a fun game, with interesting twists on familiar ideas, and has a nice flow to the overall gameplay.
Theme and What is it?
Hail Friends! Watch and thrill as our local Adventures Society prepares to journey too far-off lands to face a fearsome festival of fiendish foes. They will travel to arid desserts, sunken depths, and even the land beyond your very dreams to bring back exotic creatures for your amusements. Come see Devilish Dryads, Nefarious Nosferatu, and Merciless Merfolk. Then again, if you dare stay to see the Augustly Antagonizing Ancient Enemy…if your sanity can stand it. Welcome to the CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS!!!
Carnival of Monsters is a drafting set collection game where you will play land cards, hire adventures, and trap creatures. You’ll do all of this while balancing dangerous monsters versus creatures from specific lands. In addition, you can score additional points by participating in themed hunts. Do you have what it takes to become the most celebrated hunter in all of London?
Carnival of Monsters is a drafting game with some familiar elements to one of Richard Garfield’s previous designs. In this game you’ll be gathering monsters from one of the six different lands found in the game. Like most drafting games you’ll receive a hand of cards, choose one to play, and pass the rest to your left or right depending on the turn.
Whatever card you choose you’ll have to play in some fashion. Land cards are played into your collection. Each land provides a certain amount of power based on the particular card. The amount of power each land provides allows you to “travel” farther to find larger more dangerous monsters. This gives you the basis for your monster collection.
Monster cards can be played in front of you if you have enough points in the type of land that represents that creature’s habitat. You can only use the points from a given land card once preseason. This forces you to pay attention to what lands you have and what creatures you’ll want to collect.
Event cards give you an immediate bonus. These cards are discarded after playing and will usually provide resources, money, or some other quick bonus to your turn.
There are also hireling cards. These sit in front of you and supply bonuses that can add to land types, monster bonuses, or cages used for holding dangerous monsters.
Goal cards have to be purchased for gold. These are kept in your vault until the end of the game where they are revealed to give you additional end game scoring opportunities.
In addition to purchasing goal cards, you’ll have to purchase any card you can’t or don’t want to play. This can also force you to buy a card you don’t have enough money on hand for. If this occurs, you’ll need to take a loan. These give you a boost of cash but are negative victory points at the end of the game.
There are other ways to score points through the game. Every season has its own goal card which gives a bonus for catching specific monsters and becomes and end game bonus for the hunter who caught the most of that type of monster during the round.
I was excited to get this on the table. I’m a fan of Richard Garfield’s game designs and had heard decent things about this one. The production looked good coming out of the box and had me ready to play.
Game Build Quality
The quality here is very nice. The cards are all good quality with nice edges. They should hold up well to shuffling. I don’t think you’ll need to sleeve them but if you do, there’s plenty of room in the box for that.
All the cardboard tokens are a nice thickness. The board was large, and well laid out. There was no sign of warping in my copy, though local conditions will have some effect on that.
The rules are well laid out and easy to read as well.
The art is very nice. I thought all of the pictures were well done and evocative of the creatures and locations they represented.
This is a decent drafting game. While the set collection and resource management is a part of the game, you’ll spend most of your time deciding what cards to keep and play. I would put this in a similar camp to seven wonders for type of play experience.
Age Range & Weight
The box says 12+ and I think that’ pretty close. The rules aren’t overly complicated but the strategy on the timing of different stages can be tricky. There are a few nuisances that could get in the way as you play through it. You might be able to play with slightly younger players if you’re willing to help them out here and there.
Overall, I enjoyed this game. It’s a fun game, with interesting twists on familiar ideas, and has a nice flow to the overall gameplay. The card drafting makes your decisions feel important. There are some thematic aspects of Magic the Gathering that will show up as you play, but this game is miles different from the other.
One of the twists I enjoy was the use of land points for catching Dreamlands creatures. All land types function as wild for the purposes of capturing Dreamlands creatures; you can dream from anywhere. The reverse is not true. Dreamlands lands don’t help you capture other creatures. I thought this was a nice spin on the wild card being used to capture anything.
I also like the use of secret goals hidden in the draft deck. This means that you’re never certain what end game scoring everyone will have access to. It also means that there’s a chance that some goals will be known by some of the players. Even if they don’t know exactly who has which goal. This is complicated by any card you can’t play in the field goes into your vault. This means that a player with a stacked vault can have a lot of end game scoring opportunities or a lot of high value creatures they couldn’t afford earlier and are saving to play later on.
There is a board for the game to help you organize the components into a nice display piece in the center of the table. I found that this just took up an unnecessary amount of space and I’m not entirely certain why it’s included. It doesn’t detract from the game it was just an odd inclusion.
There is a potential for poor luck dropping your ability to score. Everyone starts with two 1 point lands that will help you get started but, it’s possible that a bad shuffle could hold you back. There are so many cards in the game I think it’s unlikely that any one player will have a bad hand while everyone else thrives. However, I admit it is possible.
Overall, I found this a nice bit of fun. It didn’t overstay its welcome and had nice choices to make.
As always, I recommend you try before you buy if possible. Head to your local game store or convention and see if you can get a demo.
Until next time, be well.
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