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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How to play Monkeygame

Greg
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Original Post

I wanted to write about a design issue I've been having with Monkeygame (which I've started thinking of as "Robots, Monkeys and Cannibalism" due to being surrounded by people who're more linguistically gifted that I am) and realised that I'd never given enough of an overview to contextualise the problem. I'd best put that right straight away.



The game is setup by placing the board in the middle of the table, shuffling all of the decks and placing a bunch of tokens in their designated places. Most things start in sensible places, the monkey is in its cage, the missiles are on the missile racks and so on.



Then each player selects a character, this offers a starting location and a single special ability that can typically only be used once during the game. It is possible but rare for a character that's used their ability to re-enable it.



The final step of setup is for players to draft their laws. In the style of Asimov each robot has three laws and the objective of the game is to be the first robot to fulfill all of their laws. If ten turns pass without this happening the robot that has fulfilled the most laws will win. To draft the laws each player draws a hand of four laws, chooses one and passes the hand to the player on their left. Once all players have three laws, the excess is discarded face down, so players have some indication of what each other's laws but can not be certain.



Once the game is set up play begins. The first step of each turn is to reveal the top card of the events deck, this indicates what sort of external threat the ship is facing this turn. It could be an enemy ship that must be damaged before it breaks some machines on the player's ship, it could be a planet to be explored or it could be a meteor that will cause the players to drop all of the items they are carrying should it strike the ship.



Once this is achieved the humans take their turn. Since meatbags aren't as awesome as robots they only get to do one thing and they might not succeed at that. All humans perform the first of these actions that is valid:

1) Escape the clutches of a robot that is carrying them.
2) Move to the floor area of their room if they are in a different area.
3) Turn on the machine in their room if it will work and is useful.4) Fix the machine in their room if it is broken.
5) Load the machine in their room if it is empty and there is spare fuel/missiles/stuff in the room.
6) Eat a banana or pie in their room (pie is preferred if both are present).
7) Close all doors to their room.

If the human does not have an appropriate toolkit they need to draw an action card to see if they succeed. Once the humans have taken their turn the monkey will act. It takes the following steps:

1) Eat a banana if it shares a zone with a banana
2) Move one room towards the nearest banana, leaving all doors open and taking the top non-human item of the floor stack of its current room with it.

That might seem like a lot but, in practice, the human AI is very simple and can be resolved in seconds. Once it's been done it's time for the AIs played by humans to take their turn. Each player draws five action cards, places three of them face down in front of them and discards the remaining two. Then all players reveal and resolve their first action card, repeating this process for the second and third card.



Each action card has two icons and can be played either way up for the different effects. The numbers indicate who will go first should the order of actions matter. Finally whether the number is in yellow indicates whether this card represents success if a human without a toolkit is drawing to take an action.

A movement action (X, Y or Z) causes a robot to move one space in the indicated direction. If they move into another robot they may shove it out of the room they've entered and steal one of its items. The shoving robot chooses where to push the shoved robot but must preferentially choose empty rooms that they are not moving out of. Whenever a robot moves through a door for any reason they choose whether to leave it open or closed behind them, this has no effect on robots, but humans who are connected to space via a series of open doors perish unless they have a space suit.

The pickup or drop icon allows a robot to pickup or drop items from or to any area in its room. Each action only allows them to interact with one area. If they pickup they take the top one or two items on the appropriate stack and add it to the items they are carrying. If they drop they may take any number of items they are carrying and place them on top of any existing items in the target area. The items a robot is carrying are in order and they must drop items from the top of their stack first.



The reorder action allows a robot to select a stack in their room (including the one they are carrying) and reorder the items in it. The key action allows a robot to open or close all doors to their current room.

Finally the use action interacts with machines. Each room contains one machine; the use action causes it to be repaired if it is damaged. If the machine is undamaged the use action turns it on, which effects depending on the items currently in the machine. Machines are treated as areas in all respects and are subject to the "pickup/drop" and "reorder" actions which may change their functioning, each one works in a unique way and many of the objectives pertain to using particular machines.



The final step of the turn is to resolve the event card that was revealed at the start of the turn. If it is an enemy ship compare any damage done by the launch tube to its health, if it is destroyed it is discarded without effect. Otherwise it is still discarded but damages the machines indicated on its card. If the card is a meteor and an engine was used to dodge it then it has no effect, otherwise all robots on the ship drop whatever they're carrying onto the floor of the room that they are in (a robot floating in space watches the collision and smiles.) Finally if the event was a planet any robot carrying the item printed on the planet card may re-enable a used special ability.

The game continues with a new turn until a robot has completed all three of the objectives printed on its laws or until the tenth event card is resolved at which point the robot that has completed the most objectives is successful. In the event of a tie, the robot that has most recently completed an objective is the winner.

That's all there is to it! Those rules are so much shorter than the monstrosities I ended up writing for Wizard Academy. I hope that gives a little taste of what I'm working on and provides something that I can link back to in order to discuss specific design issues. See you all tomorrow!
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