Originally released in 1986, Bally Midway’s iconic arcade game Rampage is the definition of a classic. Three giant monsters compete by destroying giant buildings and munching their way through people, tanks, helicopters, trolleys and whatever else the designer’s pixelated during development. It was insanely fun, and as a young kid in 1990 when I got my NES, the ported copy was one of my favourite games.
Three decades on, Rampage has left a wonderful legacy. Numerous sequels, an Easter Egg port of the game in Lego Dimensions, one of the main inspirations for fellow cult classic Primal Rage and now a Hollywood Blockbuster with none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson attached to star.
However, for me its greatest legacy is witnessed through a board game: Terror in Meeple City.
Originally released in 2013 as Rampage, publisher Repos Production changed the name to Terror in Meeple City the following year due to a rumoured copyright claim from Warner Brothers, who currently own the Rampage property rights.
Accommodating four players, as with the classic arcade game the objective is to destroy the city and gobble all left in your wake of destruction. As a dexterity game, this is achieved by flicking, dropping, blowing and pinging pieces around the city board to cause as much carnage as possible, and ultimately score points.
Starting in one of the corners as your favourite coloured Godzilla-like wooden monster, the gameplay takes place on a sturdy city board featuring six people (meeple) buildings and a meeple stadium in the centre. Each player has two actions per turn from a choice of four: flick your feet token to move around the map; jump on a building by dropping your monster from a shoulder height arm-stretched-out on one of the buildings; pick up a bus from your neighbourhood and hurl it from atop your monster with a forceful flick anywhere on the board; or place your chin on your monster, take a deep breath and blow down all in your path!
You score one point for every piece of building you knock over which you get to eat , storing it in your “belly”, or behind your monster face. Ten points are available for every full set of coloured meeples you manage to devour – there are six colours all in. You automatically eat any building floors you knock over, and can eat as many meeples in your area as the amount of teeth you have on your monsters face. Teeth act as a sort of life points, with fighting amongst monsters encouraged, and losers losing a tooth to their attacker – which is worth two points. All players start with six teeth, and you can’t drop below two.
Each player drawn two cards from separate decks that grants them a starting character name and character power that provides unique abilities to the player. The character name card will provide a bonus scoring method and the power card will grant a unique power – such as the modification to the way you move about the board, the amount of meeples you can eat and from where, or bonus points for having the most of a certain colour of meeple in your hand at the end of the game. Players are also dealt a special power card from a third deck that remains hidden and can be deployed at any point during the game. The game ends when the last piece of building in eaten by a player.
Any meeples that are knocked off the board are deemed to have ‘escaped’. Escaped meeples are placed on a tally board and when certain numerical milestones are hit, the player to cause this will face punishments such as losing a tooth and missing a turn.
Essentially what you have is gameplay somewhat reminiscent of a twisted, jacked up game of extreme Subbuteo! Terror is Meeple City is at its heart a simple, funny game for all ages. Player interaction is superb, not only through attacking each other’s monsters and the use of power cards and special abilities, but by the countless opportunities to gaud each other during failed moves – there will be a good few every game. The destructive carnage offered is both spectacularly unpredictable and highly entertaining. Very much a pick up and play game that anyone can grasp very quickly.
But for me, this game also has other connotations that leave me to regard it in a much higher way that the sum of its parts probably deserves. Firstly, it’s designed by Antoine Bauza – the man behind the award winning 7 Wonders, the game that reintroduced me to tabletop gaming in January 2013. He has a terrible habit of making simple games so richly appealing, due to easy to follow rules, beautiful design and a real multi level inclusive approach to development. There is also broad scope for home made variation to game play (or house rules) that can help keep the game fresh. A few alternative options are even offered in the official rules.
Secondly, and much more emotively, this game pays tribute to a video game I simply loved as a kid. It is an absolute retro-fest of a game! The idea of designing a board game with a classic arcade as an obvious inspiration is absolutely genius. This, in my opinion, is the most perfect example of that practise I have ever had the pleasure of playing. Whether you are six or 60, by default you play this game with a massive smile on your face. However, if you play Terror in Meeple City having played any incarnation of the Rampage video game franchise, you will also have a special glint in your eye to a bygone era.
For me, this is a vivid throwback to the glory days of childhood when there was simply nothing in this world cooler than playing a video game where you where a giant gorilla destroying and munching all in your wake – and all from the comfort of your own bedroom. Even writing that sentence, I’m awash with nostalgia overdose – so just imagine what the game emotes.
It somehow manages to transport you back to your fondest childhood memories, where summer holidays lasted forever, Saturday TV was littered with cult classics like Transformers and Visionaries and you could actually buy a games console to play arcade classic at home!
And that makes Terror in Meeple City one my favourite games in my collection. Yes, it doesn’t have the strategy and depth of many games, but it offers something different; pure chaotic fun that actively encourages player childish interaction. Although not scientifically proven, trust me, this game keeps you young.
Check it out, I guarantee it will make your day each and every time it makes its way onto your table.
Next time I will be looking at the greatest cancelled TV show of all time and how it lives on spectacularly as a board game…
Until then, I’m off to find an emulator copy of Rampage.