We present a deep, new 1200μm survey of the ELAISN2 and Lockman Hole fields using the Max Planck Millimeter Bolometer array (MAMBO). The areas surveyed are 160 arcmin2 in ELAISN2 and 197 arcmin2 in the Lockman Hole, covering the entire SCUBA ‘8mJy Survey’. In total, 27 (44) sources have been detected at a significance 4.0 ( 3.5 ). The primary goals of the survey were to investigate the reliability of (sub)millimetre galaxy (SMG) samples, to analyse SMGs using flux ratios sensitive to redshift at z > 3, and to search for ‘SCUBA drop-outs’, i.e. galaxies at z >> 3. We present the 1200μm number counts and find evidence of a fall at bright flux levels. Employing parametric models for the evolution of the local 60μm IRAS luminosity function (LF), we are able to account simultaneously for the 1200 and 850μm counts, suggesting that the MAMBO and SCUBA sources trace the same underlying population of high-redshift, dust-enshrouded galaxies. From a nearest-neighbour clustering analysis we find tentative evidence that themost significantMAMBO sources come in pairs, typically separated by 23′′. Our MAMBO observations unambiguously confirm around half of the SCUBA sources. In a robust sub-sample of 13 SMGs detected by both MAMBO and SCUBA at a significance 3.5 , only one has no radio counterpart. Furthermore, the distribution of 850/1200μmflux density ratios for this sub-sample is consistent with the spectroscopic redshift distribution of radio-detected SMGs (Chapman et al. 2003). Finally, we have searched for evidence of a high-redshift tail of SMGs amongst the 18 MAMBO sources which are not detected by SCUBA. While we cannot rule out that some of them are SCUBA drop-outs at z >> 3, their overall 850-to-1200μm flux distribution is statistically indistinguishable from that of the 13 SMGS which were robustly identified by both MAMBO and SCUBA.