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Game #74 - Monkey Lab by Gamebot

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Gamebot
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Hello BGDFers,

I have posted my game "Monkey Lab" for your review. I have put the rules, cards, and board image in one PDF file located here.

My goal is to publish a game in the next year. This is my first serious attempt at designing one fully (ie. with an actual rules document, and more than a few playtests). I would appreciate any comments you have on my game.

Thanks and enjoy!

[Edit - Bryk: Changed title to include designer's name]

Hamumu
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Game #74 - Monkey Lab by Gamebot

I have one definite comment:

You MUST put what the item beats on each item card (or on a keychain card "beaten by any item". Otherwise, it's a rules check every time two players fight. I think that would make a big difference to fun factor.

Other than that, I have little to say... there's obviously a big 'concentration' element, that seems like it would be difficult to play (more stuff to remember than regular concentration, although fewer spots), and may not be so much fun.

Other questions: why would you ever want to unlock a cage for no points? I guess in case of a tie? And it doesn't say you lose the keychain when you use it... can you just keep opening cages nonstop? Unrelated to keychains: it doesn't say you have to be anywhere special to open a cage - I presume you mean the player can only open the cage in the room they're in. You should say so! If you don't mean that, you should probably say that too, because at least for me, it's what I expected (thematically, unless you are telekinetic monkeys). Big difference one way or the other, so definitely worth clarifying.

I'd be interested to hear about your playtests - were people able to manage the memory element well? I know that kind of thing is often decried around here, so it would be interesting to hear about.

Gamebot
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Game #74 - Monkey Lab by Gamebot

Hamumu wrote:
You MUST put what the item beats on each item card (or on a keychain card "beaten by any item". Otherwise, it's a rules check every time two players fight. I think that would make a big difference to fun factor.

I believe that cards should have the rules on them when they can. I just need to find an elegant way of putting their "what beats what" power on the card without looking too cluttered. I actually had them on there for awhile, then took them off in favor of a chart (which I didn't include in the PDF).

Hamumu wrote:
Other questions: why would you ever want to unlock a cage for no points? I guess in case of a tie? And it doesn't say you lose the keychain when you use it... can you just keep opening cages nonstop?

Once you are in the lead, you can unlock all of the other cages to so your opponent can't score. At that point your opponent must decide whether it is worth it to stop you or continue with his own cage so he can go in the lead. Also, unlocked cages count as cages when determining a tie breaker. Key Chains remain in play after use just like any other item. Side note: I made it a key chain as opposed to just a key to make sense more thematically because it can be used multiple times to unlock multiple cages.

Hamumu wrote:
Unrelated to keychains: it doesn't say you have to be anywhere special to open a cage - I presume you mean the player can only open the cage in the room they're in. You should say so! If you don't mean that, you should probably say that too, because at least for me, it's what I expected (thematically, unless you are telekinetic monkeys). Big difference one way or the other, so definitely worth clarifying.

Great catch! Yes, you do have to be in the room to unlock a cage. I guess that presumption of mine needs to be spelled out.

Hamumu wrote:
I'd be interested to hear about your playtests - were people able to manage the memory element well? I know that kind of thing is often decried around here, so it would be interesting to hear about.

In the playtests, memory usually wasn't a problem. With that said, I wouldn't play this game groggy. I've played a few times where I completely forgot what items I was going for. I do see how a player with perfect memory would have an advantage, but in the end, if you need a knife you only need to remember where one of the four knives are.

During the playtests, the games would usually go like this (with 2 players). The start of the game, both players would go into their own sections of the board. They would start working on some cages and remembering what items are in their vicinity. For the most part the other player is ignored. After a few cages are unlocked and one player has a reasonable lead, that player may find the key chain and start unlocking cages. At this point the losing player must determine how many point he need to be put in the lead and the feasability of acheiving that. The key chain player is essentially the timer for the game. I've had several games where unlocking a lot of cages early with a small point lead can come back to haunt you. Its all a matter of balance.

