Introducing Cheeky Monkey

My 9 year old son is a cheeky monkey. He also happens to love monkeys. So when we were selecting a plush-toy critter from the Webkinz family for him last year, the choice was easy: their Cheeky Monkey. I'm not making this up, that's what it's actually called! My son named his Cheeky Monkey: Banana Split. So Banana Split the Cheeky Monkey joined our family, and my son dragged him around everywhere.

Given the prominent place of Cheeky Monkey in our home, you can imagine our surprise when we discovered that Knizia had designed a press your luck game for children, called ... Cheeky Monkey! Here you see all three Cheeky Monkeys:



But now what's this on the side of the box? Apparently my son wasn't the only one who liked playing with cheeky monkeys as a kid!



So when our cheeky monkey son was celebrating his 9th birthday recently, we couldn't make a better choice than to de-shrink and get onto the table Knizia's Cheeky Monkey! Knizia? For kids? With animals? And press-your-luck? Bring it on!



Game box

The game features eight different animals, but clearly the star is Mr Knizia's cheeky monkey. Mr Knizia must also have one of these Webkinz plush toy monkeys that he takes with him to bed each night, just like my son does. He also must have insisted that the cover art people give the cheeky monkey a pride of place on the box cover, as you can see here:



Let's check the back of the box. Sadly there's no photo of Mr Knizia in his pyjamas, cuddling his cheeky monkey in his bed, even though we all know that this must be an important part of Mr Knizia's bed-time routine.



But there is some helpful information about the game: 2 to 6 players. Ages 7 and up. 15 minutes play time. Cheeky monkeys and other zoo animals. Hours of fun for wise old elephants and young pups. Sounds good to me! Let's get that box open!



Inside we find:

● 52 animal tokens (showing 8 animals)
● 8 bonus tiles (one for each animal)
● 1 bag
● rules

Rulebook

The rule book is short and sweet:



What you see here is half the explanation of how to play the game! The BGG description for the game says the following:

"There are eight sets of animals. A chip represents each animal. All the chips are placed in the bag. A player may draw chips until one chooses to stop. The player adds the chips, in any order, to one’s own stack. If a player draws a the same animal twice in the same turn all the chips return to the bag and the player’s turn passes. If a player draws a monkey, one of ten in the game, a player may swap the monkey for the top chip in any player’s stack. The game is over when the last chip is drawn from the bag. Any individual who has the most chips of any animal receives bonus points. The player with the most points wins."

Is it really that simple? I read it through again and had to admit: yep, it's really that simple! No wonder kids catch on that quickly! But first let's check out the components a little more carefully

Components: Animal Tokens and Bag

So we know there are cheeky monkeys, but what other animals do we get? The game comes with 52 tokens which correspond to 8 different animals:



The animal tokens really are rather nice, they are crafted from solid plastic and have a feel that reminds me of quality poker chips. There's a good choice of different animals, solid artwork, and bright colours. Distribution of the animal tokens is on a sliding scale from 3 to 10 (corresponding, actually, to the bonus tiles):
3x Elephant
4x Walrus
5x Giraffe
6x Zebra
7x Kangaroo
8x Wild Pig
9x Hyena
10x Cheeky Monkey



Since the animal tokens need to be selected randomly, there's also a quality cloth drawstring bag for drawing tokens from:



Components: Bonus Tiles

There are eight bonus tiles, one corresponding to each animal.



The numbers on these tiles indicate the amount of animal tokens corresponding to that tile, as well as the points that having a majority of that animal will win.

The bright crisp artwork on the bonus tiles matches the artwork on the animal tokens.



As an extra bonus, the reverse side of the tiles contains information about the animal in question, its habitat, or other special qualities.



A nice educational addition to the game! But my favorite cheeky monkey is telling me to get on with explaining how the game works!

Game-play: Flow of Play

Set-up

All the animal tokens are mixed in the bag. The 8 bonus tiles are placed face up, and you're ready to start. Told you this was easy!

A player's turn

Players take turns in clockwise order. The aim is to collect animal tokens, and be the player with the most animal tokens of a particular animal in order to score points. So on your turn you will try to draw as many animals as you can without drawing the same animal twice. So the first thing you do each turn is: Draw an animal token from the bag.



Did you draw an animal token that matches a token you've already drawn this turn? If so, your turn ends, and all the tokens you've drawn this turn go back into the bag! Too bad chum!



