Calvin’s Commentaries: Scottish lore carries a new card game

When it comes to a game based on cards one of the first things you notice is the artwork.


It may have started when Magic: the Gathering launched in the early 1990s with gorgeous art, but the trend in card-based games is great art.

Yes, what constitutes great art varies with the viewer, but in my eyes, Monsters of Loch Lomond, (MLL), ticks the great art box nicely. You will enjoy playing the cards here based on their visual appeal. Unfortunately, most cards are on the table face-down for much of the game, so the art gets lost a bit.

Of course, a game has to be more than good looks.

So what is MLL all about?

In Monsters of Loch Lomond, you are the leader of a Scottish clan (chieftain) that is competing with other clans for control of the Loch Lomond area,” details the Kickstarter page to the game, (it successfully funded recently). “Each night, monsters come out of the foggy waters of the Loch and attack the local settlements. Your clan must defend itself and chase these monsters into the highlands or towards rival clans. The goal of the game is to find where the monsters are hiding, chase them away, and make your clan the strongest one in the area, giving you a strategic advantage over your rivals.”

The game is from the design team of Robin Stokkel, and Peter Jan van der Veek.

This game plays quite smoothly. You have four hidden clan cards and over the course of the game you will draw additional cards with certain ‘powers; allowing you to manipulate your clan cards to chase away monsters – to other clans, or the common pool.

Each card has a certain amount of points attached to it, monster cards have higher points and non-monster cards lower. The goal is to get rid of all monsters in your clan and have the lowest amount of points. Then you are allowed to call ‘saorsa’ (freedom) and win the Victory Token.

As always I was curious how the idea for the game came about, and in this case, there is a neat backstory.

What was the idea which led to creating this game?
Peter Jan and I share a strong passion for hiking and card games,” explained Stokkel via email. “During our summer trip in 2022, we tackled the famous West Highland Way, a 100-mile hiking trail that starts in Glasgow and ends in the Scottish Highlands.

The beauty of Loch Lomond left an indelible mark on us and in a traditional inn by the lake, we came up with the idea of creating a card game that would capture the wild landscape and legendary stories surrounding the mystic Loch Lomond.”

In the process of creation, Stokkel said simplicity was a goal.

We wanted to provide a game that is simple enough for people to play it within five minutes, but challenging and diverse enough for them to play it for years,” he said. “We wanted it to be light-medium and playable with friends in a bar, but also fun to play at home with the family.

The game does come with a high cognitive load, so you have to keep your focus, otherwise you’ll definitely get into a tricky spot.”

Remember the hidden cards, some you can’t look at after an initial peek.

Stokkel said he likes the way the game elements all came together.

The best element is the combination of all mechanics, but I am especially proud of how we managed to force people to take calculated risks and weigh their options during the game: do you now take some extra points with the monster egg even though that gives you a baby monster token for the next round, or are you going for the lowest score?” he asked.

Or: do I keep this witch open in my clan because it gives me the ability to peek at a card each turn, or do I think someone might call Saorsa soon and chase the Witch away?
“This, mechanic, in combination with the theme of the game, are the best elements.”

Stokkel added the game tries to stay true to the base material as well.

The theme of the game is Scottish folklore,” he noted. “Almost every card has a real Scottish folklore story behind it: from the shape-shifting Selkies to the malicious goblin Red Cap, they’re all very well-known stories.”

From a gamer’s perspective, this was rather neat.

Our game is the only one with an appealing theme, where you are drawn into the Scottish Highlands to battle with monstrous characters from your favourite Scottish stories whilst keeping your rival clans at bay,” said Stokkel.

Monsters of Loch Lomond is not the deepest of games, but it fits nicely in the short-play area – estimated 30 minutes, and players two-to-six which is nice versatility. Add in the nice art and Scottish lore and it becomes a very solid addition to a game collection.

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