Board Game Review — Monumentum

Recently we were approached by designer Mark Hanny with Joe Magic Games and asked if we would be interested in reviewing a new game he has coming out called Monumentum. Always willing to try something new, we heartily agreed and Mark sent us a prototype of the game. What did we think of Mark’s “monumentous” game? Click below to read more!

Disclaimer: Designer Mark Hanny reached out to Ethan on BoardGameGeek and asked us to review this upcoming game that will be coming to Kickstarter.  He sent us a prototype copy of the game, and we are providing an unbiased review of Monumentum.

Overview

There’s a vast kingdom in front of you, waiting to be explored. With equipment ready and plans for monuments in place, you head out to explore the unknown. But wait, are those other explorers trying to place theirs as well? And that’s the large, frightening beast over there? Do you have what it takes to not only erect these monuments of your glory, but to defeat the monsters plaguing this land?

Gameplay

In Monumentum, each player takes on the role of an adventurer trying to be the first to complete three tasks of honor.  These tasks are: to build a gold monument, to build 4 total monuments, and to slay the dragon. To accomplish these goals, players will be moving around the board, collecting resources, improving their skills, and trying to stay one step ahead of the other players!

At the start of each round, all players select 3 of their 12 action tiles and place them face down.  Then, each player takes a turn revealing and resolving one of their action tiles until all players have used all 3 of their tiles.  Then the first player marker passes and all players select 3 of their 12 tiles again, continuing until the game ends. Each action tile has two actions on it, and you may choose to do one or both or the actions in any order.  As the board starts with all spaces filled with face down action tokens (aside from those revealed during setup), one of the actions you’ll likely want to take early and often is to reveal three tokens. The board is divided into 12 regions, 3 regions in each of 4 colors, so when revealing tokens you pick three tokens from each region of one color.  Other basic actions you can take include moving up to your character’s speed and picking up tokens. Players also start the game with 3 mission cards, and can use an action to complete a mission, earning the amount of points on the card for either having a resource or attribute token, defeating a monster, building a specific monument on a specific color, etc.  Another action involves buying a spell card, which can provide players with a special action, add to one of their attributes, or give them a bonus action (for instance, a spell card with a combat symbol may let you roll the combat die a second time if your first attack fails). Spell cards require energy to activate, which players can gain by trading in shield tokens picked up from the board.

Combat is a big part of the game.  There are four different monsters that may appear on the board, from the lowly skeleton up to the dreaded dragon.  When you take an action to attack a monster, you roll the combat die, trying to get less than or equal to your attack attribute (so having a higher attack makes it easier to hit monsters).  Then the monster rolls its defense the same way, trying to get less than or equal to its defense value. If your attack hits and isn’t successfully defended, you defeat the monster, and gain the points associated with it, along with a valor token you can use in future combats to lower a monster’s shield points.  You’ll likely need a few valor tokens from lesser monsters to get past the dragon’s shield value of 5. In addition, when you start your turn next to a monster, that monster gets to attack you before you take your action, with it rolling its attack and you rolling your defense. There is an action tile that lets players take control of one of the monsters, and other actions that let you move a monster you control, so you can maneuver monsters to attack the other players, hoping to make them lose all of their health (which doesn’t eliminate them from the game, but severely injured characters can only move, pick up tokens, and heal, limiting their actions until they’re back in commission).  Finally, there is an action that lets players attack other players directly, with the benefit that if you knock the other player to 0 health, you can take something from them (either a spell card or tokens that they had picked up).

Lastly, the other action that will help complete the tasks of honor is building a monument.  To build a monument, you need two matching resource tokens (wood, stone, or gold), and must play the action tile that lets you build a monument on an adjacent empty tile.  One of the honor tasks is to build a monument of gold, while the other is to build all four of your monuments. In addition, stone and gold monuments are worth points at the end of the game, and if you build monuments in non-adjacent regions you can earn bonus points.  The game ends either when one players has completed the three tasks (winning the game), or when the last token on the board is revealed, in which case the player with the most points wins!

Components and Artwork

At the time of review, these components are still under construction, as we received a prototype copy of the game. Please use these photographs as reference to how the gameplay works and know that they may change for future productions of the game!

Amber’s Review

Having a bit of playtesting under our belts, I was excited when Ethan was approached about an upcoming game.  It’s a good feeling to be able to help a designer find corrections and to bring new insight into their game design.  When we received our copy of Monumentum, I was pleasantly surprised how complete the game was. We have play tested games in various states of completeness and had I not known that this was a prototype, I would have assumed that it was the finished product.  As we played the game, much as we do with many of the games we plan on reviewing, we took notes with questions that came up. When we sent our questions to the designer, he was very open to answering and suggested that clarifications would be made to prevent these questions from reoccurring.  I appreciate when feedback is taken seriously and leads to positive changes to help improve players’ experience.

I know there are plenty of people that don’t care what the artwork in a game looks like, but I feel as though the art really makes the experience of playing a game more enjoyable. When it comes to the art and visual design of Monumentum, there has been a strong effort to keep with the games theme, but there are a few things that miss that mark.  To preface some of my comments, I feel it’s important to mention that I really began my journey into nerdom with two games: Munchkin and Magic the Gathering. Both being card based games, I had a quick love of clean card design with fun and engaging art. In Monumentum, while the art is clean, the layout of the cards leaves something to be desired.  The box at the bottom of the card contains the cost of the card and also the description of what the card does. Typically the card cost is separate, but it’s something I can live with. However, all of the card descriptions were written in italics. To me, this indicates that the text is “flavor text,” as many card games use italics to mean just that.  That may just be me being picky, though, but consistency between different games can be helpful in learning something new.

