By Anthony “LibrariaNPC” DeMinico, 12 December 2018
I don’t normally review board games, but when I saw Monster Slaughter last year…I had to make an exception. I mean, it was a board game loaded with pop-culture references, mostly 80’s-based, and turned the typical slasher-film trope on its ear.
Instead of playing someone escaping the monster, you get to be the monster.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, my copy of the game has finally arrived after crossing the ocean, with all of the glorious additional minis and other items only available via backing the Kickstarter.
And now I’m here to share the wonderful monsters with you, and not just an unboxing like two weeks ago; no, I’m here to give you all the gory details.
Writer’s Note: The copy reviewed includes Kickstarter Exclusive content. Standard copies may see some differences in box content.
Monster Slaughter is a board game in which you play the monsters as they try to kill the college kids that are partying at a lone cabin in the woods. Each player takes a family of monsters (Vampires, Werewolves, Golems, Zombies, and more) and tries to be the one to place the most kills over the course of the game.
It is pitched for 2-5 players, ages 14+, and states an estimated play time of 45-60 minutes.
==What You Get==
For us Kickstarter Backers, I have to say that what we get is “a lot.” In addition to the core game (with “outdoor” tiles, 3D cabin game board with room tiles, and required cards/minis/dice), backers were given the “Toolshed” expansion (another 3D board with cards), as well as the Kickstarter exclusive miniatures (for both “guests” and monster families), respective dice, and cards.
In this set, we are sitting at 55 miniatures, 174 Cards (with sleeves), 10 Dice, three sheets of cardboard tokens (totalling 277 tokens), as well as the rulebook and scenario book.
The version that you will find in stores won’t include some of the families, guests, or the Toolshed Expansion.
For starters, the sheer amount of stuff you get in this game is intense. While this may lead to some overload for some, I’m enjoying it because it ensures you don’t get the same game twice. With eleven Monster Families, five party guests, and sixteen “Special Guests”, you can play a number of variations of the same game and still have new experiences, and that’s before you even factor in the Scenario Book!
I also want to note that these miniatures have plenty of other uses if you are a fan of tabletop roleplaying games. While some of the monsters are a bit silly (like the skateboard-riding werewolf kid), most can be repurposed for other games, especially the Special Guests as player characters in modern-themed games.
The mechanics for the game are also simple, even though there are a number of moving parts. Each character gets 2 (or more) actions per turn to Move, Search, Smash Doors, Scare, or Attack. Thankfully, it’s all simple; movement is via “zones” (sides of a house, then by room; if you’ve played Fate, this is simple), actions are “contested” (roll dice and count icons; winner has the most), and the rest is simple math and drawing cards. While there’s a lot to take in, the various visual elements make the game rather intuitive, and once you get a session or two under your belt, everything moves quickly; even with checking a few rules, our second game was only about a half an hour and was utterly brutal, resulting in a massive kill score, both literally and figuratively.
I’m also fond of how the bonuses for the Families are handled. Each Monster family has a distinct bonus to differentiate themselves from the others, whether it’s a designated bonus (like an extra die when searching), an extra action (like an extra move, or an extra Smash Door action), or just a flat out special ability (like walking through walls). It really does make each family a unique, especially when you factor in the card bonuses and effects as well. There are some balance issues there, like the Maniacs automatically dealing one damage every time they find someone, or how families with free actions absolutely dominate in a two player game, but overall things are well balanced and easy enough to hack.
The theme of the game lends itself to the overall enjoyment of the game. While being a horror movie fan is helpful, being familiar with the tropes is the important part. My friends and I frequently found ourselves making jokes about what was happening in the game while stabbing at the tropes of bad horror movies, like how we were always finding Britney the Cheerleader in the water closet, and how Kam, the one we referred to as the “drunk hillbilly”, always seemed to wreck every monster he came across. Playing this reminded me of the times my college friends and I played Grave Robbers From Outer Space, and the sort of hilarious descriptions from that frequently came to mind playing this.
While the game requires some setup time (building the cabin, building and shuffling the decks, etc) and related teardown (packing up the cabin, breaking down the decks, etc), the gameplay and the enjoyment of the game is well worth the time and effort spent on it.
