As a kid my brother and I were pretty big fans of collectible card games. Our favorite CCG was probably Pokemon but we also played some Yu-Gi-Oh and a few other lesser known CCGs. We ended up playing these type of games for a couple years but ended up losing interest in them due to the cost of the booster packs. Outside of the cost of the booster packs, I have always liked the idea behind CCGs. In recent years there have been some card games that have been built off the concept of CCGs while eliminating the need for booster packs. Today I am looking at one of those games, Monster Mania. In Monster Mania you control a group of gigantic monsters. In a situation that resembles the video game Rampage or one of the many Godzilla movies, your goal is to try and defeat the other player’s monsters. Monster Mania succeeds in taking CCGs like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh and combining them into a compelling card game without the need for countless booster packs.
We would like to thank Meet Me At The Table Games for the prototype review copy of Monster Mania used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score. As Monster Mania’s Kickstarter begins on December 1st, this review is based on a prototype copy of the game provided by the publisher/designer. The rules and gameplay have been finalized but the components are still in the prototype stage.
How to Play Monster Mania
This how to play section is only a basic overview of the rules for the game. It does not contain every small rule that only applies in certain circumstances.
- Each player takes a play mat and sets it up in front of them.
- The last player to watch a monster movie will be the first player.
- Take one of each monster from the deck of cards and shuffle them together. Each player, starting with the first player, takes one of the monsters. Each player places this monster on one of their combat zone spaces.
- The monster cards that weren’t chosen are added back with the rest of the cards. All of the cards are then shuffled and placed in the center of the table to form a draw pile.
- Starting with the first player, each player draws five cards from the draw pile.
- The first player will then begin the game. For each player’s first turn they cannot deal damage to another player’s monster. They can incur environmental damage from a card they have played though.
Playing the Game
A player’s turn consists of three phases.
- Draw Cards
- Perform Actions
- Discard Cards (Optional)
A player begins their turn by drawing cards. They will draw cards until they have five cards in their hand. If a player already has five cards in their hand at the beginning of their turn, they will only get to draw one card. If the draw pile ever runs out of cards, all of the cards are taken from each player’s rubble pile and are shuffled together to form a new draw pile.
After drawing cards, the player has the opportunity to perform various actions. A player can take as many actions as they want (including the same action multiple times) and can perform them in any order. The actions that you can perform are as follows:
- Play Monster(s)
- Play Counter Card(s)
- Play Environmental Card(s)
- Play Support Card(s) Face Down/Activate Support Card(s)
After a player has performed whichever actions they want on their turn, they have the opportunity to discard cards (if they want). A player can discard as many cards as they want to their rubble pile. A player can never have more than ten cards in their hand at the end of their turn, so a player has to discard cards if they have more than ten.
After discarding cards, play passes to the next player clockwise.
A player can play as many monster cards as they want on their turn. It does not cost anything to play a monster card, but each monster card has to be played to one of the combat zones. If all of the combat zones are filled, no additional monster cards can be played. A monster card cannot be removed from the combat zone until they are defeated.
Each monster card has two main pieces of information on it.
- A monster’s health indicates how many health points it has. When a monster’s health is reduced to zero, it is defeated and discarded.
- A monster’s attack section details the attacks that a monster can perform. The number on the left indicates how many attack points the attack uses. The number on the right indicates how much damage the attack does.
Unlike other cards, counter cards can be played on your own turn or on another player’s turn (if applicable). When you play a counter card, you read the text out loud and take the appropriate action. Counter cards are usually played in response to another card being played. Whenever a counter card is played, another counter card can be played in order to counteract the first counter card. Players can keep playing counter cards until no one has one that they want to play.
A player can only play environmental cards when they have a monster in their combat zone. When an environmental card is played, the text on the card is read out loud and the corresponding action is taken. Most environmental cards either deal damage to an opponent’s monster or give you attack points. Some also allow you to heal your monsters along with other effects. Once the card’s effect is applied, the environmental card is discarded.
