Combat Monsters, An In-Depth Review

8.9 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 9/10
Sounds: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10

Fun and exciting gameplay. | Plenty of replay value thanks to a variety of different game modes.

The card art could be better when you consider the work that's gone into recent updates.

iOS, Android, and PC.

Free to play, with in-app purchases.

October 1,2013

English

It appears that more and more developers are turning to 3D battlefields to enhance their card games. Combat Monsters, a turn-based fantasy tactical card game, confirms this recent trend. There are no story or mission modes to get into — just fight your way through lots of different stages for various rewards.

I was astounded to learn at first that the game has just under 2000 different cards, made up of various types such as Creatures, Spells, Runes, and Equipment. Games that come with such a large pool of cards usually do very well, as they give gamers a lot of choice and freedom over their decks.

So is Combat Monsters a pretender or a contender? Read on to find out…

Love-the-artwork

Combat Monsters has already received much acclaim from other gamers. Obviously, everybody’s tastes are different, but I am expecting something good from Rubicon.

GAMEPLAY

Combat Monsters gets right into it after the first loading screen. You are taken though the basics by an old man with a strange voice. Card types and combat are easy enough to get to grips with, as is the resource management system called ‘Mojo.’ You start each turn with a set number of Mojo and can increase this by having your Hero or Creatures stand on Mojo hex tiles.

The use of hex tiles within the 3D environment works extremely well. I appreciated being able to rotate the camera so that I could see everything. You can zoom out too, but won’t need to do so unless doing battle on a large field. Sometimes things can feel a little crowded when there are a large number of Creatures on the field, along with some other environmental features. This makes the camera movement features all the more important to get a clear view of all your Creatures.

Both you and your opponent take turns in summoning Creatures and casting Spells. Your life is represented as a Hero character who you can move and attack with. Creatures can only be summoned next to the Hero. This prevents you from just summoning Creatures onto special hex tiles at the start, which keeps things fair. Space can sometimes be tight, so some foresight is needed before summoning one of your Creatures. Being able to move and attack with Creatures (and the Hero) helps us not get too cramped.

Greater-card-detail

Summoning costs are in the top left corner of a card. The cost is called Mojo, and this is the only resource you need to manage when playing.

To summon anything, you need to spend Mojo. As mentioned earlier, this replenishes each turn, and there are hex tiles that can increase the number you receive each turn by having a Creature on that tile at the start of your turn. Spells, Equips, and Runes are also cast using Mojo. There are dedicated slots on each battlefield for Runes and these, much like the special tiles, can boost specific attributes or enhance other game mechanics. I am quite fond of the Runes that give me additional card draw or add a defense stat to my Hero.

Creatures have fun animations upon summoning and performing actions. I liked the fact that they would move out of the way of a friendly creature performing an attack on a ranged target. This shows the level of detail the development team went to when creating this game. Some Creatures (the rarer ones) come with their special attacks that can cost Mojo to perform. They are often worth it, though, so you should always find ways to protect these guys!

To win you need to defeat the enemy Hero. At the start of the single-player game, they are very easy. Up the difficulty and you get tougher opponents and better rewards. I never felt as though the game had any paywall. There are plenty of Heroes to choose from, and these can be unlocked during gameplay, or paid for in-game. Speaking of in-game purchases, there are plenty of these using the game’s only currency, Rubicoins. These can be purchased through the in-game store, but are also obtainable throughout the game.

Standard-progression

All of the single-player game modes are fun and interesting. I liked the restrictions imposed by these (explained below) as they force you to think differently about each play you make.

MODES AND FEATURES

What I love about Combat Monsters is the many different difficulty levels, and within these, different game modes. Single-player dominates the available modes. Playing through the Standard mode on one difficulty will eventually open up three more modes. These are Pauper, Single 50, and Tribal.

Pauper is a fun and challenging mode where you can only use Common or Uncommon cards. This includes Spells, Equips, and Runes in addition to the Creatures. Games are longer than the Standard counterpart due to the Creatures’ power level being much lower overall, but it’s a fun mode, and I enjoy that it forces you to get creative with some of the less valuable cards when deckbuilding.

