Monsters & Minions is the first expansion to Thunderworks Games' critically-acclaimed Roll Player. The expansion adds several new modules to the base game, including new market cards and dice.
It also allows players to use their constructed characters to fight a boss monster. The boss monster doesn't come alone, he brings a horde of minions with him. Each minion gives the heroes a new challenge to face, as well as new rewards. In this review I will only be covering the expansion. For more information on the base game, please read Martyn Poole's review.
What does the expansion include?
Let's start with the namesake modules. Monsters & Minions' centrepiece module adds one of six monsters to the game, as well as a deck of minion cards. Instead of purchasing or discarding a market card, a player may instead fight a minion. Players roll at least one combat dice, but may roll more depending on the abilities of the minion itself. For instance, the Goblin grants an extra combat die for every three gold you've horded.
Depending on how well a player does, a player might gain certain rewards. Honour points grant a bonus against the monster, while injuries hamper your chances. Minions also grant XP points which players can spend to mitigate poor rolls. Given enough XP, they can even spend them to use their attribute abilities. If you fight a minion well enough, you may also keep it as a trophy for use against the monster later.
At the end of the game, all players will fight the same monster. Each monster has its own threshold to meet through using combat dice. Each monster also has its own set of three Adventure cards. Remember those trophies you earned from defeating minions? Well, each trophy you earn lets you look at one of the three adventure cards in turn. Each Adventure card grants its own benefit, providing you've earned enough trophies beforehand. Players use their earned combat dice against the boss as they would against a minion. Each player then gains reputation stars based on how well they fared. This could provide a massive swing in points if you're prepared for it.
Another new addition to the game comes in the form of Boost dice. Though they don't contribute to backstory goals, Boost dice offer a different advantage. With face values of 3-8, these dice make lofty Class goals a breeze. It also ensures that goals are attainable if you get a poor Race and Class pairing. Speaking of which, the expansion also adds five race boards and six new class cards for added variety. Whether you're using the feline Bastja or the Construct, there is plenty here to differentiate Roll Player from other games.
There are also a slew of new market cards available to buy. The Unholy Flail grants extra combat dice, while the Backpack lets you store drafted dice. The Market deck also contains a new card type. Scroll cards grant an instantaneous effect, often with a huge upside. Dispel grants three gold for every Skill card you have. Don't count on a Scroll only being useful once, as some cards can bring them back for a second time! We also get access to new Skill and Trait cards. Haggle gives you the opportunity to buy several cards in a turn, while Valiant grants Reputation stars for your minion trophies.
Finally, there are materials for a fifth player to play the game. This is a welcome addition for those who love the drafting element of Roll Player. Adding more player interaction is welcome, especially when it's one of the high points of the game.
Is it worth the investment?
Monsters & Minions ticks three distinct boxes for what I look for in expansions. Firstly, it diversifies the base game through adding to the already successful elements. Adding new Market cards gives the game a lot of extra replay-ability. This is especially true at lower player counts where you don't see every card in the Market deck. The races and classes are diverse and offer new challenges when paired with each other. Having four classes for every colour lessens the odds of this happening. You can generally pair most races and classes together with little difficulty. Boost dice give players another tool to meet their Class goals. while offering some opposition to their Backstory goals.
For me, the Monsters & Minions module is the most influential addition. The second thing I look for in an expansion is that it adds onto an already great formula and makes the game better. One of Roll Player's biggest detractions is its perceived lack of an end game. You spend all game building a character and then... that's it. Monsters & Minions actually gives you the opportunity to use that character. It makes building your character important, altering minion strength based on your actions.
Yes, you can still get unlucky, but that's true of any dice drafting game from Sagrada to Ganz Schon Clever. M&M gives you many ways to mitigate poor rolls whether during the game or fighting the boss. For me, it gives enough to make the game palatable without making it arbitrary.
Third, the additional rules inclusions are light. I teach the full experience to new players every time now. The extra rules take only a few minutes to explain, and you're into the game almost as fast as the base game. The expansion reminds me a lot of Champions of Midgard and its Valhalla expansion. Integration is seamless, and XP is the only new resource you have to check for during the game. The new player aids help somewhat, giving new players an easy reference on how to get both XP and Gold.
Final Thoughts on Monsters & Minions
Monsters & Minions sits at a very high bar for me, and it's one of the essential expansions on the market right now. Roll Player sells out after each print run for good reason. I regretted not picking it up sooner than at this year's UKGE, and for good reason. Between the Monsters, classes, race boards and new market cards, you won't want for more variety. Monsters & Minions has granted an already good product the status of an industry great.
Thunderworks Games also have new games on the horizon within the same universe. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Fiends & Familiars expansion releases next year. The standalone games Lockup and Cartographers are due for release shortly. With these and other projects on the horizon, Roll Player has a fruitful future.