A detailed preview of CodeMonkey: Going Bananas, a great looking coding game for kids from CodeMonkey.com (a well known and popular website for teaching kids programming).
In CodeMonkey: Going Bananas, players program their monkeys to move around the jungle, avoid the other monkeys and their traps and try to collect the most bananas.
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A look at a preview copy of CodeMonkey Going Bananas
CodeMonkey: Going Bananas was designed by Sharon Katz and will be coming to Kickstarter later this year. If funding is successful the game will be published by Tyto Games. This game is from the popular kids coding website CodeMonkey, and is designed for two to four players with our games taking anywhere from fifteen minutes to over an hour, despite the box claiming a 20-minute playtime.
At this time I don’t know what the price point will be for the finished game.
In CodeMonkey: Going Bananas, you start by building a jungle made up of hex tiles with die pips on each hex. Six numbered trees, each with some bananas tokens on them, get added to the jungle. Players then place their monkeys on a randomly rolled starting number. Simultaneously players will roll dice and use those along with their action tiles to program their monkeys’ moves with the goal being to collect the most bananas. Optional play modes include traps, getting more actions, and a take-that “magic card” system.
While we don’t normally do unboxing videos for prototype games I did record one for this game because I didn’t realize it was a prototype when it showed up. If you are interested in seeing the components in this prototype, check out my Code Monkeys: Going Bananas Prototype unboxing video on YouTube.
One of the things that I do know will be improved for the finalized version of the game is the attachment method of the monkeys’ tails (which was actually a result of me sharing my unboxing video with the design team).
Now due to this game being a prototype, I don’t want to say too much about the component quality as there’s a chance it may change. I will say this game looks amazing on the table as it is, with the wooden monkeys and surprisingly sturdy trees. The hex tiles work, though I wish the hexes for each number were in a different colour to make it easier to tell which number they are when a monkey is standing on them. I feel like the trees also need to have numbers on more than one side of their trunks. The magic card magnet thing just feels odd, but I can’t think of another way you could get the same effect.
The rest of the components are fine though I was disappointed that the uniquely coloured six-sided die doesn’t do anything special.
CodeMonkey: Gong Bananas Gameplay Overview
The goal of CodeMonkey: Going Bananas is to be the monkey with the most bananas once there are no more bananas left in the trees.
You start every game of CodeMonkey: Going Bananas by building the jungle. In turn, players place jungle tiles down on the table so that each tile only connects another tile by one hex. Then players place banana trees in the empty spaces created so that each tree placed touches at least three hexes.
CodeMonkey: Going Bananas includes a number of different levels of play, each adding something new to the game, so the next steps will depend on which level you are playing at. I think this will all make the most sense if I just explain the basic game and then get into the potential add ons afterwards.
In a basic game of CodeMonkey: Going Bananas all players start with a programming board, two dice and two action tokens, Swing and Down. Each round starts with all players rolling their dice and then programming up to three steps for the turn using these dice and their tokens. The youngest player then executes their first step, followed by the other players who all do their first step in turn. Next, starting with the start player, everyone executes their step two and then finally everyone does their step three. At the end of each round, the start player token passes to the left.
The various actions that can happen in a phase are:
Move: Place a die on a programming spot. When that spot activates you must move your monkey as far as possible up to the number on the die. You cannot pass other monkeys or move through a spot with a tree (though you can use the Swing action for that).
After moving if you end in a hex next to a banana tree such that the total between the die you used and the number on the hex ads up to seven you get to “7nana” and climb up the tree. When you leave the tree on a later action you get to collect a banana token, if there are any in that tree. Note you can’t take a banana from the same tree twice in a row.
Swing: Move through the trees. You can move onto and through a tree spot. This can be done as a stand alone action or combined with a movement die. When combined with a die, the tree spots don’t cost any movement to move through.
Down: Get down from a tree and collet a banana from that tree if present. There are two ways to go down. The down tile lets you pick a hex adjacent to the tree and move to it. The other option is to play a movement die, in which case you move down to a hex with that number.
Play continues until the last banana is taken from a tree, and the game ends. The player with the most Bananas wins.
In addition to these basic rules, there are a number of different modules you can add to make the game more interesting. The rulebook includes an ordered list, suggesting that you add in items in that order.
Here are the various modules:
Missions: These are represented by a set of number tokens matching the number of the trees. These are shuffled face down at the beginning of the game and each player selects three and reveals them. They then place these next to their programming board in any order. During the game, players will be trying to complete their missions by getting bananas from the trees shown on their mission tokens.
At the end of the game if a player fills all their missions they count as having one extra banana at the end of the game. If they manage to fill their missions in order, they get three bananas instead.
Traps: Once a monkey collects their first banana they unlock their trap. At the end of each round, in player order, players place out or move their trap. Traps are placed either on a hex matching the number it’s already on or onto a hex that the player 7nana’d from that turn. While moving, if any Monkey falls into a trap their turn ends and when they climb out of the trap they lose a banana which randomly appears in one of the trees.
The Loop Action Tile: This gives players a new option when programming. When placed in the second programming slot the Loop repeats the action from the first slot. If the Loop is placed in the third spot, it repeats both the first and second actions on a player’s board.