Single 50 is also an intriguing mode. Your deck must contain 50 cards, and you can only have one copy of any card in the deck, with no duplicates whatsoever. This obviously limits strategies and being able to fill the deck with many of the same powerful cards.

Finally, we have the Tribal mode, and as the name suggests, the deck needs to consist of Creatures that all belong to the same race. Within the game, there are plenty of different races, such as Dwarves, Golems, Elementals, Humans, and many more. This mode lets you play with those tribal themes rather than being forced into choosing all of the best cards from each race, as is often the case with a lot of TCGs/CCGs. I loved playing with an Elementals deck the most, here!

Chill-a-while-guys

Putting the opponent’s monsters on ice while I regroup and summon more units. The only drawback is not being able to attack them while they’re encased in ice, but it can be worth it to buy yourself some time if needed.

Multiplayer is a completely different challenge. Playing against a human opponent opens up unpredictable moves and strategies that the A.I. would never think of. There is a ladder for those of a more competitive disposition (like myself) though much fun can be had even if you don’t care about your ranking. You don’t have to wait long for the opponent’s move to be sent to your device. I like this as I don’t think the asynchronous play would work well in a game like this. It’s much better in real-time.

The usual card gallery and collection screen show you what you have obtained and what you’re still missing. The great thing about this is that you can buy single cards directly from the collection screen itself. This allows you to purchase exactly what you need to enhance your deck, whenever you need it. Boosters appear in the guise of Treasure Chests, and these come in various forms that guarantee set rarities, with a chance for other rarities to appear as well. The game is clear as to what you get, and so not much is left to chance. This was refreshing to see because a lot of people are sick of poor rarity rates in randomized booster packs these days.

Deck-editor

Simple, straight-forward deckbuilding tools are appreciated by both novice and expert TCG/CCG players alike. Some games unnecessarily complicate this feature, and I have no idea why!! Combat Monsters gets it right, so thumbs up to the developers here.

DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY

Combat Monsters has a very simple deckbuilder. It’s a drag and drop affair most of the time. Once my collection grew larger and a bit more difficult to manage, I started to use the refine tool, which meant that I would need to double-tap and add cards one by one. This isn’t much of a problem as you’ll need to see the finer details on a card before adding it once you reach this stage.

Some Creature races have passive abilities. Robots, for example, are immune to all afflictions. This makes them an excellent choice if you want to use spells that affect all Creatures in play. Some of the stronger races are only available at higher rarities. The Elementals are only available as Legendary rare while some other races cover many rarities, such as the Dwarves.

When building a deck, there are many factors to consider. The biggest of these is the Mojo cost of the cards to play. The deckbuilder gives you a glance at the Mojo curve and the average cost of the deck, which is extremely helpful and usually an expected feature for more veteran card game players. You also don’t want too many or too little cards, either. Having too many will reduce the consistency of your deck. Too few will cause you to ‘deck out’ and trigger the Armageddon mode, where you can draw no more cards and start running out of life instead — this is obviously not a good thing!

The best advice I can offer is to ensure you have an even curve of cards costing 4 or less and then have a few beefy Creatures or Spells at 5 and above. Runes are critical to buffing creatures or turning the game mechanics to your favor. Don’t be scared of equips, as unlike other games, they are very useful in Combat Monsters. Lastly, always move the Hero and use it to attack as often as you can. Think of them as an additional Creature with higher hit points. Make a dash for the Mojo tiles as soon as you can as these are far more important than any of the other special hex tiles on the battlefield. More Mojo equals more Creatures and Spells than your opponent, and so winning the resource war is key to wearing down your opponent and claiming victory.

Chests (boosters) are available through the single-player stages. You can also buy them using Rubicoins, the premium currency of Combat Monsters.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Combat Monsters is a great game for those who want card games with a little uniqueness and visual flair. Those who are tired of the flat 2D game boards of old will see this as a refreshing take on the genre, mixing in more of a board game / war miniatures play style, bringing modern technology and traditional card combat together in an unusual blend. The game is engaging from the moment you pick it up, with very few niggles along the way.

