Monsterpocalypse has arrived! I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this game since I saw it announced. I love the Kaiju monster battle theme and liked the pre-released images I saw of the game. King of Tokyo and King of New York have been favorite board games of myself and my children for years now. The idea of transforming the board game experience into a miniatures game was very exciting for us. I even ordered the special GenCon exclusive Cthugrosh monster miniature off Privateer Press's website. But I have now gotten the two starter sets and built the models. My children have played their first game against each other (with me cheering both of them on) this evening. The first game took about 2 hours for my children to complete (subsequent games should be much faster). It was a down-to-the-wire finish with both of their monsters down to one health point a piece. They were holding their breaths on the final dice roll my son made. If he didn't make the roll and win, his sister was sure to make her roll on the next turn and win with her fully powered up monster... He happened to be ganging up all four of his small units with weapons on her monster, because his own monster was out of power (dice)... Units are extremely weak compared to monsters... It was anything but a sure thing...
So here are my detailed thoughts on the game.
Each player needs a starter set. Each starter set comes with 1 monster (either a Planet Eater or a GUARD monster) and 5 units of its faction. The models are made of resin, which is a soft plastic. The monster models definitely need to be trimmed and filed/ sanded before they are ready to be glued together with super glue. However, due to the fact that they are resin, this is fairly painless. They only have a few pieces each to glue together. All told it is a perfect experience for a beginning miniature gamer to practice building miniatures. The parts are big and chunky and go together easily. I also ordered the GenCon exclusive Cthugrosh monster and that had the same ease of assembly. In the Protector starter the units have to have their turrets glued on as well. In the Destroyer Starter the units are fully assembled already. The models are very cute and cool at the same time and look like they will be fun to paint. The bases for the models are clear plastic so they look pretty cool. We're waiting to glue the models to the bases until after we have painted them.
The starter sets also come with 6 cardboard apartment buildings, a double-sided paper game map mat, dice, a softcover rulebook, and cardboard rubble tiles. The rulebook is well layed out and very easy to read and understand. The cardboard and paper components are of standard modern game quality.
Players will choose one of two sides, Protectors or Destroyers. Each side has three factions on it that can be combined together. The Protector side has the G.U.A.R.D faction that comes in the starter, the Sun Syndicate (a ninja faction with a giant ninja as the monster), and the Terrasaurs (dinosaurs or Godzilla type creatures). The Destroyer side has the Planet Eaters that come in the starter, flying saucer Martians, and a Cthulu clone group. You can play a battle with 1, 2, or 3 monsters per side. The rule is that the monsters cannot be duplicates if you have 2 or 3 on your side. So basically, you need every model for your side if you want to play the biggest possible game. If you play with 1 monster you are allowed to have 15 units in your force. With 2 monsters you can have 20, and with 3 monsters you can have 25 units. Each faction comes with two different unit packs of 5 units each. So, doing the math... that's 6 unit packs for each side for a total of 30 units as options for the 25 slots available in a 3 monster battle. Note that the starters each come with one pack of 5 units for the side of the starter. That means there are 5 unit packs left to buy for your side after you get the starter.
Buildings in this game matter as well. The rules state that each player in a match must bring from 6 to 12 of her own buildings to the match. The starter sets give you 6 cardboard apartments each. The apartments are generic buildings with no special features. Building miniatures are coming out however and they will have special game features to them. These special buildings appear to be limited to 4 copies per side in an official game. Since the cardboard apartments are generic, there is no limit to how many of them you can bring to a match.
The rules for Monsterpocalypse are fairly simple compared to other miniatures games out there, but they are highly thematic with some unique and fun twists. The rulebook is extremely easy to read and understand. Like most miniatures games you have melee ("Brawl"), ranged ("Blast"), and special ("Power") attacks. Your monsters and units have a defense score and a speed score (which tells how far they can move. In order to attack another unit, building, or monster you roll three different colors of dice. White is the weakest dice, blue is middling, and red dice are the most powerful. You simply count up the explosions showing on the dice you roll and see if the total equals or exceeds the defense of the thing you are attacking. If you succeed you do one point of damage. Buildings and units only take one damage before they are destroyed. When buildings get destroyed they turn into fiery rubble that causes damage to anything that lands on it. Monsters have a health track on their cards that starts at 11 health points. The goal is to whittle all the opponent's monster’s health points down to 0. All of that is pretty standard miniatures game stuff.
