|Interaction||Components & Design|
If you’re ancient like me, you may remember a video game by the name of Rampage from, let me check Wikipedia, 1986, where three monsters climbed up buildings to eat civilians and ruin the city. Now imagine the prettiest boardgame adaptation of this deeply strategic experience and you’ll get somewhere close to this Rampage. The core is the same: tear down buildings, eat people/meeple. But before you get to tear down anything, you have to build something. Rampage takes a moment to set up, there are six three floor buildings to assemble. Each floor has a meeple in each corner supporting the next floor – just a few weeks ago I thought I would never get to use the phrase “load-bearing meeple” and now this. Rampage makes me happy already.
When the setup is complete, up to four kaijoople enter the city from the corners of the board. They then proceed to do what they do best: destroy the city. Each monster actually has two parts: the feet, a heavy wooden disk, and the body, the actual kaijoople. The two parts are used in different ways for the four different actions of which you may perform two on your turn.
Moving is an essential one, but trickier than it sounds. You take the monster body of its feet, then you flick the feet across the board and put the body back on. Okay, it’s not all that hard, but it takes some practice to arrive where you wanted to be. A bit of free advice: don’t try to kick down buildings, they’re on raised foundations and ridiculously hard to knock down with a kick. Much better to destroy buildings with a Demolish. When your feet are touching the sidewalk around a building, you can take your monster body and airdrop it on top of the building. That also takes some practice, it’s possible to achieve exactly nothing or to spill meeple from the board, causing bad things to happen to you. But you can exert a surprising amount of control over the direction the building drops in. For more long range destruction, you can toss one of the heavy meeple cars – there are meeple cars! – by placing it on top of your body and flicking it from there. Finally, you can use your radioactive breath that people often forget Godzilla has by placing your chin – your actual chin, not another wooden monster part – on top of the monster body and blowing.
After you sow your carnage, it’s time to harvest. Being a kaijoople means that you have a very balanced diet, you can eat basically everything. Floors, for example. Once there is nothing left on top of a building floor, you chomp down and swallow, concrete and everything. The floor ends up in your stomach, behind your monster-faced view screen, and is worth points at the end of the game. But buildings are like some types of candy: under the crunchy concrete lies a soft, chewy center of meeples. Any meeples in your neighbourhood that are no longer hidden under other game elements are free for the taking. You can eat as many meeple as your monster still has teeth, six to start with. Individual meeples, however, are not worth any points. Your diet has to be a bit more balanced than just concrete and meeples, to score, you need sets of six differently colored meeples.
Now, when I said “six teeth to start with” a moment ago, you will have suspected it already, you don’t keep those teeth. Kaiju generally are not very big on cooperation, and neither are kaijoople. With all the flicking feet and tossing cars, someone is going to get one to the face sooner or later. Any monster that is knocked over loses a tooth that goes to the active players stomach for later scoring. And since less teeth means less meeple that monster can eat, these things don’t only happen by accident. Quite the contrary, in fact. Rampage can quickly turn into a free-for-all Meepzilla vs. King Meeporah vs. Mothple. And it’s good like that.
To keep every game from feeling the same, each monster gets three cards: a Character, a Power and a Secret Superpower. The Character card gives you an option to score extra points. A Destructive monster gets ten extra points if it ate more floors than any other monster. A Romantic monster scores extra for each pair of Hero meeple and Blond meeple devoured. And so on. Powers, as you probably guessed, are special abilities. As a Kung Fu Master, you get to throw your own feet around just like tossing a vehicle. A Star Dancer flicks his feet twice for one move action. A Boxer knocks out two of its victim’s teeth. That leaves the Secret Superpower. It is, quite obviously, secret. Up until the moment when you reveal the card and let the destruction reign. That’s where the real fun happens: use the Terminator superpower and you knock down all monsters in your neighbourhood and take their teeth. The Passionate Kiss, maybe the most disturbing superpower in the game, allow you to choose to meeples from another monsters stomach. Please, for all that is sacred, do not try to imagine how that would work. And if you did, you may want to use the Unleashed superpower that gives you a full additional turn, just to run away from the scene.
The Powers and Superpowers are not particularly balanced, some are simply more powerful than others, some require actual skill to use while others don’t or even make up for a lack of skill. The Star Dancer power that lets you flick twice for one move action was the biggest help I got in this game. But despite some balance issues, Rampage is so much fun. You get to destroy Meeple City as a kaiju, throwing cars around and everything, destroying buildings. How cool is that, right? Who cares for balance when you can stomp around the neighbourhood pretending to be Meep Kong? And the balance issues are not as bad as I made them sound, Rampage still requires much more dexterity than luck. Truth be told, it doesn’t require all that much strategy, either, but you do get to make tactical decisions most turns. The whole mix is fiendishly fun, not something to play every day, but absolutely worth playing. And on top of that, the game looks great, the components are sturdy and will withstand the punishment they take when playing for a good, long time. Just make sure that you have a friend who enjoys putting 180 stickers on meeples, because those little buggers don’t come pre-stickered.