When a player plays an environmental card that deals damage to another player, the other player has the opportunity to play counter cards that allow them to avoid or deflect the environmental damage.
If a player plays an environmental card that deals damage to themselves, they take the corresponding damage tokens and apply them to one of their monsters. If this kills one of the player’s monsters, every other player receives one prize point.
Support cards can only be played on a player’s own turn. Support cards are played to one of your support spaces. If you have no open support spaces, you cannot play a support card. A support card can be played in one of two ways. It can be played face down which doesn’t activate the card and keeps it secret from the other players. Later in the same turn or on a future turn, you can flip it over which activates it. Otherwise you can play a support card face up which activates it immediately.
When a support card is played, the text on the card is read out loud. Support cards can be one of two types. If a card does not mention how many times it can be used, it is a one time use card. The card’s effect is applied immediately and then the card is discarded. If a support card mentions a number of times it can be used, place the corresponding number of turn/usage tokens on the card. The player can then use the card the corresponding number of times in the future. Each time the power is used, one of the turn/usage tokens is removed from the card. When the card no longer has any turn/usage tokens, it is discarded.
Throughout the game you will acquire attack points by playing cards. Whenever a player acquires attack points, they take the corresponding amount of attack tokens and they add them to the attack points section of their play mat. There is no limit on the amount of attack tokens that a player can acquire. These points can be used at any time and are used for their monster’s attacks.
When a player decides to attack, they choose which monster is going to attack and which attack they are going to use. In order to use an attack the player discards the corresponding number of attack point tokens. The player then chooses which monster they are going to attack.
After the attack has been announced, both players involved have the ability to use counter cards or support cards in order to defend against or bolster the attack. If a player evades or negates all of the damage of an attack, the attacking player still loses all of the attack power tokens they used for the attack. If the attacking player does damage to the target monster, the attacked monster receives damage tokens equal to the damage they received. If a monster has received damage equal to or higher than their health, the monster is defeated. The monster is placed in the player’s rubble pile, and the attacking player receives one prize point.
End of Game
The first player to earn five prize points wins the game. If two players receive their fifth prize point at the same time, the tied players continue until one player earns an additional prize point.
My Thoughts on Monster Mania
In Monster Mania you get to control of a bunch of gigantic monsters. Like most people with access to a group of large monsters, you decide to have them fight other giant monsters. On your turn you draw cards, play them for their effect, and then potentially discard some cards. Most of the cards you play in the game will either give you additional monsters to fight for you or aid your monsters in some way. Attacking is simple as you just choose an attack (making sure you have enough power for the attack) and which monster you want to attack. Both of the affected players then have an opportunity to play cards or use activated support cards to impact the attack. If any damage is dealt, the target takes the corresponding amount of damage tokens. When a monster has received more damage than their health, the monster is defeated and the attacking player scores a point. The first player to score five points wins the game.
As I was playing Monster Mania, the first thought that came to my mind was that the game seemed quite familiar. As a kid I played a few different CCGs like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. I am unsure of the inspiration behind Monster Mania, but it does share quite a few mechanics with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and other CCGs. If I were to quickly describe Monster Mania, I would say that it is a combination of Pokemon mixed with Yu-Gi-Oh where you get everything in the box so you don’t have to worry about booster packs.
The reason I make the comparison between Monster Mania and Pokemon/Yu-Gi-Oh is that I can clearly see the mechanics in Monster Mania that were inspired by those games and other similar games. The obvious thing that Monster Mania shares with both games is that like the other two games, the players are using monsters to fight against one another. From Pokemon specifically Monster Mania includes a mechanic where you have to power up your attacks before you can use them. The other obvious similarity between the two games is that you have to defeat a given number of monsters in order to win the game. The main similarities between Monster Mania and Yu-Gi-Oh is the use of trap cards, and the theme of Monster Mania resembles Yu-Gi-Oh more than Pokemon.