If the token is different from the ones you've already drawn this turn, then if you wish you can end your turn, and add the tokens you've drawn (in your preferred order) to your personal pile of animal tokens. Or should you press your luck and try to get more animals? The decision, my friend, is yours! Sometimes you'll want to play conservatively and end your turn soon, but on other occasions you'll want to take risks to try to get more animal tokens!

That's the basic flow of the game, but there's also a small Knizia screw-your-neighbour twist that adds to the fun:

Did you draw an animal token that matches the token on top of another player's stack? If so, you get to take that player's animal token and add it to the tokens you've drawn this turn! In the game pictured below, Junior drew a Wild Pig, and since there was a Wild Pig on the top of my personal stack of tokens, he could steal the Wild Pig from the top of my stack!



Did you draw a cheeky monkey? If so, you have a choice between two options:
1. You can claim any matching monkey token(s) from the top of other players' stacks as usual. OR:
2. You can also be a cheeky monkey and swap the monkey token with any animal that's on the top of one of your opponents' stacks! Now that's cheeky!



Decide: end your turn, or keep playing by drawing another animal token. Now you'll have to decide whether to end your turn by putting the tokens you drawn onto the top of your personal pile, or whether to take a risk and draw another token!



Securing an animal herd: There's also one special rule about being able to put animal tokens in front of you straight to the bottom of your permanent stack if all the animal tokens in front of you are of the same type. But we've usually found we'd rather keep drawing more tokens than play conservatively and put just two animal tokens under our stack!

Game-play: Scoring

End of Game Scoring

When the supply of animal tokens in the bag is exhausted, the game ends. Points are awarded as follows:
1. Points for animal tokens: 1 point each
2. Points for bonus tiles: points listed on tile
Here's how to award the bonus tiles: all players count how many of each animal they have, and the player who has the most tokens of any particular animal, gets that bonus tile (in the event of a tie, nobody gets the bonus tile).

Here's an example from a three player game:
1. 16 points for 16 animal tokens
2. 25 points for the four bonus tiles (as a result of having more elephants, giraffes, hyenas, and wild pigs than any other player)
Total: 41 points!



Variants

The rules also come with a few variants for younger players. For example, scoring can be altered to make the winner be the player with the tallest stack of animal tokens at the end. You can also make the game shorter and simpler by removing the hyena and wild pig tokens, and removing the Cheeky Monkey rule that lets a player swap a monkey token for another animal.



What do I think?

Sound easy? That's because it is! Kids love the bright colours and the animals, and have no problems learning the game. I find that a press-your-luck factor always adds a degree of fun to a game, and that's also the case here. Being able to steal the top token from the pile of others is a "take-that" mechanic that adds fun and hilarity without being too mean, and its effect can be negated by making careful decisions about which animal tile to place on top of your stack. Since the distribution of animal tiles varies, there's some basic probability and statistics that comes into play, which children will catch on to fairly quickly ("There's not much chance you'll get another elephant to steal the one that's on the top of my pile, because there are only three in the game and I already have two of them!"), and adults will find stimulating. This is a really, really good game for families with children that plays quickly, and has a great fun factor. It reminds me a little of Knizia's Circus Flohcati, but it's just done better. The great part is that even little kids can play and catch on, because there's no reading required, and yet it's satisfying for the older folks too. Don't be fooled by the fact that it looks like a kids game - adults will enjoy the elements of push-your-luck, risk management, and mild screw-your-neighbour! And there are enough interesting decisions, such as whether or not to press your luck, how to use your cheeky monkey token, and in what order to place the tiles you've won that turn onto your stack.



What do others think?

Cheeky Monkey won't scratch the Agricola itch for hardcore gamers, but almost everyone can have fun with this game. Clearly I'm not the only person who thinks this is a great game that works well for families or as a quick filler:

