Super Giant Monster Showdown is board/card game that's
more fun than serious. It's very flexible in number of players - 2-4
is a good recommended number at first, but you could try to play with
as many as ten if you have the right fun-loving crowd. The box comes
with 603 cards (!), half a dozen card cases, some counters, rules,
and four toy monster figures to use as pieces, though you can add your
own easily enough. There's room in the box, barely, to squeeze in the
components from the supplement, Destroy Tokyo Tower.
There are six different types of cards in the game, clearly color
coded. While the components are not very spiffy, they are
serviceable. Four of the card types are used to create monsters; a
fifth type is used to create the map the game is played on, and the
sixth type of card is the event deck, drawn and played during the
While the game has some flaws, discussed below, it's really a very
entertaining game in many ways. You begin the game, for example, creating
your monsters. This is a lot of fun, even if you get a lousy monster.
(I once had one so bad I named him "Rat-wuss" - but he ended
up winning the game! This is because Paul, in his hubris, decided
Rat-wuss was so easy a target he didn't have to exert himself.
He was surprised when I played a Defense Event Card that let him wiggle
out of the Cosmic Serpent's coils - but had he played full Hold
ability, he'd've had me easily!)
To create a monster, you first deal each player seven of the Bio-Cards.
These are basic animal/robot types, and you must choose at
least one of these cards. You may choose as many as you like, but 1-3
seems a reasonable number. Each Bio-Card includes a basic attack and
movement ability, often of different types, and sometimes a defense or
special ability. For example, the Ant has a Bite 2, Hold 2, Body
Armor 2, Legs that can climb over obstacles, Moves 3 on Land and 1
Burrowing. The Ape can Punch 3, Hold 2, Throw 1, Crush 2 and moves 3
on Land. And so on. You can create a pure bio-type, or make a
hybrid, such as an Ant-Ape. Keep your choices secret from your
opponents during this stage of the game.
Once players have selected their Bio-Cards and discarded the rejects,
they are each dealt seven Modifier Cards. Again, these are kept
secret, and the players are free to choose as many of these as they
wish - but be aware that monsters are built on ten cards total
(unless players agree otherwise before beginning). Thus, if you take
four Bio-Cards and four Modifiers, you won't have many Power Cards
or Power-Source cards, the remaining two types of monster cards.
Modifiers modify the Bio-Cards. For example, you may give your Ant-Ape
a Long Snout, enabling him to spray water, or Spiked Claws which
do Thwack 2 damage as well as Knockback. An extra head is an
attractive option, as are wings, jumping legs, antennae, etc. Lots of
fun choices here!
Once that stage is done, players are dealt seven Power cards. These
are either, well, Powers, which require a Power Source to be used (the
last type of monster card) or Special Abilities which don't require a
Power Source. Some examples include a Power Spray which has a range
of 1 and may affect two different sectors at once, or Power Flash
which has a range of 1 to 2 and will do some combination of damage and
stun, active monster's choice how to split that up. A Special Ability
might be a Karate Chop which does extra damage and allows you
to pinpoint that damage, or Magnetism, which affects Defense Units,
not other monsters. More on Defense Units later ...
Finally, each player is dealt seven Power Source cards. These are
used to fuel Powers, so if you didn't take any Powers you (1) don't need any
Power-Source cards, and (2) must not want to win the game. Oh, they
can also be used to heal, so you might want some after all, even if you
don't have any Powers. There are only six different types of Power
Sources, and they range in value from 1 to 2: Gaia (Earth energy),
Chemical, Electricity, Radiation, Alien, and Fire. Some of these have
secondary effects, such as Chemical allowing you to mutate, Alien
allowing you to travel through space, etc.
When you use a Power, you must activate at least one Power Source
card. You may activate more than one card, adding the Power Source
card values together to create a more powerful attack, but you can
only activate one type of Power Source per turn. Thus, you may take
one card each of two or more Power Source types, but you can never add
their values together in that case. It's an interesting trade-off:
for attack purposes, you want a lot of Power Sources of the same type.
For healing purposes, however, you'd like a variety of types, so you
can heal in many different locations.
Once you've selected your Power Source cards, you should have ten
cards, and your monster is created! Note that you can't go back to a
previous type of card when creating a monster - once you've chosen at
least one Bio-Card and discarded the rest, for example, you can't
change your Bio-Card makeup. This is actually a good thing, as
otherwise monster creation would take too long and also allow players
luckier in the draw to overwhelm their opponents. At this point,
reveal your monster, give it a name, and you're ready to play.
