Before reading this review we wanted to make you aware that
Monumental – African Empires
AFRICAN EMPIRES the new expansion for the acclaimed hit civilization game MONUMENTAL is currently on Kickstarter until Sun, July 5 2020 9:00 AM MST.
Quick Look: Monumental
If you want to see how this review of Monumental was originally showcased and so you don’t miss all of the beautiful art make sure you check it out in the 1st issue of Everything Board Games Digital Magazine HERE!
Designer: Matthew Dunstan
Artists: Tey Bartolome
Year Published: 2020
No. of Players: 1-4
Playing Time: 90-120 Mins
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
Opening the box was a treat. Everything was packed into the box neatly and efficiently. Storage is fairly straightforward and easy to figure out. The miniatures are finely detailed and of good quality. While the Classic Edition uses tokens to represent the Warlord, Soldiers, Explorers, and Outposts, making it easier to fit them all on the Capital tile, it’s worth it to splurge on the Deluxe Edition. The miniatures give a more realistic dimension to the gameplay, and make it easier to see the big picture. This, in turn, make it easier to strategize and counter your opponents. The map tiles are well designed.
The art is done in a way that makes the tiles look nice, while at the same time, fading into the background enough that they don’t distract from the gameplay. The cards are also well designed. The art is simple, but attractive, and the cost, rewards, and type are simple and easy to follow. The same with the tokens. The only initial difficulty I found was in trying to figure out what the Production tokens were at first.
Special Note: If you have the Monster Module, I’d advise storing them separately from the other Barbarian tokens. On our first play through, we didn’t realize they’d been mixed in with the regular Barbarians and had to reset the map to ensure the proper tokens were in place.
Another reason to go with the Deluxe Edition is that it comes with three extra modules: Automa Module—a two player game between you and the game itself, the Hero Module—adds powerful characters that can help players as well as hinder their opponents, and the Monster Module—which adds to the difficulty level, because you never know when the Province you conquer is going to reveal a monster that’s going to basically eat half of the forces deployed on the tile. Suddenly exploring isn’t quite as carefree as it had been before.
There is a separate book dedicated to map setups, as well as a section in the rulebook that details the conditions for creating your own maps. Due to this—and the modules, Monumental is a game with almost infinite replay-ability. Although I would never say no to more Civilizations in the future.
The only things you’ll need when you sit down to play are space and time. The game is huge. The map took up most of our game table (48” x 24”) by itself. We managed to squish our cities into the space that was left, but had to recruit a second table to hold the Development deck and display. Monumental takes 90-120 minutes to play officially, but it took us (in a 4-player game) about 2-3 times longer than that. This wasn’t a problem for us, because we like games that require longer game times, but it is something to be aware of.
Monumental is one of those games you need to play a time or two before everything gels. There are a lot of little things and moving pieces to keep track of, but that’s also part of what I enjoyed most about the game. The four player game play can drag a bit, so I think the sweet spot for me was the 2-3 player version.
THE RULES/THINGS WE CONSISTENTLY FORGOT:
When you’ve completed a Wonder, place the matching Wonder token on one of the Provinces you control. We built a number of Wonders, and for some reason, forgot this rule nearly every time. It’s an important rule, because it gives your defense for that Province an extra 2 points. The Scoring Track. In learning how to set up and play the game, we somehow overlooked the Scoring Track the first few times around. A mistake we will not make again, because it makes like so much easier by keeping score as you go
instead of trying to calculate everything at the end when your brain is fried and nearly all your Soldiers are dead. (Thanks to the stinking Goryo in the Monster Module.)
After your turn, if you haven’t purchased anything from the Development Display, discard the card furthest from the deck and then draw a new card to fill in the gap. This right here is a big part of why our gameplay took a little longer. It’s big and bolded in the rulebook, and yet we somehow missed it. Instead, we discarded at the end of the round. If you value your sanity, discard, if necessary, at the end of each turn. Turn, not round.
Not a thing we consistently forgot, but the first time setting things up, the only thing that wasn’t crystal clear was that the tokens with the hammer/pickaxe were the Production tokens. Other than that, set up was a breeze.
