Pictionary and I were not good friends.
It’s not because Pictionary isn’t a good game; I would argue Pictionary was one of the very first games to open my eyes to what a unique party game could be.
Pictionary and I were not good friends because then, and now, I’m a legitimately terrible artist. Like, awful. You would think that just randomly over the course of a lifetime, I would have picked up basic skills on how to draw a house, or a human being, or a boat, beyond something my 5-year-old son could draw.
You would think. But it never happened, so whenever I have the chance to play a game where I’m forced to draw, I have a blast, because reckoning with “my truth” is never more apparent than when I’m forced to draw a monster with 8 legs, wings, fangs, and something resembling a tail.
MonsDRAWsity, designed by Eric Slauson and published by Deep Water Games (in partnership with Bread & Circuses), gave me the chance I was looking for: drawing monsters with my kids. Even as I write this review, I’m laughing all the way to the bank. Or maybe, the kitchen table.
I’m Sorry. How Many Legs?
MonsDRAWsity’s box gives you the entire rundown of how to play.
Players will rotate playing the role of The Witness. On a turn, the Witness will draw a card from a massive deck of monster cards; on each card is a sight so nasty, so funny, so disgusting, so out-of-this-world, that no one besides an artist would dare to even imagine such a thing.
The Witness gets 20 seconds to memorize everything they can from their card. Then, they describe the monster to the other 2-7 players around the table. The Witness gets 2 minutes to describe what they saw, while other players use a dry-erase board to sketch what they heard. How tall is the monster? How many toes? Does the monster have eyes? What animal does it look like?
Once the 2-minute timer expires, all players push their boards towards the Witness, who secretly picks the drawing that they think looks most like what they remember, tallying their pick on a scoreboard out of view from the other players. Then, we get the big reveal with the original card, and then players get to vote: which drawing looks most like the monster? Whichever sketch artist wins this popularity vote gets a point, and the Witness gets a bonus point if the other artists picked the same sketch as the Witness did earlier.
Turns go around and around until you meet the pre-set condition for an end game, which in most of my plays is just one turn for each player to serve as the Witness. Whoever scores the most points wins!
“Everyone’s a Winner”
You remember the old Bowl America tagline? “Everyone’s a winner at Bowl America!”
In MonsDRAWsity, every player really does leave a winner. Even if you don’t score quite enough points to “win”, just sitting at the table laughing with friends and family about how your monsters turn out is a blast.
I don’t play games with professional, even recreational, artists. “The Struggle is Real” when it comes to my gamer friends and their artistic talents. That means the playing field is almost always even! I have played MonsDRAWsity more than a dozen times and my kids regularly wipe the floor with me whenever we play.
That’s OK. The rare game that scales well with both kids and adults, MonsDRAWsity plays best as a 6-8 player party game, and OK with a family of 4. The 3-player rules aren’t great because there really aren’t enough players to make things interesting, and it’s hard to clear the mental hurdle of always awarding first place to only one of your kids on every turn.
One area of MonsDRAWsity is clearly NOT a winner: the low-budget quality of the dry erase markers. They’re terrible. On my very first play of MonsDRAWsity, the tip of one of the pens broke. In that same game, the eraser on another pen popped off and caused a play stoppage as we fixed it.
The artwork on the cards? Great. The instruction booklet? Does the job. But these pens are a dumpster fire. Swap them out as soon as you buy the game and you can thank me later.
Fantastic Factory of Fun
Deep Water Games, which also gave us the Welcome to… series and the excellent engine building game Fantastic Factories, knows how to party, and MonsDRAWsity is no exception. Giving players a chance to have fun, be creative, and share a laugh with long-time friends or new gamers is a great treat, and MonsDRAWsity has worked with every type of audience I have played it with so far.
The artwork of the monster cards really shines and it is so varied; many of the cards are illustrated by different artists and revealing the card after everyone has drawn their sketches is a comical moment. I’m also strangely intrigued by why many players use the same ways to describe their cards when sitting in the role of The Witness. The game has pushed me to be more creative in both describing what I have seen on a card, and how to stay in front of the questions you’ll get from the artists around the table to clarify what you tried to memorize earlier.
MonsDRAWsity is a no-brainer addition to my collection. Just make sure to replace the game’s included markers and you’ll be in good shape when you pick up a copy of your own!