I can fully respect that there are games in existence that may be wonderful games, but they’re simply not for me.  There are some mechanics that simply aren’t my favorite and, with no fault to the designer, just don’t sit well with me.  I’m not a big fan of direct combat when it’s just Ethan and I playing and there were action choices in this game that really encouraged that.  We were able to skip over these and use different actions, but it made it feel as if we were sort of skipping over a big part of the game. It’s possible that I may have been encouraged to use the direct combat action cards more if there were more players in our game; it is something we will have to explore further.  But my main frustration with the game came mostly at my own fault.

In the game, there are two ways to gain a win: you can either be the first to complete all three quests or if all the tiles have been flipped up, the player with the most points win. When we were learning the game, I must have missed the difference in these win conditions and became very frustrated when Ethan completed the second of the three quests and would complete the last quest on his next action. I quickly became frustrated, wondering what the point was of even trying to earn points if situations like this were going to happen. Looking back, it was really just my mistake for misunderstanding how the rules worked, but it does seem like gaining points doesn’t seem to matter if you can quickly complete the three quests. Maybe I just had some bad luck when we played, but I’m wondering how often in a two player game all quests are completed compared to all the tiles being flipped.

Ultimately, this isn’t the type of game we would normally play, but I was thankful we decided to give it a shot! I feel like it’s always worth it to give something new a try, even if it’s not for you in the end.

  • Pros
    • Simple combat mechanics allows for quick turns
    • Even at prototype level, game is complete and mechanics flow well
  • Cons
    • Lots of symbols create a need for player aids, which are not currently provided (this has been brought up with the designer)
    • Point system is disjointed and doesn’t always really matter in the end

EDIT: I’ve been in contact with the designer about the review and is reworking the end-game win conditions.

Ethan’s Review

Monumentum is a game with a lot going on.  As you travel around the board, you’ll be collecting resources, using them to build monuments, buying and activating spell cards, completing missions, improving your stats, and fighting monsters (and possible other players!).  While all of the possible actions were a bit overwhelming at first, we were able to understand reasonable quickly what all of the action tiles did.

One thing I really liked about Monumentum was the action selection.  Each round, all players select three action tiles, but then reveal them one at a time.  So while you may have a plan for your turn, other players’ actions may change that, meaning you need to improvise with the tiles you have, or forming a contingency plan beforehand.  One of the tiles we used a lot (that I didn’t mention in the gameplay section) is one that lets you essentially repeat an action tile you used earlier in the round. While it removed some of the variety of three different actions, it provided some flexibility in that you could decide either of your other two actions to copy.  Furthermore, I like the way the board is divided up into colored regions, and that when flipping over tokens you do three, one from each region of the same color. So even if you’re trying to reveal something close to you to hopefully go and pick it up, you’ll also be revealing two other tokens further away, which might be more beneficial to the other players.  I also liked all of the characters’ special abilities — some start with a higher score in attacking of defense, some are able to move around the board easier or attack from an extra space away, while others let the character trade resources for others or use resources more efficiently. I always like varying player powers in games, and the ones in Monumentum are varied while still seeming to be well-balanced (though we didn’t play with all of them).

There were a couple of things I didn’t necessarily care for with Monumentum.  First and foremost, the game is designed to push players towards a lot of conflict and combat with each other.  I know this isn’t a deal breaker for some, and that’s just the style of the game, but we tend to avoid a lot of conflict in games, especially with just the two of us.  But there are several action tiles centered around taking control of one of the monsters on the board and using it to attack the other players (and one where you can just attack another player directly), and we just didn’t use those actions since we didn’t really want to fight each other.  I can see though how a group that loves games with a lot of fighting would enjoy this game though, especially at a higher player count where there’s a lot more conflict over resources. The second negative that I’m sure Amber will also bring up is that while there is a scoring system in the game and a lot of action get you points, points only matter if no player is able to complete the three goals by the end of the game.  During our game, Amber was ahead in points for most of the game, but when she realized that points don’t always come into play (especially after I had defeated the dragon) got a bit frustrated with the game. I think this comes back to our unwillingness to attack each other, as likely the intended way to deal with that would be to attack me to take away my resources so I couldn’t finish monuments while trying to rush the end of the game, but as it was it was pretty easy for me to complete the three tasks.  It might have been interesting to have completing the three tasks end the game but then having the player with the most points win, but I feel like in a game with more than 2 players, or where the players are more directly competing, it would more often come down to points

Ultimately, while Monumentum wasn’t really for us, it is a well-designed game that I’m sure some folks would enjoy.  If you like a lot of direct confrontation and a fantasy setting, you might like Monumentum, so check it out!

  • Pros:
    • Interesting action selection mechanism where each player selects three actions for the round and then activates them one at a time
    • Varied and well-balanced player powers
  • Cons:
    • A lot of direct player conflict, which just isn’t the style of game we prefer.
    • There is a scoring system, but it doesn’t always determine the game’s winner, which could lead to frustration for a player with a lot of points
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