being a part of a core group of players who continually found time to meet and play. And due to the expanding nature of the game, there was always something new to add to the game, some unseen nuance that was discovered or created.

Of course, there is the downside to a collectible game – COST! I know I can’t be happy playing just a portion of something. I want to expand and always play something new inside the same game.

There was also one nagging thing to me about my memories of Magic. From the perspective of 2010, I was in the game relatively early having started a mere few years after the game came into existence when I started in the mid 90’s. But even then, I felt like I was way behind many of the “old timers”. I didn’t have many of the grand old cards that they possessed.

So I set out with a criteria in mind. 1. The game had to have a theme that I could immerse myself in. 2. I wanted a game with physical pieces, not cards. 3. It had to be relatively new, because I didn’t want to be tempted to be in a constant state of catch up. 4. It couldn’t be too expensive. Warhammer looks pretty and fun, but boy is it expensive.

I set out to find something or wait until a new game was announced and get in on the very ground floor of that game.

It didn’t take long before I stumbled across none other than Monsterpocalypse. Let’s see here.

Theme? Kaiju monsters destroying a city while trying to crush each other. I love Godzilla movies. Awesome.

Pieces? Yup – pre-painted mini’s. And well damned well pre-painted.

New? Began in October 2008, so it was less than 1 year old when I started.

Price? About $15 for a booster, reasonable prices on a variety of sites and eBay for singles.

Quite frankly, it had me at Kaiju. I went down to my store, saw that there were regular tournaments so I’d have new people to play, and bought my starter on the spot.

Now you know how I got here. So what do I think of it?
Monsterpocalypse is quite simply my favorite game. That is my review in a sentence. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the game and how it works first. I will try to give a general overview without getting too specific.

Monsterpocalypse, or MonPoc for short, is a two-player game war game where the warriors are giant monsters battling over a hapless city. There is not an official method of playing with greater than 2 players. Each player brings with him a map and an army and a “city”. The army consists of 4-15 units and usually 1 monster (it’s alpha form and either an ultra or mega form – I’ll explain in a moment). The city you bring consists of 2-12 buildings.

Prior to the game each player rolls 5 action dice. The player who rolls the most strikes gets to go first but the player who rolls the fewest gets to choose on which map the game will take place. So the first player gets some initiative, but the second player should theoretically have some home field advantage by playing on a map that favors his army.

Play begins with each player alternating placing buildings until all the building spaces on the board are full. Then each player places the Alpha form of his monster into one of the monster starting spaces on his side of the board. All units begin play to the side of the map in the unspawned unit pool.

Now a word about those dice as Monsterpocalypse is a dice game, though not in the same way as many other war games. There are three types of dice that are used in the game, and Privateer Press has created custom six sided dice for this game.

First, there are action dice. Each player has 10 action dice. An action die has 3 blank sides, 2 sides with a single “strike” on it, and 1 side with a Super Strike. A super strike is two strikes. So when rolled, there is a 3/6 chance of nothing, 1/3 chance of getting a single strike, and a 1/6 chance of getting a double strike.

Action dice form the heart of the game. There are to pools in which the action dice can reside – the monster pool and the unit pool. The action dice are so-called because everything you do costs an action dice, and here is where Monsterpocalypse is not a dice game in the traditional sense.

When the first turn begins, all the action dice are in the unit pool. And you will begin the game by using your units. Every time you take an action, you move an action dice from the corresponding pool to the other pool. The first thing you can possibly do is to spawn some of your units, so for each unit you want to spawn you will move action dice equal to its spawn cost from the unit dice pool to the monster pool. Then to move the units, for each unit you want to move, you move 1 action die from the unit pool to the monster pool. If you then want to attack, for each unit that you want to attack, you need to roll at least 1 action die. And then those action dice are placed into the monster pool. The following turn, you will have action dice available for your monster. To move, attack, etc. you use at least 1 action die.

This is where a lot of the strategy and management of the game come into play. Each is often won and lost based on a player’ ability to successfully manage his dice so that he has enough in the proper pool (usually his monster pool) to do what he needs. You only need one action die in your monster pool for your monster to be able to attack, so keeping that threat alive is often a good diversionary tactic.

The second kind of dice in the game are called Boost Dice. A boost die is just like an action die except that it is blue and has only 2 blank sides, rather than 3, and 3 single strike sides instead of just 2. Boost dice are dice that are used to “boost” attacks. The more of these rolled in an attack, obviously the better. They have a higher probability of rolling a strike. These dice are only used to boost attacks, and each attack that a monster or unit can perform has a listed modifier of how many boost die will be rolled in that attack. Simple.

