I’m going to be honest: I thought Monster Train wasn’t going to be very good. Weird trailer, and a silly name. “Monster Train” sounds like a useless toy one of those infomercials would be trying to sell during morning kids cartoons.
*energetic infomercial voice* Collect monsters and fill your train! Stop heaven from destroying the last fire in hell! Five different factions to choose from. Collect them all and save hell from freezing over! Batteries not included.
Over the last year or so I’ve discovered a great love for deck-building games. I was obsessed with the app game Night of the Full Moon, I’ve put so many hours into Slay the Spire, and my favourite tabletop game is Dominion. So I thought if Monster Train was any good, I would know.
Holy hell, it’s so fricken good.
Monster Train is kind of a mix between Slay the Spire and Magic the Gathering. Like Slay the Spire, you fight your way to the centre of hell with your chosen champion. But like Magic, you chose two factions to do your run with. Each faction has its strengths, which means you can greatly vary your playstyle with each run.
The biggest difference is that you’re doing this all on a train called the Boneshaker. There are three levels to the Boneshaker, in which you can deploy allies, with a fourth level being the pyre room (the flame you’re gonna try to melt hell with). Enemies usually start on the bottom floor and make their way up, hoping to damage the pyre and destroy hell’s last hope.
While the runs are a lot shorter than Slay the Spire‘s, I really enjoyed the floor mechanics and the diversity of the bosses. With each run, the bosses would get a randomised powerup (unique to them), meaning your strategy wouldn’t necessarily be the same as the last time you fought them.
But my absolute favourite thing about this game, that makes me keep coming back, is the strategising that comes with using two different factions. When you find the synergy between two factions you feel so powerful and clever. And yet the threat of your enemies never seems to fade. They still feel like a challenge so defeating them with your perfect synergy is so incredibly rewarding.
As you start to figure out the game, there are new things introduced to help diversify the game and bring new challenge. Such as leveling up and unlocking new factions to play with. Once you complete a run you can activate challenge levels called covenants that increase the difficulty of your next run: like making enemies more powerful or adding useless cards to your deck. But these challenges are optional if you don’t feel like you need the difficulty raised just yet.
There’s a real sense of progression and improvement as you play through the game, which definitely helps me come back run after run. Fortunately, the game size is pretty small, and since it’s turn based, I can download and play it on my laptop during moments of lull in a zoom call.
Monster Train impressed me when I didn’t expect much. The game and mechanics are well designed, and the gameplay very rewarding. If you’re a fan of games like Slay the Spire and are looking for a new game, I highly recommend this one.