When I first entered the hobby a few years ago, I remember being astonished at the sheer number of choices. It was insane. I had no idea what I really enjoyed or how to decide what was worthy of my hard earned dollar. I turned to the internet for help, specifically the various board game Facebook groups. Holy moly. The recommendations. They flew at me with every post at lightning speed. “Such and Such is the greatest game you can buy!” or “You need to own this one yesterday?”
I took to looking on Amazon. Searching and scouring for hours, trying to find a great game. I’d present my findings to the group like a cat bringing a dead bird to the front door. “How’s this one gang?” I’d ask. “Um…that one is okay…but this is better!” And they would rattle off dozens of games that instantly jumped onto my wish list.
Then something happened.
I asked about Munchkin. And the comments kinda went south. “Do you hate fun? Play Munchkin!” and “Worst game ever!” There weren’t recommendations for better games…there was a strange, palpable negativity about this topic.
So I didn’t buy it and I didn’t play it. Life moved on.
But one common message remained. “The only game worse than Munchkin is Monopoly”
Wait…what? My infantile gamer mind was confused. I loved monopoly. I grew up with it. My family played it throughout my entire youth and the memories we created with it were priceless. And people were saying that was bad? Again life moved on. And so did I.
Until recently when I picked up my first Munchkin.
And I loved it.
So what’s the point of all this? The moment I walked into the store, grabbed a copy of Marvel Munckin and tossed it on the table, I remembered that I get to control what I play, when I play and why I play tabletop games. And this all came to pass once again just a few days ago with the release of Monopoly Gamer. Remember, I actually do like Monopoly, but I hadn’t played it since I was a wee lad. I’d actually been looking to get a new copy of Monopoly to play with the family, when I saw Mario and Bowser and all the Nintendo gang staring at me on top of a Monopoly board.
I practically ran to Gamestop to get my copy.
So…now here we are. I’ve played this game nonstop the past few days. Is it good? Were those people right? Is it to be avoided at all costs? Is it for me?
It’s totally for me. Maybe it’s for you too. Let’s see.
Monopoly Gamer is a stripped down and leaner monopoly. It does away with most of the complaints people have about the game. “It’s too long.” “It has zero strategy.” “It’s boring.” Monopoly Gamer solves all these problems in a rather elegant way.
Meet the power up die.
This little guy is the single greatest addition to the game of Monopoly. As you roll your way around the board with the movement die, you are also rolling this little guy each turn. Its various sides are all filled with nasty “take that” in various forms directed at all the unsuspecting fools sitting around the table you call family and friends. Pop them in the head with a turtle shell or hit the POW block to make em all drop some precious coins. You even have some choice with a well aimed red shell which allows you to choose who you are sending the smack down to. But this super mean little die never really feels super mean. Similar to King of Tokyo, all the evil that you are bestowing upon your hapless victims always stays in the realm of “it’s all in good fun!” You don’t even have to feel that bad when you bankrupt your grandma with an inky, squid coin steal. It’s just what you rolled and it made the most sense. Fun!
The next brick in the pathway to elegance comes from the time slashing Boss deck.
As you make your way around the board you are collecting properties just like in normal monopoly, but in the back of your mind you are thinking about one thing. Getting to that boss battle! You start the game with a set number of boss cards (8 in a four player and 6 in a 3 or 2 player) and every time someone passes GO! an ultimate mega showdown ensues. One that we will surely see in the history books for generations to come. The battle involves payment to start the fight and rolling the die to hit a threshold. Hit the right number or higher and you reap the rewards, points and an effect that is sure to make your momma sigh, but if you fail then your opponents get a chance to jump in the fray and snatch those goodies from your grasp. Or everyone can chicken out and pass and the Boss runs away. There is no endless game here. Once the boss deck runs out, the game ends and you all stare at each other and say “Sooooo…who wants to play again? I’ve got plenty of time for another round!”
And the final feather in this “Fast-dealing property trading” hat is a doozie.
Variable player powers! IN MONOPOLY! ARE YOU KIDDING? Every single character in the game has unique powers. Two of them in fact. One is triggered by the Star spaces on the board. Land on them and you get to use your power. The second power is triggered by a specific face on the Power Up die. That’s right, folks. He’s back and meaner than ever! When rolled, each character has a specific side that they can “boost” in all sorts of crazy ways. It all leads to chaotic, replayability through the roof.
