Card/Board Games

Yeah. Definitely questionable.
Yeah. Definitely questionable.

I like video game versions of trading card games. Learning to play them via an in-game tutorial is better than consulting a printed rulebook, for one. And it’s much cheaper than buying the real-world equivalent especially with most of TCGs having expansions and collectible price market. It’s also more convenient to just play online (if the game supports it) than to trek to a local hobby shop and find people to play with.

Monster Monpiece is a card collecting battle game from Idea Factory. In the past, Idea Factory has licensed their games to other publishers (like Atlus, etc.) for North American release but this time, they are doing it themselves. I think it’s because the other publishers chose not to have a go at this one for reasons I’m about to tell you.

The gameplay part is solid but the theme is a bit risqué. Cards all depict “monster girls” — anime girls that are sexually suggestive in nature and mostly underaged looking (i.e. lolicon). Cards have the capability for upgrades to power them up by a mini-game system that you would not dare do in public. It involves stroking the front and rear touch panels of the Vita system, an action that is akin to jerking off the male genitalia. This unfortunately plays out via embarrassing moans and grunts from the female character illustrated on the card. After looking around to see if anybody was watching that mess over your shoulders, your efforts are rewarded with new abilities and higher stats for the card; and more importantly, the monster-girl’s artwork on the card will be changed. When I say “changed”, I mean “more naked”. So yeah.

Monster Monpiece’s tale is a typical anime-inspired save the world from a catastrophic event kind of story. The protagonist is ayoung girl named May who is in training to become a card wielder. The plot revolves around May’s relationship with the monster girls that reside magically in their cards (think Pokemon but with cards and loli girls instead of grotesque creatures) and solving the mystery behind an evil power turning other monster girls into “Lost,” or evil monster girl cards in human-speak. Small note, character skits are fully voiced in Japanese. There is no English audio option but the text translation is pretty good.

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I was surprised at the depth of Monster Monpiece’s core gameplay; as a reformed TCG addict I found the rules intuitive enough for lapsed gamers such as myself, or even new players to the genre to grasp. The game is paced really well, and doesn’t just throw you into the flames. It explains the basic stat and properties of the cards then walks you through a sample battle before introducing you to more advanced cards with specific abilities.

Obviously, being a TCG title, battles play out with a turn-based system. With a turn consisting of a player summoning a card to the board, spending mana. A set amount of mana is added to your pool every turn but certain card abilities give you more mana if you need it. The board consists of multiple lanes and squares where you put the cards when you summon them. At the opposite ends of the boards are each player’s “castle”. Your goal is to have a monster reach your opponent’s castle and reduce it to zero hit points. At each of your turn you can summon one card or pass. After that  phase, the cards in play will either move one space towards your opponent’s castle or attack an opposing monster if they are in range. Attack and defense are decided with the cards stats and abilities. ATTACK is how much damage the card deals, HP is how much damage it can take before it dies, and INT is used by healers and buffer type cards.

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The player has absolute control over what cards to use in the deck and one can even save multiple configurations. Each deck can have a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 40 cards. In my experience, getting your deck to the full 40-card limit is more advantageous as the AI often exhausts his deck in a long drawn out match. Running out of cards means automatically losing the match. You can build up your card collection by winning specific cards in the story or buying booster packs with the in-game currency earned by winning matches.

Upgrading your cards will require spending “Rub Points” which you acquire by winning battles. And as I mentioned above, you wouldn’t want anyone catching you doing this. The rewards are great (upgraded stats, new abilities) but they didn’t need to implement that specific gimmick just to do so. Sure, it’s funny the first few times but it is really embarrassing and the developers could have  honestly offered to disable this. You can’t really finish the game and win the more difficult battles far into the game so this awkwardness is unfortunately forced to the player.

There is an online mode where you can battle other players but I was not able to find anyone when I tried it so I reserve my judgement on Monster Monpiece‘s online modes. One other weird thing about the game: it has the Vita’s screenshot feature disabled while playing the game. Hmm, I wonder why.

It’s a shame that Monster Monpiece’s fantastic gameplay is forever trapped in such a sketchy presentation. But if you can look past this (and do the upgrading when no one is around), the game offers solid strategic gameplay that anyone can enjoy.

Rubbed me the Right Way:

  • Gameplay is solid. Surprising amount of strategy involved.
  • Lengthy campaign but structured perfectly to play on the go.

Rubbed me the Wrong Way:

  • Forced gameplay mechanics that are not really needed.
  • The hentai factor.
  • Screenshot feature is disabled while playing the game for some reason.

Monster Monpiece

Developer: Compile Heart

Publisher: Idea Factory

Available for: PlayStation Vita (Digital)

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The people at Jasco has put together a 20-minute video playthrough/tutorial of their upcoming Mega Man: The Board Game.

As someone who has some experience on board games like these, I find the mechanics interesting and for one would like to try it. Though it might come of as a bit too complicated for regular people who only play the occasional Monopoly here and there.

I guess we’ll see when it actually comes out!

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I also didn’t have this problem (crowds) back in the day.

