The press your luck genre has been around for a long time in the board game industry. It makes sense as the premise behind pressing your luck is really simple. Basically it boils down to choosing whether you want to play it safe and stick with what you already have or risk everything for the opportunity to get even more. I have to admit that I have never been a huge fan of the genre for one simple reason. Most games in this genre don’t have much actual gameplay. You just choose whether you want to stop or keep going, and that is basically all there is to the entire game. The mechanic itself isn’t bad, but most games from the genre lack depth. When I saw Megaland though I was intrigued as it looked like the game was actually trying to add an engine building mechanic to the genre which is something that I had never really seen before. Megaland is a truly unique take on the press your luck genre that expands on the typical mechanics to create a fun game that the whole family can enjoy.
How to Play Megaland
- Put all of the building cards that feature a star in the upper right corner face up in the middle of the table. Each type of building should be placed in its own pile.
- Choose seven of the normal building types and place all of the cards of that type of building in their own pile face up on the table. You can choose whichever buildings you want, but the game recommends choosing at least one building of each cost 1-5 (top left corner) for your first game.
- Shuffle the level cards and place them face-down on the table next to the level tile.
- Place the heart tokens, jump tokens, and coins on the table. Place the heart cost card nearby.
- Shuffle the treasure cards and place them face down on the table.
- Each player chooses a player token. They will also take a player card and four heart tokens. The four heart tokens should be placed on the heart side of their card.
- The player who most recently played a video game will be given the first player token and will start the game.
Playing the Game
Megaland in played over a number of rounds. Each round is broken down into three phases: Run the Level, Buy, Night
Run the Level
A round begins with all of the players placing their character token on the level tile. They will then draw a treasure card and place it above their character card. All players are playing at the same time so they don’t have to wait for the other players to take their action.
Once everyone has added their character token and taken a treasure card, the first level card will be drawn and placed face up on the table. For each skull symbol on the card each player whose token is on the level tile will move one of their heart tokens to the injury side of their player card.
Before any level card is turned over a player can choose to use one of their jump tokens. If the next level card that is revealed features a jump icon any player that played a jump token avoids all of the damage listed on the card. If the card doesn’t feature a jump icon the player will lose the jump token and will still receive the damage printed on the card.
Whenever a rabbit level card is revealed each player still in the level will receive one damage from the card. Each player then has the option to discard three carrot cards in order to draw three new treasure cards. If a player falls due to the rabbit attack they cannot make the trade.
Whenever a treasure chest level card is revealed, all of the players still in the level will draw an additional treasure card.
If a player ever runs out of hearts on the heart side of their player card, their character has fallen. Their character token is removed from the level card. The player will also discard all of the treasure cards placed above their character card.
After dealing with any players that have fallen, all of the players still on the level card get to decide whether they want to stay in the level or if they want to return home.
If a player chooses to return home they will remove their character token from the level card. For returning home all of the treasure cards that they collected from the level are moved from above their character card to below their character card. These cards are now safe and can be used in the buy phase. When you return home you will take no further damage or take any additional treasure cards for the rest of the round.
All players that choose to stay in a level will draw another treasure card and add it above their player card. After all players still on the level tile have drawn a treasure card they will reveal another level card and take the corresponding actions. This will continue until all of the players have returned home or have fallen.
After all of the players have returned home or have fallen the game enters the Buy phase. Starting with the first player and moving clockwise each player gets the opportunity to buy building cards or hearts from the center of the table.
On a player’s turn they can purchase as many different buildings as they want. You can only purchase one building of each type per round, but you can buy additional copies of a building in future rounds. In order to buy a building card you must discard a number of different types of treasure cards equal to the number in the upper left corner of the building card you want to purchase. After discarding the corresponding number of treasure cards you will place the building card in front of you to indicate that you own it. Some buildings have immediate effects that go into effect when you buy them and should be handled right away.
In addition to purchasing buildings a player can purchase more hearts so they can remain in a level longer. To purchase an additional heart you must consult the heart cost card to see the cost of the next heart that you can purchase. The number underneath the heart indicates how many treasure cards of the same type that you have to discard in order to purchase the additional heart. After discarding the corresponding number of treasure cards you will add another heart token to your character card.
