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Scott Starkey
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I did the art for Monkeys on the Moon (without first seeing the rules! ). I received my copies in the mail the other day, and this weekend I played it for the first time. Since I'm a gamer, and just saw the game myself for the first time recently, hopefully I can give you an accurate feel of the game, even if it is slightly biased.

MotM is a card game that plays very much like a board game. It has some nice wooden bits, and the cards seem to be of pretty good quality. I can't really comment about the art, but everyone I know loves it. cool

The action revolves around six competing monkey tribes living on the moon. Each is vying to get back to Earth and is thirsty for knowledge. The player who brings back the most influential and well-trained monkeys from the various tribes will win. Each tribe has two allies and one enemy.

The action takes place in two phases. During the Civilization Phase, you train one of the six tribes by teaching them a valuable life-skill (like playing the accordian, counting to eight, or operating a stapler) from the Civilization Cards in your hand. Advancing a Monkey Tribe will cause its marker to advance along the Civilization Track. You will also recieve 2 Influence Coins from the tribe you advanced. However, you must pay the tribe's enemy one Coin, since you are now in their disfavor.

Speaking of disfavor, if you ever cannot pay a tribe when you must, you incur that tribe's Monkey Scorn! It goes away when you later pay a coin, but if you have it at game-end, it costs you two Victory Points. Monkey Scorn became a real issue for us at game-end, when the bidding became high for those precious last few monkeys, and our Influence Coins were scarce.

The second phase deals with bidding for monkeys to board your ships, to bring them back to Earth. Each player, in turn, chooses a monkey from the available pool, and starts the bidding for an auction on it. Players have the option to bid or pass on the selection. Influence Coins you've earned from the Monkey's tribe count as 3 points, and coins from allies count 2 points. The high bidder gets the monkey, which is installed into your ship.

If you're careful, you can fill your ships to capacity, resulting in Victory Points later. Watch who you take on board, however; monkeys will not board a ship with one of their enemies. Since you can only have one ship at a time, if a monkey from an enemy tribe starts to come aboard before the ship is full, you'll need to launch that ship and start a new one. A premature launch will cost you valuable Victory Points in the end-game.

At game's end, the most advanced tribes garner the most Victory Points. Players count the points on their monkey cards to see who wins the tribe's points. First place for each tribe is awarded the "Supreme Leader" title with the most Victory Points. The second place winner is awarded the "Undersecretary" position for fewer Victory Points. Third and fourth place get nothing.

Boy, the game kept us guessing right until the very end. The end-game tabulation has a nice tension to it. In the game we played, I thought that I was losing for sure, and ended up winning by a landslide. I think I came out ahead because I filled lots of little ships, thus gained lots of little Victory Point bonuses. I also concentrated on diversity: trying to stake a position by taking one or two from each tribe, if I could. Of course, if everyone concentrated on diversity, then that strategy would probably not work! I imagine the action would be even more fierce in a 4-player game. I'm anxious to try it out that way.
 
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