Full disclosure: A review copy of Monster Dentist was provided by Korea Boardgames.
Yeah, so, I had basically a one-evening window where I could test out a bunch of multiplayer real-time dexterity games, and I got two of them played during that window, so, here we are. Not 100% sure what’s going to happen in the next few weeks, but, I have Tabletopia, Yucata, and a dream, so I should be able to figure something out with regards to what I can play. In the meantime, we struck while the iron was hot and got a game from outside the US played! Very excited about that. Korea Boardgames has been an excellent partner for reviews and such over the years, and I’m always stoked to see what they’re bringing next. I was particularly excited about Monster Dentist, so, let’s see how it shapes up!
In Monster Dentist, well, you’re that. You’re the Monster Dentist. It’s going to be a busy day, with lots of monsters with various tooth-related problems, so you decide to take healthcare into your own hands and challenge one of your fellow dentists to see who can help patients the fastest. Time to break out your mirrors, do whatever dentists do, and check for some cavities and such. Will you be able to prove to your fellow dentists that you’re the greatest monster dentist of them all? Or can you not handle the tooth?
This one can be a bit complicated. You need to remove everything from the box, first, and then place the floor back in the box so that the toothpaste colors match up with the box bottom:
Then, set up the stands and place the Monster faces on top:
Once you’ve finished doing that, shuffle the Teeth Cards and place them on top of the stand, out of view:
Now, players get to choose Teeth Boards:
And they get Teeth Tokens in their chosen player color:
You should be almost ready to start! You are going to be dentists, so give every player a dental mirror:
Get ready to dentist!
The goal of Monster Dentist is quick diagnosis! The monsters are coming in and you need to update their charts so that they can get their cavities filled and their teeth will stop hurting. What have they been eating? …Is it people? Not your concern!
To start, players will count down and do a “3, 2, 1 … Dentist!” (Is that in the rules? We’ll never know!). Once you start, players must use their handy dental mirrors to look into the monsters’ mouths and see what the situation is with their teeth. Then, prepare their charts by organizing the Teeth Tokens on your Teeth Boards such that your board matches the card. You can use your Rainbow Teeth to substitute for any tooth, good or bad, regardless of color. Make sure you’re keeping track of which teeth are good and which are bad!
Once you feel like you’ve got it, say “done!” and set down your mirror. First player to do so is the designated done player. Pull the card out of the bottom of the stack (don’t flip it over!) and compare the back of the card to your Teeth Board. If it’s a perfect match, you score! Keep the card, and the scoring player removes all Rainbow Teeth they used from the game. They’re valuable! If it’s not a perfect match, the scoring player returns one of their scored cards to the stack. If they don’t have any, they must remove one of their Rainbow Teeth from the game.
Play until one player has scored 4 cards; that player wins!
Player Count Differences
The main feature of this game is that it’s pretty head-to-head (in some cases literally). This only gets more chaotic as you add additional players, but not in a particularly fair way? With a third player, two players have to split one mouth, which … is challenging, yes, hilarious, of course, but it doesn’t make much sense as the single player arguably gains a strict advantage. At four, however, all is right with the world, as both pairs of players have to fight over who has access to the mouth at any given time. As long as you have sharp elbows, it’ll mostly work out. Obviously, that’s not ideal, but it’s hilarious, so I give it a bit of a pass. That said, I’d probably recommend keeping this to two players, rather than four? I certainly wouldn’t play at three unless the two players with the most points were paired up as a catch-up mechanism, and even then, just because it’s more fair doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more fun.
- You should not be filling in teeth one at a time. I think it’s just a bit too slow, unless your opponent is trying to do so, as well. The trick here is figuring out how many teeth you can remember from seeing in a mirror and then minimizing the number of times you have to go back and re-check the mirror in order to score.
- That said, you only have so much space in your brain at once, so try not to attempt to memorize too much. This is the major cramp point for the game; if you try to keep all 8 teeth in your brain along with position and color, you’re going to end up in a world of hurt, especially because certain teeth have the same or different colors on the back-side. Like Nine Tiles, it’s difficult to memorize which teeth have which colors on the back and solve the problem. If you overdo it, you risk forgetting things or becoming unsure about the things you already did place and having to waste time to go back and check.
- If you want to play extremely adversarially, try attempting to converse with your opponent(s) while you play. It’s mean, but friendly! You’re going to throw off their attempts to memorize the cards under the guise of friendly companionship. It’s cutthroat, but pleasant, in a mid-century suburban way, I suppose. It’s worse if you say colors to them, depending on what memorization scheme they’re trying to use for their poor brains.