The graphics could be slightly better, especially if it were in development for 18-man years (what’s a man year anyway? Is it an exaggeration like man-flu? I’m guessing they’re multiplying the development time by the number of people working on the game). The animations are smooth and fun to watch. The menu systems are straightforward and easy to navigate. Sound effects and music aren’t noticeable or offensive in the slightest, which was a huge blessing because I usually tire of a game’s repetitive music quite quickly. All of this makes for some rather decent aesthetics and a fair amount of polish for a mobile/tablet game.

For a game to be this unheard of is a rare thing. I highly recommend that people give this game a chance and hopefully this will improve its popularity. Combat Monsters is a game that I will come back to over and over again. Beneath the slightly strange 3D art style lies a great gaming experience, if you’ll give it a try.

MASSIVE UPDATE

Normally when a game receives an update, it is small. This gives us the opportunity to adjust our reviews accordingly and allows us to give you the most up-to-date version of the review. With this particular update we cannot do this, and we need to let you know just how much work has gone into this update for Combat Monsters. It shows a level of love, commitment, and passion that is almost unparalleled in the gaming community!

In November of 2015, Combat Monsters received its biggest update so far. The aptly named “OMG it’s massive” update has more content and gameplay enhancements than you could imagine, and it really will have you saying “OMG!”

The first things to note are the aesthetic changes that have been made to the game since our review in August. The card template has received a makeover, as have some of the card images to make them a little more appealing. The template is much cleaner, and the information is far easier to read and see at a glance.

Look-at-that-shiney-new-template

The all-new card template is a huge improvement, I think!

It must be said that the card art of the Creatures and items are still not up to par with the best of the TCG/CCG genre. However, because the units are represented on the field in 3D in the same state as on the cards themselves, you can forgive the developers a little for not making them more visually appealing.

More technical improvements come in the form of improved resolutions and faster access times of card images. This was a minor issue for PC users who suffered a little when trying to filter through their collections for deckbuilding. These small improvements will give PC users a much better experience than they had before.

Game quality has been further improved through card and map balancing that some players had complained about. Particular tiles and central obstructions have been removed to keep the flow of the game much fairer. There are far too many changes to spells and abilities to note here, but rest assured the changes made have resulted in a more balanced gameplay experience overall. No longer will one type of deck dominate purely because its effects were overpowered when compared to others.

An overwhelmingly large number of players opted for decks that would use the spells to influence the battlefield, such as using “destroy all” spells. Also, there were others that could buff their Hero to incredible stats which make it hard for players who used more monster-centric decks to get the damage in before their monsters were obliterated. The changes mentioned above address many of the complaints that arose from this style of gameplay. That’s not to say that a trick-based deck is dead, it just makes the two deck types more evenly matched.

LoL-at-the-top-of-the-boards

One of the most eagerly awaited inclusions is the Clan feature. Now you can work with others to destroy those that think they’re too good to be beaten!

Enhancements to the multiplayer offerings have addressed some of the issues some players were experiencing when playing in either the asynchronous or real-time play modes.

The biggest inclusion is the highly anticipated team-play feature. You can now play a 2-v-2, 2-v-2-v-2, or 3-v-3 team game. All three play modes can incorporate the new Clan features so you can battle it out to see which clan is best. Clanmates will also be seated on the same team, thus preventing them from having to play with randoms. The victorious team is determined by the last player standing and all participants on the team get the spoils of victory, such as Rubicoins and rank points.

Checks have been carried out to ensure card text affects the correct targets in team-based play. For example, if a card reads ‘all opponents’ then it will affect only the opponents and not your fellow players. Specific targeting spells have also been added so that you may give aid to a teammate’s monster in battle by equipping it with a weapon, casting a spell to heal its lost life, or casting a spell to destroy outright an opposing monster.

Future updates to the team battle mode will have features such as A.I. battles or a 2-v-4 asymmetric battle. There is plenty of scope for the team battles to become a huge feature for the game as the battlefields allow for some excellent player combinations. There is no limit to the style and amount of maps that the developers can conjure up for our enjoyment!

Speaking of Clans, this is also a brand new feature for the game. In some online TCGs/CCGs (or more usually, in casual card battle games), people can band together to have clan wars, team fights, and participate in challenges together. Combat Monsters has now incorporated Clans. A Clan’s membership roster can hold six players, and there is a brand new leaderboard just for Clans that pays out to the highest ranking Clans once a month — so there is an incentive to band together and dominate other Clans as much as you can!