While Monster Mania shares things in common with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and other CCGs; there are several areas where Monster Mania differentiates itself.
I would say that the biggest difference is the fact that Monster Mania is not a CCG like the other games. Instead of having to purchase various booster packs, Monster Mania includes all of the cards you need. Outside of not having to waste money on the booster packs, this actually has some impact on the gameplay itself. In Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and most other CCGs; each player builds their own deck of cards that they will draw cards from. This is not the case in Monster Mania as all of the players share the same set of cards. I have some mixed feelings about the players not having their own decks.
On the positive side, there is no need to spend a lot of time crafting the perfect deck. Players could easily spend hours trying to craft the perfect deck. In Monster Mania you can just bring out the game, shuffle the cards and start playing the game. This makes the game more accessible as a lot of newcomers to a game don’t want to waste a bunch of time building a deck for a game they don’t know a lot about. With every player using the same deck, no player has a built in advantage due to having access to better cards than the other players.
On the negative side, it does reduce some of the flexibility that you would otherwise have in a CCG. In most CCGs you can craft your deck to focus on your strengths while avoiding your weaknesses. By building your deck before you even start the game, you know going in what your strategy is going to be for the whole game. Therefore you can use every decision to support your overall strategy. This is not really the case in Monster Mania. While you definitely need a strategy in Monster Mania, you have to be more flexible with it. Your strategy will most likely come down to what type of cards you draw in the game. You need to be willing to change your strategy to fit the cards that you draw as you likely will lose if you stick to a strict strategy.
I think the other major difference between Monster Mania and other CCGs is how energy is handled. In games like Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, there are different types of energy. In Pokemon you assign these to specific Pokemon and in Magic the Gathering you have a pool of resources that you use to perform different actions. In Monster Mania you only have one pool of energy, aptly named attack points. These attack points are acquired throughout the game by playing various cards. The player uses these attack points in order to attack. Unlike the other games, these points are lost once they are used up.
I would say that maintaining a large pool of attack points is key for your success in the game. If you don’t have attack points, you can’t do a whole lot in the game outside of possibly defending yourself. After getting some strong monster cards out in front of you, you want to get cards that allow you to keep replenishing your attack points. Having a lack of attack points at a key point in the game could be the difference between winning and losing the game. As it is sometimes hard to get attack points, you need to be wise in how you decide to use your attack points as you don’t want to waste them.
How you choose to your use your attack points brings me to the topic of the monsters themselves. For the most part I think the designer did a pretty good job of balancing the monsters. I would say that most of the monsters in the game can be separated into two different groups with some variation in between.
The first type of monsters are what I like to refer to as the quick hitters. These monsters have the least amount of hit points but they generally don’t need a lot of energy to attack. These monsters are quite efficient with their attacks where you get quite a bit of damage for each attack point that you use. These monsters are pretty good at dealing a lot of damage quickly but they can be killed quite easily.
On the other hand are the monsters that are the hard hitters. These monsters generally have more hit points and they also have more devastating attacks. The issue is that their attacks require quite a bit of energy. This means that it will take some time for you to build up enough energy in order to attack. Thus some of the quicker monsters can get in a couple attacks before one of the hard hitters can hit back.
Between these two extremes there are some monsters that are a mix of the two types. For the most part I like how Monster Mania approaches the monsters in the game. There is some variation between the monsters but I don’t really see any monsters being significantly better or worse than the other monsters. The quick hitters can attack quicker and are more efficient with energy, while the heavy hitters have more health and can deal more damage in one attack. I like that the monsters are pretty balanced as it means that one player won’t get an advantage in the game solely because they drew better cards.