Thanks for your feedback!

jwarrend
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Re: Game #74 - Monkey Lab

Gamebot wrote:

My goal is to publish a game in the next year. This is my first serious attempt at designing one fully (ie. with an actual rules document, and more than a few playtests). I would appreciate any comments you have on my game.

Thanks for putting your game up for discussion, and good luck with the project. This one is a little tough for me to comment on because the rules are so simple. In general, that's a good thing: the more complicated a game is, the greater the chance that something is broken. But too simple, and it's harder to come up with much to say.

One of the concerns I have with the game is a lack of interesting decisions. If I'm not mistaken, it seems that you would play the game by wandering around, examining cages, and then trying to randomly happen upon the items required to open the cages (unless you've randomly happened upon a keychain). Additionally, you try to randomly happen upon stray monkeys, which either give you points or can be used for a powerup (actually, that is a decision point, I'll grant).

Something about combat doesn't seem right to me, and I can't put my finger on it, although Hamumu is right about the overly complex Rock-paper-scissors interactions. I think it might be the limitation of only being able to carry 1 item at a time. If you have a box, and really need to get it to the next room, all that someone needs is to come up to you with a cable and the box is theirs. Moreover, chances are they can figure out where you're going with the box, and use it for their own advantage. I just don't see any tension here: combat is a sure thing, and there's nothing you can do to avoid being the loser. Perhaps if you allowed players to carry 2 items at a time, but only one is put forward in the fight, now there's some doublethink involved, which at least adds some uncertainty to it and makes it interesting.

Also, carrying two items would speed up the process of trying to get items to the appropriate rooms, which I fear could be monotonous, and, again, prone to swooping: if you leave 2 of the 3 required items in a room, what's to prevent someone else from swooping in with the 3rd and taking the cage?

I don't think you've used the theme to full effect. It seems that there should be a bigger effect of opening cages than simply gaining VPs; perhaps NPC monkeys should be set loose, and they should have some impact on the players' actions, either good or ill. Perhaps freeing a monkey is a 2-step process, opening the cage, and conducting the monkeys to the lobby (and then "guiding a monkey" would be another action you could engage in).

I think this game could tolerate a bit more complexity, and I encourage you to try to push it just a little bit further to give the players more to think about. That's not to say you have to make it a deep strategy game, so much as to say that at present, players will wander about aimlessly and the winner will be decided by luck. You can address both of these problems while keeping the game relatively simple.

Good luck!

-Jeff

Gamebot
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Re: Game #74 - Monkey Lab

jwarrend wrote:
One of the concerns I have with the game is a lack of interesting decisions.

This may be just a case of not having played through a game to see the player interactions. I think that there are enough interesting decisions in this game to make it fun. Here are some examples:

- Based on the resources that he knows are near and based on the cages available, a player has to decide if he should go for the larger point cages or work on the easier ones.

- A player may notice that no stray monkeys have been found and nearly all of the rooms have been explored. He may feel the urge to go and explore the untapped rooms instead of working on unlocking cages.

- A player must decide when to start unlocking cages with a key chain. Key chains will unlock cages, but give you no points. This allows the player to "start the countdown" toward the end of the game. Of course, if the other player gains the lead, the marathon unlocking session will have backfired.

jwarrend wrote:
Additionally, you try to randomly happen upon stray monkeys, which either give you points or can be used for a powerup (actually, that is a decision point, I'll grant).

This is also an interesting decision a player has to make. A player must give up a free point to use the ability on the stray monkey. Of course, the abilities are very potent and can help you out quite a bit.

jwarrend wrote:
Something about combat doesn't seem right to me, and I can't put my finger on it, although Hamumu is right about the overly complex Rock-paper-scissors interactions.