At this point, however, the game gets thematic and original with the twists it starts adding. First of all, the monsters have two forms. When their health is full they start in their "alpha" state. But when their health falls to 5 and below, their card flips over, and they go into a "hyper" state. In other words, they get very angry and become more powerful as they get injured. Very cool...
Then there is the dice usage twist. Each player gets 10 weak white dice. At least one of these dice must be used every time an attack is made by a monster or a unit. When a monster uses a white dice, that die then gets put over into the unit box to be only used by units on a subsequent turn. Conversely, when a unit uses white die, the die gets put into the monster box to be used by the monster after that. Thus, the white dice end up shuttled back and forth between the units and the monsters on different turns. This ensures that you can't just move your monster every turn and ignore your units for the game or vice versa. This give and take of the white dice between monsters and units adds a very slick extra element of strategy to your calculations during the game. Blue dice are just free to use based on the stats of the monster or units. The powerful red dice must be earned, however. You can earn red dice by destroying buildings, controlling buildings, controlling power points on the map, and killing units. Not only are the red dice filled with the most explosions, but they also are required for your monster to do its "Power" moves.
The Power moves are my and my children's favorite aspect of the game. This is where the game kicks the theme into overdrive. There are 6 fun moves available to each monster if they have the requisite red dice to spend. The moves are body slam, ram, rampage, stomp, swat, and throw. With body slam your monster can pick up your opponent's monster and smash it down on top of an adjacent building, unit, or any combination thereof. Your monster can use ram to charge into a building and topple it over onto a monster or units on the opposite side of it. With rampage your monster can charge forward its maximum allowable movement, flattening everything in its path. With a stomp your monster can blow up all adjacent units and put out building rubble fires. Your monster can swat an enemy unit and send it flying into another monster or unit. And, perhaps the most fun of all, your monster can pick up an enemy monster and throw it into buildings and units! It's when you do a power move and smash a monster into other things on the board that you start doing multiple points of damage at a time. We love these power moves. My children were laughing and giggling non-stop as they executed these moves on each other's monster.
Well, as I've already mentioned throughout the review, this game is an absolute hit with myself and my children. It is a hilarious good time. We can't wait for the other monsters, units, and buildings to be released. Both my children rate the game as a 9 out of 10 so far. The only other game they've rated that high is Krosmaster Arena. However, they both say they expect their rating will increase to a 10 after the new monsters come out for their armies. For myself, I’m going to just go ahead and give it a 10. I don't see how it can be any less than that once all the units, buildings, and monsters come out. Both my children have decided to field Protector armies and so I will be fielding a Destroyer army. We're all busy pondering what color scheme we're going to use when painting our monster armies now. For board gamers who haven't dipped a toe in miniatures yet, I would describe this game as the fulfillment of what King of Tokyo strives to be. We love King of Tokyo and King of New York. But this game truly epitomizes monster combat on the tabletop in a way that just hasn't been achieved to this level before.
Parent/ Teacher Recommendations
This game is appropriate for any children from about age 8 and up if the younger ones have a parent that can put the models together for them. Using super glue and snips is best left to parents for elementary school kids. However, once the models are assembled they are really a good size to allow children to learn to paint. They are chunky and yet detailed at the same time. Beginning miniatures-playing children would have a blast painting them. The rules are simple enough and thematic enough that 8-year olds with a bit of game playing experience should have no problem picking them up. Obviously, children won't be able to beat adult strategists at the game, but they can certainly play each other with the same alacrity they could show in playing chess with each other.
I'm going to introduce this game to my afterschool gaming club that I do at the elementary school I teach at. It's perfectly school appropriate for such a purpose. There is a lot of strategic thought being generated in the player's heads during this game. The strategic depth of the game is limited only by the players themselves. This particular miniature game has less mental math happening than other miniatures or role-playing games, however. There's nothing in this game beyond counting up explosion symbols on dice in that regard. So, this would be a good fit for students that might struggle with games that have more mental math.
To sum up, GO BUY THIS GAME NOW!