Dale Yu: Preview of Monstrology

Monstrology

  • Designer: Andy Lubershane
  • Publisher: self published
  • Players: 2-8
  • Played with review copy provided by Designer

I got an email about this game – with the designer getting ready to put the game on Kickstarter… 

“It’s a cooperative game that’s sort of a descendant of Dixit or Mysterium – but I like to think weirder and sillier in many ways than both of those (awesome) games. It’s great for groups of friends & family, but it’s also a lovely, strange, funny bonding experience for just two.”  Normally, I don’t look at pre-KS games, but given the weirdness of the Pandemic, and the fact that I was looking for a new game that might work well with just 2-players, and peeking at the preview art, I decided to take a look.  

The game components are pretty simple – there is a deck of 84 nicely illustrated monster cards, 11 double sided taxonomy rubrics and a few markers to put on the rubrics.  One player is the subject for the round, and that player chooses (or randomly draws) a rubric for the round and then takes the top card of the monster deck.  The subject’s goal is to get the other players to choose this drawn monster from a pool.  At the start of the game, 2 other monsters will be drawn, but this number could be as high as 9!

The rubrics fall into three broad categories, and the subject takes a few minutes to decide how to place the tokens on the rubric to describe the monster on the drawn card.  There are no right or wrong answers though – it’s all in how you interpret the art on the card.  It is important to do this well as the subject cannot use any other method of communication to direct the other players.

Once the rubric has been answered, a number of cards is drawn (2 to 9) and added to target monster card.  They are shuffled and then handed to the investigators to flip over (it is recommended that the investigators flip the cards over so that no information is given away by facial expressions or anything else).  The investigators now take as much time as they need to try to choose which of the monsters is the target – only having the answers on the rubric to guide them.  Study the art carefully to help you choose the answers that seem right!

In a 2p game, there is no discussion as there is only one investigator and one subject. The game works surprisingly well in that arrangement.  I’ve only played this way with family members, but it’s an interesting challenge.  With more players, the investigating team is encouraged to talk out their theories about why the subject might have chosen a particular answer.  If the correct monster is chosen, the table moves up a rank (and more cards will be added to the drawn monster in the next round).  If an incorrect monster is chosen, the table moves down a rank. 

The goal is to get your group to as high a level as possible – there are 7 levels total – or at least as high as you can get before the group decides to quit or you run out of time or whatever.

There is also a version of the game called Matchmaking which is closer to Apples to Apples where a category is named, players give the moderator one card from their hand and hope that the moderator chooses their card.  We have yet to play this, so I can do nothing more in this review than mention the variant.

The art in the game is fantastic.  Having discussed the game a bit with the designer, I discovered that he is also the illustrator of the game.   Some of the monsters are riffs on known animals while others are something… that’s you’d expect to see after an LSD trip.  But, the art is well done and while the pictures are simple, there is enough detail on each card to allow you to play the game.

Games go fairly quick, especially in the 2-player version as there is really no conversation within each round (as the subject player is not allowed to use any sort of communication!).  I have found that you can learn a lot about the people that you play Monstrology with.  This is not a game that I think that my regular (adult) game group would love, but this one was good with family, and I intend to play this with my niece and nephews – whenever we’re allowed to be together again!

It’s really neat (and amusing) to hear the other players try to read into your answers on the monster rubric.  Sometimes I had to leave the table lest I give away anything from my facial expressions, snickers, etc. while listening to them debate their choices.   If you have a youngster act as the subject, I’d definitely recommend having them step away from the table as they’re guaranteed to give you clues! :)

Like Apples to Apples, Attribute and many other similar games, it helps to know the personalities, likes/dislikes, hobbies of the other players – this might help you determine the meaning behind some of the monster answers – but even if you play with strangers, the game poses an interesting challenge and serves as a good discussion starter.

It appears that the designer is getting ready to bring the game to Kickstarter soon (I hear thru the grapevine that it will be in the first week of May 2021), and if you’re looking for an interesting party/kids game with some great art – this might be a really good fit for you.

As an example, here is a photo of a round from our most previous game – feel free to play along and answer in the comments below.  (Weird, I missed a marker, there should be a marker on -1- for Walks in the Park)

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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