"Awesome press-your-luck filler. Simple mechanics but has some dynamic excitement. I think this game can fill a similar niche for me as For Sale does." - Jim Paprocki
"Quick and fun, especially with a lot of players. Best filler ever!" - Rich Lau
"This game is fun for people of all ages - simple to understand, just enough luck, just enough strategy." - Lisa Goldthwaite
"Still enjoying this game after 19 plays. " - David G.
"My favorite "Push Your Luck" game, enough strategy and choices, and plays in about 25. mins." - Blake Crawford
"Cute little press your luck Knizia game played with poker chips with animals on them." - Missy Jones
"Very cute and quick. Can't Stop-ish with a lot more theme." - Marissa Shipp
"A light filler that is a great, quick treat at the end of a meal of heavier fare. Although a simple set collection game with only basic decision making and a push-your-luck mechanic, this game always generates laughter and is just plain fun. The quick playing time also means the simple mechanics never over stay their welcome." - Kevin Moore
" You wouldn't think a game that's solely about drawing poker chips from a bag could be any fun, but it is! The push-your-luck mechanism combined with the stealing mechanism makes this one great for a quick filler." - Chad Krizan
"This is such a simple little filler, and it probably doesn't deserve a rating of 8/10, but it's just plain fun. It's been getting a lot of play around here and everyone has loved it. Highly recommended filler." - Kane K.
"A wonderful push-your-luck game!" - Diane Close


Many also remark that it's a great mix of Circus Flohcati and Pickomino, so if you enjoy those games, definitely take a close look at this!



What does my Cheeky Monkey think?

I asked my 9 year old Cheeky Monkey to get his opinion on the game.



Q. What do you like most about the game?
A. It has facts about the animals on the back. That way you can learn about animals.

Q. What do you like least about the game?
A. I don't know. Nothing really.

Q. What do you think about the components?
A. That it has pictures on the tokens instead of just words - if there were words, it would be harder for younger children, and it looks nicer with animals.

Q. Is the game all luck, or are there decisions you can you make?
A. You do get some choices, about if you do the Cheeky Monkey rule or not, and if you keep drawing tiles or if you stop.

Q. Do you have any favourite strategies to recommend?
A. Usually use the Cheeky Monkey rule, where you can trade the Cheeky Monkey with an animal from the top of your opponent's stack.

Q. Who would you recommend this game for?
A. For younger people, older people would like it but not as much as younger.

Q. What kind of expansion would you add to this game, or how could it be improved?
A. That instead of going 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3, the animal bonus tiles would go to 1. The extra animals would be emus and lions.

Q. What does Banana Split your cheeky monkey think about this game?
A. He thinks its very fun to watch!

Q. Why do you like cheeky monkeys?
A. Because I'm cheeky.

Q. How are you a cheeky monkey?
A. I don't really know, mom always says I'm cheeky!

The final word

Is Cheeky Monkey for you? There's room in virtually everyone's game library for a small filler that plays quickly, is fun to play with all ages including young children, has good components, and generates laughter and excitement when it is played. I don't care if it means that Mr Knizia takes stuffed toy monkeys with him to bed, because if he keeps producing games like this, he is welcome to as many cheeky monkeys as he likes!



Edit: corrected scoring information, as suggested by Michael Deacon

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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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montag 66
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One of our family favorites! My 6 and 4 year old kids love this game. They are also quite cheeky...coincidence?
 
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Jeff Myers
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Excellent review!

Cheeky Monkey was a big hit with my family as well.
 
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Michael Deacon
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Great review!

This game has been successful with family members and friends who don't regularly play games.

Also I'd add that at the end of the game each animal token is worth 1 point each which is then added to your score from the bonus tiles.
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Carol Jones
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I can't imagine a more complete or interesting game review. Great job. Thanks for the quote nod.
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Krishna Sampath
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This is a totally awesome review. I appreciate your interview with your son for an added perspective on the game. Looks like quite a fun filler!

-K
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John Owen
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Seven years later, your cheeky monkey must be 15 or 16 now. Pretty crazy, huh? I hope that he still has that stuffed monkey!

I posted a photo of my oldest daughter, now 14, here on the 'geek back in '08. I still like visiting that pic every once in a while, and this post reminded me of it. I rarely take pictures while gaming. Maybe I should do it more often. https://boardgamegeek.com/image/313209/giro-galoppo

Thanks for all of your reviews. They are always enjoyed and appreciated.

(My younger kids had shredded our Cheeky Monkey rulebook and I needed a quick rules refresher--on stuff like the swapping--after not playing in a year. This review did the trick!) :-)
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trawlerman wrote:
Seven years later, your cheeky monkey must be 15 or 16 now. Pretty crazy, huh? I hope that he still has that stuffed monkey!
Thanks for your post John. He's now 16 and learning to drive ... but he still has his stuffed monkey!
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