Super Giant Monster Showdown

A board/card game by Alex Strang from Cybergecko
These comments copyright 2000 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated January 26, 2000

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 game.

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!)

Creating Monsters

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.

Using Powers

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 of fun!

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!).

Game Flaws

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!

Summing Up

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 recommend it.

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