Published by: Mayday Games
# of Players: 2 to 5
Isle of Monsters is an eye catching game that will bring memories of popular monsters in video games and movies to your table. The island boards and cages are made of thick cardboard with plenty of room for their their purpose. The food comes in 3 colors of wooden discs that have stickers provided if you want to take the time to sticker all the food. The victory point tokens are called scare tokens and are thin cardboard, but a lot are provided so that you do not run out. The monster cards are beautifully illustrated and are the highlight of the components. Cards are very colorful and icons are spaced nicely on the card to allow the art to show but not affect the gameplay. The rule book is colorful and has lots of illustrations and examples. While the rule book provides most of the information, there were times I was confused or could not find the answer I was looking for. The rules are missing that you flip over the next card after a person takes a monster from one of the island stacks. The groups I taught got a little confused or hung up on how scare value (the attack value) and scare points (victory points) sound like they should be the same but they are not. Otherwise, Island of Monsters is very easy to learn and provides a good value in it's components.
Isle of Monsters is played in rounds till the monster deck is out of cards. After that round, players will total up their scare tokens and the player with the most scare tokens wins the game. Isle of Monsters has 4 phases in each round. (Nurture, Mature, Scare, Clean up) Each monster card will have a scare value and type in the top left corner. The type they are strong against is in the upper right corner. Fire beats Nature, Nature beats Water, and Water beats Fire. There will be circle icons on the sides of the card. This is the required food to raise the monster to be able to scare the other monsters. Each player will have a cage board with 3 cages that each hold a monster. This board will be placed in between the smaller side islands with the big circle island in the middle. Each side island will have a deck of monster cards and food tokens at the start of the round.
At the start of the game, players will have no monsters in their cages. During the nurture phase, players will take turns around the table till each person passes. There are 3 actions you will have to choose from during your turn. You can use your action to capture the top monster from either of the side islands that your cage is between. After you have chosen a monster, you will place it in a cage and flip over a face down card on that island if available. The other big action you can take is to take a food token from either the middle or one of the two side islands you are adjacent to. You will take that token and place it on a matching empty icon on your monster in a cage. If you can do neither of these actions, you will pass for the round and wait till the other players have passed. If you are the first to pass, you will be first during the next round. After everyone has passed, you will check to see if any of your monsters matured in the mature phase. If a monster has all food icons covered by the appropriate food tokens, the monster will mature and be placed face down in a stack in front of you to use during the scare phase. Any monsters not fully fed in the cages will stay in the cage for the next round.
The other big phase of the game is the Scare phase. During the scare phase you will be secretly selecting a type of monster and playing the monsters of that type from your matured monsters. You can play as many monsters of that type from your hand or save them for another fight as long as you at least play one card. Each player will play and reveal the monsters at the same time. The monsters will then scare the crowd. This means that you will total up the monsters scare value and the player with the most scare value will get 3 Scare points. If there is a tie, then each tied player gets 1 Scare point. Next the player will compare types to the players adjacent to them. If a person is out of monsters, they are skipped and the next player is considered adjacent. Players will take 1 Scare point for each of the adjacent players that they have type strength over as described earlier. You will then place those monsters to the side and being another scare phase till only one person has monsters left or everyone is out of monsters. If only one player has monsters left in their hand, they will receive 1 Scare point per card left in their hand. Players will have all their face down monsters available during the next round for the scare phase. The last phase is the clean up phase. During this phase the first player will draw food tokens from the bag and placing food tokens equal to the player count in the middle island and two food tokens on each side island. From the main monster deck, you will add one card to the top of each monster stack on the side islands. When the last monster is dealt, the next round will be the final round. Players will total up their scare points and the player with the most wins.
Isle of Monsters has a good mix of risk/reward and bluffing for a fun family game. The art is very colorful and enjoyable. Some of the monsters look a little close to a certain game involving pocket monsters, but that just added a sense of familiarity and humor. Isle of Monsters is great for families with kids that enjoy games. This is easy for them to understand and learn, while also teaching them new game mechanics that are not used in many family games. I wish the rules would have been a little clearer, but I question things if it is not stated in the rule book that others may just assume is how it is played. I found adults also enjoyed the game and had fun being cutthroat with the food tokens. One game I decided to play my monsters randomly during the scare phase and it turned out the "heart of the cards" (Yugioh reference) was completely in my favor. I wish they would have called the scare points something else to prevent some confusion with scare value. Everyone that played ended up calling them victory points. Mayday Games continues to bring out great light to medium weight family games that are bright and fun to play. Since you play with all the monsters each game, I could see it getting old after multiple plays, but I think kids have a higher tolerance for that and game life will be longer for them. I would recommend this for families and gamers who enjoy games of a lighter weight. This also may attract the Pokemon type crowd who want a game of that theme. While I enjoyed the game, I will be giving it to a family whose kids enjoy it more, but I will enjoy playing Isle of Monsters with them.
+Colorful art and a theme that will have a wide audience
+Easy to learn and play
+Game plays in an hour and is easy to set up/ put away
+Adults and Kids will both enjoy the game
+Bluffing/ secretly choosing which monsters to use to scare is done well
- Some questions left not answered in the rule book
-You will see all the monsters each game
-Confusion with Scare Value and Scare Points