Cannibal Monsters

The story behind the creation of Cannibal Monsters

Raf Peeters, January 2010

Cannibal Monsters is a puzzle game like Peg Solitaire that I designed for SmartGames. I have invented many puzzles where you have to place puzzle pieces or pawns on the right locations, this is the only one where you have to remove them (in a way).


The inspiration for this puzzle game is a mix of many things:

• For a long time I’d wanted to do something with eating. Children are always fascinated by what happens with food once it’s passed your mouth.

• I already tried different game concepts where the object is to make stacks, but none of these ideas resulted in a game that worked the way I had in mind.

• When I was observing how my nephews played the boardgame "Tzaar", I noticed that they always tried to make a stack that was as high as possible (even though it's not the best strategy if you want to win the game). 

• The theme is somewhat inspired by Calvin and Hobbes. The stories about the monsters under the bed are particularly popular when I read bedtime stories to my little sons. One of my favorite Pixar movies has always been Monsters Inc, although the monsters in that movie don’t eat each other ;-)

Some people will argue that it looks similar to Oops (from Foxmind) or Hot Spot (from Thinkfun), but when you play this game, you will notice that there are more differences than similarities. To be honest, the first version of this game looked more like Pac-Man.  Although Pac-Man is a different kind of game, the theme (monsters eating monsters) is similar. But I don't think that many people will still make the link with Pac-Man, because the look has evolved quite a bit from that original version.


The object of the game is to make the monsters eat each other until just one big monster (forming a stack) remains. But monsters can only eat each other when their bottom fits on the top of the monster they want to eat. And each time you move a monster, one other monster needs to be eaten, so you can never go to an empty location. What make this puzzle not so easy to solve is the fact that you don't know which monster will be at the bottom or top of the final stack, although you can use logic to calculate which colored monster it will be. When you are playing, it helps if you look at this game as if it is some kind of solitaire. Although the rules are different, you also need to clean up the game board, until just one stack remains. So it’s really “the survival of the fittest” in the sense that only the monster that always fits on top of the other will remain in the end.

Every move deletes possibilities but creates new ones. By stacking one monster on top of another, there are two fewer end positions left on the board. But at the same time, you create a new end position on the board. And also, by moving a monster you also remove an obstacle for other monsters, because one monster cannot jump over another monster.


Every monster has its own identity. There are red, green and blue monsters, with 1, 2 , 3 and 4 eyes and horns. Although it was not really necessary for the concept, I enjoyed putting some energy into what they look like. It would have been easier and cheaper to make them all the same (except for the color and shape) but my experience tells me that if you make things too easy for yourself, it always shows in the result. And I am very happy with what the monsters look like now. Finger-licking good! And although it was not the intention when I started, one obvious advantage is that it is easy to identify the different monsters in the solution.


Most Smart Games have a window at the front of the packaging so you can see the puzzle tiles on top of the game board. In this game it would not have made much sense, because that would have made the box too deep. I don't like designing games that require a box that’s mainly empty. That's why the monsters are lying in a tray on their side like Belgian chocolates in a box. When packed, the lid and the booklet are located behind this tray. But when you finish playing, you can use the lid to form a box with the game board, to store all the monsters and the booklet. This is the best way to make sure that no monsters “escape” and end up under your bed.

update 2012: Fun review of Cannibal Monsters:

The writer of this review added a lot of details to the original story of the monsters on the planet Zork. The object of the game is to save the Earth and prevent alien invasion by forcing the monsters to eat each other. The last monster will die from starvation (and Earth will be saved). Love it when my creatures start to live inside the imagination of someone else. The best explanation of the rule that every move needs to end on top of another monster is this: 

“Every move ends with can’t prepare for the next position without can’t waste time in a cannibal society... time is food.” I will try to remember this next time when I am hungry ;-)

example of a solution of Cannibal Monsters

Website ©2010 Raf Peeters

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