Monad is a classic game by legendary designer Sid Sackson, and first appeared around 1970. It's a clever card game for 2-4 players where the goal is to trade up your cards, trying to acquire the elusive and valued monads. Monad has gone through several editions over the years, including the original edition in the 3M Gamette series. Unlike some other Sackson titles, Avalon Hill did not reprint Monad when they purchased 3M's game line, but there were later editions of Monad from other publishers under the name "Die 1. Million".
Most recently Monad has appeared in a new edition from Gryphon Games (2012), as part of their Sid Sackson Signature Series line, which includes Sleuth, Monad, and Venture. Rick Soued of Gryphon Games is a long-time admirer of Sackson's genius, and this attractive new series is his brainchild, and part of his mission to bring many of Sackson's games into the public eye with the help of brand new editions. This is particularly good news for Monad, which is lesser known than many of Sid Sackson's other games, has been out of print for years, and until now was usually difficult and expensive to obtain.
I've scoured the personal comments and skimmed through some reviews and other articles, and carefully organized some key quotations to bring you the important things you need to know and what other people think about Monad. The parts in bold express my own conclusions, which are then expanded upon and substantiated by the citations that follow, to give you a feel of what most people are saying on each point. Perhaps you could call this a kind of "consensus of opinion", somewhat biased because I'm the one who gets to pick the quotes to include, but overall a well-rounded and fairly objective viewpoint. So here you have it, an at-a-glance overview of some of the majority opinions that you need to know about this game.
NB: For more reviews like this, see this list.
1. Monad is a set collection card game where players rely on trading to advance up a numerical ladder.
"A set collection game with a ladder-climbing mechanic." - Pat Wilz
"Players collect scoring tokens by trading and "leaping" based on card colors." - cited by Scott A. Reed
"Collect sets of numbers in order to move up the scale and get bigger numbers in order to get even bigger numbers until finally you can get the biggest number!" - Quinn Munnerlyn
"I don't get why this is listed as abstract strategy. It is a card game and a trading game." - Stephen Roney
"A very interesting game, entirely composed of making strange trades with the board to try to reach a goal value." - Nathan Morse
"Like just about all of Sackson's trading games, the trading is done exclusively with the bank. Using some simple rules, the players trade up, taking advantage of the known order of the different types of cards. The first player to obtain a set number of Monads (the highest valued "card") wins." - Huzonfirst
2. It is similar to Sackson's game Bazaar in that players trade with the system, rather than with each other.
"Bazaar is another popular game that uses a similar mechanic." - John Goodenough
"In many ways this reminds me of Sackson's Bazaar- a game where players manipulate their goods through to increase their overall value ... I like this implementation, and I found it simpler and more to the point than Bazaar." - Edwin Nealley
"It reminded me most of another Sackson design Bazaar in its brain-burning continuous conversions, but I think I like Monad a little better." - Martin G
"Similar to Bazaar in some ways." - Herr Geistesverwandtschaft
"Can get complicated in the same manner that Bazaar does. I think it's a better game than Bazaar." - Loomis
"Less of a brainburner than Bazaar, and therefore more fun."- Mark Saya
3. Unlike Bazaar, in Monad players can do multiple trades on a single turn, and thus can use lengthy combinations to get higher level cards.
"It feels a lot like Bazaar to me, only you get to make multiple transactions on each turn." - Randy Cox
"The step climbing here is unique and almost relaxing, and there are definitely feelings of a payoff when you complete a big combo turn." - Brandon Bernard
"A little similar to Bazaar in that you can work out an extremely long path of trades to get to a prize you need." - KC Humphrey
"Playing certain combinations of cards allow you to perform special actions which gain you more cards. This lends itself to lots of clever card play." - tasajara
"If you enjoy those long turns of Dominion where you have to make sixteen moves, but they have to be done in the right order in order to be able to get two Provinces, you're going to really like Monad." - Trent Hamm
