Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Sunday 21 October 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Monumental

Game: Monumental

Publisher: Funforge Games

Designer: Matthew Dunstan

Year: 2019

Monumental is a Kickstarter project from Funforge Games, most well-known for Tokaido and designer Matthew Dunstan, who may be most well-known for Elysium or Raids or Pioneer Days which we have recently enjoyed. Funforge first launched the game on Kickstarter earlier this year, but took the decision to cancel and relaunch, in spite of good early funding, to improve the game based on backer feedback.

Returning to Kickstarter on 23rd October 2018, Monumental will be a Kickstarter exclusive game. It will be available in a deluxe edition with fantastically detailed miniatures, or a classic edition (approx. 70% of the cost) that uses tokens. In addition to the two editions, additional changes to the campaign include a lot more video coverage and, in our opinion, some great art and graphical updates too.

We’ve had the chance to play with a prototype copy and it’s been hugely enjoyable game and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!


At the start of the game of Monumental each player is given an army consisting of a leader, 2 explorers and some regular troops. They are also handed a deck of 5 policy cards and a deck of city cards. From the city cards they will deal out a 3x3 grid of cards which forms their current city. On a players turn they will choose 1 row and 1 column of this grid to activate in order to generate resources from their city. At the end of their turn activated cards are discarded and replaced from the city deck, leaving the city ready for next round.

There are a few different resources, but the most common are combat, production and science. Production is the most simple, you can spend production to buy new buildings for your deck. Whenever you do so you add the card to the top of your city deck, guaranteeing that it will appear next turn. There are 3 common buildings that are always available, along with a market of 6 cards that varies throughout the game (there are also wonders which can be built in 2 parts, but they are largely advanced buildings worth end game points). Science is very similar, except instead of buying buildings you buy technology, technology is only found in the common market. Technologies perform like buildings, except they cannot be activated by themselves, when you draw one from your city deck you then draw the next building and place it on top. Buying cards in the right order can be crucial to set up your next turn, but if you don't have enough science for a technology card you can always pay 2 to draw the top card of your deck (that nice card you bought earlier perhaps?) and gain it's rewards.

Combat is a little more complicated. One option is that for 1 combat you can move an explorer 1 space on the map, when explorers stop moving they can pick up a production token from that map space (trade-able for 1 production at any time) or choose one of the 4 city tiles on the map. City tiles offer great rewards, but each player can only claim 1 from each city, getting there first gives you the most choice! Naturally combat is also used for... well... combat! Each tile on the map has a defence value on it and on top of this any defending troops, buildings or barbarians found on that tile add to it's defence. In order to take over a tile you simply have to pay 1 combat for each point of defence it has and move the relevant number of troops onto the tile. There are rewards for defeating barbarians which are gained instantly and an opponent troops you overwhelm return to their starting tile.

It is the bonus tiles gained from exploration and fighting barbarians which allow for the unique turns in Monumental. While you can plan in advance which row and column of your city to activate, you can't plan for the rewards you will get by roaming the map. Some of these bonuses are huge, giving you more resources to do more combat or buy more cards, often chaining to allow you to achieve things you never thought you could. In addition to the 3 main resources there is also gold (a wildcard for the other 3) and culture which allows you to buy social policies (which provide both instant and on-going bonuses, as well as end-game points).

The game ends when the entire market deck has been worked through. When this happens each player is awarded points for each wonder and technology in their deck, each social policy they have unlocked and each tile of the map they currently control. The player with the highest total wins.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Dudes on a map, area control, civilisation games – all phrases that typically make me shy away from a game. However, interesting deck-building and action selection mechanisms have the power to catch my attention. Awesome production and some of the most ‘paintable’ looking minis I’ve ever seen are also some fantastic ingredients. Thanks to this, I sat down at a table to play a demo game of Monumental and fell in love.

Monumental creates some of the most joyous turns I’ve ever had in a game. They way that I can activate combos in my 9 card grid, then perhaps build a wonder that gives me a power, or invade a tile that gives me more resources for defeating a barbarian, then maybe use those resources to explore a market, creates turns that twist an weave and give an immense sense of satisfaction. Whilst planning my next turn, I’m only aware of a percentage of what might actually occur, so I need to remain open minded to opportunities and maximise my resources to their best extent. It makes me feel like the master of an awesome and ever-changing contraption.

