King of the Creepies
In King of the Creepies, up to six players try to build their ultimate teams by collecting creepie cards and outfitting them with gear and special abilities to fight in fast-paced battles. Players bet their hard-earned monies in the hope of buying the perfect cards to crush their enemies, but goblins are always hiding just out of sight to cause all sorts of mischief! Bet, bribe, and battle your way through the marketplace and the arena to become the King of the Creepies! (Board Game Geek)
Action Point Allowance System
Deck / Pool Building
Designer: Jon Cohn
Artist: Gilbert Jansen
Publisher: IDW Games
Category: Card Game, Fighting, Humor
Price: $32.95 Amazon
King of the Creepies is a battle arena game with two main modes of play, focused solely on crushing your opponents through dice rolling and card play. King of the Creepies is designer Jon Cohn’s first game with his own company, Keyhole Games, but has been picked up by IDW Games.
IDW Games is part of the media company IDW, which also contains IDW Entertainment, Top Shelf Productions, and the San Diego Comic Art Gallery. IDW Games publishes individual titles as well as licensed IPs, such as Machi Koro, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past, The Planet of the Apes, Fire & Axe, and more.
For the most part, King of the Creepies is tame, though there are a few light curse words and suggestive creatures in the box. King of the Creepies is definitely not a game for younger kids, but adults will understand the humor and pop culture references.
Saddle up and grab some gear. King of the Creepies is a gladiatorial fight to the death!
In Creepies, 2-6 players send a creature into battle and equip them with abilities, boost their stats with gear, and play timely items to bring sweet victory. Being the last creepie standing grants a crystal, of which one needs five total to win the entire game. Players also work towards completing goal cards which grant a crystal as well.
The first player to reach five crystals wins the game and is declared king of the creepies.
To be forthright, I’m not a champion of games built entirely on “take that” mechanisms. I don’t particularly like playing a nasty card on a friend just because it’s in my hand. Furthermore, regardless of one’s taste in games, every genre of game requires a certain mood to enjoy it.
In fact, this was the issue I had with Munchkin when I first played it a few years back. I went into the game hoping to win and outwit my buddies. I wasn’t really looking for fun, and sacrificed my enjoyment of the game. Those who’ve logged many hours with Munchkin know about the end-game and the merciless, nasty card play. Because of these factors, Munchkin was a miserable failure for me.
A few days after wrapping my third game of King of the Creepies, I remembered my time with Munchkin. Sure, the jokes might have been hit or miss, but ultimately, Munchkin doesn’t exist to be played competitively. In the same way, King of the Creepies is at its best when it’s played in context.
In terms of art design and in-jokes, King of the Creepies fires on all cylinders. Sometimes cultural parodies feel too hokey and forced. Here, Creepies cleverly mixes silly names with silly abilities. Each creature has a list of stats that make sense with their flavor text and artwork. Nighty Knight has high stats all around, which makes him very powerful for attacking and defending. To counter this, there is a chance he will fall asleep on his turn, so the controlling player may not even get a chance to attack another player at the table. It has a chance to be annoying, but it’s the risk one might take.
Other strange cards and creatures include a twist on werewolf lore, where instead one can summon a were-whale. Another is a pink-hearted ninja who attacks twice on her turn. One item features a slew of explosives and will detonate, dealing 5 damage to all others at the table. Another card forces an opponent to be a bodyguard for a turn, defending your creature at the detriment of the chosen foe. Like Magic: The Gathering, some cards simply act as blue-themed counter effect to entirely negate another opponent’s card. This leads to inevitable, “I cancel your cancel,” situations. Hilarity ensues.
You’ll spend half of the game laughing at card jokes, and the other half trying to play the game. It’s weirdly lengthy. Part of it is the absurdity of equipping creatures with certain items or abilities that simply make no sense. The game feels even longer when players are dropping preventative cards and flipping abilities left and right. One turn around the table can take ages, but a reminder: it’s all in good fun.
