When I was a kid one of my favorite video games was the Rampage series. For those unfamiliar with it the premise was that you played as a giant creature and you had to try and destroy everything in sight from buildings to the various military vehicles that were sent to destroy you. While it obviously couldn’t be directly adapted to board games I have always thought this premise of playing a giant creature going on a rampage would make for a good board game theme. There have been a number of board games created over the years that have utilized this theme including Rampage/Terror in Meeple City and the popular King of Tokyo series. I bring this up because the theme of Banana Bandits immediately reminded me of Rampage as you play as giant gorillas as they fight one another on top of a giant tower. Banana Bandits does a good job supporting its giant monster battling theme with some interesting mechanics, but it feels like there is something missing from the overall experience.
How to Play Banana Bandits
- Assemble the 3D tower.
- Place the Banana Coins on the two corresponding corners of the tower roof.
- Sort the Gorilla Coins by their color and place them in the trays at the base of the tower. These coins will be referred to as the Bank.
- Place the dice on the table where everyone can reach them.
- Each player chooses a gorilla and takes the corresponding Gorilla Marker and Gorilla Figure.
- Shuffle the cards and deal five cards to each player. The rest of the cards form the draw pile.
- Each player chooses a window to place their Gorilla Figure on. There can only be one Gorilla Figure in each window.
- Randomly choose who will start the game.
Playing the Game
On each player’s turn they will have three action points to spend. There are a number of actions that a player can take with each costing a number of action points. Players can take actions in any order and can even take the same action multiple times.
Move (1 Action Point)
When a player chooses this action they will be able to move their Gorilla Figure up to three windows. You can move your figure in any direction including going around corners, but you can’t move diagonally. While moving you also can’t move through or stop in a window that has another Gorilla Figure on it.
Fight (1 Action Point)
When your Gorilla Figure is on a space next to another player’s Gorilla Figure (up, down, left, or right) you can choose to fight them. You can also attack a Gorilla Figure that is on the window on the opposite side of the tower.
To begin the attack the attacking player will roll the six fight dice (yellow). They will count up how many hit/fist symbols that they rolled.
The defending player will then roll the dice and count up how many hit symbols they rolled. The outcome of the fight will depend on who rolled more hit symbols.
If the attacking player rolled the same or more hit symbols they have successfully attacked the defending gorilla. The attacking player will get to move the defending gorilla three spaces in a straight line (up, down, left or right) from their current position. If the gorilla would run into the top or bottom of the building or another gorilla is in the way, you will only move the defending gorilla as far as you can. You will then take one Gorilla Coin from the Bank and place it on each space that the defending gorilla was moved. The attacking player will also take one Gorilla Coin (of their choice) from the defending player’s collection of Gorilla Coins (if they have any).
If the defending player rolled more hit symbols the attack was unsuccessful and nothing happens.
Collect Gorilla Coins (1 Action Point)
If your Gorilla Figure is on a window that also has a Gorilla Coin(s) on it you can use one action point to take all of the Gorilla Coins from your window and add them to your coin collection.
Draw Cards (1 Action Point)
When your Gorilla Figure is on the bottom floor of the tower you can choose to perform this action. For one action point you can draw cards from the draw pile until you have five cards in your hand.
Getting A Banana Coin (0 Action Points)
If your Gorilla Figure is on the top floor and on one of the spaces next to one of the Banana Coin spaces you can perform this action.
To receive one Banana Coin you must trade two Gorilla Coins that you have collected. These Gorilla Coins must be from different players and they cannot include your own color coins.
Playing Cards (0 Action Points)
Players can play as many of their cards as they want during their turn to boost other actions. Playing a card costs zero action points.
If a card features the AP symbol it can only be played when you are taking the associated action.
Cards that feature the shield icon can be played by non-active players during fights.
For more information about the cards see the Cards section below.
Winning the Game
The first player to acquire three Banana Coins wins the game.
Ultimate Attack – When a player plays this card they can attack any other player no matter where they are on the tower.
Adjacent – If a player uses this card along with the Collect action they can take all of the coins from an adjacent window (not diagonal) instead of taking the coins from their current window.
Avoid Attack – A player that is attacked can play this card at any time (even after they have rolled the dice). The attack is canceled but the attacking player still loses their action point.
