Looking for a fast paced Take That romp up a tree? Then maybe it’s time for you to start Monkeying around.

Monkey is a family game where each player is a monkey trying to get to the top of the tree first. But watch out because all the other monkeys are trying to get there too and they will do anything to stop you in your progress. Also there’s a wizard. First one to complete the Treetop Challenge wins.  It’s not easy, but it is ridiculous and fun.

Let’s take a look:

The first thing we have to do is setup the Tree.  Everyone will be climbing the same tree (at least in the base game) so let’s get it built.  Setup is really very easy, you just stack 4 Tree cards to form the Trunk and 3 at the top to form the Treetop.

All monkeys will start at the base of the treetrunk, beside the lowest tree card.  There is also a Tree card deck and a Spell deck (see there is also a crazy Wizard named Kurgill who is out to get you).

So…how do we play?

Every turn you start by drawing a Tree card. There is no hand limit, so you draw every turn. This is important because having a bunch of cards is a good thing. Tree cards are Numbers in blue, yellow, green, red and black.  They range from 1-10, but also have 15s and 20s (which are wild). All this will make sense in a minute.

Next you draw a Spell card.  These are almost always bad, although not always for you. Kurgill is always trying to hinder your progress, so you always draw a spell card. Then you do what the spell card tells you to do. The cards themselves are just pictures, but everyone has a handy reference card and after a couple of times, you’ll know what to do without looking.

After drawing your cards (assuming your turn didn’t end there) you get to spend 2 Action points. You can use these following Actions in any order and any combination:

Use 1 AP to Draw another Tree card from the Deck.  This is always a good option, because basically you will need cards to climb the tree.

Use 1 AP to Attempt to climb the Tree, one Trunk card at a time.

Use 1 AP to set 2 Monkey Traps on other players.

Use 2 AP to Attempt the Treetop Challenge.

Those are your options.  Drawing cards is self explanatory, but let’s look at the others.

When you attempt to climb a Trunk card, you flip over the Trunk card you are currently sitting beside and reveal its number. Here it’s a Black 9.

In order to climb this Trunk card and move to the next highest you must discard cards equal in value to the 9 or multiple cards whose sum is greater than the card, with some restrictions. If a Black number is showing, you can only use Black number cards to defeat it. If any other color is showing, you cannot use THAT color at all. So if a yellow 9 had been the Trunk card, you could use any color other than yellow to defeat it, or any combination of colors. Just not yellow. Wild 20s can always be used. So, here we could use the 10 or the 20 to defeat the 9 card.

Once you have defeated the card you may climb past the Trunk card up to the next one.

Setting Traps. You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you? Remember that part about other players trying to get to the top first? Well, one of your other options is to set Traps on other player’s monkeys. Each player can have up to 4 Traps on their monkey at one time, and you probably will always have at least 1. You can spend 1 AP to set 2 Monkey Traps on your turn. To do this you draw Tree cards and place them on top of the other players Monkey.

So how do Traps work? Well…after someone has defeated a Trunk card (or the Treetop Challenge) you check their Trap cards. If their trap card is an 8 and they used an 8 as part of their challenge, they are caught and do not advance, discarding all cards used in the attempt. If they didn’t use an 8, they dodge the Trap and advance.

So what about the Treetop Challenge? If you make it to the Treetop, you are ready to attempt the Treetop Challenge.

Now you must choose one of the Treetop cards and attempt to beat it just like you did the Trunk cards. You repeat this with both of the other cards. Hopefully you can succeed at all 3 on the same turn. If not you fall back to Trunk 4. If you do succeed, you must now you must check against Kurgill’s final challenge. Draw the top 2 Tree cards and treat them as Traps. If you dodge them you win, if not you fall and must start saving up cards to try again.

It’s not easy to win.

So what do we think?

Monkey is definitely easy to learn and quite a bit of fun. It is billed as a family game and that is true, but it actually has quite a lot of Take That to it as well.

Every time someone finds themselves ahead of the rest of the Monkeys on the Tree, they also find themselves with 4 traps on their backs.  You can’t help this, it’s going to happen. You can mitigate the effect of the traps quite a bit by using only one or two numbers in your combinations to defeat the Trunk cards, especially if you can use 10s or 15s. The wild 20s you kinda want to save until the end of the game if you get one. They are really effective at defeating Treetop cards and since they are very rare (5 total), it is not often that they are trap cards.

The Spell deck is a little less mean, but happens every turn before you get to do any of your actions, so it can be just as devastating. Some are actually helpful like the Banana and the Axe and the Pixie. The Anvil, the Slide and the Gnome are always bad. Then there are the Dynamite, which hurts other players, and the Boxing Gloves which make everyone fight by discarding a card. Even if you win the Boxing Glove fight, you have lost one of your good Tree cards.

Like I said before, this game is not easy to win.  When you first start it, you feel like you are doing well and it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal to win. That’s when the traps start piling up.

One strategy that I tried a couple of times was to save up cards until I thought I had enough, and try to climb 2 Trunk sections in one turn.  This way, I would be ready to defeat any card that came up and any Traps would go away after the first attempt, allowing me to advance twice. It works some times, but as soon as you do advance, you can bet you will have traps on your back by the time it’s your turn again. But, like I said earlier, Traps are going to happen.

The rules say ages 6 and up, which is probably about as young as I would try it. The game can be a bit frustrating if it goes on too long, especially to younger kids. But it is not just a kids game. The artwork on the cards is cartoony and fun, but adults will have just as much of a good time as the kids.

Overall it’s pretty fun, and the game is really compact, which I love, since I can take it anywhere. If you don’t mind the Take That aspect, your family will have a great time with this one. If they are in the least bit mean, they will have an even better time. They may not be talking afterwards, but they will probably want to play again soon.


Monkey was sent to us by Birdlight Games in exchange for an honest review, which is exactly what we provided.