They say ignorance is bliss. This makes me wonder why so many of the most hateful people in the world are also the most ignorant, but this isn’t the place for that discussion. I was ignorant, when I bought Igor: The Monster Making Game at a closeout store, that it was based on a failed animated movie from a couple years prior. What I did see was a cartoon Igor, the R&R Games Logo, and the name Reiner Knizia. That was enough for me to plop down my $8. Was the combination of an obscure movie license, a game company I like, and a designer I respect enough to make a good game? Let’s break it down.
Igor – the Movie
Synopsis from IMDB: Animated fable about a cliché hunchbacked evil scientist’s assistant who aspires to become a scientist himself, much to the displeasure of the rest of the evil science community.
Igor was a 2008 animated movie made by MGM. It had a lot of star power behind it: John Cusack, John Cleese, Jay Leno, Molly Shannon, Eddie Izzard and many many others provided their voices to this project. The movie has a $25 million budget, but ended up being a disappointment, only making $19 million at the box office. It finished in 4th place its opening weekend, and was out of the top 10 by week 3. Rotten Tomatoes only scored a 36% positive rating from critics, and only 37% positive reviews from regular people that saw it.
So, unfortunately, the movie was a relative dud. That’s probably going to make it hard to sell a game based on the property.
R&R Games has been around for quite a while. I’ve been playing their games Sold! and Riddles and Riches for years. More recently, Time’s Up and 1st & Goal have become some of the more popular games in their respective genres as of late. Even more recently, there has been a ton of buzz about their game Coal Baron. They also have Hanabi. Gamers love themselves some Hanabi.
R&R Games also have a wonderful record of releasing great children / family games. They gained much national acclaim a few years ago for their Hide & Seek Safari. So having them release a game (actually, there were three games based on Igor, more on that in a bit) for a kid’s movie does make some sense, and it’s reasonable to expect a good game.
The good Dr. is one of the most prolific designers around. He’s released literally hundreds of games. The knock against Knizia is that he will release about anything…so there are plenty of duds in his library. Also, Knizia is rather famous for managing to get games reprinted multiple times, with only thematic changes being made.
That being said, Knizia is also the guy that gave us some of the best games of our era: Ra, Amun-Re, Tigris and Euphrates, Through the Desert and countless others. One would imagine that he could put together an interesting monster making dice game.
So, we have a dud of a movie license…but a game made by a legendary designer, and a company known for quality family games… let’s open the box, shall we?
For the record, that’s 18 cards, 18 plastic tokens, 5 dice and a rulebook…and a lot of air under that cardboard insert. MSRP: $15.99. I paid $7.99 for it. Still, it’s not the size of the game, it’s the quality, right?
Sadly, I have to report that there’s less game here than there are components.
In Igor, three cards are dealt to the table. These cards show a set of icons that are required to build a specific monster. On a turn, the player rolls all 5 dice, and then places black markers over any or all the matching icons, setting those dice aside. The player then decides whether to roll the rest of the dice to try and cover more spots. If they roll, and match again, they cover the new icons – and lather, rinse, repeat. If they don’t match, their turn is over.
Once all the spots are covered on a monster – the player that finished the monster collects the monster, and will score those points at the end of the game. If for some unknown reason – a monster is complete, and the player keeps rolling but fails on a roll, that monster is removed from the game. Finally, if a player uses all 5 dice, and two or more were “Igor!” wild dice…they can choose to pick up all 5 dice, and continue rolling. The game goes until all 18 monsters have been scored or discarded. High score wins! And that’s seriously all there is to Igor: The Monster Making Game.
This was, in fact, one of those patented Knizia re-themed games. Just one year earlier was a game by Ravensberger called Code Cracker about breaking into safes…it plays EXACTLY the same. In 2013, THE EXACT SAME GAME but with dinosaur art was released as Dino Park by Piatnik. My PSA: JUST SAY NO TO RE-THEMED KNIZIA!!!!! Especially ones that aren’t good games in the first place.
MGM must have really wanted Igor to become an icon in the hobby gaming world. R&R, while a popular game company, isn’t Hasbro. You still don’t see most of their games in Toys R Us or Target with any regularity, even less so 6 years ago. So for a major motion picture company to go to a hobby game company like R&R for their licensed games was curious in the first place. I’m curious how this particular Knizia design was picked to turn into a “monster making game” as it was a safe cracking game just a year before.
MGM must have had faith in R&R because R&R also released a second Igor game at the same time. Igor: The Life of the Party is a trick taking game, with very light party elements (Meow after playing your card! Wacky!), again aimed at kids. Believe it or not again…there was even a THIRD Igor game!!! Igor Brainwash Game was just a deck of cards with pictures of characters / monsters from the movie with rules for Memory and Old Bone (Old Maid). I believe this was the only one I ever saw in a “big box” store, I’m pretty sure it was 97 cents…I left it there.
I know I’ve been negative here, so I want to end on a positive note.
There is a newer game that has many similar aspects to Igor, but has just that little bit extra to make it a truly fun experience.
In Roll For It! Players each have 6 dice, which they roll trying to mach icons on cards placed in the middle of the table. The main change between Igor and this is that you don’t get the dice you assign to cards back until they score. So, do you go for a big point card, realizing your dice may be gone for a couple turns, or do you hold them back, hoping your opponent leaves you easy cards to steal? That one decision, no matter how slight it may seem, completely changes the strategy of the game, and makes it more fun by magnitudes. Roll for It is a quick, light, and fun game. Not to mention the fact you get 30 cards, and 24 dice in a properly sized box for only $15 (there are two versions, so it could cost $30 if you’re a completist like myself).