During my childhood – as has often been mentioned here on the site and the show – I played a lot of video games. Still do, in fact, during those down times when there isn’t a pile of cardboard sat on the table. It’s interesting when these worlds collide, as generally it can lead to some pretty decent results – see the range released by MB in the eighties based on classics like Pac-Man, Zaxxon and the criminally underrated Turbo, for example. Now, many years on, we have a new addition to the stable as Repos Production presents Rampage. While not officially based on the Bally Midway arcade original of the same name, the premise is certainly very similar – giant monsters are destroying the city! The twist though? You’re the one doing the smashing and crashing.
Yup, in Rampage you get to stamp, crush and generally wreak havoc on Meeple City, dashing all the buildings within to the ground and eating the tasty inhabitants within. There are also vehicles to hurl, powers to trigger and a surprising amount of decision making to get involved in. Designed by Antoine Bauza and Ludovic Maublanc, this is a very different creation to games that they’ve previously been responsible for but what is life without mixing things up a little? Why shouldn’t the guys who created titles like 7 Wonders and Cyclades go off the deep end and create a dexterity game with massive kaiju? Thankfully the world allows for such madness, because Rampage is a bloody hilarious experience that also happens to be a great game too.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that setting up the game takes a little time. You’re creating buildings that are dotted about the board by stacking meeples upon thick card ‘floors’, repeating until each one has three floors aside from the massive central stadium that is only one storey high. Everywhere you see a little meeple icon, randomly place one on that spot to ensure that the buildings are stable – for now, at least – then choose your monster’s starting corner. Players are then given three cards, one each from three different stacks that give you a characteristic and power (which everyone can see) as well as a secret super power. This is a one off boost that, once revealed, must be discarded. Once those are sorted out, it’s time to commence destruction.
Each player has their own monster lizard – no giant gorilla or werewolf in this game, sadly – that comprise of two wooden bits, the Paws and the Body. You get the chance to perform two actions per turn from a range of four, of which moving is the most basic – just put your body to the side and flick the disc that represents your paws to where you want it to go. I’d suggest a few practice flicks before beginning the game properly so you get your eye in as that disc is pretty solid, but with practice you’ll be hurtling about Meeple City in no time. If you’re in the same colour coded neighbourhood as one of the game’s four wooden vehicles, you can pick it up and throw it at a building (which is done by balancing the wooden piece on your monster’s body and flicking it) – this, with some decent aim, can be a very destructive action, so is a pretty strong choice. For even more ruination, you can pick up your body and drop it on a building as long as your paws are touching the sidewalk that surrounds it.
Finally – and most stupidly – you can unleash your monstrous breath. Literally. This is the most mental part of the game, where you must place your chin on your monster’s head, breath in and bloooooooow. Of course, being hunched over means that you can’t get a lot of air in your lungs, but it’s hilarious when you set yourself up to unleash hell on the city and end up with a pathetic gentle breeze that barely moves a meeple. Not that that’s happened to me at all. Oh no. Or my mate Ben.
Once your actions are done, any meeples that are in your neighbourhood are eaten, up to a maximum of the amount of teeth you currently have. Yes, teeth are important, and the amount you have are shown on your player board. You’ll always have a minimum of two, but your starting six can be lost by getting into fights with the other monsters or being responsible for meeples escaping. If any of them tumble out of their buildings and off the board, they’re deemed runaways and placed on a special side board. At certain times – every three or four, generally – something bad will happen to the monster who let the final meeple escape and complete a set. It’s not exactly a fair way of dealing with fleeing meeples as one player could get hit with every single punishment, but it’s certainly funny when that happens…
There are actually six different meeple colours in Rampage, and points are only given at the end of the game for each set of six that you manage to collect, thus emphasising the importance of a balanced diet. Each rainbow set brings in ten points, while any that are left over are worthless. Floors that are collected through the game give you a point each, regardless of size, and are grabbed any time you’re responsible for clearing one off. Bonus points may also be gained from your cards and – surprise! – whoever has the most at the end of the game is the bestest monster. The game ends when either the last floor has been eaten or the runaways board is filled, but either way you’re looking at a playtime of between thirty minutes to an hour.
Rampage is raucous, silly, wonderful fun. Sure, the decision making is limited, but there’s enough in there to silence the critics who have decried it as dumb. Do you attempt to slam into an opponent and hopefully limit their meeple munching abilities later in the game or try and sidle up to a nearby building and prepare to drop onto it from a great height? Planning for that balanced diet can be a tricky too, so moving around the board as you seek precisely what you require is a challenge in itself. Of course, the main issue is that of your dexterity – if you’re unable to flick that Paws disc of yours efficiently, you’re pretty much going to be screwed when it comes to Rampage, but I’d urge you to practice. Dismissing this as a stupid party game because you’ve not got the skills or patience to get good at it is a ridiculous notion – devote a bit of time to it and you’ll see that this is a (not so) little gem.
On that subject, there’s been plenty of comment on BGG about the price being too high for what can be boiled down to a simple game. However, you look in the box and tell me that you can’t see where all the money goes. More wood than you can shake a stick at. Gloriously thick tiles that are designed to take plenty of damage. Individual art for each card. As always, Repos have excelled in their production quality and it’s fantastic to see the company taking a chance on something that’s very different to their normal releases. Yes, it’s far from the most serious and deep game in the world, but it’s such bloody fun! And after everything is done, isn’t that why we play games? For the fun and enjoyment? Put aside any qualms you may have and give Rampage a go – the kid inside you will be delighted.
Rampage was released through Repos Production and was designed by Ludovic Maublanc and Antoine Bauza. Released at Essen 2013, between two and four players can get in on the destruction of Meeple City (though I reckon that more is better – plenty of opportunity for smashing other monsters up). Copies are a bit hard to find at the minute, but expect to pay around £40 when it’s easier to get. Let the destruction begin!