Monster Lands and Monster Lands: Heavy Weapons
- Designer: Victor Fernandez, Gorka Mata, Sergi Sole Pascual, Daniel Schloesser
- Publisher: Second Gate Games
- Players: 1-4, 1-5 with the expansion
- Age: 12+ (Complexity can make this difficult for younger players)
- Time to play: 60-120 Minutes
Hey folks! Everyone and their Grandmother Games has hit an all time low. How low? So low! Solo that is. I enjoy some heavier games but I don’t often get to play them. My wife will indulge me every once in a while, and certainly some games are over grandma’s head. Enter in Monster Lands. This is a game I picked up without doing any research on. It was a game that drew my attention to dice placement and to the cool looking cover art. Call me a sucker, but I loves me some cool looking art. I brought the cheap game home. $20 for a game, I’m willing to take a gamble. What I wasn’t expecting was a rule book that’s 32 pages, an expansion with an additional rule book, and 3 additional player reference sheets. Talk about a lot of reading! I also wasn’t expecting a full pledge kickstarter with all the add-ons! Score! This quickly jumped the cool factor. While the book was intimidating, I was excited after doing some research and owning some glass art done by Jenefer Ham. Board game enthusiasts might know her other half Richard, or better known as Rahdo. That guy from Rahdo Runs Through.
I digress. In Monster Lands, the Queen has had a bad string of luck. First, she lost her land to monsters. Next, she lost the king to monsters. Now, she has no choice but to make a sacrifice to save the land. That sacrifice? To give up the kingdom to the warrior clan that rids the land of monsters. So, in this game we are starting play as one of these warrior clans. From there, we are taking turns placing dice, recruiting more mercenaries, buying equipment, mining, going on questions, fighting monsters, and taking back the lands. Monster Lands. This is a game that’s Dice Rolling, Dice Placement, Worker Placement, and Card Drafting. It plays 1-4 players. 1-5 with the expansion. It takes about 60 minutes to 120 minutes to play.
Long Post to follow. After I post this, I’m going to try to add some quick links to jump around the page. It might take some time to figure it out, as I haven’t done it before.
- Set Up
- Game Play
- Final Thoughts
What’s included in the box? It might be faster to list what’s not included! Just kidding. Let’s get to it.
Monster Lands base game includes the following. 80 six sided dice, 64 trap tokens, 55 gold coins, 36 mercenary assignment tokens, 28 mercenary cards, 20 monster cards, 20 defense tokens, 18 equipment cards, 16 loot tokens, 16 potion tokens, 16 venom tokens, 12 land cards, 12 double sided mission tokens, 8 starter clan members, 8 novice cards, 7 panic tokens, 6 double sided land path headers, 4 reputation markers, 4 glory markers, 4 clan progress tracks, 1 round marker, 1 double sided round modifier, 1 mission bag, and 1 game board.
Monster Lands Kickstarter
This is what was included in the Kickstarter All in Pledge. Upgraded wooden tokens for clan assignment tokens, potion tokens, venom tokens, elixir tokens, panic tokens, reputation markers, and glory markers. It also includes exclusive additions. 12 exclusive equipment cards, 12 exclusive trap tokens, 10 exclusive monsters, 9 Modhelm clan members, 9 Necromancer clan members, 6 exclusive lands, 4 exclusive loot tokens, 2 exclusive path headers, and 1 exclusive panic token. Then it has a mini-expansion that includes 1 potion shop tile and 12 elixir tokens. But wait! There’s more! It also included replacement dice. Instead of the normal colored dice with pips, it included custom colored dice. The normal ones look good, but it also included custom dice for the monster attacks and solo dice! It included a traps token bag.
What about the add-ons?? It included all of the add-ons. This box included two sets of solo dice, and two sets of the monster dice. It included signed promo cards, and it included 5 hand-blown glass monsters by the talented Jenefer Ham! There are only 4 players though? Well, this box also included the expansion which adds a 5th player and heavy weapons!!!