At their heart, deck building games and area control games are all about math. So with these kinds of games, the theme, design, and gameplay have to be good for me to enjoy them. Monumental did well in all of these areas. The way you moved, how, when, and why, flowed naturally as an extension to the theme. It felt like we were tacticians directing our troops into battle. The miniatures helped a lot with that as well and added to the enjoyment. The presentation of the map, Cities, and the miniatures was awesome! The cards in the Cities were well done with the art accenting the card and all the important information on the card easy to see and understand. The same with the map and the Barbarian tokens. While it might be a little overwhelming at first, it really doesn’t take that long to figure out what all the pieces do. The theme, the art, and the gameplay all work together, without any one thing overpowering another.
I liked that the Development deck served as a timer. The way the deck is set up makes sense and really incorporated the theme, with the more modern things being at the bottom, and the more ancient things placed on top of the deck. Having the option to lengthen the game via the Renaissance deck is also nice to have. The display was also balanced, so that in a 2-player game, there are two rows instead of one. The same discard rule applied to each row, allows for the game to clip along at a steady pace.
The Hero and Monster modules are a great addition to the game and added a new dimension. All of us blood thirsty conquerers suddenly had to think and plan a little harder, because we never knew if we were going to find a regular Barbarian to plunder or a Monster that was going to wipe out half our forces on that tile.
There wasn’t really anything I disliked about the game, other than a distinct lack of dragons. (Although the Monsters
made up a bit for that.) If you enjoy games like Risk or Small World, and deck building games like Star Realms, then you
should definitely give Monumental a try!
Choose a map from the manual and set it up. (Components: map tile pieces, barbarian tokens, markets, and production tokens.) If the player prefers, there are instructions in the rule book on how to create a workable map. Once the map and all the tokens have been assembled, place the gold and culture tokens beside the map. Add the Resource counters to the side as well. We used a small container to hold all the counters so it was easy to pass around.
The deck is comprised of three eras—a fourth, the Renaissance Era, is optional. The top left of each card in the Development deck has a number. Sort the cards by number—1, 2, and 3. Shuffle each era deck individually. Then place them facedown and combine them into one deck: the third era is on the bottom, place the III divider on top, and then add the second era deck, place the II divider on top, and do the same for the first era. Place the Development deck in the play area.
Draw the top six cards of the Development deck and place them in a row, face up, next to the Development deck to form the Development Display.
BASIC BUILDING CARDS
These cards are comprised of three small decks—Workshops, Laboratories, and Archery Ranges. Do not shuffle these together. Instead, keep them separate and add them to the play area above the Development deck.
After each player chooses their civilization, they must build a city in their personal play area. Each Civilization deck contains twenty-one cards—with eight of those cards being unique to their civilization. The unique cards consist of one Warlord, one specialized Knowledge, one special Building, and five Cultural Policies. Set the Warlord and Cultural Policy cards beside the City, and shuffle the remaining fifteen cards together. The player will then deal the cards in 3×3 grid, with a total of nine cards face up, going from the top left to the bottom right corner. (Left to right, top to bottom.) The remaining cards are placed nearby and facedown and will serve as the player’s City deck. Make sure to leave a space nearby for the discard pile. Place the Warlord card face up next to the City, and the Culture (Policy) deck facedown. The player is free to look through the Culture deck at any time. Place two Gold beside the city as a starting resource. The player who most recently visited another country plays first and will take and keep the I Era separation card. Starting with the last player, and going counterclockwise, each player chooses a Capital tile. Then each player places their Warlord, (9) Soldiers, and (2) Explorers on top of the Capital tile the player has selected. Place the Outposts nearby.
There are four phases for each player’s turn, and each phase must be done in order.
1: ACTIVATE CITY—the player choose one complete row and one complete column to use this turn. Declare which cards
have been activated, and show this by tipping them 45 degrees to the right. If one of the activated cards is a card attached
to the Knowledge card, activate both cards this turn. The player immediately gains all the resources given by the activated
cards. (Resources are on the top right corner of the card.)
Basic Resources: Production (black counter/token with hammer on it) resources are used for building Wonders and
Buildings. Science (blue counter) resources are for acquiring Knowledge cards. Military (red counter) resources are for
moving Warlord, Soldiers, and Explorers to conquer tiles, gather Production tokens, and gain resources from Markets.
Other Resources: There are two other Resources. The first is the Culture token that is used to activate Cultural
Policies. The other, is Gold. Gold can be used in exchange for any of the Resources, except for Culture.
