Ebola Monkey Hunt (1998)

25 Oct

RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!!!!! PLAY THE GAME THAT THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T WANT YOU TO PLAY!!! EBOLA MONKEY HUNT!!!!

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Scared yet?

So yeah, this time I decided to dig into my Tupperware Container of Cheap Games That Came In Envelopes (TM) and look at a game that has a playful take on a subject which is making (in theory) sane people lose their ever-loving minds today. While I’m at it, I’ll also take a quick look at an interesting company that existed for a while during an era of game design.

The story of Ebola Monkey Hunt by Placebo Press is just as ridiculous as you could imagine. As you are driving a truck full of Ebola-infested monkeys back to the CDC, you’ve crashed into the lobby of a high-rise. The monkeys have gotten loose, and have taken over the 37th floor of the building. Your job? Catch them, and not die…too many times.

An accurate floorplan of the 37th floor

An accurate floorplan of the 37th floor

The actual game itself is not much to write home about. You roll a die, and move around, trying to land on one of the 4 monkey spaces by exact count. Once you do that, you need to get back to the “Cool Zone” without being shot with tranquilizer darts by your friends (who can then steal your monkey) or getting the virus itself (which will kill you in 3 turns, unless you get a first aid kit). The first player to bring back four monkeys wins the game. I will give the designers credit for allowing players to regenerate and rejoin the fight. Player elimination is a bad thing.

This game lives and dies on its humor. All of the monkeys have punny names, and many of the option cards have monkey puns as well.

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In 1999, Placebo Press released an expansion called Power Monkeys

IMG_0077So yes, they found a dozen new monkey puns, and added a few more useful option cards. They also changed the most-accursed “Land on a space by exact count” rule which is the bane of my existence.

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The absolute best thing Placebo Press ever did was to release the Ebola Monkey Hunt 3rd Edition. Released as a mockery of the much hyped 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons – the Ebola Monkey Hunt special edition had lots of brand new monkeys and option cards. Unfortunately, I do not own this – and it goes for a lot of money ($50 or so!!) these days (as does the regular edition… I found it online for $40! It only cost $5 back in 1998).

 

Ebola Monkey Hunt is a bit like Munchkin or Fluxx to me. It’s not meant to be taken seriously, at all, but the game is only really fun until you’ve seen all the monkey puns. At that point, you are left with the mechanics of the game, and it’s not terribly deep on that front. Over the past few years, there have been other monkey games (Monkey Arena, and Poo the Card Game) which both have several of the same puns…thankfully this one doesn’t rely as heavily on flinging monkey poop around. If it means anything, this one is the only one of the three I still own. Maybe it’s just the charm of the product that I like.

So, if you were around gaming in the 1990s and early aughts, you might look at this game and say “HEY! That looks a lot like one of them thar Cheapass Games games!” I may ask when you turned into an old-timey prospector, but that’s besides the point. During the 90s, there were several of these small, indie companies making humor filled games with very basic components. Ebola Monkey Hunt was made by Placebo Press. Placebo’s games maybe weren’t as polished as Cheapass’ games, but they had a lot of humor. I especially liked Trailer Park Gods (get to Heaven by throwing monster truck rallies), Udder Madness (cow-tipping strategy game), and Formula C Minus (Shriner go-kart racing). Sadly, Placebo Press doesn’t seem to exist anymore…which is a shame, because I would like to see their games still available to the curious as PDFs. Perhaps in the future, I’ll do a rundown of some of these other games.

As I mentioned earlier, there were quite a few companies that did these kinds of “Game in an Envelope” style games. I have some by Those Darn Games, Robot Martini, and Alien Menace (makers of the great “Sucking Vacuum”)among several others.

The thing that really boggles my mind is to look today at what games by independent publishers look like. With more access to professional level tools from The Game Crafter and Game Salute, independent games can at times look indistinguishable from those made by the top companies. In my mind it’s a good and bad thing. It’s great because good looking games just get more attention, so it feels like it’s easier for a “small” game to make it in the crowded world of gaming. On the downside, I do miss the days of discovering a game for $5-6, and stumbling across something great.

Next time…I have a doozy of a game that I completely forgot about until a friend found 2 boxes in his game closet. The full booster boxes only cost 99 cents at an old Kay Bee Toys! You know that spells quality.

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