Monster Baby Rescue
- Designer: Vladimir Suchy
- Publisher: Rio Grande Games / Delicious Games
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 9+
- Time: 20-40 minutes
- Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Rio Grande
I’ll be honest with you, when I first heard about this game, which was the moment that I opened the shipping box from Rio Grande, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this game… The cover has a cartoony Basilisk on it, and the back cover text is: “EMERGENCY!! A magic portal has opened on Maple Avenue, and your neighbors have sighted monsters. Cute Monsters. Baby Monsters. Authorities desperately need someone to care for them until they can be returned to their dimension. WON’T YOU HELP?”
Umm, let’s just say that this picture and blurb doesn’t really sound like my sort of jam. But, being the intrepid game reviewer that I am, we still gave the game a try, and despite the unusual theme, there is an interesting game inside the box, though the appearance might not lead you to believe that…
But, first, let me tell you about the game. Each player gets one of the baby monsters on their player board. There are 6 different tiles for each monster; two each for head, body, legs. All tiles are double sided, so you have the components for all three body parts in four different levels. Start by placing all the level 1 tiles on your board. There is a mover which matches your monster; this is placed on the path on the central board.
Next to this central board, you will deal out a row of 6 tiles, making sure to order them from most hearts to no hearts. All the rest of the tiles are placed in a supply near this row. Somewhere on the table, also place the ten goal tiles and four final scoring tiles – these are also double sided; and you can randomly place them on the table to mix it up for each game.
The initial order of monsters on the board is random, and a wrong way marker is placed behind the furthest back monster. On any given turn, the monster which is furthest behind gets to take the next turn. Though there are thirty spaces on the board, what is important is that there are 6 areas, each of 5 spaces. These areas alternate between white and black to delineate the break between them.
The monster at the back of the line takes the next turn, and starts by choose a tile from the row and paying the cost (2 to 4) as written on the board next to the tile chosen. The number refers to the number of AREAS that the monster must move forward on the board. Move your monster to that designated area and then put it in the first unoccupied space in that area. Then, place the tile in your area and take any effects if they happen now – this might be improving the level of one of your monster parts or taking gems from the supply. Then, take a quick look at the goal cards on the table to see if you qualify for any of the unclaimed tiles; if you meet the criteria for a goal, take that tile and place it next to your board. Finally, slide all the tiles in the tile row as far down as they will go and add a new tile to the top of the row.
So, what are the tiles you can choose from? There are a few basic types. Some tiles will cause your monster parts to improve to the next level; some will allow you to collect red or green gems from the supply. You can take tiles to build a rope ladder for your dinosaur or you can get comfortable beds for it. As you collect these two types, be sure to put the ladder to the left of your monster and the beds in the two columns to the right of your monster. You can also take witch doctor tiles which will help keep your dinosaur healthy and will provide you with endgame bonus points. There are also a number of Want tiles which are scoring tiles – generally based on things collected on other tiles (rungs in your ladder, number of beds, number and types of gems, level of monster body parts, etc). Some of these tiles also have a victory point amount of them; you will see this by the number of hearts printed on the tile.
The goal tiles similarly refer to activity on your player board. It might be for the first level 4 torso, or the first monster to have all pieces at least at level 2. Others might give a reward for having a certain number of beds or rungs on your ladder. The point value for each is seen by the number of hearts depicted on them. The goal tiles will also be scored at the end of the game by multiplying the number of these tiles with the number of witch doctor tiles collected.
The game end is triggered with the last tile is dealt to the tile row. At that point, all players will get exactly one more turn. Then, the game moves into the scoring phase.
First, all players count up the hearts on all the tiles they have collected.
Then, add the hearts from any goal tiles collected.
Next, calculate the points from the want tiles that you may have picked up along the way.
You will also score a bonus three points for each full row on your player board of a ladder tile and two bed tiles.
Now multiply your witch doctor tiles by your goal tiles and add that number to your total
Finally, score the four final scoring tiles – some of there reward you from having X things, others reward you for your relative standing in different criteria.
The player with the most points wins. No tiebreaker is specified.
My thoughts on the game
Well, as I mentioned at the top, there is a weird kid-sy feel to the art and theme of the game, but the game works, and we had a decent time with it. There are rules for a more simplified game in the box as well, but I think that honestly the main rules would work fine with gamers ages 9 and up as specified on the box.
It uses the timing mechanism that I first saw in Jenseits von Theben – though in this case, it can essentially be thought of as a six space track with the first in being the first out in any space. There is some room for interesting plays where you can get two turns in a row if everyone moves further ahead of you; though, it doesn’t seem to happen that often. But, on each turn, players are having to decide whether the time cost of a certain tile is worth it for the effect. The goal tiles, the want tiles and the end-game scoring tiles all give you different motivations on what is important to you at any given moment. That being said, none of the decisions are really super complicated, and this results in a fast paced game.
There really aren’t that many different types of tiles to consider here, and I think that helps the game move along quickly. You improve your monster or collect gems, ladder rungs, and beds. You can easily see the number of each thing that your opponents have, so you take what you want and move on. Near the end of the game, I suppose you could possibly try to deny an opponent of a tile that you can’t even use (i.e. take an improve Torso tile when you’re already at Level 4 Torso) – though that tile might still have hearts on it that you can score….
The different ways to score points can lead people in a few different directions and it does make it harder to figure out what is an optimal play. For me, this is a good thing as I don’t spend time trying to figure it out, I can just take a move that gives me a positive benefit. Perhaps I want to improve my torso to get a goal tile. Maybe I have planned to collect ladder rungs all game as two of the end game scoring tiles have that as a scoring criteria. Maybe I want to get a want tile that scores beds because I already have a bunch of bed tiles collected… In any event, this means that many of the tiles are good, and the game provides a nice light exercise for the gamer to figure out which amongst these good plays might be the “best” play for them.
The rules are fairly easy to follow, though one typo took me a bit of time to figure out. One of the scoring tiles has the wrong explanation next to it – though the iconography on the card is easy enough to figure out what they wanted to do here.
I should also add a note about the insert – it is a thoughtful cardboard insert that comes with its own one page graphical instruction on how to pack everything back up so that nothing moves around in transit. I do appreciate this attention to detail, and I think it merits mentioning.
The artwork is a bit kiddy oriented, maybe a bit much for me. But for a light-ish game such as this, it works just fine. Importantly for me, all of the iconography is easy to read and understand, so the game is easy to play. Overall, it is a fine game, but one that I think will have better reception with younger gamers. It’s a decent introduction to drafting and the time track turn order mechanism, and one which I will be happy to try out with my nephews and niece when they come to visit. I doubt that this will come back out for my regular adult gaming night though after these two plays.
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale Y
- Not for me…
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The rules also don’t explain what to do with the blocking piece after setup. It’s not hard to figure out (you keep moving it just behind the last monster so you can tell which one it is), but for a game not aimed at hardcore gamers a little more attention should have been paid. (Though not by Rio Grande, since I am told they just had to use what they were given.)
I agree with your assessment – it’s a perfectly fine light tile-drafting game but not one I would choose to play.
Dan, i thought the same thing, and in fact I had a paragraph in my review commenting on that. but they do tell you what to do with the marker on page 4. it’s hidden in a block of text, but it’s definitely in the rules
Oh right, it’s in an example. Still not great – rules shouldn’t only appear in examples.