Cheeky Monkey has all the hallmarks of a Knizia classic, simple but engrossing game play - easy to understand rules, design elegance and a thinly painted on theme. It is an excellent filler that plays for 10-15 minutes and between 2-6 players. It is slightly pricey if you are focusing just on the components but in terms of fun value and game play it is cheap at twice the price.
The long version:
Cheeky Monkey is a fairly simple push your luck game by Reiner Knizia, the designer who has brought us more great games than anyone else. This certainly doesn't compare to some of his deeper games such as Ra or Samurai but it isn't aimed to compete with such classics, it is instead aimed to be a great little filler, a job that it succeeds well at.
With Cheeky Monkey you get 4 things:
A. 52 tiles which look like fairly thin poker chips with a sticker depicting an animal in the distributions below:
B. 8 cardboard mats (think beer coaster in size and shape) one for each of the animals. Each has educational information about the animal on the back and the number of the tiles for that animal printed on the front (i.e. the Elephant has a 3 on it)
C. A Cloth bag to draw the tiles from.
D. A Box to store the game in...
The aim of the game is to get the most points. These can be gathered in two ways. Firstly you score 1 point for each tile you have at the end of the game. Secondly if at the end of the game you have the majority of tiles for a particular animal you get to take the cardboard mat for that animal and score the number of points on the mat (The same as the number of tiles of that kind).
The animal mats are put in the center of the table and ordered from highest to lowest. The tiles are placed in the bag. Starting player is determined in some form (personally I like starting with the player who most looks like a monkey...)
Each player draws a tile from the bag. If the animal matches the animal on top of someone else's stack then they may take that tile and put it in front of them with the drawn tile (They can take multiple tiles by taking tiles from more than one player or by the top tile being removed to reveal an identical tile they can then pilfer). If the animal drawn is a monkey then the player may either steal the other monkeys as per usual or they can take any other animal they want from the top of another persons stack and replace it with the monkey.
They then decide whether they want to take another tile. If they do then they draw again. If they have drawn the same tile as one of those already gained this turn then their turn is over and all the tiles they have gathered (even those they have taken off other people's stacks) go back into the bag. If it is a different tile then they steal others identical tiles as before and decide whether they want to draw again.
If they choose not to draw again they place all the tiles they have gathered in a stack in front of them (on the first turn, in subsequent turns they add to their existing stack). They can place the new tiles in any order onto the stack.
Then the next player draws a tile and so on, the game ends when the last tile is drawn from the bag..
This is a nice game which mixes pushing your luck (drawing further tiles) with memory (recalling who has the most of which tiles) and a wee bit of strategic/tactical decision making (should you use that monkey to pick up a different tile? When is a good point to stop drawing? What order should you stack your winnings in?). It isn't a terribly deep game but it is quick, fun and definitely replayable. Light enough for a child to enjoy, deep enough for a gamer to be engaged.
The only complaint I would have are about the quality of the components. Though they will last for ever they are fairly cheaply produced. A bit more variation in the colors wouldn't have gone astray especially having two shades of blue and two of green makes it that much harder to spot that someone else has a tile that you have just drawn.
Nonetheless, classic Knizia and hopefully this nice little filler doesn't get lost in the steady flow of games from Knizia. I give it a 7/10 overall as a game, as a quick filler it is a clear 9/10.
for the photos used in this review.