01st Feb2019

‘Monkey Temple’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

monkey-temple-box

One of the most rewarding aspects of playing analogue games is the fact that they can bring generations of players closer together. If you pick the right game, then parents, children and extended family can all play together whilst sitting around the table laughing and joking. Few games capture the required level of simplicity to enable these moments whilst still offering a level of challenge that older players will enjoy. Monkey Temple, is a game that almost achieves this – and would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky, erm, rules!

In Monkey Temple the players take turns to control a team of monkeys and a team of security guards (or Temple Guardians.) The monkey’s are keen to do what monkey’s do – which is to pinch valuable objects from tourists and leave them lying around the temple, whilst the Guardians have the unenviable task of reuniting these lost items with their owners. In Monkey Temple this plays out as a deduction game in which two rows of cards (items and tourists) must be linked together by their common features.

During a round of play, the monkey player will take five tokens that are numbered one to four plus a blank. She will then place them face down on each of the tourist cards to indicate which items (each of which is in a numbered space on the board) belong to which tourist. The fifth token will be placed off to the side and is generally used to assign the one item that really doesn’t seem to fit, if there is one. The other players must then discuss the likely assignment of items and tourists among themselves in the hope that their choices will match those of the monkey player.

The aim of the game is to repeat this process for five rounds, with the monkey player rotating between players each round. If the end of the fifth round is reached and the players have accumulated less than five failures, then everyone wins. Conversely, if at any point there are more than eight lost items, the game indicates that a national scandal is reported and the Monkey Temple is presumably closed. Whilst matching items might sound simple, believe me, getting only eight guesses wrong over the course of a game can be quite challenging depending on what comes out.

As an example, you might see four tourists that comprise of a huge muscle-man, an attractive model, an office worker and a builder. The items to match them with might be a hair dryer, a hammer, a mirror and some rope. Usually, two to three of the matches will be relatively simple, but even in this example, would you assign the mirror or the hairdryer to the model? Would you give the hammer to the builder, or to the muscle-man who looks a bit like a Viking? In any case, the real fun during Monkey Temple is whilst the monkey players stays silent and her family debates what choices she will have made about the assignments.

Even though this part of the game is quite fun, Monkey Temple does lack one thing – which is any form of competitive mode. I do understand (with such a clearly family orientated game) why the designers might have chosen to focus on cooperative play, but the presence of a monkey player who is kind of cooperating with the Temple Guardians feels a bit off. Perhaps this is a simple case of reskinning the theme slightly by suggesting that the monkeys are actually helping the Temple Guardians reunite the tourists with their goods, but I found it odd all the same.

In summary, Monkey Temple is two large packs of cards, a small board and some cardboard tokens and standee’s cunningly wrapped together to create quite a fun little game. It’s very simple to learn and play, meaning that it is an excellent family game, though I will say that the deduction element is probably harder for most younger players than you might expect it to be – albeit that’s very much based on the luck of the draw. The components are nice and clear, but the box is about twice as large as it needs to be, which is a slight shame if you feel that your family game shelf is restricted to a few smaller games. Overall, a very solid but perhaps unremarkable effort.

*** 3/5

Monkey Temple is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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