By April 8, 2008

Monsters Menace America game review

In an effort to expand my collection of board games that look really cool but we never actually play, I purchased Monsters Menace America from Tanga.com in December of 2006. It so intrigued my friends that I’ve only played it three times so far. I kept trying to push it on them, but they wanted to play Settlers of Catan, Pecking Order, Magic: the Gathering, or any host of other games. Even Hoity Toity got a nod over MmA.

Sometimes life tries to give you omens and portents. STAY AWAY FROM THIS GAME, PLAY SOME OTHER SHITTY GAME INSTEAD!! But most times, I just don’t listen.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/4257-2/IMG_7509.JPG

Here’s the game board, and it really shows the best part of the game: all of the cool ass monsters and military pieces. There are different monsters, all with different attributes. Each player also controls a branch of the military (except for the National Guard, which is shared by all players). Each branch of the military has different attributes and units, too.

Protip: military units are mostly worthless. They are very weak compared to the monsters — and that’s okay, from a thematic standpoint. You can’t deploy more than one military unit per base per turn, so that means you have to spend a lot of turns clustering your guys together so that they stand a chance against a giant floating eyeball. The problem with this strategy is that the giant floating eyeball just fucked up New York City and gained up to 18 life … and your units only do one to two points of damage apiece. Talk about pissing upwind.

The object of the game is to battle other monsters to the death and win the Monster Challenge. 90% of the game is played before the Monster Challenge. Monsters can’t fight each other, and move around America stomping on major cities, military bases, and famous places/attractions. You earn life by stomping on cities, keep other players from deploying as many units by stomping military bases, and earn “Infamy” points by stomping attractions. Each Infamy token is good for an extra attack.

Monsters may mutate by traveling to special sites on the board. The monster’s controller draws a mutation card and immediate plays it face up. Most mutations are lame, such as being able to swim in the very small number of water spaces on the board. Some are devastating, such as doing an extra point of damage for each attack, or rolling an extra attack every time you roll a 6 during combat.

You can also draw military technology cards, and again the cards range from yawn-inducing (units move one extra space) to “wow, the humans have a chance” with cards like the X-Fighter, which are bad ass superjets.

The game lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. Like I said earlier, most of the game is spent dicking around the board collecting life, mutation, and tech cards. The Monster Challenge begins when the last “stomp” token is used on a site. After slow-balling it for an hour, the Monster Challenge is a tweaked-out dice roll extravaganza. The first monster gets to use all of their attacks first — three by default, with as many Infamy tokens as they want to spend. Most times the opposing monster was so rattled by this initial barrage that they couldn’t come back. In a multiplayer game, whomever got challenged first had their ass handed to them.

The game has absolutely no strategy at this point and it’s just a matter of who can roll a 4 or higher.

If I were to ever play this game again, here are things I would change:

  1. You may deploy as many of your units as legally allowed after turn one.
  2. Cities only give hit points of health, not hit dice worth of health.
  3. Something about the Monster Challenge has to change. It’s just too boring right now. I’m not sure what the change would be, but it makes for a very droll ending.
  4. Get rid of Infamy tokens. I can’t really think of a way to keep them in the game without them giving whomever goes first a significant edge.

Monsters Menace America is the quintessential “American-style” board game. It has lots of moving parts, confusing and unnecessarily complicated rules, but little to no strategy. It is in stark contrast to a “European-style” board game like Settlers that has few pieces, few rules, but lots of strategy and a very robust “meta-game,” where who you are playing with is just as important as the game you’re playing.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/4254-2/IMG_7507.JPG

I should have followed this guy’s example and surrendered on turn one.

My buddy ndpants said it best, “I want to find out who made this game, go to their house, and make them tell me why they made such a shitty game.” Monsters Menace America is a clever idea that collapses under its own weight at the end.

I’d pass on Monsters Menace America, even at the $15 shipped price I paid from Tanga. Yeah, it’s a cheap game, but why would you play this when there are other, better, choices in your gaming stable?

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5 Comments on "Monsters Menace America game review"

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  1. roclar says:

    Having been on the receiving end of a military beatdown sponsored trip to Hollywood, I think the military is somewhat balanced. Considering that I squISHaed all the dice roll lifegaining cities on the northeastern seaboard, thats a pretty decent accomplishment for the military. Two to four attacks took out my monster’s starting life total plus an additional 6d6 of life. So I think the military deployment rate is relatively sufficient. Besides, you don’t have to send all of your foes to Hollywood to win, just have to nip at their heels enough to be the lead monsta at the end.

    IIRC most of the heavy life gain cities are also easily in range of military bases allowing opponents to build up units and chop away at whatever life was gained. Whomever had just stomped NYC would of course have the option of going into hiding after the quick 3d6 of life, but thats still most likely 2 turns of not gaining more life, infamy or mutations. So I don’t think changing the amount of hit points gained per city is that big of a deal.

    Similarly, I didn’t think infamy tokens were that bad. Their were a couple of fights particularly in the second game that both monsters got to dump their infamy tokens at the beginning of the battle and still it came down to rolling 3d6 a piece to see who won.

    The final battle at the end is kind of anti-climatic, but its not that large a percentage of the play time. As you said its maybe 10% at the end. I kind of like the idea of the roll off at the end. It adds randomness yet still the monster who was in the best shape at the end has the best shot of being the winner.

    This game is far from the next Settlers of Catan. But it does have more depth then Ticket to Ride and after a couple of play throughs, I think it wouldn’t be that thought intensive either. The second time we played through was much smoother then the first and was actually enjoyable even though my purple blob ended up out of the game before the challenge. Assuming everybody knows how to play this seems like a decent, unintensive, social game.

    Given all that, I am not sure what price point I’d recommend or not recommend buying it at. $15 doesn’t seem that bad, but there are a lot of games in the unintensive social game category for four folks. I wouldn’t advocate paying much more.

  2. ConFigures says:

    Hey, I’ve played that, and I … kind of agree. I like the monsters and the idea, but it’s so fiddly and random at times. It’s kind of a shame.

  3. Garada says:

    I got this cheap from eBay a while ago, and just played it the day after Thanksgiving with 2 of my co-workers. We all had a blast! The first game was a bit slow paced [the rule book is confusing and poorly laid out], but at the end, everyone wanted to play again. The second game flowed much smoother and was a riot.

    We made up a few house rules as we went along [mainly for mechanics that the rules didn’t explain clearly], that seemed to help a bit.

    Overall, if you can find it for $15-20, and especially if you like Gian Monsters [who doesn’t] it’s worth a try.

  4. Spectre says:

    I’ve played this as well…..I think I’ll stic kwith ZOMBIES!!!….There’s nothing like a whole days worthe of ZOMBIES!!! where you play with every expansion they came out with….with some minor tweaking of the rules of course.

  5. Garada says:

    Oh man, I LOVE Zombies!!! I have sets 1 thru 5 [got my eye on 6, 6.66 and 7] with extra zombies, custom made elements, etc.

    That being said, my love of zombie movies is rivalled only by my love of giant monster movies, and I quite liked ‘Monsters Menace America’. Not as much as Z!!!, but nothing else really comes close for me.

    I think with some add-ons, MMA could have become a much more robust and strategic game. It’s too bad really that Avalon Hill seems to have discontinued the game.

    Is anyone here interested in the game enough to try out some custom made add-ons for MMA that I have created?

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