Saturday, May 12, 2012

[JT] The CGC: My Monsunos... Let Me Show You Them

Another day, another post.  Today I am kicking off another semi-regular series here on NerdPop: The Card Game Corner (a.k.a. CGC).  If you're asking what I mean by "another" series, the first was the anime reviews that I kicked off with Gundam AGE earlier in the week.  What's the title of that series? I'm not sure yet, but I'll have it decided by the next time it comes around.

But I digress.  I tend to do that a lot apparently.  Today, we are focusing on one (if not my single most) favorite hobbies: children's card games (I'll be TRYING to keep tired and cliched internet references to a minimum, but sometimes they just fit too perfectly too avoid ,,v. ~_^).  Through out my life, I have had many interests that come and go (and most just come again within a few months' time).  However the one constant interest of mine has been card games.  I've dabbled in a multitude of different games and would like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable in the T/CCG universe (but I am by no means an encyclopedia).  So for CGC, I will be talking about games new and old, giving my own insight into the games and reviewing them to some degree.

Airswitch, from the Core-Tech Manufacturer. Photo credit: Jas
This time around, I'll be talking about Monsuno (, a new IP from JAKKS Pacific that involves action figures, a cartoon series on NickToons, and a card game (I wouldn't be talking about it here if it didn't).  My friend, Jas (who you all will be meeting soon), and I took some time and tried out the card game and discovered that it takes a LONG time to get through the game despite it's simplicity, but I'm getting a head of myself.

Monsuno is simple game.  There are three factions, or Manufacturers, that the cards fall into: Core-Tech (blue), S.T.O.R.M. (yellow), and Eklipse (red).  Each have their own characteristics and traits in the game (for example, Core-Tech is more strategic and reactive than S.T.O.R.M., which likes to be aggressive and proactive).  The beautiful thing about this game is that their starter kits (which only cost $13 I might add) contain two decks, each of a different Manufacturer, as well as a booster to begin to "customize" your decks right away.  Jas and I picked the Core-Tech vs. S.T.O.R.M. kit.  After spending some time to read up and practice the game on my own, we met up, shuffled up, and I showed her the ropes.  Here's how it broke down.

Our hands, sprawled out on the table. Photo credit: Jas
Each deck comes with three Monsunos, the creatures of the game's namesake.  They start in "The Clip".  I like to think of it as the PokeBall that all the Monsuno live in.  (Yes.  If you couldn't tell by the name of this CGC, the Pokemon CCG is the closest game with which to compare the Monsuno TCG.)  Each player begins with their three Monsuno face up on the table, in The Clip zone.  After shuffling up the deck of  Strike cards, you randomly decide who goes first.  In our game, Jas went first, and we each drew our five card opening hand.  Since I was showing her the game, we played with our hands face up on the table so I could show her what to do and help her make decisions.

During the course of one turn, the active player is allowed to make one of three actions: (1) Move, (2) Attack, or (3) Recover.  (1) moves one of your Monsuno from the Clip to the Battlefield.  In order to move the Monsuno, the player must discard Strike cards who have a "Launch" value (printed on the card) that total or exceed the Launch requirement of the respective Monsuno.
The Launch requirement is highlighted by the red box.  Image from official site.

(2) allows a player to Attack with a (non-"tired", more on this in a bit) Monsuno, choosing either an opponents Monsuno also on the Battlefield or, if there are no such Monsuno, one of their Monsuno still in the Clip.  To battle, both players draw a Strike card and select one from their hand and place it face down on the battlefield.  Once both players have chosen, the cards are revealed and battle damage is calculated accordingly (this requires determining which Strike "dominates" the other.  For more info on this, see the rulebook on the game's website).  After damage is calculated and the battle itself is completed, the players have the option of attaching the Strike card they just used to the Monsuno it was was used with.  In addition to be the main source of strategy, the purpose of attaching is two fold.

The empowered basic damage and it's requirements.
Monsuno begin with a basic damage value which tend to be relatively low.  However, they have a stronger basic damage that can be "unlocked" with two Strike cards being attached, one that matches each of two corresponding Strike-types depicted on the Monsuno itself.  It's reminiscent of attaching energies to a Pokemon.  As a matter of fact, there were multiple times where Jas and I actually referred to the six Strike types as the color-corresponding energy types.  The other benefit to attaching the Strike cards is that some of them Upgrade the Monsuno, either increasing their speed or unlocking abilities.  Here is where the main strategy comes in: whether or not you want to attach the Strike to unlock the empowered basic damage, or hold out for an Upgrade as well.

Once a Monsuno battles with another, both Monsuno become tired.  We likened this to being tapped, like in Magic: The Gathering.  They also return to the Clip after battling.  (3) allows a player to refill his or her hand to five, as well as resting (untapping) their Monsuno [Note: there is an action known as a Free Recover, that a player is allowed to perform whenever one of their Monsuno's Hit Points drop to 0 and is defeated].  After performing one of these actions, the turn ends and the other player takes his or her turn.

One thing you may have noticed is that in none of the possible actions is there room for a player to play a new Monsuno.  That is because the starting three Monsuno a player uses are the ONLY Monsuno in the game being played.  There are no other Monsuno in the deck (as a matter of fact, Monsuno themselves have a black card back, while Strike cards have white).  Thus, the turn order and game proceed until one player has defeated all three of his or her opponent's Monsuno.

Jas's field.  Photo credit: Jas
While playing, I realized that it did not take Jas long to pick up on the game.  After a few turns of explaining the moves she or I were making and the reasoning behind them, she began to make moves and decisions both on her own and before I could even coach her.  Despite getting the hang of the game and not having to take as long with explanations, it still took us almost an entire hour to finish ONE game. "This game was developed by moms who wanted to keep their kids occupied for a looong time," as Jas put it.

The game itself though is very simple to pick up, and if we had played a few more times to get the strategies down a little bit more solidly, the games might have picked up the pace a bit.  If you are looking for a new, cheap game to try out, Monsuno is a nice place to start, especially if it is your first foray into card gaming.  However, if you are an experienced gamer, and like something that requires a bit more strategy and skill, I suggest avoiding it for something a bit more in depth.

One thing I'd like to note before signing off: If you remember, I put quotes around the customization that the added booster pack in the starter kit allows.  The reason there are quotes is because the decks are a little skimpy on cards right out of the box, so they are not actually legal, but still perfectly suited to give you a feel for the game.

That's the end of my turn.  You're move.

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