Roll Player: Monsters and Minions
Designed by: Keith Matejka
Playtime: 1 hour – 1 and 1/2 hours
After having been blown away by Roll Player, I quickly grew excited in the knowledge that an expansion, Monsters and Minions, would be coming to Kickstarter. Having had the chance to playtest it over the last month or so, I’m excited to have the chance to share my thoughts on what is, at this point, the finished project.
That being said, let’s get some disclaimers out of the way; yes, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve had the chance to preview this game for some time now, and thus have been in contact with the designer, Keith Matejka. Yes, I have already backed the project on Kickstarter, which may help to give away my opinions on the project but is important to note going into this review. And yes, just before I was about to post this article, one of my Backstory entries was chosen to be included in the expansion. With all that being said, I am in no way doing this out of a feeling of duty or for any compensation. This article is being written because I am passionate about board games, especially those I feel invested in and thus want to share my thoughts here on what Monsters and Minions has to offer.
Alright, let’s take a look at what this expansion adds:
First, a new type of die is obtainable to be placed on your character sheet, known as Boost Dice. Boost Dice are clear D6’s that provide a value between 3 and 8. This represents a character’s penchant for going above and beyond their normal limits and allows classes to hit some of the higher Attribute Goals that were previously impossible. The trade-off for this, however, is they don’t have any color and thus don’t contribute to any Backstory goals or class color Reputation.
Two more class options are being added for each of the playable colors, allowing for more varied choices when selecting your class at the start of each game.
Two new race boards will be added, the Shadow Elves and the Gnomes. While I didn’t have the opportunity to use them, they will act like any other race board, providing a unique +2 and -2 combination.
Next, Scroll Cards are a new type of card that can be obtained at the Market. These are activated the moment they are purchased, providing currency and other immediate benefits.
Due to the addition of new cards, some cards will be removed from the game at set-up. Also, one new card is available at the Market each turn, allowing for more choice when headed to the Market.
With these and other new aspects being added to the game, Roll Player will now support 5-players, yet still retain roughly the same time dedication as any other match.
The largest and most involved addition, as one might guess, is the inclusion of creatures to fight over the course of the game. After players establish their classes, a Monster is chosen as a boss that will be fought at the end, providing players with an additional 8 Reputation to shoot for. A Location, Obstacle, and Attack card is randomly selected and placed face-down next to the Monster during set-up. Each Monster has three of these cards associated with them to randomly select from, allowing for some variability each time you fight that boss. These are pieces of information that can be obtained to help players fight the Monster end game.
Turns play out normally, with players taking dice and actions per usual, but when the Market Phase is reached, players now have three options; buy a card, discard a card, or fight a Minion.
The Minion deck will always show the top Minion card, allowing players to fight that Minion. Players may also spend three gold coins to cycle through the Minions, but if they do so they are locked into fighting something that turn. When fighting, players get combat dice, smaller d6’s used for these battles, based on the following:
- Players always receive one die to fight with, representing their character.
- Depending on the Minion, players may receive dice based on their stats, dice, or cards they have collected.
- Players may spend five gold or three XP (a new currency) to purchase an additional die for any one combat.
After rolling, players may spend one XP to reroll one die. Then, the values are tallied up to see what level of rewards a player gets.
Players will primarily earn XP for fighting Minions, which can be used in combat as mentioned above. Players may also spend five XP to take any one attribute action on their turn, allowing players more flexibility in adjusting their stats.
Players may also earn Honor or Injuries, which provide a +1 or -1 to their total roll when fighting the Monster at the end of the game. Two XP can be spent to discard an Injury.
Lastly, if a player does enough damage to a Minion, they keep it as a trophy and are allowed to look at the Location, Obstacle, or Attack card if they haven’t already. Each trophy will allow you to look at the next card in the line-up, and if you get more than three trophies, players will earn an additional XP in lieu of the information.
At the end of the game, the Location, Obstacle, and Attack cards are revealed, giving players one, two, or three dice respectively to use against the Monster. Depending on your Final Roll and how the Monster manipulates it, players will receive a certain amount of Reputation that is added to your end-game total.
Due to the game being in a prototype state, I can’t really comment on the quality of components, but the art for the cards look as gorgeous as ever, the XP tokens look amazing in their current state as translucent blue cubes, and the combat dice are compact and easy to read.
A lot of players I’ve introduced the expansion to have assumed that fighting the Monster is now the end-all-be-all for points, initially aiming almost exclusively at trying to get the information and resources needed to fight the end-game baddie. This is by no means the case, and that’s an incredibly good thing; the Monster mechanic simply compliments the already established means of earning Reputation. It’s not meant to overpower any other strategy or plan, with some players sticking to the stratagems the base game presents and doing perfectly well. Monsters and Minions provide more variety and options without taking away from the original design.
Boost Dice, Scrolls, new class cards, and new race boards all provide more options and variety, simply adding to what’s already here in a very positive way. The addition of a fifth player is nice and doesn’t add any time to a game. The Minion deck allows for some more options each turn, and it feels rewarding to roll dice for combat, even if it is a little luck-reliant. Everything about this expansion feels like natural additions to the already established game.
Solo mode has also been slightly altered for the new additions. At the start of a solo match, players set aside two gold dice now, with more potential negative effects depending on what dice you take. Also, if players don’t get any Reputation for fighting the Monster, they die and immediately lose the game.
Now, I do have some slight issues with how the new additions play out. Firstly, due to the new cards, players are forced to discard a certain number of cards from the deck each game, meaning a number of the Armor Cards might end up getting discarded, resulting in scoring Reputation for them might become a lot harder without you even realizing it. This can potentially be remedied by allowing players to see what’s been discarded if you so choose, but it still dilutes how useful Armor cards can be during the final scoring of each game.
Secondly, the effects of the Location, Obstacle, and Attack cards can feel random and require that you change your gameplay strategies too late in the game. There have been some games where players have earned a large amount of combat dice for the final fight for doing nothing out of the ordinary, which can be frustrating. Luckily, there is a variant included in the game in which you can play with these cards face-up, adding a lot of strategic choices in trying to out-play your opponents.
Third, you’ll likely be hard-pressed to fit everything in the original box. Those of us who have the Frogkin board have already been forced to discard the rather flimsy insert, but with multiple race boards, extra cards, tokens, etc., it’ll be a tight fit, especially considering the various stretch goals being unlocked every day. Of course, you could always keep the base game and expansion in their own boxes, so this is only a minor quibble.
Lastly, the game takes up a lot of table space, even more so than before. This is largely due to the various tokens being added to the game, but also the Minion deck and additional Market card. Plus, you need to find space to keep your Scroll and trophy cards around your player board, meaning that space can run out very quickly.
Despite these minor issues, this expansion adds so much to a game that I already find so enjoyable, allowing for more diverse and interesting strategies, providing a more robust selection of options, and creating an even stronger puzzle to tease my brain. Plus, anything that doesn’t work for your gaming group will likely have some form of variant or alteration that can be used to suit your needs. If you’re a strategy-oriented person like me and haven’t played Roll Player before or are looking to pick up the expansion, I highly recommend checking out the Kickstarter page, where you can get the base game as well as Monsters and Minions.
Tomorrow, I plan on releasing an article talking about the Kickstarter campaign itself in honor of the 2-week mark. Be sure to check back here to see my thoughts on everything Roll Player.
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