2: TAKE ACTIONS—There are quite a few actions the player can take—and they can be taken in any order. It’s important
to be strategic here, because some actions can have a ripple effect on others, depending on the order of play. The actions
the player can take are as follows: Acquire a card from the Development deck, complete a Wonder, develop a Cultural
Policy, Conquer a Province, move Military, construct an Outpost, move Explorers, use the effect of activated cards or
Cultural Policies in the player’s City, and make scientific progress.
All cards purchased from the Development deck (cost on the lower left) will be placed facedown on top of the player’s
A player may purchase a Wonder by paying the first half of the cost (leftmost circle on the bottom left of the card). The
Wonder is placed next to the player’s City, with the Construction counter (yellow) placed on the first circle. Once the rest
of the Wonder is paid for, the counter is removed and the player immediately receives the completion bonus. The Wonder
is then placed facedown on the player’s City deck. The player then takes the matching Wonder token, and then places it
on a tile they control. This will give the tile an extra two points for defense.
To develop a Cultural Policy, the player must have enough Culture tokens. The first policy costs one token, the second
two tokens, etc. Once a policy has been developed, the player will place it face up next to their City. The player will then
immediately gain a one-time reward (bottom of the card, right next to a bolt of lightning). Each successive turn will provide
an ongoing effect (noted on the card) until more Cultural Policies are developed. Once a new Cultural Policy is developed,
the previous one is placed beneath it, so that only the lightning bolt action shows. Each time a new policy is developed, it
will trigger the player to receive all of the previous one-time rewards from prior cards.
A Province can only be conquered if it is adjacent to the player’s Capital tile or to a Province the player already controls.
The cost of moving Units is one Military per Unit per move. To conquer a Province, the player must place an equal
number of Units (Soldiers/Warlord) to the Province’s defense (found in upper left corner of Province), as well as matching
the number of each Unit defending the Province. The player many attack multiple times during a single turn, so long as
they have a sufficient number of Military counters.
Provinces with Barbarian tokens on them are treated the same as the above. The defense value is the combined total
of the natural defense of the tile and the number on the Barbarian token. Once the Barbarian has been conquered,
choose one of the two rewards on the back of the token. Place this token face up next to the player’s city.
To conquer a Free Town Province, the player must place as many units as the tile defense requires, as well as pay the
shown on the Free Town token. Once the tile has been conquered, the player may take one of the two benefits shown on
the back of the token. Place the token face up next to the player’s City.
The defense total for a tile will be the total combined might of the terrain tile, any Wonders constructed (two points), one
point for each Soldier, two points for the Warlord, and three points for Outposts. Using the Warlord to conquer will give the
player an immediate benefit listed on the Warlord’s card.
Outposts can be constructed for free, and so long as the player has at least three Units on the tile. There may only be
one Outpost per tile, only two Outposts per player, and the Outpost cannot be moved once it has been built.
Explorers require one Military per move. Each turn, the Explorer may perform one of two actions: 1) if the Explorer is on
a Free Market tile, the player may take the Market token of their choice—never obtaining more than one kind of each
Market token—and add it to their personal supply, and 2) take the Production token from the Province the Explorer is
standing on and add it to the player’s personal supply. Explorers cannot conquer or control any of the provinces.
3: REPLENISH CITY—A few things happen during this phase. the City cards that had been activated must be placed in
the discard pile. Deal out new cards from the City deck, filling in the gaps left to right, and top to bottom. If multiple
Knowledge cards are drawn consecutively, the player must choose one to keep and discard the other. Once the player
runs out of cards, they may then shuffle their discard pile and place it face down to comprise the new City deck.
4: REPLENISH DISPLAY—if the player purchased at least one card from the Development Display, move the cards to
the right and fill in any gaps left behind with cards from the Development deck to bring the number of cards in the display
back up to six. If no cards were purchased, discard the card farthest from the Development deck and shift the cards over,
drawing a new card so there are six cards in the display.
Now it is the next player’s turn.
END OF GAME CONDITIONS
The end of the game is triggered when the last card of the Development deck is placed in the display. The play continues until the end of the round. Then all of the players take one final turn. If the last player of the round triggers the end of the
game, each player just takes one more turn.
Knowledge cards are worth 1 point each.
Wonder cards are worth 2 points each. Cultural Policies (that were developed) are worth 2 points each. Provinces controlled by the player are worth 1 point each.
The player with the most Knowledge cards is awarded 3 points. The player with the most Provinces is awarded 3 points.
The player with the most completed Wonders is awarded 3 points. The player with the most Cultural Policies developed is
awarded 3 points.
Game Play 4/5