The third, and final, kind of dice are called Power Dice. A power die is just like an action die except that it is red and has only 1 blank side, rather than 3, and 4 single strike sides instead of just 1. Power dice are dice that are used to really increase the odds of successful attacks. Only monsters, however, can use power dice to make attacks, but the player chooses how many power dice to add to any attack. How much “spice” do you want to add to your monster attack – keeping in mind that power dice provide the greatest likelihood of a strike. Unlike Boost dice and Action Dice, Power dice have to be earned in some way. And once they are used, they have to be reearned. You can earn power dice most conventionally by securing buildings, destroying buildings, and destroying enemy units. Knowing that your supply of power dice is finite, how many do you want to use to make sure you hit? Again, dice management is a key element to strategy. How many to use, how do you produce them? All part of your army selection, monster selection, and the city you bring.

Now let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of this game. The game is not called DICEpocalypse – it’s called MONSTERpocalypse!

You army will consist of at least one monster of your choosing. The monster will come from one of (for now) twelve factions that follow one of six agendas, two factions per agenda. Your monster has two forms, an Alpha form and a Hyper form, either the monster’s Ultra form or its Mega form. The monster’s Alpha and Hyper forms have individual and separate health.

Each monster begins in its Alpha form. During the game, you can use power dice to “Hyper” up and change the monster into its more powerful Hyper form. You can also flex back down to your Alpha at any time. You must choose whether to play the Ultra form as your monster’s Hyper form, or (if you have it) the monster’s Mega form as its Hyper form. Mega’s are not necessarily more powerful than Ultra forms. The game ends when you have successfully managed to reduce the health of both the Alpha and Hyper forms of the corresponding monster to zero.

An army of units, usually units from their own faction and/or agenda, accompanies the monsters. The units chosen should somehow enhance what your monster wishes to accomplish. Do you want your units to damage the opposing monster? Secure buildings to create power dice? Bust units? Do you want your monster to attack? Do you want it to buff your units so they can do a lot of damage? How are you going to produce power dice? These questions all affect how you build your army and how you pilot your army.

Each monster has a movement/speed rating, a defense rating, and attack ratings. There are ranged blast attacks and up close brawl attacks. Monsters can also use power dice and make power attacks. Unsurprisingly, the power attacks are the most powerful and the most fun part of the game. The power attacks are where the monsters wreak the most havoc, both to the city and to the opponents monster. Using your power attacks you can slam each other around into and through buildings. These attacks do damage in bunches. And these attacks are where the core of the theme shine through. You can really feel the theme when a giant ape named King Kondo slams a giant dinosaur name Terra Khan through the Imperial State Building (there aren’t many licensed characters or locations).

And Privateer Press has done away with complex attack roll calculations. There is no line of sight rule, there are not movement modifiers, none of that. After you decide how many dice you want to commit to an attack, you simply check the defensive rating of the target. If you roll strikes equal to or greater than the defensive rating of the target, you deal 1 damage. All units have 1 health and are destroyed on any successful hit. That part of the game is simple and straightforward.

There is one final aspect to the game, and it is probably the most daunting part of the game. Each Monster and unit has special abilities. To make it easier, Privateer Press has reduced each power/ability to a symbol. The upside is that each monster and unit has a series of symbols on its base that quickly tell a player of what each monster or unit is capable. The downside is that you damn near need reference with you at all times to consult for symbol definitions. As you play, you pick these up relatively quickly, especially if you commit to playing one or two factions consistently. But no matter how much you play, there will always be questions about how the timing of certain powers work and the specifics of what types of figures each power can affect. I like the symbols as they serve as quick reminders that keep you from having to just memorize everything about every unit. But it’s a bit of a trade. You’re instead just memorizing a laundry list of powers.

Now, back to where I started – Monsterpocalypse is undoubtedly my favorite game. I started out playing the Martian Menace faction and I haven’t looked back. I love my little green men. I have since expanded to piloting the GUARD robots, the Lords of Cthul, the giant ninjas of the Shadow Sun Syndicate, the lords of the undersea Tritons… There is just so much variety to the game. The miniatures are all prepainted. You can strip them and custom paint your force. These are still tournament legal. I find that the prepaints are of very good quality and many of the sculpts are extremely detailed. This game oozes theme. The rules are very accessible, but the game is definitely deeper than it looks on first blush.

There is army construction strategy. How you focus your construction heavily influences how you play. There is a faction and a building set for every style. Creating a monster/unit synergy is key.

There is map selection strategy. A good map for you monster can win a game or a bad map can cripple you.

There is city building strategy. Laying out your buildings at the beginning of a match changes the map and can alter how well your army can perform.

There is unit strategy. Movement to secure buildings, movement to set up attacks. Spawning at the proper time. Screening your monster from huge power attacks. Managing your dice to maximize the efficiency of your units and disrupting your opponents moves to destroy is power dice production.

