Terror in Meeple City, originally called Rampage, is a board game that sees 2 – 4 players take up the roles of scaly skinned monsters. Arriving in Meeple City these dinosaur like monsters find themselves pretty hungry and look to devour the local populace. It seems the local meeples all think they are safe inside the buildings of the city. Alas, they are soon about to find out these monsters aren’t afraid of causing a little collateral damage to a city to get their meal. Thus, the terror begins.
Setup isn’t exactly a five-minute task, taking up to 15 minutes if you need to run through the rules. There is a bit to get ready, you are building a whole city. Each building is 4 floors tall, apart from the central stadium, made up of alternating layers of meeples holding up building pieces. These building pieces depict an entertaining floor plans with hotel rooms, cinemas and rooftop swimming pools all dotted around the city. The meeples come in six different colours and serve to support the layers of the building. Meeples are randomised when building so that there is a distribution of each across the city. It is imperative to do this as one way to score victory points is to collect a set of 6 different coloured meeples.
What the construction creates is a treat for players’ eyes when Terror in Meeple City hits the table. There is plenty of colourful meeples keeping structures up, uniquely designed neighbourhoods and monsters ready to move around the board. The art style is also helps drive the light-heartedness. The cartoony style is perfect for keeping the game, which is effectively death and destruction of a city, family friendly.
Monsters are made up of two sections, a body and paws. The main body is the bulk of the piece that stands on top of a wooden disk, which is the paws. Each turn players are able to perform two actions, from four possible actions. These can be the same two actions or a mixture. These are move, demolish, toss and breathe. To move simply lift off the body section of your monster and give the paws disk a flick. Wherever it ends up is where you have moved to, replacing the body piece on top of the paws disk in its new locations.
If a player’s paw disk is on a sidewalk, or even minutely touching it (sometimes this may need a kind of steward’s enquiry), they can spend one action to try to demolish the adjacent building. To perform this action the player lifts their monster above the board, directly above the building in question, and drops it. Before the game begins it is best to communally agree what is within the limits height wise. An arm out straight will be significantly higher up above the buildings for some more than others. As long as everyone plays fairly, dropping from approximately the same height, no arguments will break out.
Another reason to move could be to change neighbourhood. The board is split into eight regions, or neighbourhoods. If a vehicle is in the same neighbourhood as your monster you can toss it. Place the vehicle on top of your monster’s head and give it a good flick, at either a building or another monster. If you knock another monster over they lose one of their teeth. If it hits a building the normal building demolish rules apply. Tossing vehicles is mostly used to try to fight out with other monsters but can be used to great effect to knockdown structures. There are four of these vehicles split across the board, so plenty to be hurled around.
If you don’t wish to move, while not on a sidewalk or within reach of a vehicle, you do have one last destructive ability in your arsenal, monsters breathe. Leaning over the board place your chin on top of your monster and use a short sharp blow to try to cause some destruction. While trying to avoid spitting across the board this can be a rather effective move if a city block is looking a bit wobbly and you’re not quite on the sidewalk.
No matter which destruction technique was utilized by players at the end of their turn it is time to try to score some points! Players can collect any floor pieces that have no meeples or vehicles left on top of them, even if it is only minutely on top. They can then eat meeples, from the same neighbourhood that are in which are no longer supporting a structure. The number is limited though, being equal to the number of teeth their monster has remaining.
There are 3 basic ways to score points in Terror in Meeple City, before character card rules are introduced. Whenever you knock over another players monster you gain one of their teeth, each of these is worth 2 points at the end of the game. Floor tiles that you have accumulated are worth 1 point regardless of size. Finally, a set including one of each of the 6 coloured meeples will score a colossal 10 points, though sets are not always the easiest to obtain.
Character cards add in additional ways for players to score: such as combinations of coloured meeples, if you have the most of a particular colour or for teeth you have remaining. Depending on the character card players receive can see them targeting certain elements of the city to maximise their potential points return. For extra variety Power and Secret Superpowers can be thrown into the mix. The superpowers are onetime use abilities that can be extremely beneficial to use. Catcher for instance allows you to throw another monster as if they were a vehicle, automatically breaking one of their teeth. Use this early on and they will be at a disadvantage for the rest of the game. The regular powers aren’t this strong and can see different monsters effectively gaining advantageous rule tweaks.