Heavy Weapons Expansion
This expansion includes 16 heavy weapon tokens, 14 dice for the base game, 9 mercenary cards, 9 assignment cards, 8 heavy weapon dice, 6 equipment cards, 5 monster cards, 5 additional place cards, 3 land cards, 1 reputation marker, 1 glory marker, 1 starting trap token, 1 clan progression track, 1 heavy weapon bag, and the rules.
I feel winded just typing this all! That’s a lot of bits, chits, tokens, and dice! This Kickstarter ended on September 24th, 2019. It had 2,756 backers and raised 246,401.
Now, that all that is out of the way, let’s get to the set up. I’ll be describing how to set up using the expansion as well.
- First, let players pick the clan they want to play. They’ll select the initial clan members with matching affinity symbols. These initial clan members have a horned helmet and non-horned helmet on the back. Clans are differentiated by the symbols on the top right of the card. Find the matching assignment tokens to these clan members.
- Next, players will take a clan progress board, 1 reputation marker, 1 glory marker, 7 gold coins, and an initial trap token. Place the glory marker on 5, and the reputation marker on 1. Place your initial trap marker in the square with the trap symbol. Each player takes a second gate card from the expansion and an affinity link token. The second gate is only used in a 5 player game. The affinity link tokens are used in any game. The affinity counters help offset all the different affinity symbols. You can use this token once as a wild and let a mercenary settle any land.
- Set the Hunter’s Lodge area with traps and heavy weapons. Draw one heavy weapon, and place it bottom two sections of the right column. Then, draw 4 trap tokens from the bag and place them in the empty spots.
- Set up the main board within reach of all players. Shuffle the mercenary deck. These are the cards with the ale and horned helmet on the back. Place the deck at the bottom left side of the board, and draw 3 if you’re playing solo or 4 if you’re playing with more than 2 players. Set these cards face up along side the left edge of the board. Find the corresponding assignment token and set it next to the board.
- Set the 8 novice cards underneath the tavern.
- Shuffle the equipment deck, and draw 3 face up equipment cards. Line these up next to the novice cards.
- Shuffle the panic tokens, and stack them on the bottom right corner of the board.
- Select a round modifier tile, and place it over top the turn tracker.
- If playing with the Potion Shop Micro-Expansion, set the potion shop tile over top the Alchemist location. This micro-expansion adds the elixir. A mercenary can use an elixir to re-roll a single red or purple die.
- If playing with the Resurrection Micro-Expansion, place the tile near the game board. When a mercenary dies, stack their assignment token on this resurrection tile. Anyone can pay the cost to resurrect a mercenary. Side A cause a monster to come to the citadel. Side B costs an extra potion to resurrect a mercenary.
- If playing with the Provost’s Loan Micro-Expansion, set a stack of these tokens near the board. A player may only take one loan at a time. The loan pays 3 gold, but if you have this at the end of the game you lose 2 victory points. To pay the loan back, it costs 5 gold.
- There are two land areas at the top of the board. If playing 1 to 2 players, only use the left side. If you’re playing 3-5 players, you’ll use and set up both sides. Preselect all the A monsters. Shuffle those and draw one monster card to place above the left side of the land area. Shuffle the land cards, draw one and place it right next to the monster card. Underneath that, you’ll randomly select a path tile to place underneath both paths. Repeat this for the right side if you’re playing with more than two players.
- Next, shuffle and draw two mission tiles. Set side A on the left side of the mission area. Set side B on the right side of the mission area.
- Set a common area pile for the potions, venom, elixirs, defense tokens, and gold. Separate the dice by color and set those near the board as well. Make sure the trap tokens, mission tokens, and heavy weapon tokens are nearby.
Set up is now complete. Onto the game!
The game is played over the course of 6 rounds, or fewer if someone reaches . Each round consists of 4 phases taken in player order.
1. Dice pool preparation phase.
Collect dice equal to your Glory Bonus. This is the row of your current glory. Then add any dice that are depicted on your leader and mercenary cards. This is your dice pool.
