Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Quick Review - Roll Player: Monsters & Minions - Kickstarter Preview

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions
Designer: Keith Matejka
Publisher: Thunderworks Games
1-5p | 60-120m | 10+
Quick Review - Roll Player: Monsters & Minions - Kickstarter Preview

Way back in November of 2015 I reviewed a game that had a successful campaign on Kickstarter and was released to retail with very little fanfare or hype. I loved the game when I played, so did all the other reviewers. Although the game did well on Kickstarter, it wasn't until Tom Vassal got his hands on it that a lot of people started to take notice. Of course I'm talking about Keith Matejka's sophomore title, Roll Player. Roll Player earned the Dice Tower Seal of Excellence and nominations for several other Dice Tower and Golden Geek awards, and rightly so. The game is a tight mix of dice selection, puzzley strategy, and character creation that provides a great experience with a ton of replayability.

There was only one complaint that kept popping up in discussions and reviews, though. After taking an hour building an awesome character, it felt anticlimactic to just dump all those dice back in the bag and wipe all those stats away.  People wanted to do something with their character. Where were the monsters to battle? Well, Keith was listening and now he's back with the first expansion for Roll Player, Roll Player: Monsters & Minions. So, does battling monsters with your characters work as well as the base game's character creation process? Read on to find out.

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is available on Kickstarter now through June 15, 2017.  You can pick up a copy of the expansion for $39 or get both the base and expansion for $89, including US shipping.

OK, so maybe there were two complaints.  Some people also thought completing the character attributes was pretty unforgiving.  This made Roll Player somewhat challenging, and a bit AP prone.  Personally, I liked that aspect of the game, but some didn't.  The good news is that Monsters & Minions also offers a solution to that issue in the way of Boost dice.  These are transparent dice with three to eight pips on them, giving you a bit more flexibility with reaching those high attribute scores.
Those transparent Boost dice can help offset a few ones and twos, like that seven and eight down in the Charisma row.
The Boost dice are just a small part of the changes that Monsters & Minions brings to Roll Player, though.  The major update to the game is right there in the title.  Throughout the game you'll also have the opportunity to battle minions to gain experience points (XP), suffer wounds, and prepare for a final adventure and confrontation against the main monster. Monsters & Minions also adds support for a fifth player to the game, which is a very welcome addition.  There are also new Market cards, including Skills, Traits, Weapons, Armor, and a new type of card, Scrolls.  Monsters & Minions also includes two new races (gnomes and dark elves) as well as more class cards.  Finally, there are some additional minor bits, like reference cards and extra some standard dice to support a fifth player.
Look at all those combat dice and XP cubes!  You'll use them to battle minions, like the Zombie!
I won't go over how to play the base game of Roll Player here.  If you're curious about that, check out my review of Roll Player from 2015.  Here, I'll talk about the new features in the Monsters & Minions expansion and what they add to the base game.  Roll Player: Monsters & Minions plays pretty much the same as Roll Player, but adds some additional decisions during the game and a new Adventure phase right at the end of the game.  The additions to the core game fit in pretty seamlessly with the base game's mechanics.  The Adventure Phase adds a very quick (less than five minutes) adventure to the end of the game where you use your character to battle a main boss monster.  In all, the expansion only adds a handful of minutes to the overall game time.

When setting up Roll Player, there are a few more steps to go through to prepare the expansion content.  The expansion adds support for a fifth player, so there are a few minor tweaks to the setup of the Market.  There are new Initiative cards to support the fifth player, and since Monsters & Minions adds a number of new Market cards, there will be more removed from the initial deck at the beginning of the game, depending on the player count.  You'll also need to build the Minion deck, which has all the minor creatures you'll have the opportunity to fight when you go on a Quest instead of buying something from the Market, set out the combat dice, XP cubes, various tokens, and add the Boost Dice (and a few additional standard dice, to support the fifth player) to the dice bag.

