Terror in Meeple City (previously sold as Rampage) is a very unique dexterity game released in 2013 from designer Antoine Bauza, who has a great track record in my group with games like 7 Wonders and Ghost Stories. Each player takes on the role of a giant monster destroying a three-dimensional city filled with “meeples,” while also beating up on other monsters and collecting debris to claim the title of the most destructive behemoth.
Players take turns wreaking havoc on the city and collecting floors and meeples into their stomachs (a.k.a. cool player screens to hide their digested goods). On each turn, a player can take 2 actions from the 4 that are available:
- Move – The player takes the monster off their paws (a small disc), and flick the paws across the board. They then place their monster back at their new location.
- Breathe – The player literally puts their chin on their monster, inhales, and then tries to blow over buildings and other monsters.
- Demolish – If the player is overlapping a sidewalk that surrounds a building, they can pick up their monster, hold it directly over the building, and drop it.
- Toss a Vehicle – If the player’s neighborhood contains a vehicle, they can place the vehicle on their monster’s head, and flick it across the board at any desired target.
After taking 2 actions, the player has the opportunity to “chow down,” eating meeples from their current neighborhood up to their current number of teeth. Also, any building floor tiles that are no longer supporting other pieces at any time during the player’s turn can also be claimed to the monster’s stomach. Meeples that get knocked off the board escape the city to the “runaway meeples” board and can trigger negative effects for the offending monster. Monsters can also knock over other monsters to break their teeth for additional points.
The game ends when all the building floors have been consumed, or a certain amount of meeples have fled from the city successfully. Players then score for complete sets of 6 meeples (one of each color), building floor tiles, and monster teeth eaten throughout the game. Additionally, every player starts the game with a character card the defines a unique scoring condition, along with a constant special ability and a once-per-game super power.
What Is It Like to Play?
On the surface, Terror in Meeple City is a very silly game that appears to be all about random destruction and seeing what happens. In reality there is actually a little more “strategy” than you might expect. I use the term loosely as this is certainly not a strategy game, but there are subtle interesting decisions throughout the game that add satisfaction beyond just “destroying stuff” (which is cool and fun in its own right). Here are some examples of the kinds of decisions you might make:
“I am in position to demolish this building, but the runaway meeples track is really close to triggering a bad effect and it might be too risky to try right now. I’ll focus on moving into a neighborhood that already has some meeples so I can chow down without needing to destroy anything this turn.”“I am close to the blue monster and could toss the ice cream truck to knock him over, but that said I really could use a black and red meeple to complete a set. Maybe I’ll move over a couple neighborhoods to get the meeples I need, and avoid the blue monster’s revenge on his next turn.
I could flick the firetruck at either the green or pink monster, but I’m not sure which one… Oh! Since I am in the neighborhood where the firetruck starts, flicking it off the board will return it to its starting location in my neighborhood. As long as I flick it hard enough on my first shot to end up off the board, I can get it back for a second shot and hit both monsters in the same turn.”“My super power lets me eat out of adjacent neighborhoods, should I use it now or wait until a better opportunity? It is risky to wait because I may not get another setup this good, but it also would allow me to be flexible in the critical moments of the late game when there are specific colors of meeples that I need to complete sets.
These kinds of situational decisions, combined with the infinite number of board states afforded by a dexterity game, provide a very engaging experience. Certainly the dexterity elements are the primary drivers of the gameplay, but there is enough structure to give it just a little more depth than your average “flicking” game. Instead of each turn just coming down to how well you can execute a flick or drop on a building, players will run through different combinations of actions and approaches that they could take that turn, and weigh the pros/cons and risks/rewards.
The fact that the number of unique game states is continuous rather than discrete (that is, pieces can fall anywhere on the board rather than in specific squares like checkers, Ticket to Ride, and most other games) really does help the overall replay value. That said, the excitement of the main mechanisms can wear off fairly quickly, and subsequent games really can’t live up to the novelty of the initial experience. However, this is salvaged by the inclusion of the character, power, and super power cards. Since every game players will be dealt unique abilities and a goal, repeat plays continue to feel fresh and interesting.