The Magic Card: Each player takes a magnetic card and standee and puts it in front of them. The player on the left then uses a washer to select a tree numbered one to six. The player can’t see this number. During the game if a player attempts to take a banana from the tree whose number is showing on their Magic Card, they don’t get it, it instead re-spawns on a random tree. The player on the left now selects a new tree using the player’s standee.
A Second Swing Action: Players get a second Swing token that can be used for programming.
Three Dice: Players now roll three dice at the start of their turns giving them more options.
Four Actions: Players can now use the fourth spot on their programming board to add a fourth action each round.
The Timer: The last player sets a five to seven minute timer and when that timer ends a banana is taken from a random tree and removed from the game.
Codemonkey: Going Bananas is a great looking programming game that my kids love.
I’m a big fan of programming games. I love games like Robo Rally, Lords of Xidit and Colt Express. While my kids haven’t tried any of those yet, they are big fans of coding in general. For them, most of this is done on Scratch and Scratch Jr or in Minecraft.
When I heard that CodeMonkey, which is another online coding platform, was releasing a board game I jumped at the chance to check it out as I thought my kids would love it.
And love it they did. Right now my oldest daughter is over at her Grandmother’s house and she brought the game along with her to play with Mim and her Aunt. At the same time, my other daughter, who is here with us at home, is mad that the oldest got to take the game and that she can’t play it herself. For our kids at least, Codemonkey: Going Bananas is a total hit.
That said this game does have some flaws that I think people should be aware of.
While we loved the basic game, which played lightning fast with games taking less than fifteen minutes, the add-on modules add complexity to the game which can make the game much longer.
The biggest jump in playtime is caused by adding traps and playing with the full player count. The more monkeys there are the more often you will end up blocking each other’s paths. The same thing basically happens with traps, and more players means more traps. We’ve had games of CodeMonkey: Going Bananas last over an hour with players not being able to gather the last few bananas due to everyone trying to reach the same couple of trees and getting in each other’s way.
While the rulebook suggests you add traps during your second play, I actually suggest you save them to be the absolute last thing you add. If you don’t do this, at least wait until after you’ve added loops so that there’s a better chance of being able to avoid the traps. Another suggestion is to remove bananas from the game when they are lost instead of having them grow back. This would still allow you to use the traps without making the game longer by having players collecting the same bananas multiple times.
The Magic Card has a similar effect, adding length to the game by taking bananas away from players and having them re-grow randomly. That said, my kids love this module and laugh out loud whenever someone gets hit by a rotten banana.
The other major issue I have with this game is that it’s a programming game where what you program ends up not mattering much most of the time. This is due to the fact that the board state changes rapidly and also because your way can be blocked by other monkeys or by traps. There is usually a decent chance that your first programmed move may go off as planned, but once you get to the second, third and fourth times around the table there’s little chance of having anything you have planned actually happen.
That said, often, when your plans are ruined it is fun to figure out how to adapt and there have even been times where a bit of code broken by the other players’ actions actually leads to a better turn. The thing is, I find it hard to see this as a feature in a game about coding.
My wife in particular hated the fact that she could spend minutes planning out the perfect turn where she used both her swing actions, all her dice and would collect three bananas in one go, only to have that ruined by the players before her doing something to get in her way.
Now despite all of these issues that my wife and I found with CodeMonkey: Going Bananas, as I stated earlier, my kids love it. They love ruining another players plans, even when totally unintentional. They take great joy from seeing someone else’s monkey forced to fall into a trap. They have both asked to play the game again multiple times since I first taught them how to play and so far have not gotten sick of it.
Seeing as this is a game designed for kids, I think it really hit the mark.
Also on a positive note, the physicality of this game is great. I love the pieces and how they look on the table. While there are a couple of things that I think could be improved, like repeating the numbers on the trees more than once and colour coding the hex tiles, everything works as it is and looks great.
Overall, I was impressed by this prototype. As it stands, CodeMonkey: Going Bananas is a great looking game that is quite fun despite some flaws. While I didn’t love it I’m not the target market here, my kids are and they adore the game. Since the copy I played was a prototype I do hope some of the issues I found with the game are things that can be ironed out for the retail version.
If you’ve got kids who are into coding, especially if they are already familiar with the CodeMonkey brand, I think this is a great choice for a somewhat educational board game.
If you are thinking of getting your kids into programming, this may be a good way to start building some hype. As an added bonus if you do end up backing this CodeMonkey game on Kickstarter you will get a few free months at CodeMonkey.com
If you are looking for a detailed programming game that will really help you or your kids learn to code, you won’t find that here. CodeMonkey: Going Bananas features a very rudimentary coding system, a system that combines with take that elements and interactions with other players that regularly break that code.
I thought CodeMonkey: Going Bananas was an engaging mix of programming, take that, and random elements that seem to be the perfect mix for my kids, which makes it a big win for us.
As I mentioned in this article, I love programmed movement in board games. This is a love that started back when I first discovered the original Avalon Hill version of Robo Rally from Richard Garfield (who later went on to design a little card game called Magic The Gathering). I think CodeMonkey: Going Bananas could be a great gateway game to other more complex programming games like Robo Rally.
Do you like programmed movement games? What’s your favourite? Let us know in the comments!
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