Banana Power – This card can be played by either the attacker or defender before they roll the dice. The player will get to roll additional dice depending on the number on the card. A player can use multiple of these cards to increase the number of dice they roll in an attack.
Reroll All Dice – This card can be used against either the attacker or the defender during an attack. The player that the card is used against will have to reroll all of their dice.
Draw Whole Floor – The player who plays the card will choose one of the floors and will steal one card from each player currently on that floor. The player can choose to play these cards immediately.
Coins Exchange – The active player chooses a player (they can choose themselves) who will swap one of their collected Gorilla Coins with a coin from the Bank. The active player chooses which coins are swapped.
Steal 1 Card – The active player steals one card from the opponent of their choice. This card can be played immediately.
Power Up – When the active player plays this card they will receive an extra action point for this turn.
Exchange Position – The active player can swap the position of any two gorillas. They can choose two of their opponents or their own gorilla.
Avenge – This card can be played by both the attacker and defender in a fight. The card must be played before any dice are rolled. If the player who plays this card wins the fight they can steal an additional Gorilla Coin from the loser.
My Thoughts on Banana Bandits
Generally you can fit most board games into one or a couple of different genres and this usually does a pretty good job of describing how a game plays. I don’t think this really works for Banana Bandits as I honestly don’t remember playing a game quite like it. This is because the game actually combines mechanics from quite a few other genres of board games. Basically the goal of the game is to fight the other players’ gorillas in order to force them to drop coins. You will then pick up these coins and exchange them for Banana Coins with the first person to get three Banana Coins winning the game.
I would say that the heart of the game probably revolves around the combat. The combat itself is pretty straightforward as it relies on rolling dice. All of the dice in the game have two different symbols. Four of the sides feature hit symbols and the other two sides are blank. Both the attacking and defending player roll dice and whoever rolls more hit symbols ultimately wins the battle. Mixing things up a little is the fact that each player will have the opportunity to play cards which can impact the fight. These cards could include getting to roll more dice, having one of the players re-roll dice, or jumping out of the fight without dealing with any of the consequences.
I enjoyed the combat mechanics in Banana Bandits, but I wouldn’t call them particularly original. There have been other board games that have implemented similar battle systems where whichever player rolls the most beneficial symbols wins the fight. I kind of wish the combat had a little more strategy though as it mostly boils down to who rolls the best and who has the best cards at their disposal. I still enjoyed the combat though because it is really simple and quick. If you have ever played a dice rolling combat game before you likely already know how this mechanic works. Banana Bandits succeeds by not making the combat any more difficult than it needed to be.
The reason that the combat is so important to the game is that it is the catalyst for the other major element of the game. Whenever a player successfully attacks one of the other players they will get the opportunity to move their gorilla marker in one direction simulating that the gorilla got hit so hard that their position on the tower changed. They are also hit so hard that they drop a coin on each space that they move through. These coins are important because you need to collect them in order to win the game. I actually thought this was a clever mechanic as it works really well with the game’s overall theme of giant gorillas fighting one another for ultimate supremacy.
In fact I think Banana Bandits does a really good job utilizing its theme. The theme of giant creatures fighting each other is arguably the thing that initially drove me to the game. I think Banana Bandits does a good job making it feel like you are actually controlling a giant gorilla. I think this is most evident in how you can move around the tower and fight other gorillas with ease. Instead of just moving around a flat board when you move you swing between windows in a tower. In action the movement mechanics aren’t much different than any other game outside of you being able to move in three dimensions. With the 3D board though it really adds a lot to the experience.
Generally speaking I had fun playing Banana Bandits. It is not the deepest experience as the strategy for the most part is pretty obvious. I like that the game utilizes an action point system where you can choose from a list of actions to perform on your turn. In most cases it is pretty obvious what you should do. For example if you don’t have many/any cards and you are near the bottom of the tower you probably should take the action that lets you draw back to five cards. Otherwise most of your actions will revolve around fighting the other gorillas, moving to collect Gorilla Coins, or obtaining Banana Coins. The game has some strategy as the decisions you make are likely going to have an impact on whether you win. Most of the gameplay revolves around players taking turns fighting one another as they try to knock out the coins that they will then pick up. Whoever wins the most fights is going to have a pretty big advantage in the game. Once you collect Gorilla Coins of two different types you probably want to turn them in for a Banana Coin so someone doesn’t steal them from you.