There is monster strategy. Move your monster without leaving yourself open to devastating power attacks. When do you hyper up? When do you return to your Alpha form? Do you have enough action and power dice for back to back (to back?) monster turns? How many dice do you commit to this attack – how many make you feel safe you will hit?

All of these questions are swirling around your head while you move beautiful (and ugly) minis around a city map trying to gain an advantage. It provides so many opportunities, so much variety.

I am unabashedly in love with this game. Is it perfect in its execution of every rule? No. There are errata and issues like any game that grows over time. But the theme is so well realized and the quality of the product is generally so high, that I keep coming back for more and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
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Bo Chaba
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When I first started playing this game I was very surprised at the depth of strategy for it. I was also overwhelmed by the sheer number of icons and information.

This was the key problem, it looks like a casual game but it isnt. A lot of the guys that got into it were turned off by the complexity. Others were turned off by the collectability. Others were turned off by how much it looks like kids toys.
It isnt easy to teach new players and one cant hope to be competitive without many games.

So Ive had a bittersweet experience. I really like the concept and the game but I rarely get games because of all the barriers to entry. I think maybe once my kids are older I might get some regular opponents.

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Michael Sachau
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Very good review. Each time I play, I'm overwhelmed by the numerous tactical options you have during the game.

+ The mapboard matters. Last game we played the map with the "free-movement"-tiles. Great map.

+ It matters, where you place the buildings, so you can destroy or capture some "sweet-spots" right away.

+ Monster/unit combination. Your monster can help your units and units help your monster. If you place your units in the right places, the enemy cannot attack you in close combat.

+ Resourcemanagment. The dice-management system is very good

There are too many icons, at least 30 minutes playtime you are looking for the meanings of the symbol.

About the price: You don't need all the minis. You can get a very good army with buildings for about 150$ if you have some friends to trade. Ebay may have some cheap singles too. It only get's expensive if you want 3 or more armies
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Bobb Beauchamp
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There are too many icons if you try to learn all of them at once. If you learn the game as you play, sticking to your starting units and building from there, it starts to become very easy to remember almost all of them. Many of the icons are graphic, meaning they look like what they are. After you get a few plays under your belt, you won't be looking at the reference cards anymore.

Also, the rules contain a near-complete list of all the icons, and there are several play aids available that list them, for when you play against figures you're not familiar with.

It's expensive...all miniature games are. But it's probably the lowest cost miniature and collectible game out there. For about a $50-$60 investment, you can get a starter and 2 unit boosters, giving you 1 monster pair, 12 units, and 4 buildings, plus a map, dice, and rules. While not a very unified force, it's close to a full force. Spending about the same on the secondary market will get you a unified force. And while there has been what some call power creep...I think it's actually just a few poorly designed early figures...series 1 monsters are still very competitive against the latest releases.

Yes, you need to play a lot in order to be good. Is that so different from just about any other game? I don't think it's very realistic to expect to be tournament competitive after just a few plays. But the game contains so much strategic depth that players with hundreds of games under their belts still make mistakes.
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Andrew Brannan
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This is also my favorite game, and I've got the stacks of boxes of figures to prove it.

The icons do take a bit of time to learn, and they aren't necessarily very self-explanatory, but there's only so much you can do with the size of the icons, and no colors.

As for collectability, Voltron is coming out this summer, that will give you a full 2-player experience for $50.
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Paul DeStefano
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jmoodie wrote:
Back in the day (we’re talking 4th Edition and Tempest here),


I hate when someone says "Back in the day" and then cites the new stuff as examples.

Makes me feel old.
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Christian Jorgensen
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Nicely written review dude.

bochaba wrote:
When I first started playing this game I was very surprised at the depth of strategy for it.


Many of the people I know who play (myself included) have had the same reaction. I started playing over a year ago and I still have those moments when you get excited because you have thought up a tactic, and can't wait to try it out.

It is a much deeper game than you would think at first glance.
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Peter
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What a great review, I'm impatiently waiting for this game to arrive int the mail at this very moment. I can't wait to play!
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Jeff Paul
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Yes, this game always amazes me with its tactical depth and visual aesthtics. And the new releases just keep getting better.

It is not a gateway game, to really get the full enjoyment out of it, you need to play it and understand the various interactions. As others have said, the various icons can be off-putting to newcomers. Heck, I still have to refer to my cheat sheets.

I just wish I had time to play it more.
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Douglas Glisson
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Great review. I finally have a little better understanding of this game. I want to get started because it looks like stupid fun and my son will love it. I mean come on, giant monsters fighting it out in between skyscrapers? What's not to love? Going to start building sone armies this weekend!

Kraken Fan #69
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