The counter, environmental and support cards vary a little more than the monsters. While there really aren’t any worthless cards in the game (outside of you drawing cards that you can’t use), there are cards that are quite a bit better than others. There are some cards that are really powerful while others only give you a small benefit. There are cards that perform basically the same function but one is clearly better than the other. For example there is one card that heals one of your monsters five health points while another card heals you ten points. Clearly the second card is superior to the first. In a game like this there obviously has to be some degree of difference between the cards as the game would be pretty boring if every card was basically the same. This does add some luck to the game though, as a player that draws better cards is going to have an advantage in the game.
I would say that the biggest problem that I had with the cards is that I wish there was a little more variety in the cards. The game actually comes with quite a few cards (210) but there are a couple copies of a lot of the cards. Outside of the duplicate cards, there are several types of cards that have similar effects. I applaud the game for including 18 different monsters (some of these are stretch goals) which I applaud the game for. Unfortunately in some cases the only difference between the monsters is their name and picture. There are several monsters that have the exact same stats (health and attacks). I just wish the cards had a little more variety. The designer has plans for an expansion(s) based on the success of the Kickstarter. I hope these expansions eventually come out as I think they will improve the game. While playing the game we actually came up with some unique types of monsters that we think could add some variety to the game. Some of the ideas we came up with included:
- A monster that has a lot of health but has really weak attacks. This monster could be used as a damage shield for a player as there are various counter cards that lets you move damage from a target monster to another monster.
- A monster with little health that could deal a lot of damage. This monster could wreck havoc on other monsters but would be an easy target to be eliminated.
- We also thought some of the monsters could possibly have some special abilities. Maybe instead of being able to attack, a monster could play a support role. Maybe each turn it could generate attack points or heal other monsters.
Update: After hearing back from the designer, these concerns seem to be addressed in a planned expansion pack. The expansion pack is going to have unique monsters similar to what I mentioned above. It also is going to include unique ability cards, and even two new types of cards (Landscape and Event).
On the difficulty spectrum I would say that Monster Mania is an easy to moderately difficult game. The basic gameplay is quite simple. You draw some cards, play some cards, occasionally discard some cards, and attack the other players’ monsters. All of these mechanics are quite simple especially for people who have played one of these type of games before. I would say you can explain the game’s basics within around 5-10 minutes. Most of the game’s difficulty comes from the cards themselves. Basically you have to read all of the text on each of your cards to know what you can do with them. If you can read the cards and understand what they do, you shouldn’t really have any difficulty playing the game.
It might annoy some people having to read so much text, but the text on the cards is where most of the strategy in the game comes from. While Monster Mania is not some heavy strategy game, strategy is a key component in the game. The strategy in Monster Mania basically comes down to figuring out the best way to use your cards together in order to benefit yourself and hurt the other players. Players that can find good ways to combine their cards in interesting combos will have an advantage in the game. I think Monster Mania does a really good job in this area creating cards that have interesting impacts on the gameplay. I also like how quite a few of the cards actually give you two options on how you can play the card. This gives players some options which allows them to craft their own strategies on the fly.
I would say that it is kind of hard to really pinpoint an exact length for Monster Mania for a couple reasons. First the number of players is going to have an impact on the length of the game. Having more players in the game is naturally going to extend the game as more players will have to take their turn. Your familiarity with the game is also going to have a pretty big impact on the length. Your first couple of games are going to take longer as you have to familiarize yourself with all of the cards. When you are more familiar with the game, you only will have to skim the cards to know what each card does which should save quite a bit of time.
Most CCGs generally only support two players or at max four players. I was actually surprised when I saw that Monster Mania supports 1-6 players. We ended up playing the game with only two players. Basically the two player game plays like most card games where you fight against the other player. Players have to switch between attacking the other player’s monsters while protecting their own. If you have ever played one of these type of games before, you should have a good idea of what the two player game will play like.