Roll any yellow dice. These are the persuasion dice and help with buying equipment, traps, and hiring mercenaries. When you place a persuasion die, you take that as a discount from purchases. If there’s a persuasion die at a location and the next die is a lower value, you add both dies together. So if a 6 value is placed followed by a 4 value, then your discount is now 10. This only works for a maximum of two dice. Nothing is free, so a 1 gold minimum purchase and you don’t get the difference. So if you buy a 1 gold item with a 10 gold discount, you don’t get 9 gold back.
2. Deployment Phase.
You use dice from your dice pool and deploy them on the board. On your turn for this phase, you can do one of three actions.
- Deploy in the Citadel – Locations will show what color dice to deploy.
- Hunters Lodge – Red or Yellow Dice. You buy as many traps or heavy weapons as you can afford. After you take this action, refill the empty square. Traps are one use items. Heavy Weapons have two sides and can be used twice. Once used, just flip the tile over to the other side. Heavy Weapons return with you at the end of the clean up phase.
- The Alchemist – Purple Die. Top spot lets you gain a combination of 3 potions or venom tokens. The bottom spot lets you gain a combination of 2 potion or venom tokens.
- The Tavern – Red or Yellow Dice. This lets you hire one mercenary on display or one novice. When you hire a mercenary or novice, your reputation goes up equal to the red number indicated on the card. Your reputation can’t surpass your glory. You immediately gain any dice from that mercenary.
- Round of Beer. You can buy a round of beer for the mercenaries. Before buying a mercenary, you can pay 2 gold to discard all mercenaries at the tavern and draw new ones.
- The Armory – Red or Yellow dice. You can buy up to three defense tokens at 2 gold each.
- The Pawn Shop – Any color dice. For each die placed here, gain 1 gold.
- The Bazaar – Red or Yellow dice. You can buy one of the equipment items. Once you buy an equipment, immediately place it on one of your mercenaries. Mercenaries can only ever equip one of each type of equipment card.
- The Mine – Red Dice. Place the appropriate number of dice here to gain one of the amounts in gold.
- Deploy to the Outside – Place the corresponding dice and a mercenary assignment token to a path. This can be the missions path, to fight a monster, conquer a land, or defend the cathedral.
- Mission Path – Either mission will have a what is needed to complete it.
- Side A will be a dice rolling mission. Place a mercenary assignment token and the number of dice shown under the tile. During the next phase, you roll these dice and have to roll equal to or higher than the number in the right corner to get the rewards.
- Side B will be a contract mission. Place a mercenary assignment token and number of dice shown. In addition, there will be an objective, usually a number of tokens or gold, that need to be spent to gain one of the rewards.
- Mission Path – Either mission will have a what is needed to complete it.
- The Lands – This will have a path header that shows the number of dice needed, any additional dice you can contribute, and the benefit of the lane you’re fighting in.
- Land Paths – Place the number of dice required and additional dice, your mercenary assignment token on a lane. Additionally, you can send your mercenary into the battle with one potion and one venom token. You can also use defense tokens and trap tokens here. There are two spots for these tokens at the bottom of the lane. You can include additional tokens, but each one beyond these two spots will take up a spot where two dice can be placed. So be careful when deciding what to play.
- Monster Cards – These will have the number of black attack dice they use against the mercenaries. It will show any special powers. Then it will have two numbers and rewards. The top number is what is needed to roll to trap the monster. To trap a monster, you need to have one trap on your lane. The bottom number is what is needed to vanquish the monster. Both those numbers have what rewards come with the trapping or defeating the monster. Each monster will have an affinity type. On the back of the monster card is a trophy symbol. These are either points at the end of the game, or you can sell your trophies at any time. Each trophy is worth 5 gold per trophy value.
- Land Cards – Lands can only be conquered once the monster has been trapped or eliminated. Land cards will have an affinity symbol, number needed to conquer the land, reward for conquering the land, and a benefit you can use during the deployment phase.
- Entrance of the Citadel – This is where monsters go when they are attacked and not defeated. Place a mercenary assignment token here with any number of dice and tokens that you want. You can defend the citadel from the monster and prevent a panic token.
- Deploy in a Settled Lands – Use a die to activate a settled land. These lands usually convert one die into several others.