While I hope this is an issue just for the Kickstarter backers, I have to raise a concern about how it was shipped out. The packages were sent out by Ship Naked, and even though my package was marked as “Ordered” on October 25th (when they arrived to Ship Naked) and had a shipping label set for November 7th, my package didn’t arrive to my post office until November 26th. The original expected date was pre-Halloween, so it was a bit frustrating, and there are many backers who are still impatiently waiting for things to arrive. I do hope that ordering the game has better shipping options available in the future, but I’ll put this into “The Bad” for the time being in hopes that it is an issue that will be resolved by Ankama in future projects.
That said, now it’s time for the actual item!
I want to be on record and say that at first, the game stinks. Literally. Once I cracked things open, I had an cloud of stench that was a cross of plastic, dye, and other chemicals that just assaulted my sense of smell. I’d suggest anyone wanting to play this to open it and all of the packaging and let it all air out for a day or two before you actually want to play the game. It took about two days for mine to stop reeking, and I left it out for nearly a week before sealing it all back up again.
Overall, I’m not entirely certain about the physical quality of the game. While it’s not necessarily bad, it’s not exactly great, either. If anything, it’s inconsistent. The cards feel a bit cheap and flimsy (I bent one pretty badly while getting them apart), as does the packaging that is designed to hold everything. The minis fluctuate between being highly detailed to being vague shapes of plastic, which can be a letdown if you really liked the idea behind that particular monster.
And that leads me to the concern of durability in the long run. All of the 3D components for the game are made out of printed cardboard, some of which were “flaking” upon arrival, that lock together via tabs and slots. This alone isn’t inherently a bad thing (as I know my tiles for Descent have lasted a good while), but it is a concern due to the design of the game. Unlike Descent, the game needs to be taken apart every time it is put away, as the cabin actually acts as the base of the box exterior.
Yes, the base of the exterior box is the centerpiece of your board.
While this isn’t entirely bad (unless you’re like me and find yourself hauling games to other locations and often get caught in storms), it is a bit of a concern as most of the cabin’s walls are held in place via tension. I’m afraid that general setup and teardown will wear down the cardboard sooner rather than later, doubly so if you have a cat that likes to jump into said box. As of this writing, I’ve set up the cabin three times, and there’s already a bit of bowing going on with the cabin walls, as well as a number of torn door tokens.
There’s also the issue of not everything from the game fits back into the box, nor is it secure. As was noted during my unboxing post, the central board is the base of the box, and there’s another box that stores everything. The plastic that holds the minis in place is flimsy, and nothing is really secured. There are also not enough spaces to store all of the cardboard bits (possibly due to the Kickstarter extras), resulting in the classic reliance of sandwich bags and the like to store everything. Additionally, once I tried to get everything back in, it felt like I had to cram it all inside the box, which lead to the box bulging a bit…which means I’m further warping my cabin if I leave it stored as originally sent. I’ll be looking into alternative storage options, but because of the design, I’m not sure what will work out in the long term without making an entirely new board of interlocked 3D-printed parts.
Essentially, there are some wonderful and bold design ideas, but I’m just not sure if they’ll make for a long-lasting board game. I feel as though the board itself has a built-in half-life that won’t necessarily survive the tests of time, which is a major concern considering the investment.
After many bloody encounters, Monster Slaughter has slaughtered it’s way to three and a half buns.
The game has a number of great things going for it: it’s aesthetically pleasing, there’s plenty of nods to tropes from horror and sci-fi films, the mechanic is easy to grasp but still provides a number of strategic elements, there are a ton of minis to repurpose, and the game is overall just a ton of fun. Seriously, the fun factor alone nets this game a killer score, not to mention the sheer amount of replayability.
Sadly, the game suffers from poor packaging and storage options, a reliance on flimsy cardboard elements as the centerpiece, and inconsistent quality with the production of materials, which includes the minis. The quality is a major deterrent, but even so, I still think it should eke out that extra half a bun instead of a base three.
If you are a fan of cheesy horror films, adore sci-fi and horror tropes, and enjoy fast-paced gameplay, you will find a worthy investment in Monster Slaughter. If you are hard on your board games, dislike horror/sci-fi tropes, or hate required prep time to play a game, you’ll want to give Monster Slaughter a pass.
At this time, Monster Slaughter is still being sent out to backers of the game. Purchasing it via Kickstarter was €70, or about $80 US after current currency conversions. You can follow along with announcements on the official Monster Slaughter website.