Monsterpocalypse – Old vs New

Well I had a chance to demo the new Monpoc recently, so let’s talk about version 2.0 vs 1.0.

The good point is that it’s STILL monsterpocalypse on the whole and it didn’t take me but a second of sitting down to get back into the feel of the game and savor the monster action.  Even I will have to grudgingly admit that a pale imitation of the best game ever is still better than most other games out there.  I’m not sure how much I like the new dice which are the size of regular D6 but etched.  I’ll admit the old dice were a little too easy to fade.  The middle size that Team Covenant produced are in my opinion – just right (not too big but still etched printing).  So let’s go over the rules changes.  (here are the new rules if you are curious)

Movement & Powerup are now free
This is… by far the most drastic alteration and the one I’m most mixed about.  In case you forgot, the resource management in the game was the presence of dice in either your unit pool, or monster pool.  One of them had to have at least 1 action dice (aDice) in them for you to take a turn with that part of your forces.  Games would most often go to the player who could manage to take the most back-to-back monster turns.  In the old game, you were looking at a minimum of 2 aDice in your pool for that – 1 to move (probably) and 1 to attack.  Additional aDice past that would be factored in as some to be spent on a powerup, or to “step” and extend your movement, or even additional aDice to save for another turn after that one.  Now, with even just 1 dice in the pool, you can have a monster turn as the player can refill their power dice (pDice) for free and move into attack range.  Yes there is the factor that with powerups guaranteed the player’s power base is more important and both players will have to invest more in disrupting each other’s power base.  Previously in games it was usually the better move to spend unit turns attacking the monster if possible as you could risk the opponent missing on their powerup roll.  On the other hand since every unit gets a free move no matter how many there are – and player can field up to 15 units in a 1 monster game – it seems to me that building securing will be generally pointless as everybody spreads out across the field.  But there is one movement that still costs aDice…

Stepping can be done at any time
A monster can still “step” in any direction by spending 1 aDice as much as you wish.  The bigger twist is that this can now be done AFTER you attack in addition to the normal before/after movement.  Another sign of separation between the rookie and experienced monpoc player was how well they grasped the concept of “screening” to protect your sides against a power attack.  Hit and Run used to be one of the best abilities in the game as your monster could hit the opponent then retreat behind some well placed units.  Well now, leave enough aDice behind, and after a hit you can step your way into a safe zone to taunt the opponent from.  Oh and don’t forget that since you won’t be spending aDice on moving or powering up, you’ll have plenty to go running off.  Again, I remember in the original game that while a monster might gain an edge pulling off the first power attack, it was somewhat negated by the factor that doing so often left a side of that monster exposed – meaning the opponent could turn the game around with a well placed counter.  Indeed in the demo game with a newbie, I started to feel almost sorry for him as I would do a throw or body slam and then step into a spot where retaliation would be minimal.  Now it seems in version 2.0 that the first monster to get a power attack will be the winner.  Speaking of power attacks…

Smash has been removed (as well as the double monster attacks)
I put the other note in () as I don’t think this came up in many games.  Still, the smash power attack is now gone.  Yes, there is an argument to be made that this does simplify the game as a hurdle for new players was often figuring out the difference between a throw and smash.  But it was probably one of the most iconic power attacks in the game and games were legendary when a monster would deal a devastating smash to the other.  I’ve heard some say it was a little overpowered because of the sheer damage you could do, but I argue that it was nonetheless balanced because of all the conditions you had to fulfill to pull it off.  Heck with the new step rules, it would probably be even harder in 2.0.  It just doesn’t feel the same not hitting a monster through 4 or more buildings.  Speaking of buildings…

You must bring a minimum of 6 buildings with your army
All buildings now leave hazards by default
So it should be noted that the minimum city size has been increased.  Previously players’ were required to bring a minimum of 2 – maximum of 12 (hence why Laser Knight with 2 buildings – 1 being privateer press – is the strongest build in 1.0).  In version 2.0, players must bring 6 buildings minimum (12 is still the max).  Also while before you could have up to 5 copies of a building, now it is up to 4 (assuming that building isn’t marked unique). Now the game all but ensures the city is going to be fairly well filled.  This is the one rules change I am completely behind and would even encourage 1.0 players to add this rule into their games. The new hazard rule… eh.  Given that most of the buildings in 1.0 left hazards anyway, you barely notice any change here.  It will stick out most to veterans as the starter box comes only with 6 apartment buildings – one of the few in the original game which didn’t leave hazards (now they leave fire).  It does bug me as the design of this game has players bringing cards with them which detail all the figures’ stats and abilities.  Well in order to make things simpler, the makers spell EVERYTHING out on those cards, down to minute detail.  So if the game is going to spell out everything now, why did it move hazards to a “keep in mind rule” instead of spelling it out on the cards?  Buildings in 2.0 now have ONLY 1 stat: a defense.  So there’s plenty of room to list one more power on there.  Speaking of building stats…

