Monstrous Review

Cool Mini or Not
Kim Brebach
Jeff Brown (II), Ben Nelson, Jarrod Owen, R. J. Palmer, John Silva, Sutthiwat
2-8 (but those higher player counts are in teams)

Monstrous is a card-flicking dexterity game that looks amazing, and plays...ok.

To look upon Monstrous, it would be fair to believe you were in for a rampaging war between the mighty myths of ancient Greece.  The art is absolutely gorgeous, featuring intense beasts, poised to rain destruction down upon the land, ravaging cities and devastating each other in a literally-titanic melee of –

Jess:  You throw monsters!  Like, literally, you are flinging gorgons and dragons and such! It’s just so silly!

Some of the gorgeous cities you’ll be dumping monsters upon

She’s right, of course – the premise of Monstrous, of the gods charged with terrorizing the populace in an attempt to reignite their failing faith, is unintentionally hilarious because the mechanics of Monstrous are entirely centered around flicking cards onto the play area.  Absolutely no seriousness need apply.

Each player in Monstrous will begin with an identical deck of monster cards.  A group of cities are laid out on the table/floor/wherever, and you get to flicking.  The goal of the game is to be the god who amasses the biggest pile of faith points, which, in typical Olympian fashion, you will accrue by tossing your monsters down onto the populace.  For each monster which lands on a city, you will generate Faith, presumably squished out of the civilians your recently-pitched cyclops lands upon.

Faith is measured in fireballs. Obviously.

However, this dexterity game rewards more than just accurate card-tosses – each monster has unique abilities.  Trap monsters, for example, have powers that trigger when other monsters land on them.  Other monsters might let you draw additional cards to throw, or steal faith from players, or force monsters off the field.

Andrew:  Despite these monster powers, there isn’t much depth to Monstrous.  And that’s fine – it’s a simple card-tossing dexterity game, right?  Why are you giggling?

Jess:  Like, I’m just imagining someone going to the store to buy a new toga or whatever, only to have a pegasus fall out of the sky and just squash the heck out of the place!  Like, we’re bowling with beasts.  It’s ridiculous!

Stunning artwork all around, no joke

And it is.  But it’s not the mismatch between the (again, gorgeous) intense artwork and light mechanics that disappoints us about Monstrous.  Our complaint about this otherwise fun little game is that it’s somewhat fussier than it needs to be.

Each time you pitch a monster onto the field, you must then assess.  Did it land on another monster?  Is that monster a trap monster?  What does its power do?  Did your monster actually make it onto a city?  What is your monster’s power, and how might it affect things.  What about the city power?  Does it change anything.  Wait, a monster got removed, what does that mean – do we assess everything all over again?  Hang on, which side of the card landed face-up, because they all have different powers.

In this case, the Hydra will get eliminated by the Gorgon before its power can activate or score.

Andrew:  Is it actually complicated?  No, not at all.  But as I said, it’s just a little fussy, and that’s a shame because the core gameplay mechanism suggests total simplicity, the art suggests epic gameplay, and Monstrous sorta embodies neither of those, and they work against each other.

Jess:  Yeah, for sure.  I wish they had leaned into the silliness of the premise a little more, rather than trying to make a ‘gamers’ card-throwing game.

Which isn’t to say that Monstrous is a bad game – it’s absolutely not that.  It just doesn’t quite exist in the ultralight filler dexterity game category, but nor does it go anywhere particularly deep or compelling.  It doesn’t take much to make a dexterity game fun, but ‘more rules’ seems like a step in the wrong direction.

Monstrous doesn’t quite snag our recommendation, despite stunning artwork and a good core concept.  There’s fun to be found here, but it wasn’t for us.

(Gameosity received a review copy of this title.  We were not otherwise compensated.)

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