Nitpicking Monster Master

by Steve Bowler on December 15, 2007 · 2 comments

in casual,nitpicking,webgames

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of “casual” games when I have a few spare cycles at home. The vast majority of them have been webgames, mostly of the free variety. It’s become a small addiction/hobby of mine to find the gems among the rough. I suppose I should write about the “casual vs. hardcore” gamespaces that are becoming prevalent lately, but instead I figured tonight I’d talk a bit about a free web game I’ve been enjoying quite a bit over the past few months.

It’s Monster Master from CrazyMonkeyGames.com . It’s basicaly Magic: the Gathering, but in a slightly less copyright infringing form. While you have monster cards and lightning cards and that sort of thing, there’s no land to speak of. There’s a bunch of other support type cards (give creatures higher attack values, for instance), but the number of cards you can choose from is both fairly high for a free online webgame, but still hamstrung compared to a major card game’s perspective.

There’s a bunch of other differences as well, such as it randomly rolls dice in attack/defend scenarios, so it’s entirely possible that your Rat who only has a defense of 1 could actually harm the Dragon who has an attack of 8. I don’t feel passionately one way or the other about the combat. It works for what it’s trying to do; and the M:tG method (an 8 always beats a 1) stresses more strategy. To each his own I guess.

The things that bother me about Monster Masher Master are the little things within its own ruleset that it seems to break.

Stun: Some cards have this neat stun ability, where if they deal damage, a card that is hit by it cannot attack during its next turn. You can feasibly “pin” cards and keep them out of the action indefinitely so long as you can keep dealing them damage. The problem, is that while defending, a stunned card can still deal damage. This seems counter intuitive to me, especially since they have other card abilities which state that they don’t take damage if they fail an attack (Archers and Aliens have this ability, to simulate a long range attack ability). Really, the defending card which was previously stunned should be able to defend itself, but only deal zero damage if it wins the contested attack/defense roll (if it loses it should still deal damage). Because really, dealing damage, even when on defense, is a mechanic of attacking; in this case, counter attacking. But it’s still attacking, and if you’re stunned, you’re stunned.

Lightning and Fireball: Like M:tG, you have two cards which are allowed to deal direct damage. 3 points for a Fireball and 2 for Lightning. They come in very handy and I use them in every deck I build. The only problem is that they can only target creatures, and not the enemy player. Evidently only creatures can deal damage to your opponent. It’s hard to tell if this was part of their design vision (it is called Monster Master, after all; maybe they intended it to be a monsters only affair where damaging your opponent is concerned), or if it was a just a rules oversight.

Necromancy: There’s this kinda cool one time use only card (you can only have one per deck) called Necromancy. It allows you to immediately pull any Skeleton monster card in your deck or graveyard (3 total allowed per deck) and put them into play simultaneously. It’s a really powerful last ditch lifesaver mechanic if it comes up on a lucky draw for you, but there’s some other rules conflicts that weren’t resolved involving monster summoning.

You can only summon one creature per turn unless you have the Reinforce card to play, which allows you to summon a second creature that turn. The problem is that no special ability was imbued into the Necromancy card for extra summoning. So if you’ve already summoned one creature that turn, and then realized “oh yeah, I wanted to use my Necromancy card,” it will allow you to cast Necromancy, discard the card, and then not summon any of your Skeletons out of your deck, presumably because you’ve already summoned that turn. If anything, it should just “shunt” the use of the Necromancy card and leave it in your hand if it was their intent to not allow you to “game” the summon limit for the turn. It’s hard to keep track if you’ve summoned that turn or not, especially if you’ve already cast some lightning and fireballs, or used a draw card to bring extra cards into your hand that turn (and thereby bring Necromancy into your hand after you’ve summoned).

The AI: This is truly a nitpick (although it’s also a serious problem), as it is a free online game, but the AI can be just dirt stupid sometimes. For the most part, it’s coded really well. It knows if it’s statistically outnumbered to play the Doom card (removes all creatures in play from the table) if it has it, it likes to whittle cards out of your hand (forced discards), and it actually uses the Telescope card, which allows it to see your hand. I can’t tell if it actually changes strategy based on what it “sees” or if it’s just emulating human behavior in the hopes of intimidating the player.

Where it gets dumb is during some fringe cases where it will forget who owns what card. You can use the Psychic card to take possession of an opponent’s creature, and then control it as if it were your own. You only get to keep it for the duration of your turn, so it’s always used in an attack gesture. Most times you take the card you hope you can live with being on the table, and attack the card you think you can’t live with being on the table. At any rate, the issue is that if the AI has some support cards, it will actually issue them to the card it has stolen from the player. As these effects are “permanent” to the card they’re cast on (unless dispelled with other cards), they carry over back across the table.

I’ve had the computer actually make one of my cards stronger with a better attack rating, I’ve seen it remove poison from one of my monsters, I’ve even seen it heal one of my monsters it’s stolen, only to be returned to me in a better state. It’s probably the only real dealbreaker with the game, in what’s an otherwise really enjoyable free webgame.

It will also do some smaller statistically dumb mistakes. For instance just now I had three creatures on the table. One was about to become active the next turn (some creatures take more than one turn to become active after being summoned), one could attack twice in one turn for 4 damage each attack (and had 4 health), and one could only attack for 2 damage (and only has 2 health). To review:

  • Creature Active Next Turn
  • 4×2 attack, 4 health
  • 2 attack, 2 health

During the AI’s turn, it used a card to steal a Fireball from me, which deals 3 damage. The AI had no creatures on the table, and had 10 health. It apparently did not have any creatures to summon/put in play. It was staring at 10 points of damage on my next turn (assuming I didn’t get a 0 turn summon creature), and had a card which dealt 3 points of damage. It chose, foolishly, to use it on the creature that could deal 4×2 attack damage (8) but had 4 health. That creature survived the Fireball attack with 1 health point remaining, and I dealt the AI 10 points the next round, winning the game.

If it had dealt the Fireball to the 2 attack, 2 health creature, it would have at least survived my turn and hopefully drawn a creature on its next turn to hopefully turn its luck around.

Again, I’m being extremely nitpicky for a free webgame (this is the “Nitpicking feature), but it seems like that’s a pretty logical rule that the AI could always follow: add up the damage it’s looking at for the next round, and attempt to run different attack scenarios using the cards it has to the most effect to stem that damage.

At any rate, it’s getting late, and I’m tired of nitpicking Monster Master and am going to get back to playing it another round before retiring for the night. Give the game a shot. You’ll be glad you did. For the most part it’s a very solid card game. The best one you’re going to find for free on the net, at least.

If you find a better one, holler back in the comments.

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