The Kaiju genre of movies has spawned a few notable games in the board gaming landscape. Most notably King of Tokyo (review) and Terror in Meeple City (review). Huge monsters destroying the monuments to civilization create a dramatic tone of vengeance and apocalypse. Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG) has taken a stab at creating a tiny game that uses this theme as a backdrop.
3 to 4 Headed Monster is a micro hidden role game for 3-4 players that takes about 15 minutes to play. 3 to 4 Headed Monster plays best with four players.
Players represent different heads of a monster rampaging through a city who must decide to be peaceful or dangerous. Through the course of the game, either the peaceful role player will win subtly or the dangerous players will win by deducing which player is peaceful. As players choose who will control the legs of the monster, they’re also determining the outcome of the game in a way similar to how The Resistance is played.
As a microgame, 3 to 4 Headed Monster (3-4 HM) presents as a small pack of 17 cards. One card is used for keeping track of score, 4 cards are the roles for players, and the remainder are numeric cards representing the degree to which the monster’s heads are peaceful or dangerous. All the cards are of good quality featuring appropriately styled, energetic art.
How to Play:
To begin, each player selects a role card face down. One player will end up with the “Peaceful” role while the remaining players will be Dangerous. A hand of three cards for each player representing higher or lower numbers (low = dangerous, high = peaceful) completes setup.
During each round of play, players collectively agree which two players will control the monster’s legs for that round. The peaceful player is trying to be sure to join this duo so that they can control the direction of the game. However, the peaceful player should be careful not to give away their intent in the discussion; otherwise the dangerous players will realize the threat to their winning the game.
Once two players are selected, they each contribute one of their hand cards for the round. A third player shuffles these two cards and then lays them out next to the score track card. The dangerous players are hoping that the combined value of the cards pushes the monster towards aggression (a low total value) while the peaceful player is hoping for the opposite. As a strategy, the peaceful player is hoping to play cards high enough to keep the game in their favor, but not so high as to give away the possibility that one of the duo was peaceful.
This process continues with each round adding more cards and information to the score card. When additional cards are added to the score card, the cards together go on the Peaceful (9 or higher) or Dangerous (8 or lower) side of the track.
If four cards are played to the Peaceful side, the peaceful player wins. If six cards are played to the Dangerous side, the dangerous role players win. If, as could happen, three rounds have been played and neither condition has been met, a final selection of two players to reveal their role cards decides the winner. If the peaceful player managers are one of those two players, then the peaceful player wins.
As alluded to in the Game Overview section, this is clearly a microgame version of The Resistance. It’s got a different theme, some more granular play mechanisms for determining success or failure of the “mission”, but at its heart, it’s a mission based role hidden role game. Determining which players are peaceful and dangerous ones is the heart of the game.
What should be an engaging and intriguing discussion of roles often falls a little short. Certainly there is some tension, but this type of hidden role game requires that players really enjoy the form to get the most out of it. In 3-4 HM, the discussion is often very short and can really just boil down to who can be the monster’s legs since an additional rule is that two players cannot be together twice as the monster’s legs. This prolongs some tension and provides additional information, but it also disrupts the core intrigue.
The other major problem with 3-4 HM is that the theme is woefully inadequate for the subject matter. One of the biggest reasons that The Resistance works so well is that the theme of rebellion in an oppressive society has really hits a nerve in Western culture at the moment. Losing those political underpinnings by replacing the mission concept with controlling a monster’s legs is a poor decision. A theme that should encourage discussion and provide context ultimately reaffirms an anonymous selection process.
The other strange aspect to the game is that the peaceful player could be dealt a hand of cards that are not adequate enough to affect the game. The game is very short and as such it isn’t so much of a deal breaker as an annoyance. Unfortunately this is also the kind of element that makes for an off-putting experience once it happens.
3 to 4 Headed Monster works, but it doesn’t work well enough for a recommendation. The theme is poorly chosen and the mechanisms not as supportive of the form. With a crowded enough landscape for short, small hidden role games, a publisher needs to consider what extraordinary value is being provided. In this package, it’s not significant.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of 3 to 4 Headed Monster, you can get it for about $10.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – For the playtime, there are better choices for a hidden role game that offers more tension and a more appropriate theme.
• Short playtime
• Tiny package
• Theme mismatch
• Potential for roles unable to win
• Lacks tension