The-eater-of-worlds

New weapons add new ways to demolish those who dare challenge you. Destroy their worlds — quite literally!

The usual Clan-associated features are a little light at the moment, but there are promises to expand on this feature in future updates. You can create a Clan flag to show off your Clan’s individual personality and chat in a dedicated private room just for your Clan so you can deliberate on which Clan to take down next. As the Clan features grow, so will the competition for Clans to battle it out for the coveted number one spot.

The asynchronous start-up now resembles more of a real-time environment in that both players must be present for the first turn. You may then take up to 24 hours for each move after the opponent has submitted theirs in that same time window. You may also have up to 5 asynchronous games active at one time. That’s a significant improvement for those who cannot commit to longer sessions of real-time play but want to be able to enjoy many games at once.

Real-time players who had connection issues will no longer suffer an instant loss if they get disconnected from a game. You can now rejoin the same game if you can get back on fast enough. The game allows for you to miss two turns before it removes you from the game altogether. This is a fair approach as the other player will have to wait for you to return — though strategically, it might not be worth returning!

More balance has been added to the game from tweaking the leaderboard. Players now start each month with 1000 points that they can lose as well as gain. Accumulating points can be done in many ways, with the most lucrative being to kill an opposing hero in a Clan battle. The prize pool reaches as far down as 100th place, so there is always hope for most players of claiming something if they put the time and effort into climbing the ladder.

Rookies get a nicer ride at the start of their online battle career too. Now they can no longer join any open game and instead must create their own. They can use any card they desire while anyone entering their game can only use a Pauper deck (a deck containing no Legendary or Rare cards). Once the rookie has won 3 games, they’re removed from the rookie list and join the rest of the player population. This is a clever way to gate new players and ease them into the wider community and I hope it will be successful in bringing in more people to the game.

New-look-to-card-template

The developers believe that the new foil effects on the cards are better than the real thing. What do you think?

Single-players aren’t forgotten about in this update either. Some of the game’s levels, daily challenges, and skirmishes can be deceptively difficult. Therefore, Rubicon has introduced a “Power Blitz” bundle that grants your Hero some extra traits that will help see you through those dark times. The boost lasts for 24 hours, so it’s money well spent if you plan on playing for an extended period of time.

All of that doesn’t sound like a massive update, right? Just some quality of life changes and improved gameplay mechanics. However, that’s not where it all ends. Rubicon has also added in another 384 monsters in addition to brand new monster types, hero types, spells, and equipment – bringing the total number of cards added in this update to well over 600!

The biggest addition is perhaps the hardest to find. A brand new ‘collector’s edition’ Black Rare card type has been added to the game. These cards cannot be bought or sold in the marketplace and can only be acquired by opening treasure chests. Some missions will grant these as a reward for beating them and if it could contain a rare or higher card you have the chance for it to be upgraded to a Black Rare instead.

While these cards won’t be game-breakingly powerful, they are going to be something you’ll want in your decks. You can consider them to be a limited edition type card at this time with only 64 having been made in a game that contains over 1500 cards total! All of them are monsters, but there are plans to add runes, spells, and equipment to the Black rarity roster in future updates.

A new monster and hero type has been added to the game that can change your entire deck strategy. The new Artillery type cards can either move or attack each turn. Their range is always three spaces, and they have no activated abilities. To compensate for these restrictions they have a small Mojo cost, higher base attack than other cards in the same cost bracket, and greater health value.

Artillery-Hero-in-action

Artillery Heroes have improved attack and health statistics but have a restricted attack range. Using them will give your deck an entirely new strategy to work with.

The hero Artillery cards have an insanely high health value. If you can protect them well enough they should give you a significant advantage. If you’re able to make sure the opposing hero is always exactly three spaces away, that is! There is also a brand new type of weapon just for the Artillery Monsters and Heroes. They also introduce a new Splash damage type that is synonymous with thrown objects.

