There's a popular myth that dentists have a sadistic streak. I'm sure it's unfounded. I appreciate that the injection of painkiller can itself be quite painful and, for sure, the whining of dentists' drills can set even the healthiest of teeth on edge. Tho' I'm reserving judgement on periodontists, dentists aren't monsters. So let's dispel up front any misconceptions about the title of this game. The 'monsters' in this game aren't the healthcare professionals; they're the patients.
Designed by Luca Bellini and Luca Borsa, Monster Dentist is a real-time dexterity game where players are using dental mirrors to identify the pattern on a card of healthy and rotten teeth, and racing to be the first to accurately record that pattern using their stock of double-sided tokens. If you're the first, you win the card, and it's four cards to win the game.
Accuracy is all important because if you are first to declare a completed record but you've made a mistake, then you forfeit a card you've previously won. And the fact that the tokens are double sided creates its own difficulties for the players: they all have different reverse sides and for some of the cards you can find you only have enough of a particular colour of healthy or rotted teeth if you choose particular combinations of tokens. There are rainbow tokens that can be substituted for any tooth, healthy or rotten and regardless of colour, but as a catch-up mechanism any rainbow tokens used to win a card are discarded - making them single use. As you approach your four-card overall win, and by this time probably having exhausted your supply of three rainbow tokens, the game shifts gear to become a fast-paced puzzler, as you search for the optimal combination of tokens to replicate the display on the cards.
The net result is an entertaining filler- (or should that be filling?) length game that can be played on equal terms by adults and children. Korea Boardgames have done a sterling job with the production: two back-to-back monsters have their maws open wide for mouth mirror examination. Set this game up and everyone will want to take a turn. There are player boards and dental mirrors for up to four players but this is really a two-player game. With three or four dentists, players will have to double up on one or both of the monsters, which means players sharing a monster will almost certainly get in each other's way.
And if you've children who have a fear of going to the dentist, Monster Dentist could be just what you need to bring some levity to the topic and help them to conquer their phobia.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)