Combine mutated monster parts to form creatures that will beat your opponents and create a legacy for future generations. Only the strong survive in this light deck-building game for 2-6 players.
|Teratozoic||Modern Evil Press||Card Game|
In The Box
As prototypes go, this small-batch version of the game looks and feels great, a testament to how much can be accomplished with consumer printing and materials. It’s really a tease for how nice a higher-quality production of Teratozoic will be after a successful Kickstarter. What makes Teratozoic most interesting right out of the box is the illustration style. A game with only a few colors in its palette, á la Uno or something in that vein, Teratozoic cards have huge variety. A total of 93 cards featuring mutated heads, hands, tails, and tentacles translates to 93 monster parts ripe for matching and remixing.
It’s a good sign when the kids in our group obsess over playing with a game’s components. This was very much the case with Teratozoic, which after all is designed around matching up card edges to build monsters. Although the youngest (6) isn’t yet ready to master the game’s strategy, he totally loved trying to make complete monsters out of random parts. There’s probably a Little Brother / Sister variation one could create around this, but the literal rules are actually highly accessible to young gamers, albeit a slightly older set of kids.
To vary the gameplay and the level of challenge, Teratozoic can be played with or without a set of advanced cards sporting special instructions or effects. These cards can make a big difference in score, which can make a big difference in who wins or loses each round of play. It’s helpful to try the game without these so you understand the basic mechanics, but once you add them to the mix you’ll never go back.
How It Plays
We’ve been trained to think about deck building as a means to an end, whether that means crushing opponents’ monsters, vying for supremacy, or other winning conditions. Like any established genre, deck building is ripe for new models like Quarriors‘ dice-building, Summoner Wars‘ tactical gameplay, or the bid mechanics of games like Get Lucky and Blue Moon. Teratozoic adds a new and interesting twist to the genre that feels like a mashup of deck building and LEGO. Gathering the perfect deck here is somewhat about holding more points than your opponents, but the ultimate goal in collecting all those mutated parts is–wait for it…to build the ultimate monster!
Gameplay proceeds through eras leading up to the titular Teratozoic, with each era defined by the point where you reshuffle a central deck of Random Mutation cards. Choosing the number of eras to play determines the length of the game. Players start with a modest deck of six cards that constitute their Gene Pool, and draw a combination of gene pool and random mutation cards each turn. You can think of these rounds as trick-taking where the winner has an opportunity to harvest the best monster parts. Sometimes you’ll focus on color and other times on the type of monster parts you need, but the decision to play or hold back cards is critical to protecting your end goal. Once the Teratozoic Era ends, all players form the largest monsters with the cards they’re holding, and a count of cards in play determines the winner. With simple gameplay and simple end conditions, Teratozoic still manages to be a game that rewards good strategy and planning, just as you’d expect from a deck-building game.
Going without the advanced cards is great for teaching games, but the eras feel longer and each round less eventful when you’re only playing by the numbers. That said, crafting the perfect deck requires a good mental inventory of the cards in your collection and a bit of good luck, so players are always kept on their toes.
At first you’ll think it’s just about scoring the most points, and then you think it’s about making the best monsters each round, but finally you realize it’s all about gathering just the right amount of pieces so you can form the perfect monster and go out with a bang! Teratozoic ended up being more fun than I thought after the first game.