Is this game for you? That is a tough question.
I absolutely know that it is for me. And I’ll crow from every rooftop about its greatness because I’m thrilled with this release. But, I know that some people will hate a lot of what I love. Heavy take that layered on top of high luck. It’s still got a good dash of what makes monopoly tick and I know that no matter how much awesome they pile on top, there will still be people who this cannot and will not ever appeal to.
And that’s okay.
Does Monopoly Gamer get my recommendation? 100% yes. Excellent components, great price point, quick and simple, highly interactive game play. Go buy it if any of this sounds interesting at all. I’ve been really having a blast with it!
Welcome back, fearless Bear Clan! It is time. The final age in our game of BLOOD RAGE is here! The final days are upon us…nothing that has come before matters (well…sort of…we had to draft and battle up to this point…but that doesn’t sound as cool). Only the glory matters my brothers and sisters! And thus far our game has been glorious indeed! With quick wits and cunning strategy, we have come a long way on our path to that rainbow in the sky, Valhalla.
So here is our current player board in this epic three player match. I’m kind of happy with how age two went. We pushed a couple stats up with some quests and we repillaged using Tyr’s Challenge to our advantage. But I’ll be honest. It wasn’t perfect. I think we will be okay though if we stick to the plan…cheap or free things and quest like crazy!
And away…we…RAGE! Here’s our first hand of age three…QUESTS AND OH MY! IT’S ODIN’S FANCY CHAIR! Odin’s Throne…this card is too powerful to pass. I want it and I definitely don’t want anyone else to have it. It’s ours…our pretty…our…precious…cough! Cough! Excuse me. No, but seriously, we are going with Odin’s Throne. Who knows? Maybe we will get lucky and we will get some quests passed our way. We will snatch them because the Throne doubles their glory reward. I’ve seen easy 50 points or more just from this card alone.
Onward to hand two! I like this hand, but I was hoping for some quests. That’s okay. This one is all about battle cards and upgrades. I’m currently maxed on upgrades, but I see a combo here instantly. Remember when we drafted the Sea Serpent so long ago? Well…its time for her to shine! I’m looking at two cards here, Eternal Dragons to get the boat points and cheaper entry for my sea serpent as well as Frigga’s Sacrifice. This can be a lethal combo when combined with the Sea Serpent. How’s it work? If we can manage to draft both, we will attempt to get the boat and Sea serpent out and destroy them both with Frigga’s Sacrifice to raise a stat and gain 24 glory points in a single move. But which do we take first? I say Frigga’s Sacrifice because we really want to max some stats and this makes it easier along with our Tyr’s Challenge repillage upgrade. I like this, folks. I like this a lot.
Now that we are feeling good about ourselves again, lets move to hand three! A QUEST! PRAISE ODIN, A QUEST! I like some other cards in this hand, especially the Frost Giant, but we can’t afford him at the moment. The dent to our Rage would be too large. So with some slight trepidation I take the Yggdrasil quest and hope that space is pillaged early in the round so that I can sneak that one in.
Hand Four and we’ve got more quests folks! It’s a coin toss between the two but the Alfheim (Gray) quest may be easier to accomplish since I’m seeing that Blue has been ragnaroked twice. Plus gray is a cool viking color…so there’s that.
Hand Five and I’m actively cackling out loud at my foolish opponents! Eternal Dragons is ours and we will attempt to pull off that wicked awesome boat blow up combo I talked about earlier….EVIL CACKLE!!!
And our last hand. Soak it in, folks. I’m kind of sad it’s over really. Sigh. I like Soldier of Hel of course…but we have zero battle cards. I always like to have one and Thor’s Ascension can be a great one. We just need to use it wisely if we do get involved in a pillage, but honestly, this age we are going with the wimpy strategy. Avoid pillages when we can, swoop in like vultures and repillage the bones when we can.
Like stealthy ninja, Viking vultures.
Look at us. I’m proud of you all…especially of myself. I did a great job. I’m patting myself on the back right now. Congratulations to me.
I’m going to win.
Alright! Welcome back to the draft. Just a reminder that we are playing against two brainless opponents that just take the first card they see.
Here is what we drafted in Age one. We went heavy on the upgrades and even did a little hate drafting against the Loki player in the room (there’s always one).