Originally, there were just four items that worked very well in a circle with one another. Then I added the key chain which I wanted to make weaker than the others. It does seem complex on paper, but it is rather easy to keep track of, especially with a chart.

jwarrend wrote:
if you leave 2 of the 3 required items in a room, what's to prevent someone else from swooping in with the 3rd and taking the cage?

That's a desired effect of the system. It doesn't happen that often, but it is fun when it happens.

Thanks for you feedback!

jwalduck
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Game #74 - Monkey Lab by Gamebot

A bunch of random feedback:

I take it there can be any number of of items in any one room during the course of the game. With each room starting with two items players might think that they are restricted to two.

For the stray monkey that can move items to adjacent rooms do these rooms have to be connected by a door?

I think a little more humor could be injected into the game simply through choosing different items to be found in a lab with monkeys. A typewriter is an obvious choice, perhaps also "Cosmetics prototypes".

Further to the comment about the open display of the item being carried and how it effects the paper-rock-scissor combat it also strikes me as a little thematically off that players can see what another player finds in another room. Have you tried a game where the cards were hidden until a cage is actually unlocked or a battle takes place?

Gamebot
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Game #74 - Monkey Lab by Gamebot

jwalduck wrote:
I take it there can be any number of of items in any one room during the course of the game. With each room starting with two items players might think that they are restricted to two.

During some blind playtests, players were coming up with a lot of assumed rules. My feeling is that if it is not in the rules, it is not a rule. I am not sure how to handle it though because it does still come up.

jwalduck wrote:
For the stray monkey that can move items to adjacent rooms do these rooms have to be connected by a door?

You are right. I do need to define that adjacent means "next to and connected by a door."

jwalduck wrote:
I think a little more humor could be injected into the game simply through choosing different items to be found in a lab with monkeys. A typewriter is an obvious choice, perhaps also "Cosmetics prototypes".

I experimented with different items and these were the ones that seemed most functional as a means to open a cage, most likely to be in a lab, and easy to be illustrated in a humorous way. I envision the knife to pick the lock, the cable to pull open the bars, the box to stand on to reach the cage, and the microscope as a blunt object to break and glass cages. Fighting-wise, I envision the knife to stab, the cable as a whip, the box as a diving platform, and the microscope as a blunt object. I hope it will all come out like that in the illustrations.

jwalduck wrote:
Further to the comment about the open display of the item being carried and how it effects the paper-rock-scissor combat it also strikes me as a little thematically off that players can see what another player finds in another room. Have you tried a game where the cards were hidden until a cage is actually unlocked or a battle takes place?

At some point I had to draw the line between the theme and the gameplay. I started out my design with all cards hidden even the item you were carrying. Then I changed it to make the player play with his item face up. At some point I made it so that all items need to be revealed, although I cannot remember why that was. I'll have to re-examine that. I know there was a reason.

I appreciate you looking over my game. Thanks for your feedback!

Xaqery
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Game #74 - Monkey Lab by Gamebot

Hi -

The following is an attempt not to cover too much of what is already covered. Also you seem to be pretty far along when you posted so by now you probably know all you want to know but I had an idea.

When I first read your rules over and I got to the line [freaking PDF will not let you copy lines] anyway when I read the line "As former lab monkeys, players compete to free the most imprisoned monkeys from a testing lab" I got a bit excited. I thought the game would, at some point, have more and more monkeys bouncing off the walls.

The game doesn’t really have many moneys bouncing off the walls. It’s more about moving items around and being the person to have the last item needed at each door. All this is fine. I just want more going on once a cage is opened and I want more and more monkeys. I like chaos.

Maybe (and I know you are far along now and it’s hard to listen to major game changing ideas) but maybe the released monkeys could be represented by new pawns of colors of the players. As if you were releasing friends and families of the players. There could be some weighted random method of choosing what color the new monkeys are but it would be more likely that they would be the same color as the monkey releasing them. Then new monkeys are helpers to what ever player they match and can be controlled by that player for the rest of the game.

I would be curious to see an up to date version of the game.

Thanks for listening.

- Dwight

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