When I was growing up, Saturday morning cartoons were only an appetizer on my way to the real show for the day. Every Saturday at noon, “Dr. Paul Bearer” (not a doctor…or a convincing undertaker) would lurch into frame and creakily announce, with all the vaudevillian horror gravitas he could, the Creature Feature monster movie of the week. For a kid who spent his days watching not a lot more than Transformers and Robotech, getting to binge on classics like The Blob and The Swamp Thing was revelatory.
That’s why, when I saw the amazing artwork for Campy Creatures, a bluffing, deduction, and light set collection game from Keymaster Games, I knew I needed to check it out. Here was a tabletop game with all of those classic creatures, rendered lovingly in classic movie poster style.
At a Glance:
The game takes 2-5 players about 20-30 minutes to play. Each player starts with the exact same hand of monsters. A number of Mortals equal to the number of players is placed face up each turn. Mortals can have positive or negative point values. Players choose a monster to place face down in front of them that they think will beat the other players’ monsters. Monsters that win the face off can collect Mortals to gain points or, depending on their abilities, give Mortals to other players to have them lose points. When the Mortals deck is depleted, the round is over and whoever has the most points wins the round. The overall winner is whoever has the most points at the end of three rounds.
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What’s in the box? I’m so glad you asked:
- Five creature decks with 45 Poker-sized cards (9 creatures each)
- The Mortals deck with 30 Poker-sized cards
- The Clash-O-Meter and Player Markers
- 5 Monster Meeples
- Rule book
The prototype cards that I played with were already quality stock, but the campaign has unlocked thicker, ivory-core cards with linen finish and spot UV coating, so the production cards will be even nicer. Additional components like a plastic insert, unique meeples, and a…ahem…Stranger monster are still on the table as Stretch Goals (more about that at the end of the article).
How to Play:
You can download a PnP of the game here. Keymaster Games wants everyone who wants to play Campy Creatures to be able to test it out. They are confident that the quality of their components are well worth the $20 pledge for the full game. Considering that the prototype they sent me is just as good, if not better than, some full production Kickstarter games I’ve received, I would say they’re right.
To start out the game, everyone chooses a monster deck. All cards in the deck are the same, the only difference is the design on the back of the card, representing one of the game’s classic monsters: Mummy, Blob, Kaiju, Swamp Creature, and Vampire. Grab the markers that match your card backs, and arrange them on the Clash-O-Meter in random order. Prepare the Mortals deck by removing any cards that are marked with more dots than your current player count (i.e. if you only have three players, then anything with four or more dots gets set aside).
To begin play, place a number of Mortals cards equal to the number of players face up in the middle of the table. Each player chooses a monster from their hand and places it in front of them, face down. Everyone reveals their monster at the same time and activates any Rise abilities (marked with a single dot in the lower left of the card), in order of card strength. Then monsters then activate Capture abilities (marked with two dots in the lower left) and capture one (or more) of the available Mortals cards, again in order of card strength.
But what if players play the same monster? In case of a tie, whoever’s marker is highest on the Clash-O-Meter automatically wins; but then they get moved to the bottom of the meter.
That turn’s Monster cards are set aside and captured Mortals are placed in a separate stash. Play progresses until all Mortals have been captured (i.e. the deck is depleted). Players count up their points – in addition to positive scoring, some Mortals, like The Hunter, are worth negative points; others are worth positive or negative points depending on how many you have; and still others give you nothing unless you have a full set. And if you manage to make it to the end of the game with The Beast in your hand, you’ll even get bonus points. Move your meeple to the appropriate point value on the tracker around the Clash-O-Meter and do two more rounds! Whoever has the most points by the end of round three wins.
The real trick to winning a round is being able to figure out who’s going to play which monster when. If you have a 6-point Damsel on the table, is everyone going to whip out their Kaiju? Then you should probably play The Mummy whose ability lets her go first when the Kaiju is in play. Think someone will play their Swamp Creature to try to stick you with a negative point card? Then you’ll need to play your Vampire to drain them of that ability. Correctly guessing your opponents’ possible moves is the most important skill in Campy Creatures.
It wouldn’t be a Kickstarter without a few fun add-ons, would it?
If you’re a classic movie monster fan (and if you aren’t, I commend you for reading this far), then you’ll definitely want to grab a few posters of the original artwork featured on the cards – increasing your pledge by $15 gets you a single poster added to the base game, with discounts provided if you get 3 posters or all 9. Keymaster Games is also developing a free Clash-O-Meter mobile app to coincide with the launch of the game.
What really caught my eye though is the beer! Bottle Logic Brewing has graced my fridge a few times in the past six months, as much for their eye-catching labels (created, incidentally, by Campy Creatures artist, Josh Emrich) as anything else. They’ll be developing an entire line of tart beers based around the iconic artwork during 2017. No word on distribution yet, but I’m all for “companion beers” to become a Kickstarter tabletop tradition!
Now what about that exclusive I teased in the title? Oh yeah, the mysterious 10th creature card! The Demogorgon is a $70,000 stretch goal and had originally been included in the prototype version of the game, but the ability text was a little too…Upside Down, shall we say, and Keymaster Games needed to rework it. They’ll be revealing the new card ability in an update later today, but gave us the green light to reveal it here first! Don’t worry about the artwork – it’s still being worked on and will have the full Campy Creatures treatment if the stretch goal is reached.
For a light bluffing game, Campy Creatures is a blockbuster. My son and I thoroughly enjoyed the game (even if he did destroy me) and the game session went really quickly. It’s the perfect game to break out in-between other games and given that it’s more a psychological game than a game of skill or luck, it has the potential to be a ton of fun, based on your gaming group. The game oozes style, so much so that, even when my son and I were confused by the progress of play, we kept powering through because it looked so good. Anyone who is a fan of classic movie monsters or iconic pulp artwork will have a hard time passing up a pledge for this one. $20 gets you the full game, plus all stretch goals. You can pledge higher if you want posters (but, sadly, there’s no beer pledge at this time). The game is already funded and only has five days left to go. So if you want a satisfying bluffing game with monster-movie style, you’d better head over to the Kickstarter page and pledge today!
Disclaimer: I was sent a prototype copy of the game for review. Opinions and monster memories are my own. I’ll be lurking for youuuuu.