When introducing the game to less experienced gamers I’ve found sticking to only the basic scoring rules and removing the powers the best bet. Alternatively, you could have one of each that everyone uses rather than each having unique cards. This just limits the extra rules people need to understand before jumping in and causing some destruction. Choosing to only have one communal power also does a great job of stopping players complain that others have “better” abilities.
One feature that makes this continually fun throughout, for all players around the table, is the teeth mechanic. Having more teeth allows a player to consume more meeples at the end of their turn. So, there is a definite benefit for keeping them. On the other hand, the ability to lose them adds some punishment to firing your paws disk off the edge of the board. Also, it makes the vehicle tossing a worthy action to take. Losing teeth is almost like a down scaled version of player elimination.
Starting with 6 teeth players can only lose a maximum of four teeth, two remain as permanent teeth. Those roaming the board with only two are at a massive disadvantage over those with a full mouth of teeth. Still, they are not out of the game. Having permanent teeth also instils a fairness into the game. Rather than one person constantly being at the end of a flying vehicle after being successfully targeted four times there is no reason to continue attacking them. This can save friendships but also opens the game up to players whom may otherwise feel victimised by constant bus bombardments.
Teeth loss is used as a punishment mechanism for a multitude of monster sins. End outside of the city from your movement flick, accidentally knock something over with your hand or completely miss the target building during a demolish attempt. All of these end up in the player losing a tooth. As the game progresses, and a few teeth have been lost, players will suddenly change to be less gung-ho as they realise teeth are somewhat precious and useful!
As mentioned setup of Terror in Meeple City can be a little lengthy and as a result often after one game of destruction players aren’t instantly diving back in to play another round. Part of the issue is that you effectively spend time balancing and building up the city to knock it down slowly but surely. While the game length and the enjoyment everyone gets during the game means building the city to play is more than worth it, it is almost like a chore to rebuild to start again. This being said, the same players whom ducked out on a second game have also actively requested to play again since. So, this is more a reflection on wanting a variety hitting the table than Terror in Meeple City not being a blast to play.
Because of the differing ways to move around the board, ways to score points, different players will have very different approaches of how to play. Some will go for the more aggressive fight between monsters, while others will be happy just destroying the local city. Put plain and simple, destruction is fun. The short-lived thrill when a Jenga tower or Junk Art structure collapses is what fuels the entertainment in Terror in Meeple City. For once you are trying to cause bits to fall, sending bits clattering across the board.
Rather than just cheers or strange squeals when something collapses there is even a wave of cheering from players when things somehow stay upright. The look of disbelief on peoples’ faces as their dropped monster just bounces off what is a fairly weak and unstable meeple built building is brilliant. The laughter that ripples round the room as a vehicle gets flicked too hard, and it zooms off the table into someone’s lap, or not hard enough, and it only just leaves the monsters head, is the fuel makes Terror in Meeple City such a great experience.
Terror in Meeple City does niggle one of my board gaming pet peeves and that is to have a box that is ludicrously big for what’s in it. Pick the box up and you’ll swiftly hear the cluttering and rumbling of the components rattling around in ample space, albeit in provided plastic bags. Even the inclusion of enough plastic bags for the components isn’t enough to stop me being annoyed with the packaging. I understand developers and publishers want their game to stand out on the shelf, striving for store presence but they must also think of gamers and how it eats up space on their shelf at home.
Overall, Terror in Meeple City is a real blast to play. Seeing the city slowly collapse around the monsters, buses be thrown and the destruction unfold is just pure fun. The board is colourful even before the meeples start getting scattered around out. There are elements of direct conflict but these are limited by the teeth mechanics so no-one feels victimised, something that could otherwise have put off some players. The huge and half empty box has comfortably earnt its spot on my gaming shelf due to the entertainment the game provides, I just wish it didn’t take up so much room.
[Editor’s Note: Terror in Meeple City was provided to us by Esdevium Games for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £32.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]