All buildings provide 2 pDice upon destruction
No longer do buildings have “power” values but instead provide 2, no matter how or when you destroy them.  If your units blow it up, you get 2 pDice.  If your monster throws the other into it, you get 2 pDice.  Another rule I’m “meh” about.  The p value on buildings gave them an interesting tactical factor as you would have to choose whether to brawl it for a great deal of pDice up front, or secure it for a steady stream of pDice over the long haul.  It certainly increases the appeal for your units to blow up a few buildings.  Still if your buildings are being destroyed…

Repair rebuilds buildings
Just a minor note on the GUARD figures.  The repair vehicle now, instead of repairing your monster, can use the repair action to reconstruct a destroyed building.  Or build any building in a vacant lot.  Or maybe it requires rubble, I’ll admit this didn’t come up in the game.  I know my opponent wishes he could have repaired Defender X…

Damage carries over forms
Monster forms go one way
Monster forms have been altered.  Instead of having two different cool figures, now you just have 1, with a 2 sided card representing the “normal” and “hyper” state of the monster.  Which state your monster is in is determined by their health.  With the two monsters I saw, they started at 11 health, and would “hyper” when their health dropped to 5.  No longer can you spend pDice to shift back and forth as tactical needs require.  Even more importantly, if you take excess damage to kill your monster’s alpha forms, that damage now carries over to hyper.  In 1.0, both forms had their own health bars, so even if one of them had 1 health point remaining and the other form had 6, a very damaging attack on the former would not carry over to the latter.  Conceivably if 2.0 ever has healing (I’ve not seen any signs of it yet) then a player could heal themselves out of hyper mode.  I will admit I miss the 2nd monster body with it’s traditional translucent look and the little health tracker.

Unit pool depends on monsters
This change never really came up in 1.0, but in 2.0 if you bring more monsters to the table, you can bring a larger unit force.  IIRC, 15 for a 1 monster game, 20 for a 2 monster game.  Since there’s already 2 additional monsters on the map I’m not really sure what the extra units will accomplish as the map is going to get crowded quick.  This is possibly the only place I find the change to movement acceptable as 20 units would be pushing playability without a subsequent increase in aDice.

Monsters can start anywhere
It should also be noted that monsters no longer have designated “start zones” but can be placed ANYWHERE as long as it’s against the side of the map by the player.  So it will be possible now for players to run 3 or even more monster games.  It also means that positioning could take longer than setup as you definitely want to be aligned for a possibly opening rampage or some other attack to get your power dice built up.

The dice wells have also changed
Not a real big deal, things are no longer on the side of the map, but the specific arrangement of the dice wells just bugs me.

Multiple Actions
No longer are you allowed one action per turn. Now it is one action per figure!  I also think you can’t do the same action twice, but the rules phrased it weird so I’m not sure.  With dice more plentiful now, this change concerns me more than most with possibly spiraling out of control.  Tournaments will tell…

Final Verdict

While 1.0 had problems I’ll admit (as any first generation product will), I think it was still the superior game. Never in any other game was I so nervous about managing resources and luck.  This intense, tactical calculations I feel have been lost and I’ll admit – I miss it.  I was talking with one fellow who mentioned trying out 1.0 a bit and thought it was a little too luck based and preferred what he saw in 2.0.  The problem is, the game only seems luck based at first.  Take the issue of the powerup roll.  Yes if you roll 1 aDice you only have a 50% chance of success.  BUT a player can roll up to 3 aDice if they wish.  If you managed to secure certain buildings (like the statute of Liberty) you could add a bDice to the roll.  3 white + 1 blue in a roll while not technically guaranteed is pretty much guaranteed in practice.

Still, the missed point is that such a cost also encouraged players to NOT plan on the powerup roll but prepare a turn assuming you fail it. (Or make two plans based upon success/failure.)  It also would lead to nailbiting games where a back-to-back turn would be agonized over whether how many dice to risk on the powerup.

Maybe things will change, but overall it feels like MonPoc 2.0 lost a little too much, without equivalent gain.  I wish them luck, but still wish I could know what would have been in set #6.

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