SNAP Review – Isle of Monsters

Isle of Monsters

Train the scariest monsters and win on the

Isle of Monsters!

Isle of Monsters is a game for 2-5 players, designed by Joshua DeBonis and Nikola Risteski, wonderfully illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya and published by Mayday Games. The box says ages 10+, but we’d say younger.

Five-year-old Elliot will help us explain how to play.

Setup

Each player gets a Cage Board with 3 cages to train monsters. Set an Outer Island Board between each player, and the Center Island Board in the center. It should look a bit like a lopsided wheel.

Each Outer Island Board gets a stack of Creature cards, with only the top one showing. Then shuffle the Food tokens in their bag and place two on each Outer Island and one per player onto the Center Island.

Isle of Monsters setup. Center island, 5 branching outer islands, cage board between each set of outer islands.
Set up for five players

How to Play

Each round has four phases. Repeat the rounds until there are no monster cards remaining in the deck.

Nurture Phase

Players take turns to either capture new monsters or feed the monsters you already have.

To capture a new monster from either of the Outer Islands next to you: take it and put it in an empty spot on your Cage Board.

Or you can feed a monster by taking a single food token (yellow, pink, blue) from either Outer Island or the Center Island and put it on a matching space on one of your caged monsters. Each monster has a specific set of feeding spaces, and more powerful monsters need more food to mature.

Or you can pass. The first player to pass in the Nurture Phase will becomes the first player next round.

Isle of Monsters caged monsters: fire level 4 (2/3 fed) and earth level 2 (2/2 fed)
#2 earth monster is fully fed and can “mature”. #4 fire monster needs another blue food token.

Mature Phase

Check your cage board. If any of the monsters there have been fully fed, add them to your hand and return their consumed food to the draw bag.

Scare Phase

Monster cards come in three types (Fire, Earth, Water). Players choose one or more cards of the same type and play them face-down.

Once everyone has chosen, reveal the cards. The player with the highest number (or highest combined value, if more than one card) “scares the crowd” and gets 3 points. Then a sort of rock-paper-scissors battle ensues to determine which monsters scare each other (Earth scares Water, Water scares Fire, Fire scares Earth). These are clearly marked on the cards.

You get a point for each adjacent player whose monsters you scared.

Repeat the Scare phase until everyone has run out of cards. If there is one player with cards remaining, they get 1 point for each monster that’s still in their hand.

Monster cards: 1 Fire monster, 2 Earth monsters, 1 Water monster.
Water monster is biggest, and gets 3 for “scaring the crowd”. Each of the earth monsters gets 1 for scaring the adjacent water monster. Fire monster gets 2 for scaring both adjacent earth monsters.

Clean Up Phase

Collect all your played monsters and put them back in your hand. Draw food tokens and add them to the islands the same way you did at the beginning of the game (even if there’s still food left on some islands).

Draw and place a new monster onto each Outer Island, covering any monster currently showing.

End of the Game

The final round begins when the last monster cards are dealt onto the Outer Islands. After this round, players tally their scare points and determine a winner.

Impressions

We love the monster illustrations from Kwanchai Moriya. I want to take the littlest monsters home and cuddle them, but there’s a clear progression from cute monsters at strength 1 to comically scary monsters of strength 9.

Monster cards
From cute to comically scary.

The food tokens match up well with the theme as well. They’re chunky, in vibrant colors, and even came with little stickers that match the food patterns on the monster cards.

The setup to primarily compete ONLY with adjacent players for resources is clever, but my kids hated it. Invariably, they really wanted the monster or the food that was too far away for them to “reach”.

Because the monster allocation is completely random, sometimes one player might go several rounds before they could successfully feed any monsters, putting them at a continuing disadvantage in the scare phase.

The game simply felt too long. It rarely takes more than 30 minutes, but it starts very slowly, and by the end, you’re doing 4-5 repeats of the “scare phase”. The combination left us feeling like the whole game was a slog except for a few rounds in the middle.

We wanted to like Isle of Monsters. The art was great, the concept was interesting, but the luck factor kept it from holding all together. We give it 2.5 cute monsters out of 5. Find Isle of Monsters on Amazon or at your local game store.


The Family Gamers received a copy of Isle of Monsters from Mayday Games for this review.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

SNAP review music is Magellan, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?

Isle of Monsters
  • Art
  • Mechanics
  • Family Fun
2.8

Summary

Number of Players: 2-5

Age Range: 10+ (can go a lot younger)

Playtime: 30-45 minutes

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