Monster Derby is one of those rare games that creates
laughter every time it's played. Not just most of the time, but every
time. This is partly because the game is so different each time,
partly because the rules are so easy as to become invisible, but mostly
because the setting is just plain silly and fun.
The basic premise is simple: seven or more fantasy monsters are in a
race across a long, narrow course with lots of different terrain. (You
can use two, three or four boards placed end-to-end, depending on how
long of a race you want.) Unlike most racing games, though, no one
plays a single monster. Instead, at the beginning of the game, players
secretly write down the order in which they think the monsters will
finish. This list is not revealed until the end of the game, so much
of the strategy comes from trying to keep your opponents guessing how
you ranked the monsters, yet still trying to insure the "right" ones
come in early. Players take turns moving monsters - no monster can be
moved twice until all are moved once, and so on. So you may move your
favorite monster on one turn, but your least favorite on another - to
keep it from getting too far ahead!
The game comes in a bookcase sized box. To be honest, the cover art
isn't very good, which may turn some foolish buyers away. The
components are a little better, being of adequate quality. You get 30
different monsters, four color boards, four black-and-white boards,
four dice, and lots of chits to keep track of hits, stun, enraged,
The rules are fairly well written - although the rulebook might seem
thick to some folk, it uses a large font with a lot of white space for
readability, and four pages are a reference section covering monster
special abilities, attacks, and defenses. This is a nice touch: it
makes it very easy to find a rule in the middle of a game. There are a
few questions that aren't covered, but these are minor and can be
decided with the roll of a die if it ever matters which way something
Each turn a monster moves the roll of a d6, plus or minus its movement
modifier. Monsters can only move forward - but the board uses a
staggered square pattern (basically hexagons made with squares), so you
can zig-zag a monster instead of moving it directly ahead to slow it
down if you want. You must move the full movement, however: the only
ways to hold back are zig-zagging and moving through adverse terrain.
Of course, there are more entertaining ways to slow down a monster:
combat and special abilities.
Each monster is rated for a special ability, basic speed modifier, hit
points, attack dice, native terrain, a "wacky" attack and wacky
defense. (The game includes a handy Master Monster Chart in case you
want to use miniatures to race with instead of the cardboard counters
supplied. The counters have all the necessary information on them, as
well as a picture of the monster.)
Special abilities include the ability to fly, to charge, to attack
behind or in front, to step over other monsters, etc. Some unique ones
include the angel's power that heals any monster it attacks, the
siren's ability to call a monster to itself, the zombie's immunity to
physical attacks, the leprechaun's ability to switch the places of any
two adjacent monsters, etc.
Wacky attacks and defenses occur when the "wacky" die comes up a one,
two, or three. The spider casts a web, the cyclops does massive
damage, the mammoth tramples, the pixie dodges, the hydra
counterattacks, the zombie stuns, the medusa multi-stuns, the angel
heals double points, etc. The wacky die is rolled each attack, but has
no effect except to denote whether a wacky attack is triggered (roll of
1), a wacky defense is triggered (roll of 2), or both (roll of 3).
This added element helps create the unpredictable nature of the game
which makes it so enjoyable.
The race is over when the first four monsters cross the finish line.
At that point, various points are awarded for these places, and each
player figures his score based on those points and the places he
assigned the monsters to finish. In a seven-monster race, the monster
you hope to have finish first is given a 7, the second place monster a
6, and so on. The monster that actually crosses the finish line first
is awarded 5 points as a multiplier. So if you predicted that monster
would indeed come in first, you get 7 X 5 = 35 points. However, if you
said that monster would come in third, you get 5 x 5 = 25 points, and
One complaint on the internet about this game was that everyone tended
to choose the strongest monsters, and beat up on the smaller ones, and
most games became ties. We haven't had that happen in our games yet,
but there's an easy fix for such a problem. Each monster has an attack
die rating. Simply total the ratings for all the monsters in the race,
and then say that the total attack dice of the monsters you choose to
come in first through fourth place cannot exceed half that number. So
if the attack dice of all seven monster totals 28, the first four you
choose cannot total more than 14 attack dice. This ensures that every
player will be rooting for at least one weaker monster.
All in all, this game is highly recommended for those who enjoy getting
silly now and then.
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