Players don’t typically lose cards, but instead, they become exhausted for the upcoming round. This prevents players from capitalizing on extremely powerful card combinations they’ve drawn, but you’ll need to be on the lookout every other round. It’s possible to need to roll two sets of dice before even getting to confirm an attack on the player of your choice. This leads to throwing your hands into the air, exclaiming, “you have that card again?” The table erupts into laughter.
The strangest thing about King of the Creepies is actually winning the game. Like flipping a victory point card in Catan, one can procure an item that simply grants a victory crystal for no effort. This can actually be countered, but still feels weird. With no limit or penalty to goal cards, players can spend their turns picking up goal cards, hoping for some direction for victory. Some of these require you acquiring X amount of gold, defending for X amount of damage, etc.
As the player count grows, fewer goal cards will exist to the point of potentially running out. I’d rally for a lower victory crystal count once a game approaches 4 or more players. Maybe four crystals, and as the group size grows past 4, consider four or three crystals.
Strangely enough, players can also engine-build. If they are low on money and can’t sell enough of their cards to the marketplace, they can choose to draw multitudes of creepies. Each owned creepie grants a money during the income phase, which means you could effectively focus on building up your gold to purchase victory crystals instead of winning them in combat. This would be a boring approach to the game, but it’s a possible route to victory.
King of the Creepies component quality is fine. The main artwork of each card is entertaining, as we’ve discussed. The backs of cards are gaudy, though you’ll know which type of card they are quickly. Monies are particularly bold and bland. You’ll use discs to mark your current creepie’s HP value, as well as progress towards victory crystals. The rulebook feels a bit jumbled. Fonts are huge which makes the book larger than necessary. I contribute some of our rules confusion to me missing a few lines here and there, but overall the game is relatively simple.
King of the Creepies also presents a stripped down version akin to Texas Hold’em: Goblin Poker.
This variant skips market phases, instead giving players three creepies, abilities, and items. Through revealed cards and some phases of betting, calling, and potentially folding, players will make their way to a battle phase, like the basic game. Creepies feel well-balanced for the most part, so I can’t imagine a player folding. Why wouldn’t you play it out to see the outcome? There isn’t a single card that guarantees victory, and you aren’t card counting like you would in a game of poker.
Goblin Poker is a little weird and presented an easier-to-manage game of Creepies. Honestly, it might be worth a try, but the main game is more interesting than this variant.
If your group is casual, and into stuff like Munchkin and party games, King of the Creepies is definitely worth trying out. If your group tends towards big euros, dungeon crawlers, or heavier games, I’m not sure it has a place with you.
For myself, I don’t love King of the Creepies. My loyalties lie with less reliance on dice determining my fate, and more with my own actions being the reason I win or lose a game. In Creepies, it’s up in the air. One moment, you might slay an opponent in one huge attack, and the next be smashed one by one by everyone else at the table. One player might play a card that either kills his own creepie on a 1-5 result and kills yours on a 6 result.
In our second game, my friend Levi had amassed five or six goal cards. Upon fulfilling whatever the goal requires, that player must flip it and receive one victory crystal. For the longest time, I assumed he misunderstood this rule, so I slyly repeated it to the group. We came around to yet another combat phase, which ended in his creepie winning. One-by-one, he flipped each card, read the requirement, and gained another crystal. Levi, the underdog, excitedly won the game because he was able to complete all of his goals as a result of winning this final battle.
King of the Creepies doesn’t take itself seriously, and that’s the fun of the game.
A review copy of King of the Creepies was provided by IDW Games.
+ Battle phases are exciting and hilarious
+ Card artstyle and flavor text are clever and bring lots of laughs
+ Good for a night of rolling dice and trolling each other
- Jumbled rulebook and decent card back and component quality
- Games can be lengthy and random and might benefit from end-game house ruling
- Goblin Poker variant is meh