Monday, April 18, 2016

Board Game Review of Monster City Planners

Monster City Planners by Gary Dahl, published by Sugar Pill Studios
2-4 Players, 20 minutes, ages 12+

TL:DR Version
A genuinely unique city building and destroying microgame of Kaiju proportions.  The hard decisions between actions and points make a think meaty experience despite its smaller box.  Primary Mechanics are Card Drafting, Multipurpose Cards, and Environment Manipulation.

The Pitch
A couple years ago, The Game Crafter hosted a Microgame Design Contest sponsored by All Us Geeks and Father Geek.  Many great games were entered including Monster City Planners, which featured card drafting, city building/destruction, and multiple use cards.  So let’s see how destruction and construction via Kaiju Rampage can work for you.


The Play
When you open this game, 4 cards stand out from the deck.  They are the City card itself as well as the 3 passing cards.  The City card has two versions based on preferred difficulty.  This card will house the little bits which are 6 White Factories, 6 Orange Stations, 6 Blue Complexes, and 6 Black Roads.  These bits, and their placement in the city, are going to be how you score in this game.
Image Credit: BGG User SugarPillStudios


The bulk of the gameplay, however, comes in the form of the MCP cards which contain both a scoring condition as well as a planning action.  So, for example, a card named Two Building Monte has the ability to swap the position of two neighboring buildings or it’s worth 5 points at the end of the round when there are exactly two White Factories in the city.  Now I say “or” because you either play this card for its ability or it’s left in your hand at the end of the round to score you points.

Those are the two broad strokes so let’s get into the gameplay.  At the beginning of the round, players draft cards.  So pick a card you like, pass the rest to the left.  Once all cards have been drafted, the player who picked the most cards with the green construction icon on the upper left begins.  On their turn, they can either play a card or pass.  If you play a card, take the action and discard the card from your hand.  If you pass, you take one of the passing cards.  It should be noted you may play cards later even if you pass but the round is over immediately as soon as all “pass” cards have been claimed.

Image Credit: BGG User Runkst 

This leads us to the next part of a round.  Cards left over in your hand are actually your scoring conditions.  After scoring for the first time, leave the city in its current condition and play another round.  The winner is the player with the highest points.
The Commentary
Now obviously this is a Microgame and I can’t judge it based on the weighting of much more “in depth” game experiences but honestly, I wouldn’t want to.  The simple actions lead to a faster paced experience whereas, were this a “meatier game” I could see AP forcing this idea to wear out its welcome.  In a 2 player game, you have a lot more control over your fate but a 4 player game becomes an exercise in hoping for the best.  Each time you play a card, it reduces your chance to score so when drafting, you have to look at cards you want for the actions and cards you want for the scoring.  Striking the balance between those two are what makes this game great.  These are the many reasons Monster City Planners holds a permanent place in my lunchtime lineup which I keep at work.
So you might be asking yourself why you never heard of this game or more importantly, why I’m writing a review for a Game Crafter game.  Simply put, many indie designers struggle for notice or a publisher’s eye.  There are a lot of superb games available on The Game Crafter and despite being Print on Demand, the method of creation for these games do not detract from quality found therein.  The games I mention in these reviews deserve your attention despite lacking a major publishers logo.

This review was written by David Sheppard, better known as Sheppy. Sheppy is an aspiring game designer/artist and gaming hobbyist located in Illinois. Some of his designs can be seen on the poorly maintained website www.twitchfactory.com and his Twitter handle is @TwitchFactory.