Playtime: 30-60 Minutes
Memory games can be pretty hit and miss. Finding a way to balance memory with engaging mechanics can be difficult. This is especially because they tend to put players on an unequal field sometimes if a player’s short term memory is that much better. Still, they have a great place on the table, especially for younger players developing memory and older ones trying to maintain it. 13 Monsters attempts to reach out to the middle of those audiences and deliver a memory game with more substance.
How To Play
13 Monsters starts by laying monster tiles face down on the table in a 9 by 9 grid. There will be three open spaces in the middle. In the beginning, players won’t have any monsters, so all they can do is look for monster sets to build a monster with. Monsters are made up of three sets of two tiles. One set includes two horns (or ears), another contains two eyes, and the bottom set is made up of feet (or fins). Players will flip two tiles face up in an attempt to find a matching set. If they fail, the tiles are flipped back over and the next player will try to do the same.
It might take a while, but eventually, a player will have a monster set. When a player has a monster set, they can start trading sets with other players. They also gain access to their first player ability that essentially allows them to rearrange sets on a monster. After trading or rearranging, the player will flip two cards as usual.
Eventually, players will have one or more complete monsters. They will gain access to more abilities that tip play in their favor, including flipping additional tiles or locking tiles away from other players. Players can also use their monsters to attack other monsters. Monster battles are conducted with dice, where players attempt to roll as many of one side as possible. Players can throw multiple dice depending on their monster. The winning player gets to take a set from the other.
Play will continue until all the matching pairs have been claimed. Each monster awards a certain amount of points. The player with the most points wins the game.
The first chunk of the game isn’t too creative. It’s essentially the memory game that all children grew up playing. With over 70 tiles to choose from, it can take a while for players to find their first set. It will take much longer to put together a monster. According to the rulebook, it can take 30 minutes to put together a monster. Based on our experience, this isn’t too far off. Those who aren’t a fan of playing Memory won’t get much out of the majority of 13 Monsters.
The gameplay is much more creative once players have monster sets. The ability to manipulate the facedown tiles by freezing them adds a nice strategic twist. With certain monster combinations, players can also decide to flip three tiles over, thus increasing their chance to find a match. Of course, this also reveals more tiles to the rest of the room, thus making it a strategic move to make sometimes.
The ability to attack opens up the game a bit to the more mainstream gaming audience but still leaves a bit to be desired. The attacking player gets a set amount of dice throws, and the monster they attack also has a set number. Players will want to weigh the risks of an attack. Some strategy is still there, but it 13 Monsters feels like it relies on luck just a bit too much. There isn’t a way to influence the dice results, leaving the entire battle to dice throws. The memory and luck mechanisms combined together weren’t the biggest hit for our table. It feels like 13 Monsters suffers to make the most out of the mechanisms that it uses, and instead just does okay with them.
Pacing and Interactivity
I found that the biggest issues I had with 13 Monsters were all related to pacing. The first chunk of the game has fine pacing, with quick turns full of flipping and observing. As the game progresses and dice become involved, turns become longer and only involve two players. In larger games with more than four players (Up to 8 can play), things become incredibly tedious. For some players, they will have little to no interactivity with other players for minutes at a time. Games with many players are made even longer by the attack system, which artificially makes the memory segments longer. Attacks more or less distracted from the memory portion, thus it’s harder to remember where the tiles are.
13 Monsters feels best with three players. Any more really hurts the pacing. It also works well as a one on one game with two players.
Theme And Components
13 Monsters lives up to its name, with 13 base monsters for players to use. Each monster has a unique appearance that embraces a certain theme. Their designs are great, with fantastic art that injects life into every monster.
The tiles themselves are of great quality. All of the art on the tiles is clear and easy to work with. Players who are new at the game will have some trouble identifying what sets belong to which parts of the body. There is a decent cheat sheet for all players to use to help ease the process.
13 Monsters Is Great For Fans Of…
Those who enjoy memory games will likely find 13 Monsters enjoyable. It’s a good game for tuning one’s short term memory like Brainwaves. It’s a also a more interaction memory game, so fans of Meow should enjoy this one if they want some aggressive play in their games.