- You should try to use your Rainbow Teeth to stay ahead, but make sure you remember that they’re in limited supply! My friend dunked on me during one game by just using all of her Rainbow Teeth in the final round when she was already ahead, and, honestly, that was extremely effective and it deserves to be immortalized here in this review. If you’re not looking to devastate your opponent, however, it may be to your advantage to use a couple to give yourself an edge in a pivotal round or to catch up if your opponent is making a break for the victory.
- Beyond that, uh, if you’re trying to strategize that much, this may not be your game. This is definitely not that serious of a game, but you’re welcome to try to come up with strategic edges to try and give yourself the win. What the game is really going to come down to is speed, memory, and your ability to use a dental mirror. I would love to play this with someone who actually knows anything about dentistry, though; that could be wild.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Hilarious concept. I would never have come up with something like this; it’s delightful. Everything about the game is cute, from the components to the setup to the actual gameplay of sticking a mirror inside of a fake monster mouth. I’m genuinely delighted by it, and it has a lot of potential as a con game in the future, when cons are a possible thing that we can do again.
- I haven’t seen a lot of games that use mirrors as components to as great of an effect. It makes the game pretty challenging! There’s not a ton of real estate for you to see the teeth, and so you have to commit a bunch of stuff to memory. I think that’s really neat! It’s also on-theme, so, that’s an additional bonus. It all comes together pretty cohesively, and that’s a pretty nice thing to see from a design.
- I like that they went the Nine Tiles route of having the teeth tiles be double-sided. It adds a very good challenge; each tooth color has one bad tooth of the same color and one bad tooth of a different color, meaning you need to try and remember which tiles are which if you want to get your Tooth Board completed the fastest. It would be a bit too simple of a puzzle otherwise, so I think the extra complexity really makes it fun.
- Using the Rainbow Teeth as a catch-up mechanism is pretty smart. I like that they’re single-use only, as well, so you lose out on them as you use them, meaning other players may be able to complete their cards faster since you have to do more work to complete your Tooth Boards.
- It’s not overly complex, so, that’s always nice. I mean, this is definitely a game geared for younger audiences, and I think it lands there pretty well. The double-sided teeth and the mirror mechanics make the game complex enough that I think even experienced players can get tripped up by some of it, so it’s another good example of family-friendly games that aren’t “too simple”, and I appreciate that! We need more of those (or, rather, I never get tired of them).
- Plays pretty quickly, too. It’s a speed game; they tend not to linger too long.
- The art is also fantastic! I love it, honestly. It’s got the right level of whimsy, good coloring, and it’s just fun to look at. The teeth having faces is a bit upsetting, but, hey, you’re a Monster Dentist; you should have seen that in Monster Dental School already.
- If you got trouble on the spatial reasoning side, this game is going to mess with you very badly. You just gotta make sure you keep in mind that you’re not supposed to reflect the Tooth Board and you should be okay. Monster Dentist is definitely similar to tying a tie in the mirror; it just takes a lot of getting used to if you’ve never done it.
- Lighting can be pretty critical for this one. There are definitely situations where the cards are maybe a bit dark, but as long as you’re playing in a well-lit area you should be able to see them. Just take a second to pause and shift the arrangement if any player is having trouble reading the cards, though!
- Unless you’re like, rotating table positions, this isn’t really a three-player game. It seems cruel to have the same two players always sharing a monster side, and it provides a pretty decent advantage to the player who isn’t, since they have free reign of their monster. I think this problem is solved by rotating, but that does mean that it’s just consistently frustrating for two players and fine for another player, which gives me some pause.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun with Monster Dentist! All things being equal, yes, there are other real-time dexterity games that I have that I gently prefer, but, this one is just super weird and I love that. Like, this is the exact kind of game I show to people and say “yeah board games are weird now and we love it”. I mean, you’ve got a real-time speed game, but you’re dealing with mirrors as you try to diagnose the problem with monsters’ teeth? What’s not to like? I suppose that I don’t particularly like that it doesn’t really work at 3 players; that would be one thing. To a lesser degree, the mirror element may not be for everyone. I still have trouble determining my left from my right when I’m on a video call, for instance, and it means that lighting is pretty critical when you play. If it’s too dark, nobody can see the undersides of the cards. That doesn’t totally … work. Thankfully, that’s less likely to be a problem under normal play circumstances. Just … don’t play this in the dark, or if spatial reasoning isn’t your thing. If spatial stuff is your thing, or you enjoy real-time games, though, it’s worth considering. After all, Monster Dentist has a triple threat: it’s easy to learn, it’s got a great theme, and it really is clever how you use the mirrors to try and examine the monster teeth as quickly as you can. I could also see this going over great with friends in dental school (or dentist friends) in a silly “let me get you a game that poorly describes what I think your job is” way, which is the best reason to buy people gifts, probably? Either way, if you’re a fan of real-time games, you’re looking for something cute, or you just want to play a weird board game, I’d recommend checking out Monster Dentist! I’ve had a bunch of fun with it.