How to Get Started in Monster Train (Beginner’s Guide)

Monster Train is a new deckbuilding strategy game on Steam, where players command legions from the Underworld aboard the titular locomotive, the Boneshaker. Instead of playing as the good guys, like in other Roguelikes, the player can take command of evil in this game! Of course, they have their own story-related reason for their quest, which I won’t spoil. This fun and engaging roguelike has many mechanics that players must master to survive the continuous onslaught of enemies. Below are tips and tricks for new players to help them grow accustomed to the treacherous rails.

Related: Monster Train Review: Reinventing Deck Building Roguelikes

As mentioned, Monster Train is a roguelike strategy game, akin to Slay the Spire. This genre consists of playing through multiple runs, with the player losing everything they’ve gained upon defeat. As the obtainable cards, spells and summon, are randomized among a set deck, each run is different due to the varying combinations of deck builds the player can obtain. Much like other games in the genre, experimentation is key!

When players start a new run, they’re brought to a screen where they must choose their clans. Each clan offers a different deck of cards to obtain during the game, with unique mechanics and abilities pertaining to each. The primary clan comes with a powerful champion, a special monster exclusive to that clan, and has their cards appear more often during the run. Allied clans, the second pick, will have their cards appear as well. Different combinations can open up more strategy, so be sure to experiment! At the start, only the fiery Hellhorned and thorny Awoken can be chosen, but there are 3 other clans players can unlock. Each is gained by naturally playing the game, such as using spells a certain number of times. The more runs the player sets out on, the more clans they can choose from.

Once the run begins, the player will have 2 choices to make. They’re given the choice of 2 artifacts, which grant powerful passive abilities the entire game. The ones available are random, adding to the roguelike nature of the game. The other choice is a forge to improve the clan’s champion, which again has 2 different choices to pick from. The free artifact and champion upgrade can be chosen in any order, so players might make their choices depending on what may benefit the decision they’ve already made. When the player boots up the game for the first time, these choices aren’t available in their initial run, so do not fret if they aren’t there at first.

Now that Boneshaker is ready to roll, players will set out on their quest. Each battle is initiated by clicking the circular icon at the bottom of the tracks. Players will be given a brief overview of their opponent, and the battle will start. To win, the Boneshaker needs to survive the waves of enemies that board and then defeat the boss. Enemies start on the bottom floor and make their way to the top where the Pyre is. This Pyre is the health of the train. The player’s monsters can be defeated and will always come back in the next battle, but the Pyre’s defeat will end the run in a game over. It’s up to the player to place their monsters on the right floors to defeat the ascending foes.

After each victory, players are rewarded with a loot screen. They gain gold and can choose new cards to add to their deck. While players might feel obligated to pick a new card all the time, having an inflated deck with lots of cards isn’t always beneficial in a rogue-like game such as this. More cards in a deck means the frequency of important cards is decreased, so having a strong deck of cards isn’t always the same as having a large deck. The composition of decks is essential for successful runs, so picking what cards to include in the deck is very important. If the player doesn’t choose a card, they are rewarded with a little gold, so there is some benefit for not choosing outside of a cleaner deck.

Between every fight, players will find themselves in one of the 9 rings of Hell. Think of these as pit stops for the journey, where the Boneshaker can recruit new monsters, upgrade cards, and heal. Each ring has 2 separate paths to choose from with different ‘pit stops’ on each one. Players should think carefully about what they need the most before they dedicate to a path, so choose wisely. Once chosen, the bonuses can be picked up in any order. This is important to keep in mind, as the choice order can influence future decisions. For instance, players might want to recruit a new monster before spending gold at an upgrade shop, because the upgrades they have available might be highly beneficial for the new monster they just obtained. The shop can be entered any number of times, so checking to see what they have before recruiting a new monster might influence which monster the player recruits.

Monster Train is a game all about choosing different paths, and playing with what cards life has dealt (literally). Players who continue to play the game will familiarize themselves with the game’s mechanics over time, so be sure to pick different cards, not just ones that have been used before, to learn all the possible avenues of victory!

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Monster Train is available for PC.