If the treasure deck ever runs out of cards you will shuffle the discard pile to form a new draw pile.
After all of the players have had the opportunity to buy the game moves onto the third phase.
The first player from the current round will pass the first player token to the next player clockwise. This player will be the first player in the next round.
Players will have the opportunity to store treasure cards that they didn’t spend to buy buildings or additional hearts. A player can store one treasure card in each building card that they own. All extra treasure cards are discarded.
Any building with a “moon” symbol on it are now activated. Players will receive the benefits for each of their buildings that have this symbol.
Everyone moves all of their hearts from the injury side to the heart side of their character cards.
All of the level cards are gathered together and shuffled to form the level deck for the next round.
Before starting the next round the players should count how many coins they have acquired. If any player has acquired 20 or more coins the game ends. Otherwise another round is played.
End of Game
At the end of the game the players count up how many coins that they have collected. The player that has collected the most coins wins the game. If there is a tie the tied player with the most unspent treasure cards wins the game. If this doesn’t break the tie the tied players add up the value of their building cards (top left corner). The player whose buildings are more valuable wins. If there is still a tie the tied players share the victory.
Here is a list of the buildings in the game and what their special actions do.
Star Buildings (Has Star Icon in the upper right corner)
Arcade – When you buy this building you will immediately gain three coins. At the end of each Buy phase all of the players will compare the number of coins they currently have. If a player who owns an arcade has less coins than the rest of the players they will receive two coins. If a player is tied for the least number of coins they won’t receive the two coins.
Bazaar of Oddities – This card will give you four coins when you purchase it. Any time you return home with five or more treasures you will receive a coin.
Cafe – Immediately receive two coins when you buy the building. The building has no other special ability.
Hotel – When you buy the hotel you will receive five coins. After you buy a hotel you will receive two coins for each additional heart that you purchase.
Sandwich Stand – Immediately receive one coin when you buy the building. After that the building has no special ability.
Temple of ZOZ – This card will give you seven coins when you purchase it. Whenever your character meets the Red Serpent (even if you fall) you will immediately receive two coins.
Arena – You will immediately receive six coins and two jump tokens.
Bowling Alley – You will receive one coin each night phase.
Endless Mine – You will receive three coins during each night.
Fish Vendor – When this card is purchased you will immediately receive two coins. Each round you can also use one of your fish treasure cards as any other type of treasure.
Fishing Pond – Each night phase you will get to draw one treasure card from the treasure deck.
Gym – The gym immediately gives you a coin and two jump tokens.
Hall of Elders – When you buy a normal building you will gain one coin. You will not receive one coin for the Hall of Elders when you purchase it, but you will receive one coin for every other building bought after it.
Herb Hut – If you fall while in a level you can keep one of the treasures that you are carrying. The rest of your treasure cards will be discarded.
Hospital – You will gain two coins for each player to your immediate left or right that falls. In two player games you can only receive two coins total. In three plus player games you can receive at max four coins.
Laboratory – The Laboratory immediately gives a player three coins. If you fall you will be able to draw one treasure after you discard all of the treasures that you were carrying.
Lodge – You will receive two coins each night.
Ostrich Ranch – When you buy buildings you can treat egg treasures as any other type of treasure.
Reptile Stable – When you return home you may immediately discard one of the treasure cards that you collected from the level to draw a new treasure card.
Root Market – You will receive four coins when you purchase the Root Market. You may also use one carrot treasure as another treasure during each round.
Smithy – When you buy a building (after purchasing the Smithy) that costs four or more you will gain three coins.
Soap Makers – Whenever you encounter the sludge creature you will ignore its damage. You will also draw a treasure card. Only one of these cards will give you the benefit each round.
Toll Booth – After purchasing the Toll Booth you will receive one coin for each star building you purchase.
