Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/58777/index
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Meet the Games: Monkeygame!

Greg
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This is the game I mentioned before, where players are robots with scrambled laws flailing desperately around to satisfy their priorities. I originally called it "Kill all bananas" as this was the first randomly generated mission, but that's no longer possible so it needs a new title. The folks here are calling it "Monkeygame", the game only contains one monkey and it's often irrelevant to the progress of the game, but it seems to capture the imagination and we like having an excuse to hum the Monkey Island (tm) theme tune.



If you've never played Monkey Island (tm), go and buy a copy and play it now. I don't care what else you had planned today, your wedding can wait, this will be the best decision you made all day. If you don't have much money you can probably find an un-special edition very cheaply and run it using scumm. I can't overstate the case for doing this, if you somehow missed out on Lucasarts discovering how to bottle joy it's well worth the look, take a few hours to play. I'll wait till you're done.



So here's the map for Monkeygame. Not much to look at right now, I'll let the artists cut loose later. The players occupy rooms on this ship (the big rectangles) and spend most of their time running around picking up and putting down objects in various places (the small squares). When an objective is in an active (green) square they can turn it on to do something. The rules contain a table marked "You put the WHAT in the WHAT?!?" which determines the outcome of various item and slot combinations.



Players move and act using an action programming system similar to Robo Rally. For the uninitiated this consists of placing several action cards face down, then revealing them and doing whatever the card says (regardless of whether it's still a good idea). Player's actions interact as they move each other about, steal critical items or activate rooms at the wrong time.



Throughout the chaos the ship continues its mission, encountering various threats: Enemy ships which damage systems if they are not shot down, meteors that will knock the ship around and cause robots to drop items if the engines are not activated and planets that can be explored for useful items if an appropriate specialist is available. The successful navigation of these obstacles is not necessarily a good thing for any given player and some robots may be actively working to sabotage the efforts of the human crew.



The robots may once have followed the three laws of robotics, but at the start of the game players draw a new set of laws. The first player to execute commands that make the ship match their newly desired reality is the winner, all other considerations are irrelevant. One of the first people to playtest this game achieved their "Organise Breathing" goal by killing all of the humans except one to make them easier to organise.

At its best this is a game of madcap chaos with people trying all sorts of bizarre things to meet their goals and generally having a good time laughing and joking with a fairly casual game. At its worst the game is an exercise in frustration as a player spends all game trying to achieve something only to be repeatedly thwarted. It's definitely getting the most positive reactions right now, but I'm concerned that it lacks the depth to stand up to repeated play and generates too many bad first game experiences. Tricky problems, but then I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't fancy a challenge.
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