Monstrous Fun…For Kids
Tripwire’s contributing writer Simon Kennedy takes a look at VR Distribution’s Carnival Of Monsters…
Carnival Of Monsters
2 – 5 Players
12 and up
Produced by V R Distribution
Richard Garfield has left a shadow over card collection games from the mid-1990s with Magic: The Gathering. This shadow was not as ominous as it sounds. In fact, it was to the benefit of the genre and the industry. However, time moves on. The waves crash and new things appear on the shore. When CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS failed to be backed in its Kickstarter funding attempt, many read into that an end to Garfield. With AMIGO picking up the game and VR releasing it in the UK, have these voices been premature in their assumption?
In a word. Yes. CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS has achieved something unexpected. A game that operates on a multilayer of card placement, creative storytelling, and energetic playability. In Carnival you are a member of the Royal Monstrological Society. They have a myriad bunch of members. Many well respected and most respected experts in monster lore, capture and command. Every year the Society permits a single new member to join. Applicants must prove themselves with an array of the magnificent beasts in their hands. To aid quests, the Society grants every aspiring monstrologist money. This is for hiring talent to help in their journeys to the magical lands where the most exotic beasts reside.
So that is simple enough. You are one of these applicants. You set out to explore lands, denoted by cards with exceptional artwork in. Everything in the game looks good to be honest but I especially loved the detail in the location artwork. These are key. Get the locations and then get the best creatures loitering around them. Search, collect, pay and win by selecting the best hand. Simple enough. Drawing or drafting cards is benefited by choosing the right collection of experts. These elements of the game work incredibly well. Why would they not. Garfield has form in this. With the collection of such diverse cards being both challenging and rewarding, it makes the game alternate in playing and outcome. It also makes it fun to see what your menagerie looks like. I love this word as it reminds me of Tennessee Williams and sweat. The mechanics are sound here. Expectation and outcome are clear.
Where the game is a bit heavy is the seasons and the cash money elements. I liked the travels and explorations but then the mechanics of barter and act are slightly (note this word) cumbersome. You are left with a flabby bottom end. The search and capture take four seasons, but it should have been left at less and maybe not so rigidly stuck. Three would work. CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS falls at this and only this for me. It makes the stages heavy and the gameplay becomes a little stagnant. Not only have I said this. Others mentioned it. Card drafting, creature capturing, card game loving monster fans will love the game . Kids over 8 will. Adults might find it clunky but then again, it’s Richard Garfield for goodness sake.