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Campy Creatures Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Mattox Shuler

Artist: Josh Emrich
Publisher: Keymaster Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Take a moment and imagine that you had the opportunity to discuss any game you wanted, in any way that you wanted.

It could be your favorite game, or a game that you absolutely hated, or one that had the longest playtime, or had the most obscure theme, or literally an infinite number of criteria that you could choose.

How would you decide what game would you wanted to highlight and for what reasons?

Several months ago, I had that exact opportunity. When I sought to become part of the review staff at Everything Board Games, I was asked to provide examples of my board game review style. Since I didn't have anything to point to online, I was allowed to submit a review of any game for consideration.

When given the opportunity to review any game, based on any criteria, I chose Campy Creatures.



This decision wasn't based on the "cult of the new" or anything else tying me to the game, but rather it was a process. Trying to decide from a list of potentially hundreds of titles that could be evaluated on an infinite number of criteria was initially daunting, but after some thought, I narrowed down the list based on what I wanted to capture in a review.

I wanted to write about a game that I liked to playThis seemed like a no-brainer, but I didn't want my first impression to be me spending 1,000 words on how much I disliked a title. But,

I wanted to be able to critique itI wanted to show that I could really like a game while at the same time being objective. These two criteria narrowed the potential pool down a little.

I wanted it to be representative of the game mechanisms that I enjoyed mostAt the time I was really into bluffing and deduction style games (and still am to a large degree). This narrowed the potential games down a considerable amount.

Promotional post card art included with the Kickstarter version.

I wanted it to show off the game art
I like board game art and wanted to showcase a game that was as aesthetically pleasing as it was fun to play. This narrowed the list further. Finally,

I wanted to highlight a game that I thought more people should know aboutThere was no shortage of Coup reviews, so in my mind, there was only one title that could meet the criteria.

So flash-forward nearly a year later and the opportunity has presented itself for me to review Campy Creatures for print, and I am pleased to say that my thoughts on the game then still hold true today. So much so, in fact, that I only needed to add a little information under some of the headings that weren't included in my initial "try-out" review, so what you will read is largely the same as it was originally submitted (I even include the original cringe-worthy, detailed explanation of the rules).

Even though this review wasn't intended to see the light of day and has been sitting in my email outbox for almost a year, I feel that the date of the writing isn't as important as the feelings now. So I think it necessary that I write an update of my thoughts towards the game today. A sort of review-within-a-review, so that I'm not simply passing old work off as current thoughts.

So without ado, the shortest review I will ever write, bulleted for your convenience:
  • I still like to play Campy Creatures.
  • I still consider it one of the best bluffing and deduction card games.
  • I still think it is one of the best representations of board game art there is, bar-none. And,
  • I still think more people should know about this game (and Keymaster Games in general). 
And now the original review.

Review:

Keymaster Games’ Campy Creatures is a set-collection game where players assume the role of mad scientists releasing iconic monsters to capture unsuspecting mortals such as teenagers and damsels in distress through bluffing and deduction. The player who captures the most valuable mortals over the course of three rounds wins.


Rules and Setup:
Each player is dealt the same nine creature cards valued zero through eight, and places their unique player marker and creature meeple on the Clash-O-Meter/score track. The mortal cards in play for the game are determined by the number of total players and create the mortal deck. When the round begins, a number of mortal cards equal to the number of players are selected from the top of the mortal deck and placed face-up to reveal the mortal and potential scoring for successful capture. Play then consists of what could be described as four phases: Release and reveal, special ability part one, capture, and special ability part two.

Even the instructions are have a pulp comic feel.

Release and Reveal Phase: Players release one of their nine creatures by playing one creature face-down in front of them. When each player has released their creature, the played creatures are simultaneously revealed and remain face up.

Special Ability Phase (Part One): Some creatures have a unique ability that can modify card values before the capture phase (designated with one dot on the card). This ability can alter the power of their own card, or diminish the power of their opponents. For example, the Mummy, valued at a three, captures first if a Kaiju, valued at eight, is played.

If two (or more) players play the same creature, the tie is broken by employing the aforementioned Clash-O-Meter. The player that was at the top of the Clash-O-Meter (determined by the player that last saw a monster movie) wins the tie-breaker and the player marker is moved to the bottom of the Clash-O-Meter. After using the special one-dot abilities, and resolving any ties, players determine the capture order and move to the next phase.

Clash-O-Meter doubles as a tie-breaker and score track.

Capture Phase: The player with the highest creature value after abilities are employed selects a mortal for capture first, the next highest selects second, and so on until all of the face-up mortals are captured.