My Thoughts on Megaland
Heading into Megaland I didn’t know exactly what to think. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review I am not a huge fan of the press your luck genre. I am generally more of a fan of strategy over luck so the fact that these games mostly boil down to choosing how long to stay in can be kind of boring. I don’t mind the mechanic itself, but it really needs a supporting mechanic in order to make it a more substantial game. This is why I was really intrigued by Megaland as it adds in an engine building mechanic to work with the press your luck mechanic. As a big fan of engine building in board games I was really interested in seeing how this would work out. For the most part I thought it worked really well.
The press your luck mechanic basically comes down to determining whether to stay in the level or leave. This decision basically comes down to whether you think the next cards will deal more damage than the number of hearts you have remaining. If you stay in you obviously think the next card will either deal none or very little damage. If you leave you expect the next level card to deal a lot of damage and hope it does so you know you made the right decision and it may knock out the players that decided to remain. In this regard you need to rely on luck that the right level card pops up next based on the decision you made. As you have no control over the level deck you need to just hope that luck is on your side. You can make somewhat of an educated guess as you will know what level cards have already been drawn and which remain. Therefore you can figure out the risk of remaining in the level. This helps you make wise decisions, but you will always be taking a risk if you have less health remaining than the amount of damage that the most dangerous creature remaining can deal.
After all of the players voluntarily or forcibly leave the level, each player has the opportunity to use their treasure cards in order to buy things that will help them in future trips to the level. To purchase buildings you have to discard a number of different types of treasure cards equal to the building’s cost. Meanwhile you can discard treasures of the same type in order to purchase additional hearts which allow you to stay safely in the level for longer periods of time. I found this to be a really interesting addition to your typical press your luck game. While you still have to choose how much risk you want to take, you can then use the treasure you gather to help you on future trips allowing you to stay longer or giving you other benefits to help you be more successful. I think this mechanic was the perfect addition to a press your luck game as it fits the other mechanic really well while also adding in a decent amount of strategy.
How you approach your strategy ultimately depends on what you end up drawing. If you draw a bunch of different treasures you might as well purchase buildings as that is your only option. At the same time players who get a lot of treasures of the same type might as well purchase additional hearts. You can approach the early game in different ways, but I honestly think the best early approach is to acquire additional hearts if you can. Additional hearts don’t directly help you win the game, but they let you stay in the levels longer without taking any risk. At the beginning of the game you can only survive between 1-3 attacks. Therefore you usually can only get 1-4 cards in your first couple of levels. Getting additional hearts though lets you survive more attacks and thus receive more treasure cards. This allows you to purchase more buildings and get even more hearts. After you acquire some extra hearts you want to start acquiring some buildings that will start generating some coins for you as that is ultimately what determines the winner.
I would say that Megaland has a pretty good balance between strategy and luck. I would say that luck probably plays a bigger role, but Megaland has considerably more strategy than your typical press your luck game. The treasure cards that you draw will ultimately help determine what you can do strategically, but the number of different buildings that you can purchase gives players choices over how they would like to proceed. These decisions are usually pretty obvious as some buildings are considerably more powerful than others. If you have the opportunity to purchase one of these buildings I see no reason why you wouldn’t. These buildings do give players some options though as you can quickly start pursuing cards that give you coins. Your other option is to spend more time building up your engine to generate more treasure cards allowing you to quickly purchase more powerful cards later in the game. I could see either of these strategies working.
As Megaland had more mechanics than your typical press your luck game I was a little curious about how this would translate to the game’s difficulty. Megaland is obviously more difficult than your typical press your luck game, but I was actually kind of surprised by the game being considerably easier to play than I was expecting. The mechanics in general are quite straightforward where I don’t see anyone really having any trouble playing the game. The hardest part of the game is learning and figuring out what all of the different building cards do. Even this isn’t all that difficult as none of the cards are that complicated as it mostly just takes some time to learn and remember what they do. I see Megaland working pretty well as a gateway game for those that don’t play a lot of board games. The game should also work quite well for children as the game has a recommended age of 8+ which seems about right. I really see Megaland working well as a family game and for those who like simpler games.