Here is what our player board looks like after that age. Thanks to Frigga’s Succor we were able to nab some quick pillages and even accomplished our quest, which is much better than expected considering we didn’t draft a single battle card. We opted to increase our horn stats since it will help make Frigga’s Succor more effective. We are aiming to draft cheap or free things with the aid of Frigga’s Charm so we don’t need to worry too much about rage.
Now…on to Age two! Here’s our opening hand:
I see some good cards. I’m tempted to snag a quest or one of those battle cards since we are severely lacking in that department. Lord of Axes is also a great card to get our stats up, but the cost of it makes me hesitate since our rage is kind of low to start age two. Experts in Arms would be nice to increase the strength of our warriors we are attempting to flood the board with, but again I hesitate because that also increases their cost. Perhaps we hate draft against the Loki player again? Probably not at this point because I feel it would hamper our own hand of cards too much for a first choice.
I’m going with none other than the Dark Elf. The secret battering ram straight to Yggdrasil. I draft this not only because of its awesome ability to invade directly into Yggdrasil, but also because it’s one of the best deals in the entire game. You really get a return on your investment of one rage if you plop the elf down in Yggdrasil. You really can’t beat that.
Onward to hand two!
Once again I am tempted by the quests, but at this point I’ve seen four of them so I’m betting I’ll see at least one of these guys again in a future hand. I’m a gambling man so I’ll push my luck and hope to nab one later because I’ve got my eyes on one card in particular; the battle card, Heimdall’s Watch. By now there are some annoying battle cards floating around, the Loki player keeps stealing everyone’s rage and this is age two, which contains one of the most powerful battle cards in the game, Odin’s Tide (each player destroys everything except for one figure in the battle). For that card alone, we are drafting Heimdall’s Watch, especially since we drafted the Dark Elf and with the Dark Elf there always comes an epic Yggdrasil battle…a battle that can be perfectly ruined by Odin’s Tide. It’s going to take some cunning on our part, but at this point we have to assume that card is in our opponents hands.
Or we can mess with the Loki player…that’s always fun.
I am immediately interested in the boat upgrade, Fire Dragons, since we drafted the Sea Serpent in the first age. It would definitely give us a nice boost in glory, but I’m worried about our stats. We don’t have any real battle cards yet, pillaging is going to be more difficult this age and we have passed quests in the last two hands. But there is an easier solution than what first meets the eye. Tyr’s Challenge. Yes, it means we will have to dump one of our current upgrades, but I think it is worth it, especially with our ace in the hole, Dark Elf. Repillaging already pillaged provinces is a huge advantage and one that really will twist your opponent’s strategies because if played correctly with Frigga’s Succor, we can storm the board and fly around like a whirling dervish pillaging to our hearts delight. And on top of that…it’s totally free! And we like free.
Hand four and we are back to our original hand….and would you look at that Yggdrasil quest. We are totally taking that low hanging fruit since we should have a good hold there.
Hand five arrives and at this point we can’t really take anymore upgrades or monsters without damaging our established strategy…so luckily there is a nice quest for us! Can’t go wrong with those!
Hand Six and it’s another easy pick. Two great monsters and I’m pretty tempted by that Wolfman because he really is a solid creature…but sorry fur brain, we want Tyr’s Rage to hopefully soundly win a big Yggdrasil battle.
Alrighty Ragers, here is our hand! I think we did even better in Age two. We’ve already got a well oiled engine up and running from age one so these cards really play right into what we’ve been doing, but now we can punch some folks in the mouth, get our stats way up and go on some quests. This should be a very exciting age for us so don’t screw it up! RAGE ON and I’ll see you all next time!
Deck building games are still a rather new breed of board game. I’m always shocked when I’m reminded that the granddaddy, old geezer of deck builders, Dominion, is not even ten years old yet; however, its safe to say that the genre has made a big splash and there are deck builders at every turn clawing at your wallet like some massive horde of raving undead screaming “BRAAAAINSSSSS…and don’t forget to shuffle well….”
It’s pretty clear that the market for deck builders has not wavered in the slightest as more and more games get released with countless expansions. Deck builders have a way of forming an almost cult like presence with its followers. There are purists that insist that Dominion is the end all, be all and every game that has come after are just wannabes, while others have latched on to highly interactive deck builders like Star Realms and then there are the new kids on the block…deck builders with a game board! Woah!
So where does that put Draconis Invasion, the new deck builder from designer Jonathan Jeffrey Lai and Keji Inc.? Let’s find out.
