There’s always something to learn. Fun fact: Godzilla, Minilla, Gabara, Kamacuras, Kumonga, Ebirah, Anguirus, Gorosaurus, Manda, Daikondura, Maneater, and Rodan are all kaiju living on Monster Island. Readers interested in a gaming monster island should read further about Mayday Games new release, Isle of Monsters.
Isle of Monsters is a card drafting, set collection game for 2-5 players that takes about 45 minutes. It’s played best with 5 players.
Players act as monster wranglers aiming to collect the right group of monsters to scare “the crowd” and their neighbors. Each monster is aligned with a type (earth, fire, water) and monsters can scare either from being the strongest or by having a type that scares another type (i.e. water scares fire). Each time a monster scares, it collects a certain amount of points. The player with the most points at the end wins.
The main island boards which reserve space for wooden food tokens and the monster cards are decent. The cloth bag and cardboard point tokens are also of fine quality, nothing noteworthy or disappointing.
The art style throughout the game is whimsical, bright, and fun, capturing perfectly what is meant to be a family game. The monster art gives the feeling of Pokemon monsters in a range of maturation, from newborn to grumpy biggun. All in all, the art is very inviting, especially for kids.
How to Play:
At the beginning of the game, the main board and island boards are seeded with food tokens. In addition, the island boards are stacked with monster cards.
There are two main phases: the Nuture Phase to capture monsters and the Scare Phase where points are gained for scaring.
The Nuture Phase is a one-action per turn phase where players can take food tokens or monsters from the board. Monsters can be taken from the two island boards adjacent to the player. Food tokens are limited and can be taken from either the main board or island boards adjacent to the player. Monsters taken are placed in a player’s personal cages. If food is taken, it must be used to immediately feed monsters on card spaces that match the food type.
Any monsters that have been completely fed (all their food token spaces are filled) are available for the following Scare Phase and all Scare Phases thereafter. In the Scare phase, players will choose one or more monsters secretly of a single type and then play them simultaneously. Each monster a player uses has their Scare Value (number in the upper left) contribute to their hand strength. The player with the highest Scare Value total wins three points.
Monsters also are able to scare neighbors if their type scares the adjacent player’s monster type. For example, if Bob (sitting next to Linda and Raj) plays an Earth monster, he can scare Linda’s Water monster. Raj, however, played an Earth monster which is not scared. For scaring by type, a player earns one point per monster scared. If players have more monsters remaining in their hands, the Scare Phase continues with another playing of cards.
At the end of a round, if the deck of monsters still has cards, food and monster cards get refilled on the board. When the deck of monsters is exhausted, the game ends. The player with the most Scare points wins.
Isle of Monsters is a game that rests on the strength of the allure of its theme. It’s got the artistic attraction that’s just right for engaging small kids for a game with mom and dad. Unfortunately, that’s where the positive notes end.
If you look past the theme, the opening of the game is filled with auto-moves of taking valuable monsters and feeding them. In the Nuture Phase, most monsters need more than one round to get fully fed, so there are lots of times when players must pass simply because there are no moves available. In the Scare Phase, early rounds become instances of only a few players playing monsters and collecting nominal points for doing so.
Near the end of the game, once players have built up a cadre of monsters, the game gets much more interesting. Players should have hands filled with cards, but the card play feels a little automatic and plays are only mildly filled with tension when selecting the right combination of cards from hand. In addition, some memory skill is needed here to remember the monsters that other players have in hand.
Overall, this is where the major lack of enjoyment comes in. Besides the randomness that comes with the food and monster card draws, there just isn’t enough excitement in the Scare Phase. A player’s total Scare value and ability to scare neighbors just falls flat. A younger gamer could be interested in this as it’s essentially a card battle, but getting to the late game where the action is will really take some time. And by that time, some gamers might be done.
Isle of Monsters just barely edges itself into two star range. It’s certainly not a bad game and there are decisions to be made. Unfortunately, they really fall into a zone that is more friendly to children and those who have the patience for the real game to get going. This may not be the same two groups.
If you’d like to get a copy of Isle of Monsters, you can pick it up for about $25.
Final Score: 2 Stars – It’s random and not exceptionally fun until later in the game. Good for kids, but even they may get tired of it.
• Lots of randomness
• Obvious plays most of the game
• Starts very slowly