One thing that science fiction media has taught us over the years is that it’s never a good idea to create monsters. They always eventually turn on their creator, wreak havoc in the countryside, and then eventually get destroyed in such a way that if it’s profitable they can bring it back alive for the sequel. This is proven fact even in board games like in the game we will be previewing today.
Teratozoic is light deck building game where each round the players will attempt to create the best monster from cards in their own gene pool as well as random mutations that occur each generation. Throughout the game players will be collecting cards aiming to assemble the biggest monsters at the end of the game to be the dominate species. Let’s get into describing the game to see if it’s something you would like to support on Kickstarter.
In Teratozoic, mankind has decided that the traditional weapons of war are outdated and look to genetically engineered monsters to be the new frontier. Unfortunately, the normal monster scenario occurs and humans are no match for what they have created. They decide to use their old standby solution, nuke them. From this decision two outcomes arose, humans wiped themselves from the planet and secondly created a highly mutagenic environment where the monsters could thrive and evolve. This is where the players step in.
Each player will get a set of cards that will represent their monster species’ gene pool. Each round, players will build colorful monsters from a combination of their gene pool and the random mutation deck. The goal for each round it’s to build monsters with the highest numerical value. For winning the round, the player will be able to take cards from anyone’s monster played this round and add them to their gene pool. At the end of the game, players will take all cards they have collected to build the most complete monsters they can. The player who is able to use the most cards to do this is the winner of the game.
How to Play:
The game begins with separating out the Era cards that will dictate the rules for each generation or round of play until the Era changes. We will go into the description of those rules when we get into the four phases of play. Each player will take one of the starting decks which are made up of six cards with values one through six. Players will then shuffle this deck to form their starting gene pool. The rest of the cards are then mixed together to form the random mutations deck where players will draw cards during the game. Players will look at the Era and it will show how many cards you should draw from your hand from your gene pool and random mutations decks. With that overview out of the way now we can get to the phases of the game.
After players have looked at their hand they must declare how many cards they are going to play. There are a minimum number of cards you must play that’s dependent on the Era. Any cards they don’t want to play are held back and not shown to the rest of the players.
Now players will build monsters on the table from the cards they have decided to play. Players can play all their cards as separate monsters or connect their cards together with monster parts, known as loose ends, that touch the outside of the cards. Once every monster has been created, scoring will occur. The primary way to score points is by the face value on the cards. Monsters can be made up of any of the colors in the game and are not required to be complete. Players can earn bonus points if they create a complete monster with only one color and no loose ends on the edges of the cards. The player with the most valuable set of cards on the table is the winner for the round.
The winner will be allowed to select as many cards as allowed by the number on the Era card from any monster played that turn. Then everyone will select cards from their own monsters or cards that they choose to hold back in the expression phase. These cards are place in the player’s discard gene pool pile and will be used in future rounds to build monsters.
The last phase is when you clean-up for the next round. All other cards that were not claimed in the breeding phase are placed into the random mutation discard pile. Starting with the winner and moving clockwise, players will draw a new hand according to the rules on the Era card. The Era will continue until all the cards in the random mutations deck are used up. A new Era will begin after the discard pile is shuffled.
Once the last Era is over the final round will begin. Players will take the cards remaining in their deck and create the biggest monster they can with each of the three primary monster colors. The catch is that the monster they create has to have no loose ends on the edge of the cards. The person who has the used the most cards when creating their completed monsters will earn the victory and their species will thrive in this post-apocalyptic world.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got Teratozoic to the table. What drew me to the game initially was the fact that it was billed as a light deck builder game. I’m a huge fan of this mechanic and finding another game to add to my collection I figured was a win. Overall, I had a very enjoyable experience playing this game. The rules are not overly complicated and rounds within an Era take very little time to complete. Quick rounds keep the game going even if you have drawn a bad hand of cards, which can happen. I also like how the Era cards continue to change the rules of the game. Just as you are starting to get used to the flow of the game you will have to adjust how you play. When you change the Era it almost feels like a new game.
The game is on the lighter side of the strategy spectrum. Players will take the most time making decisions during the expression phase to which cards they will hold back from playing on their monsters. This allows players to protect their valuable cards from the winning player and keeping it in their gene pool. It does take some time to get used to constructing monsters your hand of cards. Trying to do it without the cards on the table will be difficult for some, but as you play more hands you will get used to it.
Another aspect of the game that I find interesting is how players gain cards back into their deck. With normal deck builders, you gain cards from a community pile rather than taking them from another player. This gives each round some tension as the winning player decides on what cards they want before the rest of the table. This does place a premium on winning enough rounds to take some of those high value cards from the other players. One issue that can show up in the game is if one player can consistently win rounds, their gene pool will continue to get stronger forming a rich get richer situation. Because you are constantly adding of cards from the mutation deck to your hand this doesn’t happen a lot, but one of the issues that can show up.
The game scales very well with different player counts. The major adjustment is made to the number of Era cards used in the game. This allows the game to be played as little as fifteen minutes to over an hour but still get the same experience. Very few games have this much flexibility. Personally, I like the game on the thirty to forty-five minute range. Even though the changing Era cards keep the game fresh, I feel that after forty-five minutes I’m ready to build my final monsters and end the game. The artwork is interesting in the game. It is done in a more cartoony style which doesn’t make them look the most intimidating. With that style, it allows the game to be more approachable than something that was more graphic.
The end winning condition forces you to play differently as the game goes on. At first you want to hold on to high value cards because they can win you rounds, but because the end winning condition has nothing to do with the value of the cards you don’t want to have only them at the end. It’s better to have a nice mix of low value cards in your deck that don’t have a lot of loose ends and allow you to close off your final monsters. This gives players another thing to think about besides just winning rounds.
If you are looking for the game to have more strategy to it, then add in the advanced cards into the mutation deck. These add a lot of variability to the game because of the special actions they can initiate. They can double points for connecting to monsters of one color, changing the values on cards, and even change the Era you are currently in. These cards can be powerful and change the outcome of rounds.
I found Teratozoic to be a very unique game and I like a lot of the elements in it. I enjoyed how the game constantly changes with each Era. Allowing players to feel that there are playing games within the game. The game has enough strategy and tactical decisions to keep players engaged until the end. But what I think I like most about Teratozoic is that the game length is so flexible. You can get a fulfilling monster building experience in less than twenty minutes or play for over an hour. This is something that a lot of games don’t have. If you are looking for a monster constructing deck builder to add to your collection consider giving the Teratozoic Kickstarter your support.
If you are interested in the game, it’s now in funding on Kickstarter and is scheduled for delivery in December of 2014. A pledge of $20 will get you a copy of the game and any appropriate stretch goals. You have until Saturday, August 16th to become a backer so head over today if you are interested.