3. Adventure Phase -Resolve Mission and Land Paths.
- If only one mercenary is here, they roll the dice for contract missions and either fail or pass.
- If there are two mercenaries here, both roll the dice for contract missions. Only one can pass and both can fail. The player that passes the test, and has the highest total, wins the reward.
- Contract missions, both mercenaries can fulfill the contract. Each one gets the reward for the path they deployed in.
- Land Paths
- Reveal any traps. These can add dice, give you rerolls, or even add to your dice rolls.
- Monster Battles
- Monster Attack.
- Monster Battles
- Reveal any traps. These can add dice, give you rerolls, or even add to your dice rolls.
Collect the number of black dice for the monster. Add one extra die if the monster and land share an affinity symbol. Then add any additional dice for the round modifiers. Roll all these dice against your mercenary. Rolls of 3, 4, 5, or 6 hit your mercenary. A mercenary can be hit a maximum of 2 times before dying. When a mercenary takes one point of damage, flip the assignment token over to the side with a blood drop. This shows they are badly wounded.
When a Mercenary dies, discard all equipment cards attached to them along with their card. Your reputation now decreases the amount that was on the mercenary card. If for any reason, you have a clan of failed warriors and find yourself with no mercenaries, fret not! You can draw a novice card for free and promote that novice to your leader in the clean up phase!
A mercenary can defend against a monster attack. Before the monster rolls attack dice, you can remove one of your purple dice to remove a monster attack die. You can discard a defense token to avoid one hit. You can discard one potion to heal one hit.
- Mercenary Attack
Roll your dice one at a time. You use your mercenary special abilities and equipment abilities. Re-rolls are optional. You can also discard one venom token to add +2 to your total. You can decide to stop rolling. Why would you do that? To capture a monster, you have to roll equal to or greater than the capture value. However, if you roll equal to or greater than the eliminate value, your attack was too strong. You can’t got back and capture a dead monster. Once captured or eliminated, the next player on a path to the monster loses their chance to do the same.
- Failed Mercenary Attack
If the first mercenary fails to capture or eliminate the monster, the first mercenary’s dice and traps are left on the board. These attacks are then counted and added to the next mercenaries attack.
- End of Monster Attack
If the monster has been capture or eliminated, mercenaries that have not fought yet will get a change to conquer the land. Roll their dice starting from the left most mercenary, and see if they conquer the land.
If the mercenaries have attacked and failed to capture or eliminate the monster, things just got worse! The monster becomes enraged and turns it’s attention to the citadel. Move the monster card from the land path to the entrance to the citadel.
3. Land Conquest
- Only after a monster has been eliminated or captured, can you conquer a land. Starting with the left most mercenary, players can try to conquer the land. You have to roll equal to or greater than the value on top of the card. Once you conquer a land, you can match a mercenary in your control to it if they share the same affinity symbol. This will allow then be resolved in the clean up phase.
4. Loot Tokens
- Any mercenary that returns to the citadel without a reward will get to claim a loot from the participation pile. Actually it’s the loot area, but I like to think of it as a participation trophy. Loot tokens are one use items that will add to one of he aspects of the game phases.
Defend the Citadel
- Reveal traps.
- Monster battle. This is the same as land paths. Two mercenaries can defend the citadel, but only one mercenary can capture or eliminate the monster. If the first one fails, the second one can attempt to defend. When a monster that’s attacking the citadel is captured or eliminated, remove panic tokens from the building and shuffle them back into the panic token pile.
4. Clean-up Phase
1. Clean the Board.
- Take back any living mercenary assignment tokens. You can take back any unused potion or venom token. Any trap or defense token deployed are discarded even if they weren’t used.
2. Spread Panic!
- Move any attacked and undefeated or captured monster to the Citadel Entrance. Only one monster can attack the citadel at a time. The one with the highest attack value make its way through.
- If there is a monster already at the Citadel Entrance and it hasn’t been defeated, it spreads panic! Flip over a panic token and place it on the building that’s indicated on it. Players can’t deploy in this area while there is panic there!
