Before I begin, I was sent a prototype of the game and will receive a copy of the game should it fund. This is not a paid preview. If you would rather watch a video of this preview you can check it out below. Back it on Kickstarter here.
So last year a friend of mine turned me on to this dude I had never heard of named Jonny Pac who was making a game with a company I had never heard of Final Frontier Games. That game was Merchants Cove, and it opened my eyes to just what a euro game could actually be. Since then I have not shied away from Euro games, but have delved deeper and deeper into the genre. Since then I have played a few more games from FFG, and have enjoyed all of them.
So with that said, when they reached out to me and asked me if I could manage a last minute preview of Monsters on Board, I said yes without hesitation. Especially, when I learned that Drake Villareal was working on the solo mode. For those of you that do not know his work, I think he is possibly the hottest solo mode designer out there right now. I would pick him over Automna factory any day of the week…and AF does very good work!
So in Monsters on Board you find yourself in the highly unenviable position of having car fulls of Monster Lords on their way to a party at your place, and you are out of Spook Juice. I mean you are totally out. You don’t even have any of those frozen from concentrate versions in your freezer, nor do you have and powdered versions. The only option is to get some, and get some now!
To do this you will be sending your goons out into the human towns and scare the bejeezus out of them. Why? Obviously because the only way to make Spook Juice is with the distilled screams of those silly meat sacks that call themselves humans. Just don’t touch them, they are sticky.
The core of the game is dice drafting. You will roll your dice, and place them in your fearmobiles, pick one and send the car off to your opponents, while they are sending their car around to you. Once each player has 4 dice you move on. Each die coordinates with a same colored goon who will get to advance through human lands to scare folks. As the goons move through the towns you will gain various bonuses and actions that you can take to manipulate your dice, and the path through town.
Each die has a variety of symbols on them that allow you adjust your dice and path, and unlock more scoring options for the endgame. The higher numbered dice are worth more points at the end of the game, but the lower numbers have more actions. Come the end of the game you will be comparing your dice set up to the secret “prophesy” card you drew at the beginning of the game for more spook juice points.
The game plays over 6 rounds and at the end of each your will have the opportunity to purchase from an ever changing board of Great Old Ones and ghosts. The ghosts will add even more actions to your goon paths, and the Old Ones give you even more end game scoring options.
At the end of 6 rounds the player with the most Spook Juice is the winner.
So what do I think?
The art, theme, and components are adorable. There is something just awesome about having a Halloween game that is cute, not gross or scary. It opens you up to so many other options of whom you can play the game with.
Mechanically I think the actions on the dice are very tightly balanced, and really is enjoyable. You ALWAYS have something that you can do, and there is almost never a time when you take an action and you do not get to do anything. I also appreciate games that allow for simultaneous play, cutting down on time spent waiting in a game that is closer to multi player solitaire. Finally, I really love the prophesy cards. Having that target to work towards the whole game gives you direction which is so necessary in a game that you could feel overwhelmed by choices in.
There is one thematic miss to me in this game, that is kind of sticking in my gullet. The monsters show up in a car, and get off at a dock…what? Shouldn’t they either be in a boat and get off at a dock, or in a car and get off at a grand entry? I dunno.
I think the game needs more Old One variety and much more prophesy card variety. If your opponents can figure out early on which prophesy you are working on they can start to block you if they choose, which is a bummer.
Edit: Several more of these have been unlocked as stretch goals.
Finally, a quick warning. This is a game that is very tight and delightful, but you do have to choose a strategy fairly early on and stick to it. If you try to do everything, you will wind up with a whole lot of nothing. Not a bad thing, just something to be wary of.
Bringing it all together
Monsters on Board is a gorgeous dice drafting game, with a adorably monstrous theme. The mechanics are tight, with the actions gained from the dice and the secret scoring cards being highlights…along with the adorable monster minis. The game is light enough to be a great option for a family to play on Halloween, and quick enough to not feel like it is an “event.” I would like to see a little more variety in some of the cards, and you do have to pick a strategy and stick to it, more or less, in the beginning stages of the game. This is a game that is not hard to play, and is fun.
Monster not like words much!
* Promises to have great components, adorable art and theme
* Super tight mechanics
* Dice drafting, combines with mechanics on the dice in a delightful way
* Really enjoy the end game scoring secret objectives
* Could use additional variety in end game scoring cards
* Why does the car pull up to the dock?! People want to know!
* The game is filled with options, but you kind of have to pick one and go with it early in the game