While I would say that Banana Bandits is more complicated than most mass market games, I wouldn’t say that it is all that complicated. For the most part the mechanics are really straightforward. There are a number of different options that you can choose from, but they are usually pretty straightforward. I would guess that you could explain the game to most people within five minutes or so. Most of the game’s difficulty comes from the combat and moving around the 3D board. Some players may not know exactly what to do for their first couple of turns, but they should be able to pick up the mechanics after a while. The game has a recommended age of 8+ which seems about right. Banana Bandits might not really appeal to people who prefer highly strategic games, but I could see it working well in family settings for people who like the premise.
Outside of the gameplay I think another strength of Banana Bandits is the game’s components. When most people see Banana Bandits the first thing they will notice is the 3D tower. Utilizing a 3D tower really sells the entire game. The game simply wouldn’t have been the same if it utilized a 2D gameboard. It takes a little while to get it to stay together, but once you do it is really sturdy. The tower and most of the other components are made of pretty thick cardboard where they should last. I thought the artwork was good as the game does a good job utilizing the theme. I really only had two problems with the components. First the game could have done a better job choosing the colors for the gorillas as two of the colors are similar where it is hard to tell their coins apart. The other problem is with the rulebook. The rulebook is somewhat hard to understand at times and it contains several typos and other issues.
There are a lot of things that I liked about Banana Bandits. As I was playing the game though it just felt like something was missing from it. Unfortunately I can’t exactly put my finger on what that thing is. The game ultimately felt like an interesting group of mechanics that had quite a bit of potential that the game never capitalized on.
For example lets talk about the movement and coin collection mechanics. As I mentioned above I actually thought the mechanic of characters being moved after being successfully attacked and leaving behind coins was a cool idea. The problem is in action it doesn’t work as well as it should have. By winning a fight you have the opportunity to move your opponent up to three spaces leaving three coins behind. It seems like you will rarely be able to move someone that far though because the tower is not all that big or you will run into other characters. When you win a fight you better do it early in your turn as otherwise another player(s) will likely steal the coins that you knocked out and they will be gone before your next turn.
I think this is partially due to the fact that I think the Banana Bandits tower is a little too small. I don’t think the tower needed to be significantly larger, but I think it could have used a couple more floors and maybe a couple more windows per floor. You can’t make the tower too large or half of the game would have revolved around moving to or away from other players. The problem with the tower being so small though is that positioning doesn’t really matter. Just one movement action pretty much puts you in position to attack any of the other players. I think the game either needed to increase the size of the tower or lower the number of spaces that you can move with each movement action. With it being easy to attack people from any part of the tower it is very easy for the players to gang up on the player in first to try and prevent them from winning.
On top of this Banana Bandits relies on too much luck. It was obvious that the game was going to rely on luck as the combat revolves around rolling dice. It doesn’t matter how well you do in the rest of the game if you don’t roll well. You may be able to pick up coins knocked out by other players, but you will keep losing coins if you keep losing battles. This reliance on luck is understandable as it comes with the territory. The problem is that quite a bit of luck comes from the cards as well. All of the cards were not created equally as some are considerably more powerful than others. If one player draws considerably better cards than others they will have a pretty big advantage in the game.
Should You Buy Banana Bandits?
When I first saw Banana Bandits the thing that intrigued me most was the fact that the game reminded me a lot of the video game Rampage that I really liked as a child. In many cases themes feel pasted on and yet with Banana Bandits it feels like the game mechanics were actually built around the theme. The game deserves a lot of credit for its use of the theme as it actually does a good job replicating controlling a giant gorilla fighting other gorillas. The use of the 3D tower gameboard and the other components really help sell the theme. The combat might be a little simple, but it is fast and fun. Punching your opponent’s gorillas around the tower as well as moving around the tower really help support the theme. The gameplay has some strategy giving players multiple options each turn even though most turns it is obvious what you should do. The game is also easy to play where the whole family can enjoy it. The game is fun and has a lot of promise, but it just feels like something is missing. The tower just feels like it is too compact and the reliance on luck plays too large of a role in the game.
My recommendation for Banana Bandits comes down to your thoughts on the premise. If you don’t think the idea of a board game built around giant gorillas fighting one another sounds all that interesting, I don’t think the game will be for you. Those who are intrigued by the game’s premise though should have some fun with the game. For a good price I think it is worth checking out Banana Bandits.