Special Ability Phase (Part Two): Some cards have special abilities that are designated by two dots, and these abilities are used at the time of a mortal capture. For example, the Invisible Man may discard a captured mortal, and the Swamp Creature allows the player to give one of their captured mortals to another player.

The played creature cards and captured mortals remain on the table and in view of the other players and play continues with the reveal of new mortals and then following the same phases outlined above. When the number of available mortals in the mortal deck are less than the total number of players, the round is over and scores from captured mortals, ranging from seven points for the player with the most captured Teenagers to negative three points for the Hunter, are calculated and marked using the score track that outlines the Clash-O-Meter. The player with the highest score after three rounds is the winner.

The mortal, "The Cosmonaut", is worth 4 points.

Artwork and Components: I didn't include this section in the initial review, but man, is the art great in this game. I'm just going to stop typing and leave these pictures here for your viewing pleasure.


 


Even the inside of the box wasn't safe from the artwork.
The Good:This game has fantastic art and theme. The monsters and other nefarious beings work really well in this game and the enjoyment is only heightened by the outstanding art from Josh Emrich. There is so much B-film campy goodness that resonates in the art, you'll think you are playing with tiny movie posters from a bygone era.

Some mortals fight back.
But Campy Creatures is so much more than just a pretty face. This is one of the best bluffing/deduction card games available. It follows in the same vein of many other bluffing card games e.g. Brave Rats, Coup, Diamonsters, etc., but I think there are two things that set it apart.

First, the inclusion of the Clash-O-Meter. I was skeptical of it at first and thought that it was going to be an unecessary step in an otherwise simple game, but it really alleviates the issues that I had with tie breakers in other card-based bluffing games. It is a small change that can have a impact on a player's strategy and it help keeps the game flowing when players play the same cards.

Next is the balance of the cards. Each monster is valued between 0 and 9, but there is a good balance even between the lower cards and the higher ranked ones when the special abilities are activated. I know that I have been in a place before playing a deduction based card where I knew the outcome of the round with two or three cards still in hand. Campy Creatures doesn't eliminate that completely, but it does decrease outcome foresight to an extent by balancing the monster's values with the special abilities.  

This game is also a great filler (and I use filler in the most loving way possible). If your gaming group is looking for something fresh to bring to the table between heavier titles, this could fill that need. The 20-30 minute time frame seems overestimated. After the initial learning curve, 2-4 player games should be completed in closer to 15 minutes.

The Meh:
I do not have issues with take-that style games, and though there may be take-that-like-elements in the game, I wouldn't really describe Campy Creatures as a take-that game. That being said, I know that some are take-that adverse and they should know that in some ways this game is as much about setting your opponents up for failure as it is setting yourself up for success. If you force your opponent(s) to capture mortal cards worth negative points, the distance between the player in first place, and that in last, can get big and ugly in a hurry. And since the game is a quick three rounds, what looks to be an insurmountable lead probably is. It’s quite humbling to get lapped on a scoring track that goes to 40 points.

There are mortals you capture and mortals that you get stuck with. The Engineer can be both.
Final Thoughts:
Overall, Campy Creatures is a worthy addition to the deduction and bluffing card game genre, and if you like that type of game, it is definitely worth checking out. The abilities of the creatures help to differentiate it just enough from similar games of the genre, and the introduction of the Clash-O-Meter to break ties is a welcomed change from the tie breaker resolutions of similar games.

I cannot rave enough about the art of Campy Creatures. It is a game that I have enjoyed showing off as much as I have enjoyed playing. Everything from the box, to the individual cards, to the insertsall stand as an homage to the campy monster movie films and will tug at the nostalgia heart-strings of players of a certain age. If I were to only consider theme and art of the game, I would probably still recommend itit is that good.

If you are looking for a deduction/bluffing genre filler, or if you needed a quick game to teach and play with co-workers over lunch, I would recommend Campy Creatures without reservation. The game is quick and simple, and can scratch a gamer’s itch for a well-designed, deduction-based card game. 

Players Who Like: Coup, Diamonsters, Brave Rats, Love Letter, Skull



Check out Campy Creatures on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/214396/campy-creatures   http://keymastergames.com/   https://www.facebook.com/KeymasterGamesLLC/   https://twitter.com/KeymasterGames  https://www.instagram.com/keymastergames/  https://amzn.to/2BCSV4B

About the Author:

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. You can follow what Nick is playing on Twitter at @ndshipley
Campy Creatures Review Campy Creatures Review Reviewed by Nicholas Shipley on August 23, 2018 Rating: 5

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