There’s something rather sinister about the way monopoly brings out the worst in me. When I play, I get super competitive – I’m like an evil caricature of myself: a right bastard who laughs at others misfortune and gets way too excited at my own luck. It’s all in good fun, of course, but I’m sure the people around me would prefer that they couldn’t hear my irrepressible taunting.
Yet, despite my love of monopoly, I’ve never delved into the digital board game genre of video games. But since covering developer Charlie Oscar’s Gremlins, Inc. for WGTCs Indie Game Corner, I’ve realized that it’s probably what I should have been playing all along. You see, Gremlins, Inc. is a board game that takes the armchair malice of monopoly and multiplies it by one hundred. It’s a devilishly brilliant game that is as much about revelling in schadenfreude as it is being declared the winner at its conclusion.
Set in a beautifully animated steampunk world, Gremlins, Inc. is a strategic board game in which players compete for supremacy of Clockwork Town. Rather like me when I’m in monopoly mode, the Gremlins, Inc. that inhabit the game’s locale are nasty pieces of work, and role playing them will see players stealing resources, extorting one another with bribes, manipulating elections, and even arresting other players. To really rub it in, Gremlins, Inc. can even send each other obnoxious telegrams to smugly deliver unfortunate news, too.
The game’s producer, Sergei Klimov, told WGTC the following:
“The game is designed around a fusion of the Gremlins personality and the gameplay mechanics that Alexey (Bokulev) innovated. I don’t think we could have designed such a bastardly game with any other sort of creatures!”
Suffice to say, it’s probably a good thing that a digital wall exists between you and other players because if you thought family feuds over monopoly were bad, Gremlins, Inc. is all about stirring the pot and winding each other up.
At the end of the day, though, it’s all just a game, and what a game it is. Gremlins, Inc. is a blast to play, and not just because it caters to my competitive streak. It’s a real hoot, and the game’s substantial following suggests that it’s being enjoyed by a significant body of players (around 50,000), so you certainly won’t have any issues filling a multiplayer game.
So, how does gameplay actually work? In Gremlins, Inc. the goal is to achieve victory points. Obtaining victory points depends on pre-established victory conditions – players will either be working toward a target score or trying to earn the highest score within a certain amount of turns. Cards determine actions within the game, and each player is dealt 6, which can be used for; movement, to purchase resources or can be used to attack other players.
Cards are used only at specific places on the board, known as Locations and Spots, each with their own special rules and effects. There are unique cards, too, that grant special character abilities, and others that determine special events such as elections or being sent to jail. Within those locations, players have the opportunity to further role play. For example, as a Governor or mob boss, which in turn grants the player additional perks.
Gremlins, Inc., then, plays very much like a traditional board game, but what’s surprising is that thanks to its superb aesthetic and sound design, it still feels like a proper video game. I was left really impressed by how the game’s art style, writing, and whimsical score drew me into the action. I love steampunk and the art direction is definitely on point; the Gremlins themselves are animated in a way that gives each of them a real identity and Clockwork Town – set inside a mechanical clock – has all the nuances of a funky steampunk world. In combination with the game’s electro-swing beats, sound effects, and some very amusing dialogue, Clockwork Town really does feel like a living, breathing world.
Quite apart from the aforementioned substantial community of Gremlins players, there’s also plenty of additional content on top of the base game to keep you busy. Since launching back in March 2016, Charlie Oscar has added a trilogy of DLC; Uninvited Guests, Mechanical Competitors and Astral Gamblers. These paid updates offer new characters, avatars, maps, and emojis for use in multiplayer matches. As is the case in most contemporary video games, there are in-game purchases, but refreshingly, these aren’t ever intrusive or necessary. If you don’t want to, you’ll never need to purchase anything but the base game to enjoy the full experience.
And free developer support will continue to supplement the base experience. Indeed, encouraged by the game’s dedicated community, Sergei spoke of Charlie Oscar’s commitment to the game’s future:
“We will continue to update the game every season (i.e. every three months) with new content and fixes, because it just makes us happy to keep players happy.”
Sergei has also promised a treat for players as the game approaches 100,000 copies sold:
“The last big feature is the Offline Mode, but we’ve also promised to implement a second playing field once we hit our sales target. So, when that happens, we’ve got to make it happen, come hell or high water!”
Gremlins, Inc. scratches my itch for a video gaming and board games all at once. Its gameplay certainly has its roots in board games gone-by, but the attention to detail in the design gives Gremlins its own unique flavor. I’ve been exposed to a new genre; a gaming experience that works casually or competitively, and one that I can see myself sinking hours into moving forward. Gremlins, Inc. is more immersive than any board game I’ve played in real life, and it still has that essential, charming family-fun board game feel, too. To the relief of my friends and family, then, Monopoly might have to on the back-burner for a while longer.