Jeff, Lawrence, and Dave joined Rich at his house to play the "M" games. With a large selection, we actually had to resort to voting to get our first game selected. Up for the vote were Monsters Ravage America, McMulti, Mexica, and Monkeys on the Moon. In a close selection (9, 10, 10, 11), the winner was Monkeys on the Moon as the other games seem to draw hot/cold reactions (votes).
Monkeys on the Moon
This is at its heart an area majority control game. One is bidding for monkeys hoping to have a majority of those monkeys at game end. Especially if those monkeys have been advanced furthest along the development track and are worth more points at the end of the game. The twist in this game is that the monkey tribes (colours) are arranged in a circle. A tribe (colour) is allied with those next to it, but antagonistic with the tribe opposite it. Therefore, advancing a tribe forward (to gain favour chits) costs the player favour chips from its antagonist. These same chits are used to bid for the monkeys that one wants to have as a majority. As a result, there is a balancing act between which chits to get (for bidding purposes) and which chits to surrender (to pay the antagonists).
There are quite a few decisions to consider on each turn. Which tribe to advance (each card can be applied to 1 of 3 tribes)? Which chits to give up in exchange (again pay to 1 of 3 tribes)? Which monkeys to bid for? Which ship capacity? Which ship colour? All of these come into to play and as a result, I can see the game having replay value as the decision tree expands rather quickly. As only a limited subset of all the cards is in play on any round, I can see the game playing through many different paths.
Not paying carefully attention can get a player in trouble as Lawrence saw finding himself in mid-game with a single chit and inviting the scorn of the tribe (potential negative points) for not being able to pay chit back. Jeff also found himself unable to pay when he could launch a rocket that impressed the brown tribe, but there were no more chits to hand out. Dave also managed to get some scorn, but both Jeff and Dave managed to remove the scorn by launching rockets in the final round (Dave by launching at the end of the game.) One notable move was Rich bidding on and winning 3 monkeys in a single round to fill and launch his ship. But even that move was for naught as neither Rich nor Lawrence really captured any majorities in any of the colours. Dave had the majority of the top two colours while Jeff had the majority of the bottom 3 colours. Dave could only launch 2 full ships, but both were worth 3 points each. Jeff launched 3 full ships, but with a couple of 2 capacity ships, only managed 4 additional points.
The final scores:
The game certainly felt a lot closer than the final scores would indicate. With 6 tribes offering up 1st and 2nd place points there are 12 possible categories to win. Looking at the scoring note, it appears that we divided those points rather equally. Dave did get only 2, but they were the first place points in the top two categories. Jeff did get 4, while Lawrence and Rich scored in 3 each. A bit more attention to monkey's won might have swung some of the points around. Similarly, we all scored between 4 and 6 points for launched Rocket Ships.
The playing time certainly is rather quick (about an hour). We did take a bit longer than that as it was a first playing for 3 of us and we did have some rules explanation at the start.