I'd heard almost nothing about this game, except for the fact that it was a dexterity game and that it looked cutesy, but I'm a sucker for dexterity games, especially ones depicting wholesale carnage in a city of meeples. Further, I'd heard that the meeples come in six colors depicting different types of personality, such as soldiers, old men, and blondes, and that who you ate mattered. Since I've had extensive appearance experience eating blondes, I thought it would be a good fit. I un-pledged my 250$ or so from the new Dwarven Forge Kickstarter because I already have six 27-gallon tubs of the stuff, and proceeded to being on a bit of a spending spree. In my house, if money gets allocated, it had better be spent, or you lose it; I ended up with Rampage, Settlers of Catan (again), Quarriors: Quartifacts (May my 12 year old suffer for this), Lords of Waterdeep (again, this makes 3 times) and Stone Age (again). That burned through maybe 3/4 of my cash and I'm holding out for something truly awesome. Feel free to recommend, and if you say "The Duke", eat a bag of dicks, because I played it 30 years ago when it was called "Chess".
Anyhow, Rampage caught the most immediate attention, and so it was the first to be un-boxed and played. The rules are incredibly simple, and Repos Production, the publisher, was kind enough to include a shitload of examples and a short FAQ section that did a great job of guiding us through play. As it turns out, if you were to look at this from the 10,000 foot perspective and announce that it's a kid game, you'd be wrong by several orders of magnitude. It looks like a kid game, but it is in fact one of the truly fucking nastiest, most utterly evil, brutally confrontational games of all time. It's like Godzilla meets Diplomacy if you play it right. Maybe that's just how we play it, but it's not at all like what the artwork would have you believe. There's a ton more game in the box than the Super Mario art illustrates.
I'm going to go off on a little tangent here, because it seems appropriate: As an open statement to all publishers, I'd like to point out that if you want to sell a game to gamers, don't hide the game under a coating of art that appears to have been drafted by The Lollipop Guild. This game would've been SO MUCH MORE AWESOME if it was done by some of Michael Bay's special effects artists. People wouldn't look at it as some weenie kid game, they'd look at it as the big monster game that people have pined for since Godzilla was on TV. It was a missed opportunity, at least for us.
Anyhow, regarding the components, it's kind of an amazing design regardless of the cartoon art, which is actually quite good despite being very youthful. One of the smartest things are that not only is it a puzzle board that actually fits together well, but the little ruins tiles that come along with the game are sticky-backed and you remove a film which allows you to glue them onto the board. This is important because you flick discs to move on the board, and if the glue boards weren't glued down, every flick would topple a building; the glued boards act as little bumper areas so that you can bounce off of them without toppling buildings. There's also the fact that you place these big wooden monsters on the discs when you're done moving so that people can take actions to knock you over, which scores points and hurts your ability to act.
Beyond that, the wooden monsters have little ridges on their heads so that you can place the car tokens on top without having them slide off. Throwing cars is a big part of the game, and this was just a smart, practical design move. It's these little details that make this a very smartly designed, well thought-out game. Also, there's three unique sets of cards in the game that define which monster type you are, what your powers are, and one of the cards is a one-time use power which can be played to give you a big boost. My copy from Coolstuff Inc was shipped with some meeple stickers, which was the low point, since they are cut poorly and since the meeples aren't all cut uniformly, the stickers hang over in spots. It's also 45 minutes or so to sticker the whole thing versus five if you forego putting the meeple stickers on. Finally, I will caution you to be very careful removing the glue liner on the back of the puzzle piece because even though I was careful and I have a high level of hand precision, I still managed to pull some of the laminated cardboard up. The good news is that a dab of Mod Podge between the layers and an overnight stay under a heavy book will sort it right out.
Besides simply breaking things, the idea of the game is that you can take actions to knock over the buildings, comprised of card stock floors sandwiched between layers of meeples, and when the buildings fall, you can score by "eating" the meeples and floors. The trick is that the meeples come in six colors, and to score them, you have to have a full set of 6. Each set of 6 is worth points, unless you have a special power that allows you to score other meeples, so having 7 reds, greens, blues, yellows, and blacks, but only one grey will only net you a score for one full set, with the rest not being worth anything. The kicker here is that during the setup, when you're assembling the buildings, you randomly snatch four meeples per level and place them as the supports for the next floor. Each of the six buildings have 14 meeples each in them, and the stadium has 4, so it's not like there's two hundred or something. That's what makes the game so nasty.
If you play the game as a meeple hunt, biting as many in half as possible in a blind orgy of destruction, you'll be disappointed. A child would love it, but not an adult. It's banal if you play like that. The real strategy comes from figuring out how to get sets, while leaving enough meeples of colors you don't need to entice other monsters away from their current location. The best part of all is that meeple eating is governed by the monster's amount of teeth, which start at six each, and can be reduced to two through injury and attack. You may only eat one meeple per tooth, and so it's a viable strategy to attack enemies to reduce their ability to consume wooden flesh, thereby preserving the wee wooden citizens for your own appetites.
|How's about you kiss me hard on the mouth. Godziller?|
The long and short is that you should never judge a book by its cover, and with Rampage, this adage is incredibly apt. I am disappointed that they went the King of Tokyo route on this instead of making it a really grim, dark monster game, but that disappointment is tempered by the fact that this game is fucking awesome on every level. I rarely say something is for everyone, or a true "auto-buy", but if you don't own this, you're missing out. If you don't like this game, there's something seriously wrong with you. Not a single person I played with, from a 47 year old man to a 12 year old girl, had anything but great things to say about it. There's very few games that are so universally lauded, repeatedly, by my groups. I think the only downside is that the temptation to play it over and over again will eventually lead to burn-out, but 6 games in I'm still fine with playing it again, and this is over the span of 4 days. My real gripe is that I can't get Stone Age to the table, but I suspect that has everything to do with the smell of the dice cup.
Why I Want To Go On A Rampage:
- While very cartoony, the art is good and the components are very high quality
- The design of the board is brilliant
- Replay value is huge, with tons of different power and creature combinations
- There are not a lot of rules, and the rules help the game rather than hinder it
- Anyone can play this game, but it's not as simple to play well
Why Tokyo Is Safe:
- The art is cartoony, and some of us would've preferred more dark, grim art
- With a board 5" larger in each direction, it would've been better for 4 player matches
I can't begin to tell you how much we love this little gem. This immediately took a place on our Forever Shelf, next to the likes of Survive, Zooloretto, Ravenloft, and Pandemic. I can't remember a game so universally accessible, easy to learn, easy to teach, and fun to play. With Spring Break starting today, I plan to pit my 5 year old against my 12 year old which will keep them occupied, but once they're in bed, the wife and I are going to bust out some cocktails and get down with some monster fun. I'm dead serious - this game is a 100% sure-fire auto-buy in our opinions, and I can't see anyone not having a great time with it.
My only caveat is that you view it as a serious strategy-dexterity game like Ascending Empires despite the game's mechanics and look; if you simply play to eat more meeples than the next guy, you might be disappointed in the long term. There's more to this game than meets the eye, and if you play it as the scoring system intends, there's something wrong with you if you don't love it.
Check the game out here: http://rprod.com/index.php?page=description-43
I'm not cute, I'll mess you up...
The enormous monster crotch catapult...
The enormous monster crotch catapult...