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King of Monster Island Board Game Review

WBG Score: 8

Player Count: 1-5

You’ll like this if you like: King of Tokyo, Aeon's End, Horrified.

Published by: IELLO

Designed by: Richard Garfield

Richard Garfield has created some of the biggest games in the industry. Netrunner, King of Tokyo, and Bunny Kingdom to name just three. When he puts his name to something, it usually generates a lot of buzz. More so when it is a cooperative follow up to the huge hit, King of Tokyo. Even more so when there is a giant Volcano in the game! Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.

Set Up

Place the main board into the centre of the table. Put the Volcano together, (it takes but a moment) and place this into the centre of the board. Next, choose a boss to fight against. Place your chosen adversary next to the board, choosing which side you want to face. There is a normal and hard mode for each. Make sure the star dials are set to zero and the heart dial is to the health shown on the bosses sheet. Then set aside the number of red dice as specified on the boss sheet you are using and place the boss figure matching the sheet into any zone on the main board. Then make a pile of all resources. The Crystal and Pylon tokens, monster dice, the bag with the minion tokens, the energy cubes and lighting tokens, the 12 support tiles placed face down, and the eight flamelings, if you are fighting against the Lava Lord boss.

Next, shuffle the power and event cards together and create a face down deck. Flip over three cards to create a market. Replace any event cards if they come up at this point. Then draw a random minion from the bag and place it into each zone, starting with the bosses zone. Then, each player chooses a Monster figure to play as taking the matching figure and board. Set your points to zero and health to ten and add your figure to the board, ensuring you are in a different zone to the boss. Finally take one random ally sheet equal to the play count plus one and place them face up by the board. You are now ready to play.

How to Play

The game plays similarly to King of Tokyo, except the cooperative nature of the game. In this game, all players are working together against the boss, rather than the battle royal seeing in King of Tokyo. If you can get the bosses health down to zero, you all win. If ever you have to draw a minion from the bag and there are none left, or if a player begins their monster phase with no health, or if three pylons are built; then all players loose.

On your turn, players will first check any active powers from the boss, according to their current star level, and then roll the bosses dice inside the volcano. That's right! It's not just decoration, it's a full on dice tower, spreading the dice randomly into the six different areas of the board. If any roll off the board, just re-roll them again. After multiple games, chucking dice into this volcano has not got old! It's a great fun part of the game. Where the dice end up determines where the boss will now move too. Which ever adjacent zone has the most dice, this is where the boss goes. If there are no dice in these spaces, simply move the boss one space clockwise. If the space that the boss is currently in has the most, activate that space and leave the boss where it is.

Then, all minions in the bosses location activate. Either damaging all monsters in their zone if it is the Soldier minion shown here on the bottom right, or building a Crystal, if it is the Builder minion shown here on the bottom left. The Crystals build up and turn into Pylons. When the board has three Pylons you lose the game. If it is the Cannon minion shown in the top left, they will attack every Monster in every zone. The shield Minion in the top right has no affect. This minion just protects the other minions when it is your turn. They must be defeated before any other minions or bosses can be attacked.

Next, each dice in the bosses zone will activate. Depending on it's current face up value, more minions will be added, the boss will be rewarded with star points, increasing its base skills, or a crystal will be built. Any dice activated at this point will be removed from the board to be thrown back into the volcano in the next round.

After all this is done, it is finally your turn to fight back! You will roll six of the monster dice, and just like King of Tokyo, with up to three re-rolls, to determine your actions. The hearts give a monster in your zone one health back. The Lightning give you one green energy cube to buy power cards. The footprints let you move any monster in your zone to an adjacent zone or deal one damage in your zone. The claw lets you deal two damage in your zone. The star lets you gain one fame on your monster board. And finally, the spanners work in three or four. If you manage to get this many, you can draw a random support boat from the supply and place it face up on the board in a space in your zone, as long as there are no pylons present. At any point during your turn you can activate a support or recharge a previously activated boat. Activating a support boat either gives you an energy cube, or an extra dice face. Once activated, simply flip the boat over.

If you get any dice you cannot use, or don't want to use, you can lock them into the zone you are in for a monster to use on their turn, later in the game. This is a great way to get to three or more spanners and use all dice, even when they don't quite work for you.

Once your dice are all resolved or locked, you can then spend any available energy cubes on power cards. Then resolve any end of turn effects, pass all available dice to the next player and they will have their turn. Activating the boss and rolling their own monster dice. Play continues until one of the end game triggers are activated.

You can play the game multiple times against the various bosses and difficulties for each one. Then the rules suggest when ready, for you to try the ultimate challenge, facing all three bosses, back-to-back in one epic game. This really is the way to play King of Monster Island. Defeating the bosses on their own is quite simple, and the sense of satisfaction wears thin quickly. But taking all three on at once is a real challenge and very rewarding when successfully completed.

Is it Fun?

Playing King of Monster Island feels very similar to King of Tokyo with two main differences. One, this game is cooperative, which means no player elimination. Being knocked out of King of Tokyo is frustrating, especially if playing with more than two other players, and their subsequent battle takes a while to finish. In this game, you are all in, or all out together. That is a good development. The second major difference is the fact that sometimes, you cannot fight the boss. If they move away from you and you do not roll the required feet symbols, you cannot catch them up. Some powers allow you to damage the boss in adjacent zones, some cards help with this too. And you can of course use support boats and locked dice to help other players. But once per game at least, there will be a time when you are chasing shadows. That can be frustrating and never really seen in King of Tokyo.

The support boats are a nice addition to the game, as is the ability to lock and share dice with other players. Similar to King of Tokyo, the cards are too expensive and/or you don't get enough energy cubes, so we start the game with one random card each, and five energy cubes. I just don't get a game that has so many cool cards that you rarely ever get to own, let alone use. So, house rule as you see fit to have more fun with the cards. They are awesome.

The ally sheets are a nice addition too. Once you have at least one star/fame point, you can choose one of the available sheets to place next to your monster board. This will grant you bonus powers and actions as you gain more fame in the game. This is a nice variation and allows you to do some exciting new things. Moving the boss this way is particularly useful.

I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoyed King of Tokyo, and wants to have a cooperative version of the game. It feels like this could have been an expansion to the base game in the same way Viticulture World was, to reduce the need to re-produce some of the shared resources, like the dice. However, I like the ambition with this game, the size of the new board, and the 3D volcano is a great statement on the table. It looks great, functions in the game well, and justifies this games' presence as a stand-alone game.

I think I will always reach for this now over King of Tokyo, simply as I enjoy cooperative games so much more. More so when the competitive version has player elimination which just doesn't wor well for my group. Ultimately, that choice is down to you based on what you prefer. Coop or competitive. But don't tell me you are not dying to chuck some dice in this volcano!

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