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ROLL PLAYER: MONSTERS & MINIONS

Reviewed by Herb Levy

ROLL PLAYER: MONSTERS & MINIONS (Thunderworks Games, 1 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 60-120 minutes; $50)

 

Roleplaying games involve creating characters to take on adventures and Roll Player (featured this issue) is all about that character creation! But there is another element central to the fantasy RPG experience: monsters!!! Encountering monsters and dealing with them is one of the great joys of the genre! It seems that designer Keith Matejka thought his original design might benefit from a boost in that direction – which brings us to this expansion for the game: Roll Player: Monsters & Minions

This expansion offers new characters players can create and more dice! There are “booster dice” (with values of from 3 to 8!) and combat dice (regular – and smaller – six-sided dice) used when battling the fantastic foes of the games’ universe. Honor and Injury tokens are included and there are also blue Experience Point (XP) cubes to aid you in your quests. Scrolls, offering immediate benefits, have been added to the Market deck. But, as you may suspect from the expansion’s title,  the main addition is Monsters (and their nefarious minions)!

After players get their class color assignment, one Monster of a class NOT selected is randomly chosen as the Monster of the game. In addition, randomly chosen Location, Obstacle and Attack cards (correlated to that particular Monster) are placed face down next to it. The minion card deck is shuffled and the top one revealed. Game play follows the outline of Roll Player except, when the Market Phase happens, players have a new choice: Go on a Hunt. 

Instead of buying something at Market (or discarding a Market card to get some gold), players may hunt the revealed minion. Players get 1 combat die to start but all minions offer a “bonus” of sorts which will grant the attacker more combat dice under certain circumstances (for example, having dice in the Dexterity row of your character board etc.).  And that’s where XP can be useful.

You can spend 1 XP to reroll a combat die, 2 XP to rid yourself of an Injury token (which you may have collected on an unsuccessful hunt), 3 XP (or 5 gold) to hire  “mercenaries” (more combat dice and there is no limit to how many combat dice you can “hire”) and, in a non-combat role, 5 XP to do ANY Attribute action!

When hunting, the number rolled (the higher the better) is referenced to the specific card with results granting players Honor (in the form of a token), Injury (another token) or Experience Points (XP). If the number rolled defeats the minion (indicated by a trophy icon on the card), that player takes the card and the accompanying rewards.  Each trophy collected also allows a player to peek at the Location, Obstacle and Attack cards (in that order) to see what bonuses await in fighting the Monster later in the game. (These bonuses bestow additional combat dice as a reward for having certain colors of dice on a player’s character sheet etc.) If successful but no trophy, then just the rewards noted are taken. If unsuccessful, an Injury token may be collected and the minion “runs away” (in game terms, placed on the bottom of the deck) and a new minion revealed. 

Once everyone has completed their character (with 18 dice placed on their boards), players confront the Monster! In addition, to the Location, Obstacle and Attack cards that may possibly grant more combat dice against the Monster, all Monsters have some special ability which may affect the battle. To the total rolled, +1 is added for each Honor token a player has and 1 is subtracted for each Injury token held. Depending on the final total, players may receive as many as 8 Reputation Stars (VPs) for being a “Monster Slayer”.  Now, as in the base game, final scoring occurs with VPs earned added to those already received from fighting the Monster. The player with the highest final total wins!

Since a Hunt is another option during the Market phase – and only ONE option may be done each phase, players will be torn between that and doing the standard buying of a card. While defeating a Monster at the final confrontation can bring you as much as 8 VPs, that generally means giving up opportunities to purchase sets of armor or acquire useful skills and/or traits which can generate an equal number of VPs by game’s end. Ideally, you will try to balance your approach but sometimes, you will need to make a strategic decision as to which path to take in trying to gather up the most Reputation Stars by game’s end. The rulebook also provides an amusing chart so you can see, based on how many VPs you have earned, where you stand between being a legendary “Monster Slayer” or merely a NPC (non-player character).

As with the base game, graphics are very strong and atmospheric. It is surprising, though, that the markings separating the base game cards from the expansion cards are so small and easy to miss. Once the cards are mixed, it is a challenge unto itself to separate them into their original boxes.(On the bottom right of each card, there is either a white “die” with one pip for the base game or a white “die” with 2 pips on it for the expansion.)  A less subtle but perhaps a bit larger “MM” on the cards might have been a good idea.

Some players love dice rolling more than anything and, without question, this is one of the draws to fantasy roleplay. Ironically, despite the presence of so many dice, that basic “rolling dice against monsters” aspect of roleplaying is not a part of the base game. While Roll Player stands strong on its own, Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is a wonderful addition for those who miss and wish the rattle and battle of dice and Monsters in the Roll Player world. – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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