Champions of Midgard (Grey Fox) board game designer Ole Steiness' collaboration with AEG brings a fantasy world full of Meeples and Monsters to life in a bag building, worker placement game.
In Meeples & Monsters, each of the 2-4 players controls a cast of basic characters that can be further developed to battle hordes of evil Monsters from 'Moredraw' (geddit?) that relentlessly attack the realm of Rowan. The player who destroys more monstrosities from the realm of Peepul and completes more quests during the game will be declared the new Earl Marshal. The jokey theme is complemented by the art, from Gong Studios.
Turn structure for each player is split into three phases: Development, Main and Draw. During the Development phase a player can build buildings and/or upgrade characters. Tho' the character upgrading is without a doubt the best aspect of the game, placing new buildings that provide additional action spaces feels underdeveloped since only a total of eight can be built during the game. In the Main phase, players can place meeples in the available action spaces and/or fight monsters attacking the city. Mechanically it feels like a worker placement mechanic but without the usual interaction and blocking that we've come to expect with this mechanism. The third and final Draw phase sees each player tidy up and draw more meeples.
Rowan is depicted on the main board with four districts and four basic actions, the eight additional spaces for buildings, four spaces for the first expansion and three monster slots for each district. Each player also has their own personal board with the different characters, such as the peasant, the fighter, cleric, etc… and two main areas: the tavern, where the meeples go when drawn and before being assigned, and the lodgings where they wait until the bag is empty. This ensures that, unlike other bag builders, players always cycle through all meeples.
Mechanically the game is quite simple, which makes it a good introduction for younger players to bag building games, as well as players who prefer to keep complexity down. This game would have benefited greatly, tho', if it included a more advanced gameplay variant that built on the best aspects of the game, such as upgrading meeples, but with a deeper approach to gameplay; for example, worker placement with blocking, or using the buildings placement as something that has a cost and can provide victory points not just a new action space. With the buildings, we'd have liked to have seen an extra benefit to the player that builds it, either when they or other players use it, and the possibility of fighting monsters with other players as a cooperative exercise that can benefit or hinder all those involved. Perhaps these are ideas that might be considered for any sequel or expansion.
If you fancy the playful theme and enjoy lighter games that are easy to teach and play then Meeples & Monsters is certainly worth checking out. However, for experienced gamers looking for a good, more complex, bag builder game, then Orleans (dlp) still heads the pack.
(Review by Rui Marques)