Finally you'll need to set up the monster that you'll be fighting at the end of the game.  You'll choose one of the monsters that you'll have to face in battle.  This will be a monster that also has a class, but it'll be one of the classes not chosen by the heroes.  Then you'll select three Adventure cards, one for each part of the final Adventure: the Location, Obstacle, and Attack.  Each of these is secret and there are three of each Adventure card for each monster.  This means there are 162 different possible adventures for the end of the game.
To start the game you won't know what the Location, Obstacle, and Attack are going to be, until you battle some minions.
You'll know the main monster though, and can work toward that right from the start.
Once Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is set up, play proceeds generally the same as in the base game.  The new Boost dice will come out randomly along with the other attribute dice and give players some extra flexibility with completing their various attributes, and the new Market cards give some new options.  Specifically, there are some new traits and skills that help out with aspects of the minion and monster battles.  There are also the new Scroll cards, which give you one-time, immediate benefits.  The biggest change to the main game comes in the Market phase.
Scrolls can be bought in the Market for immediate one-time bonuses.
In Monsters & Minions you'll still have all the same options in the Market phase of the game: purchase a card or discard a card to receive two gold.  But if neither of those options is to your liking you now have a third.  Instead of going to the Market, now you can choose to go on a Quest.  When you Quest you'll encounter a minion that you'll have to battle.  Each Minion has a different requirement that will allow you to increase the number of combat dice that you'll be able to use in the battle if you meet those requirements.  For example, if battling the Zombie you'll get an extra combat die for each die in your Intelligence attribute row.
A roll of a 5 against the Gargoyle gets me one XP and one wound.
A battle is quick and simple.  Just grab the appropriate number of combat dice and roll them.  Your result will fall into one of several ranges listed on the card and that'll let you know your reward (or penalty if you roll poorly).  You'll gain some XP for the battle and maybe even an honor token or some gold.  If you roll poorly you might take a wound, which will hinder your efforts in the future, but you can spend XP cubes to reroll if you need to.  If you roll really well you'll also gain some knowledge of the upcoming battle against the main monster.  In order, you'll be able to peek at the Location, then Obstacle, and finally the Attack as you defeat more minions.
I spent an XP to reroll, and managed to roll high enough to avoid that wound and get an extra XP.
Each of these Adventure cards will give you clues to what aspects of your character you'll need to work on to have a better outcome when fighting the monster.  This may be things like, gaining combat dice for having a certain number of Traits, or how many dice you have in a certain color, or completing certain other achievements.  Getting peeks at these Adventure cards will let you develop a strategy during the main phases of the game that will help you in that final adventure.  However its definitely possible to disregard the final adventure completely and just focus on the original aspects of Attributes, Backstory, Alignment, and Market.  The Reputation points that the monster is worth at the end are big, but not big enough to make fighting the monster the only strategy.
Defeating the Chimera can earn you up to eight reputation points.
So that brings us to that final adventure.  After the main game is complete and everyone has all their Attribute rows filled up, then its time to go on a final adventure and see how you fare against the big, bad monster that's been terrorizing the peaceful village you hail from.  Just like with the minions, the monster will have a specific requirement that will affect how many combat dice you can roll, or maybe how much rerolls cost, or some other aspect of the final battle.  However this is changed up each game because the Adventure cards will be revealed to add additional conditions to the battle.  If you were successful fighting some minions earlier in the game, you'll know what some of these are.  If not, then they'll all be a surprise for you!  The Location, Obstacle, and Attack will be revealed, each player will collect the amount of combat dice as determined by the adventure, and then roll to see how successful you are against the monster.  You can spend XP gained throughout the game to reroll dice if you need to.  Depending on how high you roll, you'll earn some Reputation points, and if you roll high enough you can earn a lot of Reputation.  These are added to what you've earned through your Attributes, Backstory, Alignment, Traits, Armor, and Gold, and the player with the highest Reputation is the winner!
The final adventure is going to be against the Chimera in the Shadowy Cave.  If you successfully decipher the Arcane Runes
you'll get some needed help in the battle.  But watch out for the Chimera's Lightning Strike.  Chimeras are known for
guarding treasures, so if you have too much Gold you'll be it's main target!
Final Thoughts:
Roll Player: Monsters & Minions answers the question that was on everyone's mind with the original Roll Player: "What do I do with this awesome character I created?"  Monsters & Minions doesn't change a whole lot about the core game, but it gives you more options throughout the game.  The new minion battles don't extend the game much at all and meld seamlessly with the mechanics and theme you already know and love.  They give you something else to do with your character instead of just going to Market.  So if you like leveling up your character by gaining some (un)real-world experience instead of just buying stuff, you can!
This expansion adds a TON of new stuff, but it feels like it belongs and doesn't add any bloat.
The final battle against the Monster really only adds a few minutes to the game.  It can feel a little anti-climactic to decide the whole battle with just a single roll of the dice (with maybe a few rerolls), but this is thematic with the RPG aspects of the game where a roll of the dice decides your fate.  Fighting the monster is something you've likely been working toward the entire game, so if your strategy was to build up your strength for that final Adventure you'll be chucking a whole fistfull of dice and have plenty of XP to reroll any critical fails.
There are six monsters to battle, and six more for a solo game.  Now you can use your awesome characters!
The really nice thing though, is that it doesn't bog the game down in a long battle that some players may have chosen to not prepare for.  You can definitely still have a winning strategy by ignoring the minions and monsters completely.  To battle minions you'll have to sacrifice getting items from the market.  You'll also possibly be focusing on getting specific dice that will help you in your final battle, but not necessarily help you fill out your Attributes or Backstory.  So Monsters & Minions gives you more varied strategies that blend perfectly with the base game.  After a few plays you'll wonder how you ever played without fighting off the evil creatures that roam the wilderness!
I got to play Roll Player: Monsters & Minions at Protospiel Milwaukee in April and I can't wait to have my own copy to play!
Roll Player: Monsters & Minions adds what everyone wanted from the original game; the ability to fight the baddies with the characters you create.  And it does this without adding significantly to the complexity or time that the game takes.  Instead it takes the gameplay that you're already familiar with and adds to the strategic choices, giving an even richer gameplay experience in the same timeframe.  Roll Player: Monsters & Minions adds just the right amount of new experiences to keep the game exciting yet familiar; .The minion battles are thematically and mechanically perfect for the game, and the monster battle at the end of the game can help drive alternative strategies, without dragging the game out any longer.  If you enjoy Roll Player, the Monsters & Minions expansion is a must-have.  I'll be including it in every game of Roll Player that I play, once I get my own copy!

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is available on Kickstarter now through June 15, 2017.  You can pick up a copy of the expansion for $39 or get both the base and expansion for $89, including US shipping.

Preliminary Rating: 8.5/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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