Unfortunately whilst I’m busy having all this fun, other players might be getting slightly impatient, and I’ve been guilty of getting itchy feet whilst waiting for my next exciting turn to come around. Since you can’t plan your whole turn ahead, this is likely and so we’ve chosen to keep Monumental to two or three players as a result and it’s still been a blast, since the map scales really well to give you similar game experiences at different player counts.

Moving the amazing minis around the map is great, and they’re absolutely something that I want, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the token version didn’t underwhelm me as much as I expected by comparison. The tokens look good and are in some ways a clearer visual cue to the state of the game than a huge pile of plastic crowding a tile. In the early game, conquering the board regions is often about gathering bonus resources, whilst in the late game, as you meet with the other civilisations, battles begin to break out, since map control is a source of end game points. So far, this has always happened at the right time for me, so that I don’t feel like conflict is ruining all my plans, it’s actually exercising the engine I’ve built in my much improved deck.

The territory control in Monumental reminds me a little of Scythe, but bringing deck-building in as the way I select actions and giving me a spatial puzzle with my tableau just works wonders for me. Playing Monumental for the first time gave me the same ‘must have’ feeling as my first game of Terraforming Mars, which has become my number one game of all time! I’m very excited to see how high Monumental will rise and I hope that many, many people take a look at this game and consider backing it on Kickstarter.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

There's a lot to like in Monumental. Firstly the combat is simple and non-luck based, and therefore quick which makes it relatively painless even when you are being beaten back. But most importantly the rewards for fighting barbarians mean that players are rarely incentivised to fight each other until near the end of the game. In a way it feels like Scythe in that combat is a means to an end rather than the focus, the game is more about exploration.

The deck-building works well and I love that the cards you buy are added to the top of your deck - with some forethought you can ensure that your next turn will have a really nice city layout. It is a little harder to trim your deck of bad cards, though you can end up in a situation where most of your bad cards are sectioned off into a "slum" while you use the same row and column over and over again.

One of the greatest things about Monumental is how a turn can change so dramatically. Cards can chain into each other and there are enough instant rewards that your turns can end up being way bigger than you expected. Wonders offer rewards when finished, as do social policies, whilst combat and exploration both reward you as you go along, it's rare to have a boring turn! However, this does have a side effect of making turns a little long, there is definitely an amount of downtime in the game. Happily, I can report that for 2 players this is almost completely removed as you only really have enough time to plan your turn before it is your turn again.

Monumental is coming in two versions: a token version and a mini version. Having tried both I would say that the tokens are perfectly functional - it's always clear what armies are in what locations, although a stack of tokens is a little less obvious than plastic miniatures. However, the miniature sculpts are absolutely gorgeous and I'm very excited to have a go at painting them, the leaders have an absolutely insane amount of detail to them!

Overall I highly recommend Monumental, it's a civilisation game, but with a hint of deck-building and a lesser focus on player vs player combat. The combos in the game are incredibly satisfying to pull off - there's no feeling like realising you can do something you planned to do in 3 turns right now! The game works very well two player with minimal changes (the market deck burns through quicker, but that's about it). Monumental is definitely a game to look out for when it hits Kickstarter!

You Might Like...
  • The game has lots of parts; deck-building, area control, investing in policies and different strategies for end game points, but it all works together so smoothly.
  • If you like combos, then this game is combo-tastic!
  • Monumental has a huge sense of progression throughout the game as you create bigger and better turns, but even early turns, when the board is filled with resources can cause awesome triggering abilities.
  • Even though area control is not our thing – the standard map setups save confrontation to the very end of the game, which is just perfect for us. With custom map layouts you could create a more confrontational game if desired.

You Might Not Like...
  • When one player starts to do well and invest in policies, they can start to get ahead with a lead.
  • There can be a lot of downtime between turns at higher player counts. You can plan your turn ahead, but revealing barbarian or market tokens is something you can’t plan for which elongates each player’s turn. We’ve not found it an issue at two players, which is our standard player count.

The Verdict
Monumental is a really interesting combination of deck-building, area influence and civilisation building. We love how each turn you can trigger a whole sequence of interlocking actions, by activating cards in your tableau and exploring or conquering new territory. It's a game that we've fallen in love with and we highly recommend checking it out on Kickstarter.

Monumental was a prototype copy kindly provided to us by Funforge Games. Check out their Kickstarter campaign, launching on October 23rd 2018.

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