Children of a certain age (mostly in their thirties and forties now) fondly remember UHF marathons of Godzilla movies and the classic Epyx movie monster computer game, Crush, Crumble, and Chomp. Back then, audiences didn’t care why Rodan and MechaGodzilla had teamed up against Mothra and the big green guy himself, so long as the kaiju smashed lots of buildings and beat each other up for most of the movie. You smiled, you ate your popcorn, and you cheered every time a monster got picked up and thrown into a skyskraper. Life was pretty darn good.
The new collectible miniatures game from Privateer Press, Monsterpocalypse, seeks to revisit those simpler days of movie monsters, bringing wonderously wanton destruction to the gaming table with a variety of pre-painted and pre-assembled monster miniatures.
I took Monsterpocalypse out for a spin with two gaming buddies recently. We purchased three of the starter kits and set out to see if Monsterpocalypse measured up to the glory days of movie monsters.
Right out of the box, we were impressed by the size and scale of the monster figures, which come in two “forms,” one normal (and painted), the other in translucent plastic representing an energized or just upset version of the monster. But one of the monster miniatures was bent badly and almost broken, sort of dampening our initial enthusiasm.
The starter kits also contained four smaller miniatures, also painted, and two buildings of agreeable heft. For some reason, though, the starter kits all contain the exact same mix of small units and buildings. While the units represent a fair cross-section of all possible unit types—one flies, some do melee damage, some do ranged damage—for a game that is sold primarily as randomized boosters, there was a depressing sense of uniformity on our gaming table. We had hoped for more variety, though in fairness the starter kit box does indicate that each kit has the same small units and buildings, with only the large monsters being random.
So, immediately, we felt like we wanted to get more units, especially since the rules as written penalize the use of units from a faction different than the monster. Granted, that’s sort of the business plan of a collectible miniatures game, but the game felt incomplete out of the box.
The rules themselves were easy to grasp and feature a nice resource balancing mechanic that forces players to use both monsters and units, and the buildings on the map are very destructible, said crushing featuring keenly in any winning strategy. We were playing within about half an hour of reading through the rules. As one of us noted, it’s all about destruction, about always causing carnage every turn. And we happily smashed our way across the map toward each other.
Again, though, the fixed set of building miniatures affected our play somewhat, as one of us got a monster that could eat people from apartment buildings to regain health. Half the buildings on the board were apartment buildings, since each starter kit has one of those and one skyskraper-type building, and there were no corresponding building bonuses for the other monster forms we received. We forged on, though we did try to find someplace that sold boosters on our lunch break—perhaps the whole point of a fixed set of units and buildings in the starter kit . . .
We definitely enjoyed the game and have since begun to collect additional figures, but I do have to gripe about the quality of the “play mats” (aka maps). Made of thick, glossy paper and multiply folded to fit into the starter kit form factor, they exhibit an annoying tendency to tear quickly at the crease corners after a single use. And even under plexiglass, they don’t want to lay flat. Fewer folds are your friends.
We’ve gotten our money’s worth so far, the game is visually compelling, and the rules encourage straight-forward agressive play, so on the whole, we were pleased. These aren’t tortured monsters aggrieved at the state of the environment; these monsters just want to crush stuff, like proper old-school monsters.
The lack of initial variety in the starter kits, the poor quality of the maps, and the damaged monster mini were less than satisfactory, but we’ll be playing this one again nonetheless.