If you want to try the new Heroes and any others in the game you can now buy them for Rubicoins instead of opening chest after chest and hoping for the best. This will allow for better tribal flexibility when you need a specific Hero to make your tribal deck work more efficiently.

Going further beyond new cards are new ways to earn in-game currency. While the developers aren’t shy about making money from the game with in-app purchases (because this drives the updates and breathes new life into the game), they are also committed to allowing you to earn something for practically nothing. The first inclusion is a Loyalty Bonus, which is applied each time you make an in-app purchase. The higher you level up also affects your bonus award and can see you earning double the amount in coins as you would buy in a standard transaction!

Referrals are another excellent way of gaining even more rewards and these have received a revamp too. You can hold seven referral codes, and for each one you give out to a friend who signs up to the game, you could earn a mystery chest at the start of their campaign and you get one once they complete it. You can also receive 25% of their in-app purchases by having them enter your referral code too (they’ll also get the same bonus) – so it makes sense to make use of these excellent referral codes!

Card gifting has also made its way into the game and will allow friends to swap cards with one another. This brings the game more in line with a TCG than a CCG, a far more preferred way of playing. There are a couple of restrictions imposed, and one does require you to make an in-app purchase of the Rubicoin Tripler, but this does pay for itself if you intend to stay with the game for the long haul.

Buy-deck-recipies-and-play-them-straight-away

Buy a brand new deck and if you’ve got the funds, the cards that go with it. You can even sell your amazing deck recipes too!

Another great way to earn some free Rubicoin income is to sell your deck recipes to other players. You’ll never be selling your actual cards, just the decklist. One thing that all CCGs and TCGs share is the desire of other players to get their hands on decks that are powerful and consistent. If you manage to build such a deck, you will soon be rolling in more Rubicoins that you’ll know what to do with!

Each sale will net the seller 1000 Rubicoins and the player purchasing the deck will also be buying any missing cards from the server at their current market rate. That way you can play the deck immediately without having to break open an insane amount of chests to get the cards needed to complete the list. This makes purchasing a decklist an excellent option for rookie players who aren’t quite up to speed just yet with deckbuilding or what the finer strategies of the game are.

Sellers can earn more by making an in-app purchase of the ‘Go Pro’ feature that gives them unlimited deck uploads and an extra 1000 per sale. If only ten people download a deck, you’ve made yourself 20,000 in Rubicoins that you can use to buy multiple chests of your own!

Final Thoughts (Again!)

There are a few more minor tweaks and additions to the game that add even more quality of life features. However, this update section alone has already exceeded 2000 words, and I know that you’re probably eager to start playing with all of these fantastic new features.

If Rubicon is as thorough with future updates as they have been with this one, then Combat Monsters will be a game you’ll want to continue playing almost every day. This update is a showcase and shining example for other game developers to follow when it comes to adding quality content for your customers. They’ve proven they’re in this for the long haul. Don’t delay in checking out this game if you haven’t yet.

For more screenshots, click here.

Did you enjoy this review? Like!  

Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.
  • Combat Monsters is a 10 ccg. You can easily play for free, but its worth it to buy the Tripler.

    The Devs, Rubicon, are committed to the game and regularly updating it. In fact, the 4.0 update is due this month (Nov 2015) with quite a lot of changes.

    I’m lucky to have found this gem at an early stage, and over the years the game has grown and changed quite a lot — heroes got abilities, new races, arena changes, deck modes, many more maps & play fields, multiplayer improvements, and more.

    Last comment — how many ccg games out there dont require any strategy building decks? This game requires strategic deck building, so much that you have 50+ slots for saving decks.

  • Thanks for updating your review to cover this 10 out of 10 CCG game and covering the recent ‘OMG update’. This game is truly awesome, but it is surprisingly a hidden gem instead of an Editors Recommendation in the Play Store — a fail on Google’s part.

    Last comment — I’m a big fan of mobile CCG’s, and I can say with certainty that no other CCG offers the variety of strategic deck building as CM. The combos are not premade by game designers, they are abundant and tricky and you can out your own unique spin onto any deck or gameplay. Combining unique races with items, abilities, runes, AND spells — it creates a staggering number of strategic interaction / combo possibilities.

We Recommend

Bonus Featured Games