Destroy Tokyo Tower
Of course, you may wish to have chosen a scenario from Destroy
Tokyo Tower before building the monster at all! This
supplement, though it adds considerably to the cost, is highly
recommended. It includes 25 new components and, more importantly, a
scenario book with 25 different scenarios. At least 70% of these are
wonderful settings to play in. The basic game gives a few variations
on a basic build-your-own country and watch the monsters rip it down,
and this is actually fine. But the supplement really enhances the
game by giving you new objectives, preset maps, and new toys.
The Basic Scenario
At any rate, if using the basic scenario, you now lay out the map
cards. Probably start with a 4x4 or 5x5 grid, then work your way up
to larger maps. Simply shuffle the map cards and lay them out. There
are all sorts of terrain: various types of water, countryside,
mountain, building, planet, space, etc. Space and planet cards have
to go on the perimeter of the board, and don't count toward the 5x5
grid. Otherwise there aren't any restrictions. Some land and
building cards have a Property Value and Population Count, and some
have special notes about their use. Some, such as a Nuclear Power
Plant or Power Lines, allow monsters with a certain Power Source type
to heal while there.
Once the map is done, players are dealt seven event cards, and place
their monsters at opposite corners of the board. Figure out who goes
first, and go to it!
If not using the supplement (which supplies goals for most of the
scenarios), the basic goal in the game is to win in at least two of
the following areas: most Property Value destroyed, most Population
Count killed, and most Monster-vs-Monster battles won. The game has
fairly detailed rules for the special attacks and Powers in the game,
and how to destroy Property and Population. The essence is: it's lots
Monster vs Monster Combat
Basic monster-vs-monster combat is as follows: the attacker decides how
many of his cards to activate, rotating the selected ones 90 degrees.
The defender can activate any defensive cards, doing the same. If any
damage gets through, the amount of damage received is the number of cards
the defender must rotate. At the end of your turn, you automatically
"heal" one card - turn it back to normal. Other cards cannot be activated
again until healed. You can take a turn doing "Power Healing" allowing
you to recover more than the one card per turn limit. When a creature
rotates its last card, it's out of the game (though it may come back in
a sequel game, of course!).
So attacking is risky - in effect, you are weakening yourself in order
to attack. This actually brings one of the game's greatest flaws to
light: multi-player games. If one monster attacks another, both the
attacker and defender will end up weakened. This is fine in a
two-player game - the weakened defender will probably not be able to
finish off the weakened attacker right away. But if there is a third
player in the game, he can step in with a fresh monster and pick off
either of the combatants of his choice. Although perfectly logical,
it somehow doesn't feel fair, and reduces the amount of monster-vs-monster
attacks in the game.
I'm not sure what to do about this. While Super Giant Monster
Showdown is, overall, a superior game to Monsters Ravage
America from Avalon Hill, the latter does solve this problem
nicely by not allowing monster-vs-monster combat until the end of the
game, and then allows the victor to heal by the loser's original
health before having to face the next monster. Something like this
could be incorporated into Super Giant Monster Showdown,
allowing monsters to "call out" other monsters as if they were Old
West gunslingers and have the other players in the game respect this
and not interfere with either creature in the battle until at least
one is fully healed.
But in a two-player game, this flaw doesn't appear. Likewise, some of
the scenarios in the supplement get around the issue by having
different victory conditions.
One other minor flaw is easily corrected: the rules state that you
can't draw an additional Event Card unless you forfeit your turn. We
find this silly - we like Event Cards! So we allow you to draw one Event
Card per turn (up to a max hand size of seven) regardless of what actions
you took that turn, and if you forfeit your turn you may refill your hand
up to the seven-card limit. Event Cards, by the way, can be played at
any time, even during another player's turn, even right after playing
another event card, and do lovely things, such as allowing you to bring
on (and control) Defense Units to attack other monsters, add new Power
Source cards to your monster, change the weather, set traps for other
monsters, get extra defenses (the way Rat-Wuss won the game once!),
evacuate Population from an area, thus robbing an opponent of victory
points, etc., etc. Great fun!
So when I'm in the mood for some light-hearted bashing, stomping and
destroying, I reach for this game first. Best monster game out there.
I'm not a big fan of Japanese monster movies, but my friend Paul is,
and he says they cover most of the cliches in at least one of the six
decks in the game or the supplement. (By the way, they plan more
supplements for the future, but as of this writing there is only
Destroy Tokyo Tower, so that's what I mean in this
article by "the" supplement.)
The components are not up to European game standards, and if
you must have high quality artwork with wooden pieces and laminated
cards, you won't like this game. If you don't mind a more home-made
look, like light games rich in theme and atmosphere, then I highly
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