Posted on February 12, 2009 by Billzilla
Since monsters of various types are pretty much White Wolf Publishing’s stock and trade, it makes sense that they would attempt to diversify their product line to include horror-themed board or card games. One of White Wolf’s offerings, Monster Mayhem, has each player taking on the role of a different classic monster, seeking out victims and devouring those parts of them each fiend finds most delectable.
Players begin by selecting one of the five monsters – Vampire, Werewolf, Mummy, Zombie or Poltergeist – and placing the token for that monster on its starting space. The board is a grid of hexagons, and the players flesh out the city by placing the notable location tiles, either randomly or according to one of several sample layouts provided. Each player then draws three victims from the Victim deck and places that card by their monster’s data card. These victims are worth bonus points if the drawing player is able to capture and devour them.
The victims are not without any defense; during the opening phase of each round, the entire mass of victims are moved one at a time using a random card from the Escape deck. Each Escape card shows a number and one of six colors; the colors each correspond to one of the six sides of each hexagon, and it determine the direction the victim will move, while the number indicates how many spaces them will move. Once all of the victims have been moved, the monsters can begin their hunt. If the victims can land on certain space – such as the Police Station or the Church – they are permanently safe and are removed from play. The monster will have to seek their victim elsewhere!
Each victim has a number from one to three in five attributes: blood, bones, organs, brains and spirit. The vampire wants blood of course, and the werewolf wants bones. After defeating a victim, the monster checks the victim’s card for the particular ingredient that interests them, and adds those points (plus any bonuses that apply) to the monster’s Craving score. At the end of the game, the monster with the highest Craving is the winner.
I really like this game. The fact that there is a time limit (five turns) makes it imperative to get down to business right away. Event cards, of which each player begins with five, either give your own monster a bonus, or make it more difficult for one of your opponents to accomplish anything.
Designer Ken Cliffe deserves kudos for creating a fast-moving, fun game. If I have any complaints about Monster Mayhem, it’s that the rules, like nearly all rule sets I’ve encountered for White Wolf board or card games, are over-written and poorly organized. They spend too much time explaining things that need little clarification, and the progression of the rulebook is choppy and hackneyed; no accolades for the editor (none is listed; perhaps that explains the problem?) on this game.
All in all, Monster Mayhem is still great fun, and will appeal to players more often than just at Halloween time. Fans of classic Universal or Hammer horror films NEED this game; it has all the elements of classic movie monster films and plays in about an hour. The assorted components allow for enough randomization to keep play fresh and varied from game to game, providing strong replay value. Pick up a copy of Monster Mayhem for your next game night, and be sure to sleep with the lights on.
Review by Bill Bodden