Cheeky Monkey

Cheeky Monkey is what they call a “press your luck” game (similar in its pres-your-luckness to perhaps the archetype of all press your luckish games, the most significantly Major FUN Can’t Stop, both of which, coincidentally, are published by Face 2 Face Games). It’s easy to learn, and can be played with actually equal glee by both children (7 and up) and adults. Hence making it something like an ideal family game, but an equally good children’s game and an even more equally recommended party game.

You get a collection of 52 poker-chip-like tokens, 8 “bonus tiles” (made of satisfyingly thick cardboard), and an even more satisfyingly thick cloth, drawstring bag. There are eight different animals depicted on the chips. Some animals are more numerous than others. For example, there are 10 monkeys but only 3 elephants. There is one tile for each animal, and the total number of of each kind of animal is indicated on the corresponding tile. The eight tiles are placed, face up on the table, and the chips placed in the bag.

On your turn, you pick and pick and pick chips from the bag, until you want to stop picking, or you pick an animal that you’ve already drawn. In the first case, you keep all the chips you drew. In the second, they go back into the bag – that’s right, all of them. You are, of course, sorely tempted to keep on picking. Hence, the press-your-luckishness of the game.

When you have finished picking, you stack your chips, in any order you deem strategically beneficial. On your next turn, you add your winnings, again in any order, but you can’t change the order of the chips you’ve already stacked. The relevance of stacking order becomes especially vivid during play, when you discover that if someone picks an animal that is currently on top of your stack, you must relinquish said animal to the aforementioned someone. This is a clearly less than desirable outcome for you, as the player with the most chips at the end of the game wins.

Then there are the monkeys, those cheeky critters, which, upon pickage, can also be swapped with any animal on top of anyone’s stack.

As play progresses and stacks heighten, the strategic implications of stack order and animal distribution become ever more vivid. Seeing as there are only 3 elephants, for example, if you know that the other 2 elephants are already stacked, you can just about secure your stack if you place an elephant on top – that is, as long as no one picks a money and decides to employ it in a cheeky manner.

Yet another game by the prolific designer Reiner Knizia, Cheeky Monkey is further evidence of what good game design is all about. Major FUN.

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