4. Monad stands apart from other card games by virtue of its unusual mechanics, which are both original and interesting.
"There are not many games as bold and original as this one." - Antonio RM
"Has some unusual mechanics which I haven't seen in anything else." - Chuck Carroll
"Kooky economic game, where you trade up your sets to more valuable sets ... It's a really cool concept for a game, where the mechanics surprisingly work." - Morgan Dontanville
"Once you get it, it plays quite nicely. However it's very different from other card games." - John Farrell
"I really love the interesting mechanics of this game." - tasajara
"Unusual mechanics inject a bit of interest into a game that has little player interaction ... Worthwhile just for its weirdness." - Eric Johnson
"It is a great card game with "way out" concepts. Not trick taking and not rummy or anything else." - Randy Cox
"It isn't a standard card game because it isn't even a standard game. It was totally unique for its time (late sixties) and it's still pretty unusual today." - Larry Levy
"A strange game." - Loomis
"Easily Sid Sackson's oddest creation." - Antonio RM
5. One of the unique elements of game-play is how the colors interact, although unfortunately this makes the game difficult to play for color-blind gamers.
"Really like the various uses of color in the game (warm/cool combinations, bonus combos, personal wild colors, etc)." - Mark Saya
"A set-collection game with interesting color interactions." - Robbie Smith
"I so want to like this game but my color blindness just makes impossible to play." - Lowell Kempf
"The card design is not colorblind friendly." - Trent Hamm
6. One of the strengths of Monad is the depth of gameplay within the context of relatively straightforward rules.
"The gameplay here is fantastic - there's lots of nuances to discover play after play." - Antonio RM
"Simple components, simple rules, complex strategies." - Ed Holzman
"Great game that makes you think. Small things do come in little packages!" - George Murray
"For a card game with a pretty basic concept and rules there is a ton that is going on while playing. I found the cardplay pretty deep." - Gary Heidenreich
"One's turn is often obvious, but there is always room for thought to see if one can maximize their turns and way they play their cards." - CRAZY ADAM
"Very deep game with almost a puzzle aspect, but definitely also a lot of opponent screwage. Really really fun." - tasajara
"You really have to plan ahead to set up combinations so as to trade cards for the most value while collecting large bonuses and wild cards." - Tim Koppang
"The game is deeper than you think. Not only do you need to make strong strategic choices, the order in which you make your moves is absolutely vital, as are more subtle things such as the order in which you return cards." - Trent Hamm
"Entertaining. Tricky to figure out, but gives pleasant problem-solving aha moments." - Mikko Saari
"The game is all about setting yourself up such that you can take shortcuts to reach that final objective." - Raymond Gallardo
7. As such, it can be considered a real brain burner.
"A brain burner, but a fun brain burner." - Monte Bingham
"People call Venture a brainburner? Monad casts Venture into a lake of fire. Excruciating, this game. But I like the burn." - garygarison
"This one is a real brain burner but that only makes victory more satisfying." - Ed Holzman
"It's a nice little cerebral affair." - Larry Levy
"Monad is quite the brainburner and there is some luck involved but for the most part it is about planning and puzzling your way to the top. It is more complex than most light to medium card games." - Henrik Schunk
8. The trading mechanism can sometimes feel repetitive and slow in the early stages.
"Climbing game, does get a little bogged down at times." - Adam Alleman
"The game can fall into stages where every player is doing the same thing over and over with the end no where in sight." - Francois Petitclerc
"Slow paced. Abstract. Repetitive." - Luca Iennaco
"Clever trading mechanisms, but lacks variety and way too long for the ultimately repetitious play." - Mitchell Thomashow
"Given the open-ended gameplay and the amount of subtle things to think about in Monad, along with the fact that the game is almost a perfect information game, turns can get bogged down badly by people with analysis paralysis, particularly on turns that feature a lot of plays." - Trent Hamm
However, the game does accelerate and is often fast-paced in the closing stages.
