Game: Escape from Monster Island
Publisher: Firefly Games
Series: Action! System
Review Dated: 15th, February 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Escape from Monster Island is an inexpensive and effective expansion for Monster Island.
Monster Island was published a few months ago at about the same time as another game dedicated to giant monster fun. Escape from Monster Island wins the race to be the first supplement; well, the first paper supplement anyway.
Escape from Monster Island makes good use of being a paper product (rather than PDF) and follows on from one of Monster Island’s strongest selling points. In the centre of the Escape from Monster Island book, you’ll find a removable cardboard stock of perforated army, emergency service and civilian tokens.
You don’t have to root around the toy box or miniatures collection to get going with Escape from Monster Island or it’s parent book, it is simple and yet effective to use the tokens as battle pieces.
It is the military, emergency services and civilians that are the focus of Escape from Monster Island. As the name of the supplement suggests, the monsters escape the island and are now free to wreak havoc in the cities.
In FireFly Games‘ mythology, the kaiju (giant monsters) are radiovores, they eat radiation, therefore smashing up a nuclear power plant and bathing in the glow of the meltdown sounds like a great plan to them. This is just one way in which Escape from Monster Island insidiously works great battle plot ideas into the core game mechanics.
The presence of the military is handled well. The worst-case scenario would be that the introduction of humans to the Monster Island mix would result in the simple and fun game being dragged down by complexities and turned into a half-baked war game.
The best care scenario would see military units treated as similarly as kaiju as possible, the number of extra models kept down and the game kept great fun. We don’t end up anywhere in the middle of that scale, we land bang on the best end of the spectrum. Military, emergency service and civilians do not clutter the game up.
That is to say, they don’t clutter the game up any more than can be hoped for. For the same point cost as an average kaiju, you might expect a couple of units of ground troops and a few special rounds when airstrikes can be called in.
Taking advantage of the futuristic weapons and by using such military units as flying tanks you could simply have two human units for every kaiju. That’s certainly nowhere near the confusion of war games. Escape from Monster Island remains good fun for you and for your kid brother.
Cities feature in Escape from Monster Island, or rather, key buildings in cities feature in the game.
The book handles the cityscape wisely and takes the assumption that most buildings are insignificant in comparison to the mighty kaiju and so there’s no need to map or model them. In fact, if the gaming area contains some city and some rural areas (such as a park or a river) then it’ll be easier to mark out the rural area.
Key buildings are the exception; key buildings are those skyscrapers big enough to climb up (think King Kong) or places with interesting complications such as oil refineries and nuclear power plants. While we’re on the King Kong note it’s worth mentioning that there are simple rules for “Idols”.
These are people who the kaiju are strangely drawn to and even here the rules are fun and simple. Again we find ourselves with a rather nice plot or victory condition built into the game. Climbing up buildings becomes a new strategy.
Climbing up from ground level to low altitude and then again to high altitude gives a normally ground-based monster the chance to punch careless flying kaiju. The military can occupy buildings too and yet again this is just a simple matter without any fussy cover implications. It is just impossible to attack military units inside a building but it is possible to destroy the building and thus the people inside.
The book squeezes in a set of sample scenarios, a few more kaiju powers and dozens of more quotes from monster movies. Escape from Monster Island is a pretty book, it is a lightweight product at only 32 pages long but that just seems to make it all the more suited to its role as a bit of fun.
I think there could have been a little bit more in the book though. Given that there are rules for the military player (or players) to buy airstrikes and missile attacks for their army, it would have been nice to have a random military encounter table that could be used in a kaiju only game.
There’s still no sign of helpful rules on the Delok aliens either and they’re the people who managed to bring down the force shield around the island. Given the book is as slim as it is and perhaps because the rules fit so well with the main game (a victim of its own designer success, perhaps) there is some cause to wonder why these rules weren’t simply included in the main Monster Island book. These are just minor quibbles though.
In all Escape from Monster Island is a success. The book will be a temptation for all Monster Island players.
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