Recruit an army of soldiers, accountants, demons, dogs, dog-catching robots, nanite grey goo, zombies, priests, slimes, whales, fires, nuclear bombs, vampires, and other oddities to liberate the United States in Million Monster Militia. It’s a roguelikelike deck-building strategy game where you draft units who drop onto a grid in random positions, enabling all sorts of abilities and combos depending on where they all land. It’s kinda like the roguelikelike slot machine Luck Be A Landlord dressed for a Halloween party in a turn-based tactics costume. Million Monster Militia is ropey in its current early access stage, but I have enjoyed discovering weird builds and I am cautiously curious about its future after some updates.
Demons have conquered the USA. Each run sends you across the country through a gauntlet of bosses, each bearing exponentially more health than the last. You start with 9 hit points in each battle and each turn the boss will deal you 1 damage, so functionally you’re damage-racing against a turn timer (though a handful of heals and other tricks can extend this). Your battlefield is a 25-square grid. Each turn, a random selection of your drafted units drop onto the grid in random positions then do their attacks, or abilities, or whatever it is they do, then you get the option to draft a new unit to your militia. Drafting is the main action you have control over, so best think carefully to build the machine that is your deck.
This unit buffs nearby units of a certain type. This one destroys certain other units to boost itself. This unit self-replicates and slowly fills your deck. This unit huge damage if it’s in the back row. This power-up temporarily replaces your militia with a full field of random units. This unit will heal you for 1 then destroy itself. This unit stops nearby units from being destroyed yet still triggers any on-destruction effects, and oh that’s a huge effect to exploit as you build an engine to scale up your militia’s damage faster than boss health scales.
You get the long-term satisfaction of building a deadly militia with a strong mechanism to grow, and the short-term joy (and disaster) of seeing how deployment rolls land each turn. It’s often fun to simply look at the battlefield and see how absurd your militia looks too, the mix of sheep and dragons and attorneys and demons and cloning tubes and so on. I really like the Monster Hunter, a pompom-waving cheerleader. And while I’ve never made a Dog Catcher work well, I am always tempted to draft it for the visual of an industrial robot arm waggling a dog in its iron grip.
Here’s one example of a build I like. Start with the deck of Zombies, who do low damage but will expire with a burst of extra damage after deploying a few times and can convert nearby Human units to Zombies. Aim to draft Priests, who are not only immune to Zombies but will gain permanent extra damage from destroying nearby Undead units. While you wait for them to appear, stall by boosting your Zombies with power-ups, maybe feed them a few random Humans, and grab any Ghosts or Skeletons you can find. Your next dream pick is Altars, which double the damage of adjacent Humans and also convert nearby Priests to Paladins. Paladins will feed off Undead anywhere on the grid, dramatically boosting their scaling. From there, stock your deck with a mix of Paladins and Undead units to feed them. I like Ghosts because they resist the Paladins’ destruction effect while still triggering the damage bonus. As a backup plan I’ll often supplement this with a few Monster Hunters, who destroy nearby Monsters to gain their damage, in combination with one of the indestructible Monster units who gain permanent damage from destruction effects. Eventually, big numbers happen. As a powerful deck built mostly of easy-to-find pieces, this carried me through the higher difficulty levels. I’m not thrilled about being uninventive but Million Monster Militia rewards and encourages it.
Too many runs feel doomed. Strong builds still need their pieces, and you can’t count on them turning up in the draw—or in time. You can plan for a hybrid build, include several scaling systems, but the backup plans might scale too slow. And it’s often difficult to pivot to another build even if you luck into strong pieces.
It can feel weirdly stingy too. Not only do you not get a nice reward for beating a boss (a choice of rare units would be tidy), you don’t get a draft at all in that battle-winning turn. And beating a boss when you have more than 1 health means you will have missed out on opportunities for drafting and scaling. It all makes winning harder in an unsatisfying way, encouraging you to rely on known strong builds.
Million Monster Militia does have lots of interesting-sounding units but it discourages experimentation. Lots of combos do scale but you’ll eventually discover they do it too slowly to go the distance. Exciting-sounding units might also turn out to be rubbish. Certain units and combos have the ability to eventually take over your deck, or even outright destroy it, but the pay-off rarely seems worth the cost. It is not fun to play lots of losing runs as you feel out which decks are nonfunctional and which combos are weak.
The lovely Luck Be A Landlord felt rough at the start of its own early access journey. Over time it added more synergies, items, and symbols (and removed some), handed out heaps of buffs, gave tools to reduce RNG, worked on making a wider range of builds viable without reducing fun, and more. Updates worked wonders. I like enough parts of Million Monster Militia to hope it undergoes a similar journey.
Million Monster Militia is available on Steam Early Access for £4.29/€4.99/$4.99. It’s co-developed and co-published by Dejobaan Games and Space Capsule Games. You can check out a demo for free in your browser on Itch.
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