Over the past few years, I’ve become a little bit addicted to backing horror board and card games on crowd-funding sites. It was while browsing Kickstarter when I first heard about Campy Creatures. Its bright colours and striking imagery instantly caught my eye so I backed it, and it easily reached its goal and all the stretch goals within the allotted time limit.
Today, after a long wait this little beauty was finally dropped on my office desk. As first impressions go, before I’d even opened the box, it was a great start. The contents are fairly straightforward: two decks of cards (Creatures and Mortals), a small board with a few different playing pieces for keeping score and settling tiebreaks. The linen finish cards and little wooden ‘Meeples’ were two of a number of stretch goals on the campaign which, while not contributing to the gameplay, do add to its aesthetic appeal.
Players take on the role of rival Mad Scientists. The aim of the game is to capture as many Mortals as possible so that you can use them in your dastardly experiments.
At the start of each round, a number of Mortal cards are drawn and revealed (one for each person playing). These Mortals have varying scores printed on them. It is then up to you to decide which creature to deploy to capture the mortal. However, your rival Mad Scientists will also unleash their monsters at the same time.
The monster with the highest strength score gets first pick of the Mortals – however, all monsters have special skills which can totally change the balance of power. For example, the Werewolf forces another player to discard a monster, the Invader can take two Mortal cards, but the Vampire can cancel out the power of the player to the right, stopping you from using that skill. And so on.
It’s a fun game of bluffing as you try to play the most powerful card while working out which monsters the other Mad Scientists around the table will play. Scores are added after each round, and once more at the end of the game (some cards can only be counted then as their scores change from round to round). The Mad Scientist with the highest score is the winner.
As luck would have it, my wife had her friend Sheila coming round for dinner last night so I was able to convince them to try it out with three of us playing. I had watched the official Keymaster YouTube video on how to play before my friend came round and the rules are so easy to pick up we barely glanced at the guidebook.
Each of Campy Creatures themselves represents a classic B-movie monster: The Blob, Swamp Creature, Invisible Man, Mummy, Invader, Werewolf, Vampire, Beast (King Kong to all intents and purposes) and Kaiju. They’re beautifully rendered versions of monsters we all know and love from the likes of Universal and Hammer horror films.
The Mortals are also characters you will recognise from horror films – the kind of folks who go poking around in places they shouldn’t, unleashing all manner of ancient evil: The Archaeologist, Damsel and Cosmonaut all give you positive scores, whereas capturing The Hunter and Deep Sea Diver will lose you points (as they can hurt you). The Teenager and Scientist cards will give you different scores depending on how many you collect over the duration of the whole game.
One of the stretch goals was for a tenth creature to be added to the pack who replaces The Invisible Man in a more advanced take on the game. The Demogorgon’s skill is for you to draw a card without looking at it and place it Upside Down (because ‘Stranger Things’) in your pile of collected Mortals. You don’t find out if you’ve scored well or badly until the end of the game which adds an extra element of risk!
After playing a few times (each game took approximately 15-20 minutes) and discussing it, we decided that Campy Creatures is a fun game, lovely to look at which feels a little like a cross between those old favourite card games: Top Trumps, Poker and Sushi Go. We also decided that with four or five players it could easily descend into hilarious chaos as players try to out-bluff each other and stab one another in the back!
I would highly recommend this game, not only for the easy to learn instructions and the fast-moving gameplay but for the absolutely beautiful artwork.
You can find out more about Campy Creatures at Keymaster Games’ website and maybe (if it’s not out of stock – which it was at the time of writing) buy a copy or some merchandise (posters, pin badges, stickers etc). Also worth checking out is their earlier game, Control, which has a similar mechanic but is based on time travel.