"Takes some build up time during play for things to start happening. Then they snowball to the finish." - Randy Cox
"The first several turns of a game of Monad can seem pretty slow ... The later game seems to move much faster." - Trent Hamm
"Trick is to get an engine going. Starts slowly, but accelerates rapidly." - David Low
"The average of 60 minutes is accurate. It's an odd game in that you go a long, long time getting that first Monad, then a long time for the second. After that, they zip along due to having built up some infrastructure and getting proper pairs aligned in the columns." - Randy Cox
9. Monad bears the hallmark features of a classic Sid Sackson design.
"This surely is one of Sid's best card games. " - Stephan Koehr
"This is a Sid Sackson design, through and through ... there's nothing extra in this game ... Everything you do in this game fits together tightly and makes sense." - Trent Hamm
"Sackson hits it again with another very enjoyable and interesting card game. I love how Sackson gets a math-y idea and is able to translate it so purely into a card game." - CRAZY ADAM
"A little known Sid Sackson gem." - Tim Thorp
"Monad is further proof that Sackson is one of the more interesting designers I am aware of." - CRAZY ADAM
10. Despite its age, it still feels fresh, and demonstrates how Sackson was ahead of his time.
"Sackson was truly ahead of his time." - Felix Rodriguez
"Monad is a very fine game that doesn't feel dated in the least. The little rush experienced when recognizing a clever combination of transactions that result in an elusive Monad is one of the essences of gaming." - garygarison
"An excellent, old-school find from Sid Sackson." - Stephen Glenn
"Sackson was incredibly ahead of his time when it came to exploring the boundaries of card games." - Larry Levy
11. It's no surprise then that all this makes Monad a highly regarded abstract card game.
"Excellent abstract card game." - Mark Saya
"This game is probably my favorite 3M game that I have played." - Christian Spear
"This is an underrated game!" - CRAZY ADAM
"A clever card game with minimal luck and randomness." - Nick Case
"Sid Sackson's excellent abstract card game." - Ed Holzman
"The game that brought me to BGG." - garygarison
12. Given that it was out of print, rare, and hard to find for some time, it is welcome news that Monad is now available in an attractive new edition.
"OOP and hard to find Sid Sackson game." - Yuval Grinspun
"One of the rarer 3M gammettes." - John Erickson
"This seems to be one of the rarer/more expensive 3m gamettes." - Checkallday
"I've been researching Sid Sackson joints recently. This one looks great. Wonder if it's going to be re-released sometime." - Les Lauber
"I am really pleased that Gryphon made it readily available again in a nice new edition." - Edwin Nealley
"In the 2012 Eagle/Gryphon edition, the components are top notch. The cards are clearly designed and easy to understand, and are manufactured with a nice linen finish." - Trent Hamm
The bottom line: what you need to know
Monad is another classic Sid Sackson title that deserves to be more widely known. Like many of his other designs, it encourages deep gameplay within the context of a relatively straightforward ruleset. Sackson's games are not for those that require a generous dose of theme, and Monad is no exception. In the final assessment it's a rather abstract design that thrives instead on clever and deep decisions, as players try to set themselves up to acquire higher level cards by making well-planned chains and combinations. While it might not match the heights of Sackson giants like Acquire, Monad still recommends itself on account of its unique mechanics and unusual design. We've seen innovation and oddity come at the cost of other elements of gameplay in many other games, but that's not the case here. Monad certainly is convincing evidence that Sid Sackson was an original thinker. Kudos to Gryphon Games for helping bring the genius of Sid Sackson into the hands of gamers worldwide in a quality reprint worthy of his brillance.
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- Last edited Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:44 am (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Tue Apr 9, 2013 7:18 am
Always wondered what 's avatar was (though not enough to read about it in their profile, apparently). Now I know! I love Sackson, I think; I loved Bazaar as a kid, and I love Can't Stop now. I'll definitely keep my eye open for a copy of this.
- Last edited Tue Apr 9, 2013 11:54 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Apr 9, 2013 11:52 am
I am on a Journey...
New South Wales
...to explore and discover games of all shapes and sizes regardless of colour, condition or creed
Thanks Enders for bringing some attention to a game that wouldn't likely otherwise get it.
I need to look out for this one.
One of my quirky favorites, thanks for reviewing it well and giving it exposure!
I wish I still had the gamette 3M version I had as a kid. I'm not sure I ever quite got it way back then, but it was super stylish.
- Last edited Tue Apr 9, 2013 8:07 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Apr 9, 2013 7:45 pm
Curse your sudden but inevitable action denial!
What impresses me most about this game is how Sackson had a Dominion prototype many decades before it came out. Sure, it's more of a "hand-builder" than a deckbuilder, but the combos, trading up, and climbing for VP are there. Very nice little game.
More proof I need this in my collection and why I also admire Bazaar so much!