Full disclosure: A review copy of Campy Creatures was provided by Keymaster Games.
Well, I attempted to power through my list of releases ahead of Gen Con, and I think this is the last one I can actually process before then, which is good, since, it’s basically in two weeks. Yeah, secret’s out; I occasionally write reviews less than six weeks in advance. I was going to do this one sooner, but I ended up watching two seasons of Lucifer in the last week or so and that really ate into my reviewing time. It happens. Season Three is like, 20+ episodes, though, so … I’m writing some more reviews in the meantime so that I can focus on that, once I start doing that. I’m not sure how this “let’s check in with Eric” paragraph turned into a meditation on “the devil solves crimes: the TV series”, but, here we are. Let’s talk Campy Creatures, now.
In Campy Creatures, you’re a monster! Well, you don’t consider yourself a monster; you’re a scientist, really, and you just need to find people so that you can perform some terrible experiments on them. Thankfully, you do have access to a variety of monsters to help you select the people you need for your experiments. Unfortunately for you, your opponents are similar scientists with similar collections in your employ, which isn’t particularly awesome. Will you be able to outwit your opponents and become the next great evil scientist?
First, set out the board:
Then, give each player a Clash Marker and an Eye Token:
Every player has the same set of Campy Creatures (in their color); give each player one:
For your first game, play without the Demogorgon, but in future games, use either that or the Invisible Man. Every player’s hand should be the same. Place the Clash Markers in player order, and all the Eyes at 0.
Now, set up the Mortal Deck. First, put the Base Mortals:
Now, there are three additional sets. You’ll use some of each, generally. There’s Teenagers:
There’s the Classics:
And, finally, the Engineers:
There’s one final set, and that’s Assistants:
They’re generally helpful. You’ll always use those. Make the deck as follows:
- 2 players: 4 Cards from any one set (Teens / Classics / Engineers) + 2 Assistants
- 3 players: 5 Cards each from any two set (Teens / Classics / Engineers) + 2 Assistants
- 4 players: 5 Cards each from all three sets + 3 Assistants
- 5 players: Every card + 3 Assistants
Now, set up the Location Deck. Shuffle the Final Act Locations:
Place one face-down, and then place some Assistants on top:
- 2 / 3 players: 2 Assistants
- 4 / 5 players: 3 Assistants
Shuffle the other Locations, and then place one face-down on top of that:
Place the same number of Assistants on top, and then one more Location, face-up. Once you do that, you should be ready to start!
So, over the course of three rounds, you’ll be trying to capture mortals for your various experiments by sending out your various Campy Creatures. I mean, that’s the name of the game. To start one turn, reveal a number of mortals equal to the current number of players.
The game is played over various turns. During a turn, you’ll play one of your Creatures simultaneously and then resolve them. Some abilities resolve during the reveal, and other activate when you attempt to capture mortals. Generally speaking, you resolve abilities of Creatures from highest to lowest value. And in that order, you can claim a mortal and add them to your tableau. If there’s a tie for resolution or for claiming, consult the Clash-O-Meter. The player who is higher than the other, wins the tie! It then moves to the bottom of the stack.
Display captured mortals and played Creatures in two separate face-up stacks. Once that’s all resolved, flip the same number of mortals again and keep going!
When there’s only one mortal left, it flees! If it’s an Assistant, remove it from the game. Their work is very sensitive. Now, total up the house icons on your captured mortals. The player with the most conquers the Location and claims its rewards. Some occur instantly; ones with a hand can be activated at your leisure in subsequent rounds.
Now for the fun part, score points! Most things are worth the value that are printed on the card. The player with the most Teenagers scores 7 points; the player with the second-most scores 4 points. If you have an even number of Engineers, each is worth 3; if you have an odd number, each is worth -2. Be careful with that. Also score 3 points if you still have the Beast in hand.
After doing that, gather up all the captured mortals (not the Assistants) and shuffle the new Assistants from the Location stack into the deck. Reveal the next location and go again! At the end of three rounds, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I’ve had a lot of fun with this game at higher player counts — there are a lot more interactions, a lot more cards going everywhere, and a lot more balancing that has to be done. That said, at two, it seems like it could be a fairly tight, strategic experience, so I don’t really have a problem with that player count either. Honestly, not a ton of strong preferences here, but remember that at higher player counts you’re going to be using more sets, so you should plan accordingly for those.
- Your monsters all have pretty good abilities. Know when to use them. The key to this game is zigging and zagging in response to what your opponents are going to do and outwitting them. In a round where there aren’t a lot of good options, you may be able to swipe some additional cards with an Invader. If everyone wants one of the high-valued cards, it may be worth playing something on the lower end so that you can pass off one of the less-useful cards. It’s all up to you, so make sure you know what you’re doing.
- Check to see which of your opponents’ monsters haven’t been played yet. This lets you know what your odds are for using things like the Vampire and Mummy, and it gives you a good sense of how best to disrupt your opponent with the Werewolf. It’s all fun.
- Timing is often crucial. You don’t want to play your Invader in a round where you get bumped to third in the player ordering, forcing you to take both negative-value cards. That’s not great. Even worse if you get forced to take enough Engineers that you get pushed back to an odd number; then you’re hosed for the entire round. Be careful.