3. Replace Dead Leaders.
- Sometimes leaders die. In these times, someone needs to step up and take the leaders place. Otherwise, it’s just pure chaos. The mercenary with the highest reputation you control becomes the leader now.
4. Pay Wages.
- Look mercenaries are just that. They don’t stick around for free. Wait, there are a couple exceptions to the staying around for free. Leaders. Leaders don’t need to be paid wages. They live to lead and that’s enough for them! The other exception is settled lands. If you give a mercenary a place to call their own, they take that as payment enough. The rest of the scoundrels need money to stay. During this step of the clean up, you have to pay each mercenary that doesn’t meet the free requirement gold based on your glory. Under 10 glory, it’s only 1 gold for each mercenary card. If you’re 11-20 glory then it’s 2 gold a mercenary. Lastly, if you’re greater than 20 glory, it’s 3 gold a mercenary.
- What happens if you can’t pay a full wage? Well, you have to pay what you can first. That mercenary is 2 gold to pay, but you only have 1 gold left? Well, pay the guy! He’s a mercenary! Better to give them something than give them nothing and end up hurt or dead! That’s not all though. One of your mercenaries, except leaders or happy land owners, desert the clan. The mercenary with the highest reputation leaves your control. Discard them and the assignment token. Any equipment can be redistributed. Your reputation now goes down the amount that mercenary was worth.
5. Glory Verification.
- If this is round 6, or a player has reached 30 glory the game ends and jump to scoring.
6. Board Reset.
- Remove all the dice from the board.
- Discard the remaining mission tiles. New ones come out each round.
- Replace any empty monster and land space. When a new land space is replaced, you also replace the path header tile.
7. Assign the First Player Tile.
- First player goes to the player with the least reputation.
8. Advance the round marker.
- Move this down. If there’s a black die under the marker, remember that gets added to the Monster attack dice.
Scoring and Victory
At the end of the game, all players will score their points. They add the number under their reputation and glory together. You get one point for each marker. Next, add any trophies from monsters you eliminated. These are between 1-3 points. Then, separate and count each affinity symbol you control on mercenary and land cards. You’ll get points added to your score based on the number of symbols. The player with the highest points wins. If there’s a tie, then the tied player with a leader that has the highest reputation wins.
This one is easy. Set up the game as normal. You only use one land side, so only one monster and land at a time. Then instead of 4 mercenaries to hire at the tavern, it’s only 3. Any unused initial clan assignment tokens set near the board. These now belong to the AI player named Madhala. Madhala only uses a red and yellow die. Human players always go first. So you take your turn, then Madhala rolls their dice. On the red die, 1-4 they stay in the citadel. On a 5-6, they go out into the lands. The yellow die will let you know where they go. The Kickstarter came with special solo dice!
- Roll the red and yellow dice. Madhala goes to this location.
- Red Die 1-4 – Citadel. Madhala never needs any money to buy thins.
1. Hunters Lodge – Madhala buys a trap. On the red die you rolled, 1 or 4 is the top row of traps. 2 is the middle row, and 3 is the last row. Madhala always buys two traps. Make sure to roll a yellow die and place it at this spot.
2. Alchemist -Take a purple die and place it in the topmost spot here.
3. Tavern – Madhala hires a mercenary. On the red die you rolled, a 1 or 4 is the top mercenary. 2 is the middle. And 3 is the bottom mercenary. Make sure to roll a yellow die and place it at this spot.
4. Armory – Roll a yellow die, and place it on the leftmost spot here.
5. Bazaar – Madhala buys equipment! On the red die you rolled, a 1 or 4 is the left equipment card, a 2 is the middle, and a 3 is the right equipment card. Make sure to roll a yellow die and place it at this spot.
6. Mine – Take 1 or 2 red dice from the supply and set them on the spot that yields the highest amount of gold.
- Red Die 5-6 – Outside. Madhala ventures outside the citadel. Madhala uses an initial assignment token and places it at the location rolled on the yellow die. Madhala automatically succeeds their fights or missions.