I think we need to get something out of the way right off the bat. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Draconis Invasion is clearly inspired by its great granddaddy, Dominion. It just has a lot of similarities. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no.
The similarities are seen in a lot of deck builders of this ilk. The core mechanic of using a starting hand to slowly build a better deck throughout the course of the game is here. A fixed market of better cards that you want is there. Junk cards are often put in your deck which may inhibit a turn you’ve been setting up for. In this game, they call them Terror cards and we will get to those in a second because they are much more important in this game than others. There are three types of cards: money or gold, action cards, and attack cards…wait…attack cards? Oh yes, my pretties, be patient for a moment.
So it has the basic formula for a deck building game. But then it does some things that make it stand out just enough without trying to jam a bunch of NEW, SHINY STUFF down your throat.
And I appreciate what they have done here.
On a turn in Draconis, you can play a single action card from your hand to do cool stuff like trash junky cards or draw cards or give other players terror cards (I suggest you cackle wildly while doing that) and then you can do one of a few options. You can buy an action or defender card from the open market with your gold. The more expensive the card is, the better it is usually. That’s a pretty standard, yet essential part of any deck builder. It lets you hop in the driver seat and attempt to build the best deck you possibly can.
And now get ready for some different stuff.
The second thing you might do on your turn is get new campaign cards. These cards act like secret agendas. Accomplish whatever task the card says to do and you will get bonus points at the end of the game. I love it when games do things like this. They help direct your game should you choose to pursue a secret quest dealt to you.
What kinds of things do these secret missions, campaign cards want you do, you ask? They simply want you to kill more stuff!
You see the way you get points in Draconis is a little different. There are big hulking monsters that are called Invaders. You wanna kill em and kill em good. You do this with your attack/ defender cards that you’ve been acquiring from the market. Kill a creature and its worth points at the end of the game. The secret missions on your campaign cards will grant you bonuses if you kill specific monsters. It’s all very simple until you realize that your Defenders are super greedy monsters as well! That’s right. Nothing is free in the game of Draconis Invasion (well…except those cursed Terror cards that I’m gonna get to…I promise). Those Defenders will help you, but you have to pay them with a specified amount of gold from your hand. This is a great design move because it forces players to really diversify their deck through the choices they make in market purchases.
Okay…time to talk about the Terror cards. Because I really think this is my favorite part of Draconis. Terror cards are junk cards that don’t help you do anything at all. They just occupy a space in your hand where a better card could have been. You get these from a variety of places, sometimes self inflicted…but that’s not the cool part. The Terror cards act as a crazy train of a game timer. Every time somebody plays a terror card from their hand this evil little D6 die goes up once. If it ever ticks up to 6, then an event card is revealed. These are cards that punish the players, especially the player that is currently in first. It’s an awesome catch up mechanic that you don’t see often in this style of deck builder. It also acts as a timer because there is a limited amount of event cards and when they run out, the game ends. So it leads to some interesting situations. Sure you want to give your opponents lots of terror cards, but at the same time it will dramatically speed the game up and if you aren’t ready for that it could blow back up in your own face!
On top of all that, Draconis Invasion is a simply stunning game. The artwork is top notch, components are great, the custom terror die is a nice touch, and it even came with nifty labeled dividers for every card type. It’s definitely not lacking in the production department.
So let’s run Draconis Invasion through the FRAK! Test.
Fun? It is. I’ve enjoyed playing Draconis a good deal. It’s simplicity is nice and it certainly would be a great deck builder to start with. The player interaction is pretty minimal but I think that’s okay for this style of deck builder.
Replayability? There’s a lot of variety here since you get to select what cards go into the market. Play with a different market and you are playing a different game. There are a lot of different cards in the base game alone and seeing how half the box is empty I see expansions are inevitable.
Affordability? It costs about $50 or so which is pretty standard for these bigger box deck builders. I’d say based on the art alone the game is worth that and the high replayability ensures you will get your hard earned moneys worth.
Keep? Totally. This one will see play at my table. Is it one I will grab all the time? Maybe not, but since it’s so accessible when it does hit the table we will be able to get down to business very quickly without having to consult the rule book every time. That’s a small blessing but a big part of why I like Draconis Invasion in the first place. If you enjoy easy riding, smooth deck builders with great production, look no further.
DISCLAIMER: The copy of Draconis Invasion used in this review was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.