I am kind of curious how the game would play with more or less than two players. In a free for all with more than two players, I see an additional layer of strategy as players don’t want to hurt another monster just to allow another player to finish them off and get the prize point. I think this could potentially lead to some problems if the players are stubborn. I personally think the team modes will probably work better. The team modes look interesting as the players can heal and defend each other’s monsters; but they can’t use their teammates cards and each player is in charge of their own pool of attack points. Finally the game has a single player mode which consists of different challenges to complete where you attack the “game’s” monsters like normal. Meanwhile the game draws cards that deal damage to you. While I don’t know how the single player or 2+ player modes work, I give the game credit for the variety of game modes that are included which support different player counts.
Update: The final version of the game also appears to include two additional game modes not included in the rulebook for the prototype copy of the game. There is a card drafting mode where each player randomly receives a 40 card deck with a certain number of each type of card. There is also a deck building mode where players take turns choosing cards to add to their own 40 card deck. Both of these modes sound interesting and I would like to check them out.
I would say that one of the things that initially intrigued me about Monster Mania was the game’s theme. Basically the game uses a Rampage/Godzilla theme of giant monsters attacking each other and destroying a city in the process. While there have been other board games that have used a similar theme, I was intrigued by it as it is a good theme for a board game and I have always liked this genre ever since playing the original Rampage video game. For the most part I think Monster Mania does a good job with the theme. The game never takes the theme too seriously and seems to be having fun with it. The monsters are inspired by giant monsters from pop culture but the game gives them their own unique twist. This includes quite a few of their attacks having “punny” names.
So before wrapping up, I want to quickly talk about the game’s component quality. The review copy of the game that I received was a prototype and the final version of the game is supposed to have improved components. Therefore take that into consideration when reading my thoughts on the components.
I would say that the component quality is a little hit or miss. On the positive side I think the cards are pretty good. As I mentioned earlier, the game has 210 cards which is quite a few cards. For the two player game you will never have to worry about running out of cards. The card quality is pretty good. I thought the artwork was good for the most part and the cards are designed in a way where you can quickly get the necessary information from each card. I also liked the inclusion of the play mats as they make it easy to keep your cards straight. While it has no impact on the actual gameplay, I also have to commend Monster Mania for something that I have never seen in another board game before. The game’s instructions actually include a list of achievements for the game. While achievements have been a fixture in video games for quite a while, I have never seen them in a board game before and they are a welcome sight.
On the negative side, the quality of the tokens could use some work. The tokens are made of a pretty thin cardboard. All of the tokens are not cut perfectly either which means that there are remnants left on some of the tokens. This can be a little distracting. This is a prototype copy of the game though so these should be fixed before the final version is released. If they aren’t fixed you could always replace them with other tokens as they are just used for reminders and serve no other purpose.
Should You Buy Monster Mania?
While Monster Mania’s giant monster battling theme was what originally intrigued me about the game, in the end what really sold me on the game was the gameplay. Basically Monster Mania plays like a combination of various CCGs like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Players play different monsters cards and support cards which are used to help a player’s monster in combat. Monster Mania is like a CCG where you get all of the cards instead of having to purchase booster packs, with the players sharing one deck. I enjoyed the gameplay for the most part as it does a good job balancing between being accessible, while giving players enough strategy as they find the best way to use their cards together. The cards for the most part are pretty balanced with a few cards being a little overpowered. Otherwise I wish there was a little more variety in the cards and some of the components could be improved. Overall though I enjoyed my time with Monster Mania.
At the end of the day, your enjoyment of Monster Mania is going to depend on whether you like the combat found in most CCGs. If you like card games like Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, or Yu-Gi-Oh I think you will enjoy your time with Monster Mania and should consider picking it up.
The Kickstarter campaign for Monster Mania is launching on December 1st. The standard pledge level is $50. With a Standard Pledge you will receive the following: the base game, your name will be added to the rulebook, a digital soundtrack that helps set the mood while playing the game, a phone wallpaper of the monster of your choosing, and a print and play version of the game (before Christmas). For $99 (Mania Pledge) you will receive all of the rewards from the Standard Pledge along with a Kickstarter exclusive comic series (Monster Mania Origins) and an Art of Monster Mania book.