Theme and What is It?
Campy Creatures is a ghoulish game of deduction and bluffing, for two to five players, inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood horror cinema. Players are mad scientists who need mortals for their experiments. They will send monsters out from their hands to capture said mortals. Some of the monsters will exert special powers while others rely on strength alone. Skillful card play will reap many rewards, while careless play will see the best mortals escaping your grasp.
As mentioned, Campy Creatures is a deduction game. Players will use their monster cards to try to claim mortal cards. The players will play through the mortal deck three times, at the end of which, the player with the most points is the winner. Each player begins with an identical deck of nine cards numbered zero to eight. The game includes a tenth card that is an alternate two card which can be swapped in for some variation. The mortal deck is placed on one side of the play area while the Clash-O-Meter is placed in the center. After a first player is chosen, the player markers are placed in the Clash-O-Meter in order of players going clockwise from the start player. During play, the Clash-O-Meter will serve to resolve any and all ties that occur during the course of play. The Clash-O-Meter also features a scoring track around its outer edge.
At the beginning of each turn, one mortal is drawn for each player. Players will then select one of their monster cards to play for that round. Monsters with powers feature either one or two pip icons on them. Single-pip powers trigger before players collect mortals, resolving from highest to lowest. Players will then collect one mortal each, again in descending order with the Clash-O-Meter resolving any ties. If winning a tie allows a player to select the first mortal, their token then moves to the bottom of the meter. If a player wins a tie for any other reason, their token does not move on the track. So a player tied for collecting second or third will not drop in the Clash-O-Meter. This creates some interesting options for strategic card play. Cards with two-pip powers will also trigger at the time of collecting a mortal.
The mortals come in three types. There are standard mortals which range in point value from negative three to six points. The rarer a card is the fewer of them there are in the deck. There are also teenager cards. These cards indicate whether they count as one, two, or three teenagers. The player with the most teenagers will score seven points while the second most will score four points. Lastly, there are engineer cards. These are interesting because they score differently based on whether a player has an even or odd number of them. If a player has an odd number of engineers they are worth negative two points each, but if they have an even number of them they are worth three points each.
Players do not regain played monsters until the end of the round and all cards played are public knowledge, thus facilitating the deduction aspect of the game. Turns will continue until only one mortal can be revealed from the mortal deck, signaling the end of the round at which time players will calculate the points from their collected mortals and adjust their creeple on the scoring track. The game lasts a total of three rounds. There are markers included in the box for an alternate play variant for two or three players wherein players track rounds won rather than cumulative points.
I like games with this combo of deduction and bluffing mechanisms ranging from very direct like Get Bit! or more subtle like Bloodborne: The Card Game. Generally, these games need a good hook, be that a strong theme or a popular IP, as many boil down to timing when to throw your best cards and/or cards which play off expected cards from an opponent. Campy Creatures’ use of classic Hollywood style monster art instantly drew my attention to this game. My dad loves classic horror so it is a theme close to my heart. I was also interested to see the point scoring mechanisms and interplay of creature powers.
Quality of Components and Insert
Campy Creatures includes one board, five creeples, five player markers, and 81 cards. The Clash-O-Meter board and player markers are nice and thick. The creeples are a unique twist on your classic meeples and are in the shape of various monsters matching the player colors. The cards are split between the five player decks of the ten different monsters and the 31 mortals. The cards have a good thickness and finish. They feel good in your hands. The insert is a basic two-deck insert for the cards and pieces and is very sturdy.
The art in Campy Creatures is amazing. I think it may be its strongest asset. The monsters are evocative of all of your favorite classics. The card art aims for that movie poster style and it hits the mark dead on the bullseye. The text and supporting iconography are clear, but skillfully integrated into the card layout so as not to detract from the monsters themselves. While all players have the same set of cards, the card backs are different to easily tell the sets apart. Each features the player’s color and single, ominous eye. This art is replicated on the character tokens that go on the tiebreaker board. The art on this board, reminiscent of tank from a mad scientist’s lab, is equally outstanding and features a simple score track around its exterior edge. Even the inside of the box lid features more of this fantastic art. Keymaster Games has really outdone themselves with the art in Campy Creatures.
Campy Creatures was a lot of fun at the table. It is simple, straight forward, and relatively quick to play. The powers have a good balance and the rounds are long enough that there is almost always a chance to earn some points, even when the cards don’t fall your way. I am not personally very good at the primary bluffing mechanic. I tend to think too much about my choices and talk myself out of what would have ultimately been the better choice. Even still, those times I got it right were enough to make me want to come back for more of its light-hearted campy action.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
Campy Creatures is at its heart, a bluffing game where players are always trying to outwit their opponents, carefully judging when to throw their best power cards for maximum effect. The box says the game is for 14 and up. I imagine part of this is due to the inclusion of the smaller creeples and tokens. The game itself is relatively simple and none of the powers create any issues as they are well balanced and smartly worded for clarity. I suppose the art may be a bit strong for some children, but I grew up watching the movies from which Campy Creatures draws its inspiration and the bulk of the fear they inspired came from the scenes within the films than from the monsters themselves.
Campy Creatures is a solid entry in this style of deduction game. It builds on the established foundation of choosing which of your cards to play and sizing up your opponents. It adds powers into the formula, but keeps them simple and direct, allowing them to enhance the gameplay without creating confusion. I also really like the twist in the scoring cards in both the teenager and engineer cards. This adds some set collection to the mix, but again does so without adding heaps of complexity. The game plays quickly in 20-30 minutes and is very easy to teach. I appreciate the inclusion of a few variant options and the extra monster that you can swap in for variability. I already spoke at length about the art, but it really is fantastic. It strikes a nostalgic chord for me personally and instantly puts me in the right mindset for the game.
Campy Creatures is a great, quick card game. I think there are plenty of people who would want it for the art alone and it was a big hit at Gen Con 50. When combined with the gameplay this is a game you really should not miss. Campy Creatures sets the bar pretty high for the company’s next title, but I cannot wait to see what is next from Keymaster Games.