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Subject: Monkey Madness – More Fun than a Barrel Full of Monkeys rss

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Stephen Brewbacker
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Long Island
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Monkey Madness – More Fun than a Barrel Full of Monkeys (an homage to Tom Vassel)

Since this is my first review, I thought I would model it after the best reviews out there (i.e. Tom Vassel’s). Since I was going to borrow heavily and so as not to plagiarize – I had to pick something that Tom had not and most likely will not ever review. Plus it had to be a game that I own/have played on more than one occasion.

I had no preconceived notions about this game prior to making my purchase, and while it is not the type of game that I would order online, I couldn’t pass it up when I saw it ‘on the shelf’. After all, it had two universally appealing properties: Monkeys and Knizia.

[With all due apologies to Tom Vassel]

The theme of “pulling game pieces from a bag” really appeals to me and my 4 year old daughter, which is why we enjoyed Go Away Monster!- despite the two-dimensional, one sided, card board playing pieces. When I learned that Monkey Madness, from Ravensburger was a draw-from-the-bag type of game, I was fairly excited.

When I opened the box, I was not quite overwhelmed by the less than massive amount of components, and somewhat disappointed that the bag was plastic and not made of cloth like in GAM! Indeed, the initial disappointment took a bit to ware-off. My daughter on the other hand was very excited.

On our initial play, there was some confusion: there were 7 of each color of monkey (not six as the instructions claimed, therefore there was one extra monkey of each color that didn’t have a space on the corresponding card. Since there were only two of us playing, we each took two cards. In the spirit of cooperative play – we always play until the LAST monkey is placed – thereby guaranteeing everyone wins! After the seventh monkey of one color was drawn from the bag we were wondering what to do; the options were extreme. However, after a few turns, play began to move quickly; and soon we were all submersed in one of the most fun games I’ve played in a long time. The theme was tremendous, the game play was involving with little downtime, and the options for players were immense, which is something I really enjoy in a game.

Each player has a card of a particular color (two cards if playing with two players). Each card has six spaces or “placeholders” for a monkey. The bag is filled with the monkeys.

On a player’s turn, they blindly draw monkeys out of the bag (thus the tremendous theme). If the player draws a monkey that is the color of another player’s card, they hand that player the monkey (thus little downtime). That player receives their monkey and places it in one of the empty spaces on their card (thus immense options). The player’s turn ends when they draw a monkey of their own color. If this happens that player places the monkey on an empty space on their card and passes the bag to the left (clockwise around the table). The next player then repeats the process.

When a player has filled their card with all six of their monkeys, that player is the winner. In our sessions we play until the last monkey is placed thus there may be up to four winners: First winner, second winner, third winner, and fourth winner. When the last monkey has found its home and the bag is empty the game ends.

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The game components are numerous, and fill the moderately sturdy, rectangular box. Sadly, there is no plastic insert, but I usually bag everything anyway; and with this game, you don’t need any extra bags – simply put all of the monkeys back in the bag that is used for game play. The monkeys are many, and it probably takes a good 5-10 seconds to set the game up even with everything bagged and tagged. The monkeys are all small, but large enough to differentiate, and are of extremely good quality. The boards are rather small and rectangular shaped. I would have liked to have seen something hexagonal or even octagonal shaped boards. The artwork is an eclectic collection, a helter-skelter mélange of incongruous scenes: a circus ringmaster; a crab on a desert island; a toucan about to fall prey to a large constrictor snake in an Amazonian jungle; three turtles thirsting for water in a hot, sandy desert. Each board is unique enough when they are all laid out and will be equally enigmatic in English, German, or any other language. It’s really a shame that the bag is plastic and I can see it wearing out after a few dozen plays. It is of similar quality to those plastic bags (with draw-strings) that are found in Gap clothing stores. We passed ours around quite a bit. Aside from that; however, the components are an A+ and you certainly get your money’s worth from the game. (Except for the bag – this will be replaced as soon as I find a nice cloth sack somewhere.)

2.) Rules: There was a rulebook? Kidding. But really, the rules are quite simple, and the only thing that is complicated is deciding what action to take with the four extra monkeys that were supplied with the game. I found that because the theme was so strong, that players quickly picked up how to place the extra monkeys and what strategy to follow.

3.) Theme: The game is brimming to the top with theme, and almost everything fits. There are a few strange details like, “How does one keep twenty-something monkeys alive in a plastic bag?” - Do you just punch holes in it? Why not use burlap? or “How can you carry enough bananas (to feed them all) in your backpack?” - but these are minor details. Players have some contact, but in reality, you feel like a lonely office manager who is in charge of a group of sales people. Interaction can be high or low - player’s choice.

