31 August 2022
Bag yourself a hero
Bags are becoming more commonplace in the tabletop industry. Whilst occasionally they’ll serve as fancy storage solutions, more often than not, they’re functional additions, allowing for blind draws of chips and tokens as an alternative to dice randomisation. Meeples & Monsters falls under the latter, albeit with the glorious decision to forgo tokens in favour of infinitely more tactile meeples.
Meeples & Monsters is the latest from Champions of Midgard designer Ole Steiness – and for anyone who’s played that 2015 hit, the premise here might sound familiar. Essentially, hordes of monsters have been plaguing the town of Rowan, and it is down to the players to hit back with a fusion of luck and worker-placement mechanics as they strive to become the new Earl Marshall. Of course, the aesthetic and theme is notably more family oriented here (our heroes are literal meeples, as are the various beasts), but the game’s main deviation is its use of bag-building mechanics.
Over the course of the game, players will be supplementing an initial bag of peasants with increasingly more powerful forces, represented by a variety of coloured meeples and their associated Hero Cards. A number of meeples (generally ranging from four to six) will be drawn each turn and subsequently placed out on the central board’s worker placement spots.
The board displays a cartoonish aerial view of Rowan, with various buildings offering opportunities to gain new meeples, quest cards, and bolster existing forces. Up to eight additional buildings can be constructed by players, adding more variety to the board and granting crucial bonuses when built. Furthermore, bordering each of the town’s four regions are an ever-replenishing number of monsters, which, when assigned to, yield the victory points needed to win.
For better or worse, battling monsters also acts as the game’s timer, with the monster deck being seeded with a trio of ‘Dark Council’ cards – the third of which signalling the last rounds. Often though, the monsters waiting at the sidelines pose too little of a threat to be engaged with swiftly, leading to a fairly mechanical feeling game arc of improving your engine, building all the worker placement spots, and then fending off monsters. Whilst overflowing regions do run the risk of weighing players’ bags down with fleeing peasants (an inconvenient but nicely thematic mechanic), having more of an incentive to attack consistently would aid the game’s general flow and length of play.
One of the most interesting elements of the bag building is the option for levelling up each of the four main hero meeples, increasing their strength and unlocking various abilities. Certain worker-placement spots on the board will also open up opportunities to enlist even more help in the form of Prestige Heroes, whose powerful presence can prove invaluable…if and when they’re drawn from the bag.
Overall, this process of growing and refining a small army in a bag and eagerly dipping in and out of it remains consistently exciting and addictive. Visualise, for a moment, plunging your hand into a cloth bag and grasping a fistful of wooden figurines as they gently clack about your fingers. Feels good, doesn’t it? Indeed, depending on the amount of ‘refinement’ carried out during the game, players bags will end up with a generously hefty haul of peasants and heroes, and seeing their varied colours spilled out on the tabletop serves as a nice visual recap of players’ chosen strategies alongside being simply satisfying. Ultimately, forget tokens, cubes, and chips – this is how bag building should be done.
PLAY IT? YES
This is a fun, but lengthy, merging of mechanics, suited to both experienced players and families. Although I can’t help but think that the game’s hobby-specific title is limiting its audience somewhat.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED A FISTFUL OF MEEPLES
Worth a shot if you’re after a similarly tactile worker-placement experience.
Designer: Ole Steiness
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Time: 45-60 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 152 Meeples
- 47 Monster cards
- 44 Quest cards
- 28 Hero cards
- 15 Location tiles
- 12 Player markers
- 4 Player boards
- 6 Dark council bonus tokens
- 4 Cloth bags
- 2 First player tokens
- Final encounter scoreboard
- City board
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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