1. Land Path 1
2. Land Path 2
3. Land Path 3
4. Land Path 4
5. Mission 1. Place an assignment token at the leftmost spot.
6. Mission 2. Place an assignment token at the leftmost spot.
If a space is not available during Madhala’s turn, roll them again until they have a spot to go.
There are different scenarios to play. The one I like while learning the game is just straight victory points. There’s a chart that tells you how well you did. There’s also a campaign solo mode, where you play through all the scenarios. You have to meet the required victory points before moving onto the next scenario.
So there you have it. 4,000 words of component, set up, and how to play. Wow. I think this is the longest review I’ve done so far! So, I’ve only played this as a Solo game so far. I feel like that’s a fair evaluation of the game play and the feel for the game.
This game is a dice placement game. It’s one of the heavier games I’ve played. Figuratively and literally. There’s a ton to this game. Both in the multiple rulebooks and in the components.
The amount of components was intimidating. Set up and take down is a process all in it’s own. When I got the game, everything was opened and inside individual baggies. I needed to do something to speed up this process if I wanted to get this game to the table. Enter in my trusty crayon boxes and some Plano boxes. I was able to get everything in the respective draw string bag, crayon box, or Plano box. The retail version of the game is all cardboard chits. I was lucky enough to find a cheap upgraded version. It’s still unbelievable that it was only $20. The greatly help with the game. All the cards and mercenaries have individual art. I really liked the style of art used in this game. It’s very fitting. While I love bits and chits, this one was a bit overwhelming. If you don’t have anything to help store and sort them while packed away, this could be a big pain to set up. And if a game is that tough to set up, I often will go to a game that is easier to set up. So I guess one of the cons for this game from me is the set up time.
Game play wasn’t as bad as the looks of the rule book make it out to be. On your turn, you’re placing dice at locations as an action. Once you place a die, it’s the next person’s turn. Rinse and repeat until no one has dice left. Then it’s the next phase. I liked that outside had monsters, lands, and missions you could go and try to achieve. I like that the missions have one that you roll to complete and the other is a bring a die and this object. I appreciated that it isn’t just dice you’re placing. You have character tokens, and depending on the character they have different abilities. The fighting monsters is great. I like all the dice mitigation you can do to help the fight out, and the traps, potions, and defense tokens. This helps when the monster attacks. Which as the game goes on, the monsters hit hard and harder due to the turn tracker. This part was well thought out. There are a lot of symbols for equipment, mercenaries, lands, and monsters. Keep your rule book handy, as you’ll need it to reference them a lot. You get used to some of the icons, but then some that look similar do something different. There’s an equipment that has a purple die that has +1. It lets you add 1 to your purple die rolls. This works on each purple die. Then, there’s another equipment that has a red die that has +3. You’d think it was adding +3 to each red die used, but instead it’s only for a single die during the adventure phase. This can be another downside to the game. There’s a lot of flipping through the books.
I liked the decisions you have to make while playing this game. You have to manager your glory so you can hire more mercenaries to get more dice on your turn. Then, you have to pay all those mercenaries. I’ve played this game solo a lot. Each time felt different as I used a different clan. Then, the different monsters, lands, equipment, traps, and mercenaries make this game highly re-playable for me.
Scoring seemed a little weird the first time I played this game. I was focused on only glory. I soon realized that it’s both glory and reputation you’ll have to get to really boost your score. Then there’s this almost set collection due to the affinity symbol bonus.
Overall, I’m glad I found this game for the price I did. Looking online, you can get this in retail version. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as the Kickstarter version. It’s priced reasonably. If you’re a fan of dice placement and fantasy adventure, I think you’d enjoy this game. Don’t get overwhelmed with the rule book, stick in there. As someone who enjoys solo games, this one was easy to learn and fast to run. Overall, there’s a lot in this game. I enjoyed this game a lot, but I can see other people have a tough time with it. I wouldn’t consider this a family game just due to the amount of bits, time it takes to set up, take down, and number of rules. If you’re a board gamer, have played dice placement games and don’t mind a short novel for rule books, then I think you’ll enjoy this one too. If you’re a board gamer that is intimidated by set ups, large rule books, and table size, this might not be initially for you.