I think the game is definitely at its best at the full complement of four players, though it is still fine and fun with fewer. That said, I actually have found that the game works great with more than the stated maximum of four players. Since each turn a monster takes two actions, it works really well to play in teams of two where each player takes one action for their monster. I have played it with 8 players in this way, and it was arguably the most fun game of it I have ever played simply because of the added energy, trash-talking, and discussion within teams.
While the setup does require the three-dimensional city to be constructed, this goes fairly quickly assuming that all players help place the meeples. There is the additional time to select characters, powers, and super powers, but that is exciting as players find out what they get. Shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes to get completely up and running.
With only four basic actions and a few other rules to explain, Terror in Meeple City can usually get started pretty quickly with new players. It is also likely that new players will be enamored with the unique concepts of physical destruction in a board game, so you should have their undivided attention.
Things to Like
This is a great game to pull out with new people because they will likely think the whole concept is so funny and cool. You don’t need to worry about this being too close of an experience to any other game in your collection.
It will really depend on whether you like dexterity games, but the act of flicking your disc to move, flicking a vehicle across the map, or dropping your monster on a building simply doesn’t get old. Unlike games where the decisions can begin to feel “samey,” Terror in Meeple City has an infinite amount of situations you could find yourself in.
While the game itself is very engaging, the cards that differentiate players really take it to the next level. They not only make each game feel a bit different for each player, but they also alter the strategic landscape by causing players to value various game elements differently.
Functionally, the main components are solid wood and will easily stand up to repeated play. Aesthetically, the artwork is great and has tons of fun little details (there is a room where Ca$h ‘N Guns is being played) inside the buildings that can further add to the humorous storytelling as everything gets torn apart.
Things to Dislike
Not so much a con, and it is probably obvious, but the enjoyment of this game is going to be very reliant on whether players enjoy things like flicking discs and other components across the board. Some people really don’t like (or aren’t good at) those kinds of physical skills in board games, and that may suck all of the fun out of it for them. That said, Terror in Meeple City isn’t nearly as skill-based a game as something like PitchCar where better players can get way ahead, so there is still plenty of room to enjoy the game even if a player isn’t very good.
The rulebook actually addresses how to handle a case where a player accidentally knocks down something on the board, but it still is something that can kind of ruin the game a bit if it happens. Additionally, there will be cases (likely after dropping a monster in a demolish action) that players will need to carefully remove the monster from the rubble, which will inevitably result in the moving of other pieces. This is fine, but if you get any really competitive sticklers playing, it has potential to start arguments over what was “legal” or if something got moved more than it should. Definitely a game to be played in a light-hearted fashion, which some people can have trouble with.
I have played a couple games that outstayed their welcome a little bit due to players focusing on attacking other monsters and collecting stray meeples rather than knocking down the last couple buildings to eat the floors. Since the game will only end when the floors are all eaten (or if the runaway meeple track is full, which I have yet to see happen), the game can really get extended with no progress towards it finishing. This is obviously a player-driven problem though, and is avoided as long as a player or two keep going after the buildings.
Game Design Perspective
This is the kind of game design that I feel started out with a conversation along the lines of, “What if there was a game where you did THIS?” While most dexterity games rely pretty much 100% on the physical elements to carry the game, Terror in Meeple City actually has another level of interesting gameplay rules layered on top that give it a much different feel. I imagine the goal was to create a game that really simulated what it would feel like to be a monster destroying a city, and I applaud the designers on achieving that goal so effectively. It is a theme that really NEEDS the physical element to approach evoking the feelings that should accompany the player actions. It is a good example of a game where the designers did not let the existing definitions for what “should be” in a board game limit their creativity in delivering a fun experience, and from a design perspective, that is a great approach to take.
If you enjoy dexterity games, or just think that destroying a city and other monsters sounds like fun, you will probably love Terror in Meeple City. Any areas where it falls short in strategy, it makes up for it in fun, and isn’t that the whole point of playing?
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