4.) Decisions: At first, the decisions seem overwhelming, and there may be a little downtime between turns in the beginning of the game for new players. But once a player has formulated a strategy, the game starts moving at a rapid pace.

5.) Strategy: I put my monkeys in the spaces at the top of the card and work my way down. Bob starts in the corners. Jesse starts on the left and moves to the right. The speed of the game can go fairly quickly, and players are constantly thinking about what they will do next. The equipment allows for different strategies to make. Others do a mixture.

6.) Time and Fun Factor: The game ends fairly quickly, lasting only about six minutes. Players can really determine the speed of the game; because if a player really wants to end the game, they can quickly knock all of the pieces onto the floor. This isn’t usually the best option. Everyone I’ve played the game with has enjoyed it, and each game plays a little differently.

7.) The genius of Knizia: This game proves that Knizia is a genius. Who else can take a math problem from a high school text book and turn it into a game for a child that’s more fun than a barrel full of monkeys? I am hard-pressed to remember the exact text book or the precise class, but the problem goes something like this: You have a bag of marbles: six red, six yellow, six green, and six blue. You reach into the bag without looking and pull out one marble after another. – Part A: What is the maximum number of marbles that one could pull out before having six of the same color? Part B: What is the probability that the first six marbles you pull out are six marbles of the same color? Part C: What is the median number of marbles that one would pull out of the bag before having six of the same color? Admit it, you probably had a problem just like this in some math class, but you just don’t remember how to solve it, and what’s worse: you didn’t even dream it might make a fun children’s game. And THAT is why Knizia is a genius. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t remember high school math class. Like most things that involve consuming vast quantities of drugs and alcohol – if you can remember it, then you weren’t there. (i.e the Sixties, High School, Woodstock, etc.) Note: The answers to this math problem are radically different when there are seven of each color in the bag and drastically alters game play. Sadly, I don’t remember what the differences would be, just that they would be different. The good news is that the kiddies don’t know that.

I really enjoy Lost Valley Monkey Madness; it’s extremely fun, a tremendously theme-filled game, and the best monkey filching game I’ve played. It’s chock-full of high quality components, and game play is quick and fun. My only concern is that it only accommodates four players (I often have five or six), but it plays tremendously well even with only three players. I recommend this game to everyone; it’s fun, fast, and offers various strategies to victories. There’s a little “screwage” in that a player can place a monkey that is not his own onto the other players card instead of passing the monkey to them and letting them place their own monkey, but mostly the game has pleasant interaction, and a great ‘barrel full of monkeys’ theme. If you haven’t explored this game yet, now is the time to do so.

In my own words:

I did buy this off the shelf for the reasons mentioned above and I thought it was something that my four-year old daughter could play with her three-year old friends - unsupervised. It was a hit with them. There’s something about drawing tokens/monkeys out of a bag that totally enthralls three/four year olds. They get excited, they can’t wait until it’s their turn, and while they wait they get the fruits and rewards of the draw. It’s a great game for the little ones and to play with the little ones. Warning – not intended for adults who are not under the influence of heavy narcotics.

-Stephen Brewbacker
“Real men play board games with children.”

With all due apologies to Tom Vassel who’s review of Lost Valley was instrumental to my purchasing that game and my inspiration for this review.
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Jay Little
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Eden Prairie
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Great review... I'm a big fan of Monkey Madness, and play it often with our four-year old...

It's such a dynamic, compelling game of steel nerves and quick thinking strategy that Monkey Madness has become the Official Boardgame for the Geekway to the West convention... The convention culminates each year with a thrilling, no-holds-barred Monkey Madness tournament...
 
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W M Shubert
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Lexington
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I'll give this another thumbs up. My 21 month old got this for Christmas. She really likes it! "Monkey game, monkey game!" she says. Although, because of her shorter attention span, when we play two player we take one board each and leave the other boards (and their monkeys) in the box.

We also got 7 of each monkey, despite rules that insist that only 6 were present when the game was manufactured. I think they must be breeding in the boxes.
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Ryan Olson
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My 4 yr old seems to have lost interest in this one, although when he friends come over, they always want to play the Monkey game .
 
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skrebs
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Davis
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wmshub wrote:
We also got 7 of each monkey, despite rules that insist that only 6 were present when the game was manufactured. I think they must be breeding in the boxes.


The green ones must be the most virile/fertile as we received two "bonus" green monkeys and one "bonus" of the other colors.

I'd like to also mention that this is one of the few games that actually makes me sweaty: maybe it's the tension, maybe it's the plastic bag.
 
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Stephen Brewbacker
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Seems I owe Tom Vasel yet one more apology: for repeatedly mispelling his last name. I am sorry, again, Tom. And thank you for not hating me.
 
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