Meeples & Monsters is a bag building meeple based game. So as your turns progress you’ll be trying to upgrade the quality of the meeple resources you have while trying not to dilute your own supply too much that your end up continually drawing the weaker components.
Each player is in charge of their own personal meeple army that they will aim to try to enrich over a series of rounds by constructing buildings in the small city of Rowan. The first phase is either about construction or upgrading the existing units that you own to access special abilities that some of the units offer. Every player starts off with a generous number of peasants that have a basic attack value and as the game goes on, you want to minimise the number of them that continue to exist in your bag as you’ll only be drawing four meeples for the first number of rounds into your tavern. You’ll also want to avoid the corruption meeples as they can’t be used for any kind of purpose, they’re literally dead wood.. . In the second phase you’ll then be playing any remaining units from your tavern into areas you’ve built or assigning armies against enemy units that surround the city in order to defeat them and gain victory points. Defeating enemies progress the game as when new enemies are drawn there is a chance of summoning one of the dark council cards which increases the base number of meeples every player is allowed to draw from the bag at the beginning of each round. Draw three of these and you enter into the final two rounds and the Dark Council can be taken head on which vastly increases the potential scoring for players. In essence, what you have here is an engine builder to increase and improve the contents of your army and combined with upgraded units, chances to score points on every round. The buildings you construct will allow you to own even more powerful unique units while clearing out some of the peasants from your bag to increase the odds in your favour. It’s rare that you’ll be put in the situation where you can’t take some kind of action that will help you to move your marker a few points up the victory track.
Once the Dark Council is triggered and the final two rounds are played, the player with the highest number of victory points is declared the winner.
While the manual is laid out pretty well and there are examples of play peppered throughout the pages, I would prefer that the tiles were explained in specific examples as opposed to the universal key system they have in place as it seems that some of the tiles aren’t explained fully in the game at all. I also continue to never understand why so many rulebooks don’t include a round overview on the back as this always proves to be very helpful when learning a game. Meeples and Monsters isn’t a tricky game to learn, but you’ll definitely spend a few round flicking through the rule book when it comes to understanding what each of the built locations do.
Play time is going to be based on the number of players as there is no simultaneous play during the game and I can see at more players this easily exceeding over the hour mark with ease. You’re more likely to burn through the enemy deck with higher players but decisions that need to be made often can’t really be planned in advance and so you’ll spend part of your turn working out want you want to do.
For me, Meeples and Monsters is a very strong, fun and enjoyable bag building meeple resource management game that mixes just the right amount of control with luck to make you feel like you are progressing on every round. Whether you are upgrading your units, adding new buildings or sending units into battle, you always feel like something is happening in the game. Combined with the ongoing upgrade path and the chance to enlist special units you’ll soon be laying waste to the enemies at Rowan’s door. I like the way the game ramps up through the use of the enemy deck that increases your draw number and encourages you to keep upgrading the units you have in your possession. So it’s a must buy then? Well, it might be under very specific circumstances. There’s a huge downside to anyone who is looking for this kind of game for their group as it suffers from some of the worst multiplayer solitaire I’ve seen in a while. You could argue that at its core, you’re actually playing a bag building euro game and so the solitaire is to be slightly expected but I hoped that there would be some interaction when you are all defending the same town. There are changes that will happen to the board when you aren’t playing, so tiles will appear and enemies might change but there’s no real reason for someone to try to put the board into a situation that will make it trickier in future rounds. The enemies dump peasants into your bag when areas are overrun but there isn’t a way to dilute your opponents resources. There are opportunities for only a select number of players to gain the more advanced meeples but if you miss out on one of them, there is a chance to gain one of the others if they become available. Once you reach the point where all of the tiles have been built in Rowan then it comes down to who has the luck of the draw when it come to draw resources from their bags. I kind of wish there was a shared meeple pool, or a way to force other players to dilute their bags or just something that has a small layer of interactivity. It’s crying out for a ‘meet in the tavern mechanic’ where the main meeples you pick from all come from the same place. You go into this game expecting team work or rivalry and instead you get this polite wooden carousel as players take turns increasing their score while doing nothing to influence yours. It’s quite disappointing because there’s a real strong main game here but it is maybe too straight forward to satisfy the multiplayer solitaire potential players who live for this kind of bag, and for everyone else, you seem like you’re just queuing to take your turn defending Rowan. I get the impression that this game was made for Kickstarter first and retail second, with spaces for expansions mentioned in the rulebook. Which is a shame because Meeples & Monsters has all the ingredients to be a cracking little bag builder, just not for those who want to play with other people.
Value For Money?
You can pick up a copy for around £35 and bearing in mind the amount of game you get plus the potential replay value then it’s a decent price for a decent chunk of game.
It’s tempting to build and gain peasants in the first few rounds but remember that will dilute your supplies for later rounds.
Designer: Ole Steiness
Director of Projects: Nicolas Bongiu
Production: David Lepore
Art: Gong Studios
Graphic Design: Brigette Indelicato
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
If you would like to support more written pieces on the blog then please consider backing us on Patreon. www.patreon.com/werenotwizards