It was a dark night up at Make Out Point, and my best girl and I had just split a soda down at The Malt Shop. I clicked the radio on and the Wolfman came on.
“Hey cats, best be careful there’s something wild creeping up around Makeout Point”, he said, “Now here’s a new hopping track from Guy Buddy Richardson called “My Baby Left Me For A Board Game””
My girl was scared of course, but I just straightened my letterman’s jacket and told her things were gonna be ok. But as Guy Buddy Richardson’s jangly guitar washed over us, something rustled in the bushes.
“Who’s out there?” I shouted, but I heard nothing reply but Guy’s voice and the wind coming down the mountain. But as we settled down finally to have a swell time, there was a growl and a loud BANG as something slammed into the side of my car. I screamed, and we looked up. It stood 10 feet high, towering over our car with yellow eyes and huge teeth dripping with drool. In his claws, he held a green box and on it was written the words: CAMPY CREATURES
What’s In The Box?
Athens, GA based game studio Keymaster Games is relatively new to the world of board gaming, but they’ve wasted no time establishing themselves as one of the best companies out there when it comes to production value. And while you might think that Campy Creatures, one of Keymaster’s earlier releases recently redone in a second edition, wouldn’t show that as much (it’s 90% cards)…you’d be wrong. Despite very little in the way of board or pieces (we’ll get to them later), the game is just dripping with flavor. Based entirely on classic “creature features” from the 1950’s, the game evokes that in everything from the art style to the font choices. Each creature has its own special font that looks like an old-school movie title, as do the locations where your creatures “clash,” and even the victims that you’re fighting over
The attention to detail doesn’t stop with the game pieces either. The box itself is gorgeous on the outside and the inside, with the inner box being ringed with faux-wood and the inside of the upper box containing a beautiful picture of the Kaiju monster. Even the booklets that come with both the base game and the expansion have the look of an old instruction manual from the 50’s, with reds and oranges that make it seem like its about to tell you about fire safety instead of a board game about monsters.
How’s It Play?
The game bills itself as a game of “deduction and bluffing,” which at first blush made me think that it would be something akin to Liar’s Dice or BS in its gameplay. The deduction half of it ended up being true, but there isn’t much bluffing in the game (aside from one or two cards). The basic premise of the game is that the players are all mad scientists looking to capture victims for their diabolical experiments. They plan to do so with their motley team of monsters, each with their own strength (that determine the order of mortal capture) and abilities. Each turn, the players play their monster of choice face down in front of them. They then reveal their monster, resolve different effects, capture mortals, and move to the next round. If there happens to be a tie, there’s a simple mechanic included called the “Clash-O-Meter,” which resolves any ties. Whoever is at the top wins their tie, and moves to the bottom.The monsters all have a strength (1-8) and a special power that must be used strategically. Some, like the Swamp Creature (which allows you to give bad victims to opponents) or The Blob (which you can power up after you see the other monsters in play), are more reactive monsters that allow you to affect the game based on your enemy’s actions. Others, like the Werewolf (force opponent to discard a monster) and Vampire (cancel opponent’s ability), actively punish or negate your enemies, allowing you to neutralize them as needed. The Invader gives you an advantage in capturing mortals, while the Demogorgon and Invisible Man let you deal with bad victims.
The most interesting monsters, in my opinion, are The Kaiju and The Beast (who is definitely not King Kong). The Beast is the second most powerful card in the game, but its ability rewards you for not playing it. The Kaiju, meanwhile, is the strongest monster and is most of the time a guaranteed first capture when played. But she is paired with The Mummy, who gets to auto-capture when the Kaiju appears. It’s also the easiest to keep track of because of its impact, ensuring enemies are always conscious of where your Kaiju is.
The victims are not simply just points (though some are). The three big “tribes” you pick from are The Classics (who are stock victims and are worth what their card says), The Teenagers (who are only worth points in a group), and The Engineers (who are math nerds only worth positive points when captured in even numbers). There’s also The Assistants, mad henchmen who are less captured and more hired, becoming permanent for the rest of the game and becoming worth more and more as the game goes on. Each round you run through the full deck of victims until the end, when there’s a lone survivor that gets way (like in any great horror movie) and is removed from the game.
The final wrinkle in the game are the locations, one for each “Act” of the game, that bestow a special bonus to the scientist who “conquers” them. They do this by capturing mortals who have a special symbol on them. Whoever has the most of these gets the location, meaning that some characters like the Hunter or Deep Sea Diver can still be valuable despite their negative value. The final locations, the epic settings for the game’s finale, can also give a special ability to everyone in the game that changes the way things are played.
REVENGE OF THE EXPANSION PACK
Available alongside the 2nd Edition is the first expansion to the game, which adds a whole mess of new things to the game. The biggest additions are the monsters: The Rogue Robot (which discards a mortal), The Monster (which buffs your next creature), the Tarantula (which makes another scientist’s creature weaker), and the Man-Eating Plant (which basically lets you call dibs on a mortal unless a sufficiently powerful monster breaks it). These can be used to replace base game cards as you like, and part of the fun of the game is figuring out how different combinations of monsters affect the game and its strategy. Some, like The Monster and Man-Eating Plant, are about on par with their base equivalents in their power level. Others, like The Tarantula and Rogue Robot, are harder to justify. The Tarantula is probably the hardest to justify, as replacing the Mummy takes away the biggest counter to The Kaiju and leaves it virtually unchallenged.
It also adds in The Angry Mob, a tribe of mortals that act as a sort of “hot potato” for scientists to pass around, and new locations The Power Plant, The Dark Castle, and Final Location The Motel. The Monster and The Tarantula also come with wooden tokens that are used to track their buffs or nerfs, respectively.
Campy Creatures is one of the most flavorful games I’ve ever played. Everything from the art to the fonts to the gameplay reflects a love of classic 50’s sci-fi and horror. Not only that, but it’s an incredibly fun game that’s easy to learn and quick to play. The rapid gameplay and colorful art make it an excellent choice for board game night, but the strategy and deduction required means that it wouldn’t be out of place on the shelf of a more “hardcore” player either. Whether you’re a fan of the glorious Golden Age of Sci-Fi or just a lover of well-made games, Campy Creatures is a must-have.
You can currently pre-order Campy Creatures (for GenCon pickup only) on Keymaster’s website or through BoardGameGeek’s GeekMarket. The game will go into wide release in September, and going by the GenCon prices, will retail for $24.99. The expansion will sell for around $15.00.
Keep an eye on The Fandomentals for all the latest from Keymaster Games and the wide world of tabletop. And if you happen to be going to GenCon, I’ll be there! Say hi!
All images via Keymaster Games