It ain’t easy being green—and for that matter, it ain’t easy having lobster hands, a giant eyeball for a head, or being a huge ape, giant bug, or walking pile of goo. Everyone always looks at you like you are a raging monster trying to destroy a city.Does anyone ever consider the fact that you might just be a really energetic guy who needs a hug? No. Monsters Menace America is a game that is just that, monsters menacing America. Stomping cities, fending off armed forces, and battling your fellow misunderstood monsters for supremacy is a day in the life of Zorb, Tomangi, Konk, Megaclaw, Toxicor, and Gargantis.
Players choose from one of six monsters to represent them in the game. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Monsters Menace America is that players select a branch of the armed forces to fight off opposing players’ monsters. The concept of playing both sides of a battle is pretty unique. I might stomp Pittsburgh as Megaclaw but defend the east coast with my Army tanks and missile launchers from Toxicor’s gooey footsteps. The key is that you are playing a monster trying to conquer the map and power yourself up for battling other monsters, but you are also playing as a military unit, weakening other monsters, and increasing your advantage during the end game. The be-all end-all of this game is the culminating monster challenge. Once enough cities have been stomped, the Monsters go toe-to-toe.
Each turn players move their monsters and military units, fight to resolve any battles they started by rolling dice, encounter a space with their monster (which usually results in stomping a city), and finally deploy new military units to attack the other monsters or forgo deploying to draw a military research card to strengthen one’s forces.
Monsters Menace America is, at face value, a dice and resource management game. The majority of the game is spent stomping cities and fending off tanks, planes, and missiles. When a monster clobbers a city a few things may happen: The monster gets to roll a number of dice to bolster its health, gain an infamy token (which can be cashed in for 1 extra attack at any time), or draw a monster mutation card (which can boost your monster in many ways). The likely strategy here is to avoid combat as much as possible while moving your monster from city to city, stomping your way to more health, more infamy tokens, and a card advantage. Herein lies the first and major flaw of Monsters Menace America. 90% of the game is hoarding resources leading up to the monster challenge. The monster challenge itself is literally monster vs. monster rolling die after die until one of the monster’s health sliders hits zero. When playing with more than two players, it gets a little trickier in terms of managing resources to continue fighting one on one until there is only one standing—but the same complaint can be raised. Lots of build up with little payoff.
Admittedly, this game is 80% theme and 20% dice rolling. What’s not to love about giant monsters smashing cities all across the US? It’s no secret that I’m a fanboy for monster movies and all things monster in general. My rating is disproportionately swaying toward my love of the theme rather than gameplay. But, hey! At least I admit it, right? If it helps to make a comparison to some existing games I’d say Monsters Menace America is a low-level marriage of King of Tokyo and Risk Jr. (if there is such a thing as Risk Jr.). Coming in at around 90 minutes of gameplay (plus 20 minutes or more of wrapping your brain around the barely understandable rulebook) I’d suggest this game to any monster fan, intermediate board gamer, or lover of thematic games. And if I can leave you with something to think on—the next time you see a giant monster, think hug first and fight second. A hug just might save your life.