I’ve never ever been to a pre-release event and moreover, never a midnight release for any expansion for Magic: The Gathering. I would normally just wait for the new cards to hit my local store and then buy as many boosters or box(es) I would need. I never had any inclination to play Magic competitively back then but I do now and this time around I would make up for lost time in my attempt to competently play the game in a competitive environment by playing as many sanctioned games as possible.

Granted that pre-release events have a more casual approach, nothing motivates everyone to win better than a free Theros booster pack per round won so despite the lack of strict deck building conditions, people would still be making decks that would aim for your jugular for an extra booster pack and a chance to score a mythic rare for free. Under those conditions wouldn’t anyone play to win?

My ordeal started on the eve of pre-release day, September 20, when I headed down to Neutral Grounds, Centris Walk for the midnight pre-release of Theros, the latest expansion for Magic: The Gathering. After registering, I had a little down time and was introduced to the gaming buddies of my friend who hitched a ride with me to the midnight event. The pre-release started quite late at around 1:00 am or so because there were over a hundred people in attendance for the event (that’s pretty big for just one store front). I’m pretty sure there would have been more but the venue would not be able to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate.

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To illustrate how I went down the “Path of the Addict”

To start, everyone gets to select a mana symbol/color before receiving their sealed deck package which consists of a promo foil card with date stamp of your selected color, an event card6 booster packs, and a dice life counter all packed neatly into a pretty cool box with your chosen mana symbol printed in the middle and stating your “chosen path” based on your color. The event card is tied up with a future event (game day on October 19-20) which is a pretty slick move to encourage or even tell people that they can get more mileage out of their participation in the pre-release event (the entrance fee is P1,200). My path was the “Path of the Addict.”

While you have a high chance of playing the color you chose, the contents of the pre-release set box are still random so you might end up playing a totally different color or find yourself with an odd combination but one of the key points in sealed deck formats is aiming to play with as many rare cards as possible on the assumption that they work well together. While some people will obviously score themselves better rare cards (in several occasions, I have seen guys score two mythic rare cards or even get extra rare cards (as foil inserts) and there are people who will just have the luck of scoring a bunch of cards with great synergy making them virtually impossible to beat in the environment. Those are the breaks of the game but you’re not truly maximizing your game if you don’t try to tweak your deck when you’re on a losing streak and in-between matches (after a loss). Granted that some combinations would seem as the superior deck build, you will still have to keep an eye out on specific opponents because some “trash cards” will work against specific opponents even when they are generally not a sound addition to your deck. Losing with your first deck build would normally mean you will have to tweak your deck somehow as I would have learned during the course of the sealed deck pods.

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Part of Saturday’s prize booster haul.

But if you built yourself a winning combination of a deck (as proven by winning of course), stick with it and get rid of as many useless cards as possible to bring out your best cards as fast as possible. I’ve already written about things you shouldn’t do in a competitive sealed deck environment* but casual sealed deck format like pre-release are a lot more lenient and would prove to be more fun and less restrictive. For one, you can swap out as many cards as you want in a casual format instead of having to play with the deck you built from start to finish. If you feel that your main cards aren’t good enough, you might as well enjoy your remaining games by trying to pull off some odd combos and you might just wow some people when you pull off odd working combinations even though your deck isn’t fundamentally sound.

This happened to me in my third pod (Saturday evening at Neutral Grounds Glorietta 2) where I won my first round but ended up losing my second and third games with a tri-color deck (one I have absolutely no confidence in building but tried out anyway). My fourth game was salvaged after a friend helped me reconstruct my deck. At that point, I was already close to crashing after being awake for over 30 hours. If anything, it goes to show that swapping out cards around does help and you just have to think fast and remember the cards your opponents play so you can adjust your cards accordingly if necessary. In my opinion, winning two games with two different decks and playing style does say a lot about this observation of mine.

I ended up playing five (5) pods: three (3) on Saturday and then two (2) on Sunday. Having gone the distance during my fourth pod with a 3-1 W/L record after consistently posting 2-2 records on Saturday before faltering in my the last pod with a dismal 1-3 record is actually well worth the time and money spent in getting to know new faces, learning more facets of Magic: The Gathering, and of course discovering more holes in my fundamental style of play (I’m a little too hot on the trigger and I tend to NOT read cards of my opponents so I get sucker punched a lot by card abilities.)

Pre-release events are one of the best times to get into or get back into Magic because of the leveled playing field due to the sealed deck format, you won’t find a shortage of people who will be willing to tweak your deck for you (a lot of them actually enjoy this), and of course if you’re lucky, you could even score enough cash from selling the cards you get from your booster packs to cover your entrance fee and more or pick up the rare cards you need.

I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did though (playing five pods) unless you just want to rack up your playing time as “training” or something. Sealed deck tournaments are also best played with friends so bring your friends along or make new ones if you’re playing alone. Magic: The Gathering is a social game, contrary to what the notion of playing make-believe with pieces of cardboard would connote.

Theros, the latest expansion of Magic: The Gathering will officially hit stores on September 27, 2013. You can head down to a Neutral Grounds branch near you or a local hobby store near you on launch day for possibly one last pod of sealed deck play or booster draft tournaments.

*You should bring at least 18 of each basic land type and card sleeves to sealed deck tournaments.

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