Monsters in the Elevator: Preview

Think it’s terrible when a person is standing backwards in an elevator? Or if one of your elevator-riding companions has a bad case of body odor? Things don’t get any better when you’re loading up an elevator car full of monsters. Today, Fairway takes a look at the upcoming, cooperative card game for kids, Monsters in the Elevator.

Monsters in the Elevator is a two- to six- player cooperative card game in which players are supposed to work together to get the elevator car all the way to the top floor. The trick is: the elevator’s capacity was clearly designed for humans, not gigantic, hairy, flatulent monsters.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. The game is incredibly easy to teach. We taught my five year old the basics by simply saying: play a card from your hand, but help us by not playing one that will go over 150 pounds. That’s it.
  2. The monster art is cute, done in light pastels with not-to-scary illustrations.  Think Monster’s Inc.
  3. This game has a strong educational concept, which mostly involves basic math, that is embedded nicely into the actual game play.

Game play ^

In Monsters in the Elevator, players work cooperatively to get an elevator car for monsters from the first floor to the top floor (twenty).  The key is that the elevator car has a maximum weight (depending on player count) and with each new floor new monsters get on and other get off.

To start, a deck of floor cards is separated from the other monster cards.  These floor cards are sorted in ascending order starting with floor one on top and floor twenty on the bottom.  All of the even numbered floors have some rule that will apply when the elevator car reaches that floor.

The monster cards are a combination of the “Monsters” and some “Actions.”  The Monster cards have two key pieces of information: their weigh (from 10 to 50) and which floors they exit the elevator. Most of the Monsters have both a lower floor and a higher floor option to exit. Some permit the monsters to get off on even or odd numbered floors. The Action cards are generally immediate effects that can move the elevator or cause monsters to exit.   These Monsters and Actions are shuffled together and a hand of three cards is dealt to each player.

At the start of each floor, first, monsters will exit if they can. For instance, if you’re on floor three and you have a monster that exits on floor three.  Or you’re on floor sixteen and you have a monster that exits on even numbered floors.

Then, each player plays one Monster or Action card from their hand face down on the table.  When everyone has played a card, it is revealed.  Any actions are resolved first, which can cause monsters to exit or the elevator to move. Then, the monsters are added to the elevator car.  The total weight of all the monsters is added up. If it exceeds the weight capacity of the elevator car, the game is over.  Otherwise, the elevator car moves up to the next floor and the game repeats.

On the green ^

The Game Play.  We’ve never won this game. I’m not sure that that matters one bit though. This game is a lot of fun even when your elevator car exceeds capacity on floor three. The game mixes a good bit of decision making (which monsters to play when) into an easy to understand game.

The combination of a bit of luck (in the draw), the strategic choices about playing monsters that’ll exit soon, and the unknowable play of your partners makes for a lot of fun.

Also, it turns out that my daughter thinks that making the elevator crash is the most fun. In her own maniacal way, she created her own competitive version of the game in which she would play cards to push us over capacity (150 for 3 players) and we had counter that. I think this is part of the reason we never won.

The point being: the game play is good fun no matter your “strategy.”

Theme. The theme is really endearing. The designer could have easily been “Monsters under my Bed” (not to be confused with this game Under My Bed: Review) with the same capacity issues (space under the bed). We’re so glad they used this theme. The idea of loading up elevator cars with flatulent, hairy, overweight monsters is great in a way that kids find funny (dad too).

Play time. Turns out that getting to the twentieth floor is hard, and I can’t tell you what it would take. Most of our three and four player games end around the five to ten minute marks, which is great to play two or three times in a row.  Set up and clean up are a breeze–it’s even easier if you can keep the floors ordered and the cards nicely separated.

The Monsters!  The monster illustrations are down right adorable. The illustrations on the box and cards are a highlight.

Where it comes up short ^

I was provided a pre-production copy of this game, so keep in mind I expect that there’s time for some of the following things to be fixed.

Low contrast & number placement.  One of the first things we ran into is that the monster’s weight is in low contrast color, stamped onto different places on the monsters (sometimes the head, other times the belly). This looks nice, but it’s hard to play with and harder to scan especially if you’re not directly in front of the monsters on the elevator. As players, it would be a huge improvement to find a consistent location to place those values (e.g., upper left corner in high contrast).

Iconography.  So this game, in its current state is almost playable for non-readers.  I think iconography on the Action cards (and some monsters) would help. Right now Action cards use text for things like “ONE MONSTER EXITS” or “ALL MONSTERS EXIT.” I think regular, repeated icons on the cards would help. Likewise, finding some way to express “odd” and “even” floors on Monster cards would be helpful.

Image via YaYa Play Games website

This isn’t a huge issue, though, since the game is cooperative and so helping non-readers with cards is okay. But it’s so close, it would be a nice improvement to make it perfectly accessible to younger kids.

In the hole ^

Monsters in the Elevator is a fantastic little cooperative card game with a real kid-friendly sense of humor. This game packs some nice strategic and educational concepts into a quick, cute and light package. Since you can teach the rules in a matter of a few seconds, I’d highly recommend this game to a family of young gamers.

Monsters in the Elevator is in the hole for a Birdie. ^

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