On top of the gameplay I think Megaland deserves credit for its components. For a game that retails for only $25 the components are considerably better than I was expecting. Megaland utilizes a video game theme which works pretty well most of the time as it fits the gameplay. I thought the game’s artwork was good and it does a good job utilizing icons to make the gameplay easy to follow without having to regularly reference the rules. The card quality is pretty good as the game comes with quite a few components. I especially like that the game comes with enough different types of buildings that you can play with different combinations each game. This might seem kind of minor, but I also have to give the game a lot of credit as it does a great job with storage as the game includes enough trays to store and separate the components to easily set up each new game. The game’s components might not compare to games that are considerably more expensive, but based on its retail price you can’t really complain about Megaland’s components.
I liked a lot about Megaland as I think it is a good game. The game does have one somewhat big issue though. That problem is the fact that the game relies on quite a bit of luck. Megaland was obviously going to rely on some luck as its main mechanic was press your luck . Due to the nature of the genre I am willing to accept more luck. I have no issue with the luck regarding whether to stay in the level or leave. There is more luck in the game than just that though which presents a problem for the game.
I mostly had a problem with the luck regarding what treasure cards each player ultimately draws. Players randomly draw a treasure card before each level card is revealed. What treasure cards you ultimately draw are going to have a huge impact on how well you do in the game. Every treasure card in the game has its own value as no individual treasure card is considerably more valuable than others. The luck comes in the combination of treasure cards that you draw. Basically if you want to build buildings you want a bunch of different treasures. If you want to purchase additional hearts though you want treasures of the same type. As I mentioned earlier you likely want to acquire more hearts early in the game, but if you don’t acquire the right treasure cards you can’t do that. I can see the game not letting players directly choose their treasure cards, but I wish there was a little more control since if you don’t draw the right cards you aren’t going to win the game.
This leads to a big potential problem for the game as you can fall behind quickly. To illustrate I want to describe my personal experience in one game. In the game some extremely terrible luck in two rounds ultimately destroyed any chance I had of winning the game. In the first round I was the only player remaining in the level as I used a jump token to avoid damage that the other players couldn’t which forced them to leave. At this point I decided to stay in the level as there were six or seven level cards left and literally only one of them could stop me. I just so happened to draw that one card which lost me all of my treasure cards and put me behind the other players by quite a bit as they were able to add hearts/buildings and I couldn’t. On the next turn I had to take slightly more risk than the other players as I was already behind so I took a chance on a level card that only had a one in five or six chance of stopping me. Once again the only card that could defeat me came up putting me even further behind.
At this point I had no chance of ever catching up as I was too far behind. The only chance was to take big risks as I had to stay in the levels longer than the other players to catch up on treasure cards. The problem was that they had more health than me so they naturally were able to survive longer than me. Therefore I had to take really bad risks which never paid off putting me in an even bigger hole. I think situations like this will only happen rarely in the game, but I wanted to illustrate it as it shows that while the game has some catch up mechanics if you fall too far behind early in the game you have no chance of ever catching back up. You then just have to basically sit there and watch the other players play the game as your decisions no longer matter. I really don’t think there is anything the game could have done to fix this outside of putting in a really unfair catch up mechanic that would have introduced its own issues into the game. This is just an issue with the type of game that Megaland is that couldn’t have been avoided.
Should You Buy Megaland?
Heading into Megaland I was cautiously optimistic as I thought adding an engine building mechanic to a press your luck game sounded really interesting. I was genuinely impressed by Megaland. The press your luck mechanics are nothing special, but adding in the ability to purchase buildings and additional hearts is what truly makes the game. You aren’t just deciding how much risk you are going to take as you use the treasure you collect to allow yourself to stay in a level longer and give yourself other abilities. Your decisions are usually pretty obvious, but this adds quite a bit of strategy to a genre that doesn’t usually have much. The game is also surprisingly easier to play than I was expecting. The biggest problem that I have with the game is that it sometimes relies on a little too much luck as players can sometimes get so far behind that they have no chance of ever catching up. I really enjoyed playing Megaland though as it is arguably one of if not the best press your luck game that I have ever played.
If you absolutely hate press your luck games or aren’t all that interested in Megaland’s premise, I don’t see you getting much enjoyment out of the game. Those that like press your luck games though or think the game sounds fun should really enjoy Megaland. I would highly recommend picking up Megaland if it sounds like the type of game that you typically enjoy.