- The Swamp Monster is a pretty nice way to give someone something that they really don’t want. One thing I like to do is to wait until the last Engineer is visible, and then use my Swamp Monster to take it and give it to a player who has 2 or 4 already; that pushes them back to a negative and really penalizes them for taking them. It’s rude, but, hey, you’re here to win.
- Collecting Engineers can be pretty dangerous, unless you do it right. As mentioned, taking the last Engineer might push you to an odd number, and if that happens they’re all negative. If you can get four, though, every one of them is worth three points, which is awesome. I usually shoot for two, if I’m going to take any; more than that just makes you a target.
- Don’t let one player collect all the Assistants. They’re worth 15 points every round if that happens! That’s a lot of points for doing very little. A lot of people undervalue Assistants in their first game; don’t let that person be you. That said, taking just one or two is usually not that valuable, either, so, maybe let someone else do that.
- Don’t focus on collecting all the Assistants to the detriment of everything else. Sure, it’s 15 points, but if you only get that in the last round it may not make up for taking a lot of negatives along the way so that you could get Assistants. Be mindful of your overall score.
- Keep the Beast unless playing it will give you more than 3 + the points you’d get if you didn’t play it. Most players end up keeping the Beast until the end of the round, if it helps, but sometimes it’s worth getting rid of it if that can get you a Damsel or a late-game Assistant. It, like everything else in this game, isn’t an exact science.
- Taking Locations isn’t that important, unless it is. Some Locations might not play well with your strategy (some give you extra Teenagers or Assistants, which you may not be going for). Some may be really useful (I had one that doubled the value of Archaeologists, and I had collected several). Try to factor in how they’ll help your score and honestly, if it’s not going to do much for you, it’s perfectly fine to not go for it.
- Keep an eye on your location in the Clash-O-Meter. That settles all ties; if you’re pretty sure you’re going to lose a tiebreaker to another player, maybe just do something else? Or waste the tiebreaker now so that you can win the subsequent tie that matters more. Up to you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very campy. I should have assumed that from the name, but it’s a super-huge love letter to B-horror movies. Probably a solid Halloween staple (though I have a huge Halloween review list to get to, this year).
- I like deduction games. I think the fun part here is the prediction aspect; how much of what your opponent is trying to do can you predict?
- Hitting a prediction properly is really satisfying. If you can successfully read your opponent and play the Mummy for their Kaiju, it’s very good. For you, at least. They’re usually not as pleased.
- Love the art. It reminds me of old movie posters and it’s absolutely delightful. They’re also very bold and colorful and all different, which is really nice. The whole game looks so good! I don’t have very many green boxes, which is also nice. I think just this, Islebound, Dark Horse, Haven, and a few others. Oh, and Dominion: Hinterlands.
- Seems to play well at the full player count range. I don’t usually note this but it’s appreciated. A lot of games usually aren’t awesome at one end or the other, but I’ve been enjoying it fully.
- Pretty portable. Just don’t use the board and keep track of scores between rounds and you’re fine.
- Some of the interactions can be a bit confusing. The tough one is Vampire-cancellation chains, where you have Vampire -> Vampire -> Werewolf. We usually settle power activation via the Clash-O-Meter, but then do we do that again for the actual taking of Mortals? Or do we just use it as a “this person goes first for everything this round” sort of deal? Multiple Blobs simultaneously can be fun, though, since we just force players to all play simultaneously, again. They’re a bit confusing, but they can all be kinda house-ruled / intuited out pretty safely, so that’s nice.
- The take-that of some of the lower-value numbers can be a bit annoying. It’s not that bad unless you get dogpiled by other players, but usually people are more focused on avoiding negatives than they are on giving them out. I find it rare in games to see players spiting one person, even at the higher end of the player count range.
- Not really much of a catch-up mechanism, I feel. I think that’s partially because the actual game system is pretty closed-points. I mean that to say that every round should have about the same number of points being distributed to all players, since no new cards are ever added (beyond the extra Assistants). This can lead to some minor swings, since a round with the Damsel and without the Hunter has an extra 9 points floating around, but it also means if one player has a very good round (often the first round of the game with new players), it can be difficult for other players to be able to get back into it. Not my favorite thing about the game, but it is rather short, so it may be worth doing a “sample” round initially and then a full round once players better understand how to play.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think Campy Creatures is a lot of fun! It’s a nice and light deduction game, which I appreciate, but it also sticks to what I expect of Keymaster, at this point, which is fairly easy-to-learn games with some fun configurations and extremely impressive art. That’s not a bad niche to fill, if I’m being honest. The theme itself doesn’t particularly do much for me (not a horror fan and these particular B-movies are a bit before my time), but I could see it fitting in quite nicely with Sweets Stack, Shaky Manor, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Haunt the House, the One Night Ultimate Werewolf series, Werewords, or any of the kinda-spooky / kinda-horror games that usually end up in a Halloween Game Night. That is the one disappointing thing, actually, that I’m writing about this so far in advance of Halloween; thankfully, there are plenty of spooky games that I haven’t reviewed, yet, so got that to look forward to. Either way, the game’s got great art, quick gameplay, and it’s plenty easy to transport, so I’m a pretty big fan of Campy Creatures. If you’re looking for something that fills that gameplay area for you pretty nicely, I’d recommend it!