Base price: $18.
2 – 6 players.
Play time: 15 – 30 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2
Full disclosure: A review copy of Hungry Monkey was provided by Flat River Games.
There’s always some interesting correlation between when I go on a trip and the types of games that I review afterwards. Generally, they skew light, just for the convenience factor. Traveling with heavy games is hard! I tried it just a couple weeks ago and it was deeply messy. A lot of just shuffling games around between suitcases to get right up to that 50 pound weight limit. I mostly did it! But it was a mess. Small games are a bit easier. So some small games it is! Next up is Hungry Monkey, from HeidelBÄR Games, the same folks who published Spicy! Let’s get to it.
In Hungry Monkey, players have one responsibility: collect beans! You do that, here, by having the various animals help you. Play cards, see what happens! Some animals have various effects, but any animal is strongest at four. A Gang of Four can get a lot done. That said, the eponymous primate does even more for you! It’s strong enough to essentially bring any animal to your aid. So gather your hand, try to play all your cards, and see who wins! Will you be able to get the beans first?
First off, shuffle the Animal Cards:
Deal each player three. Then, deal each player four more, creating a row in front of them. Do not look at these four cards! Then, place the Bad Kitty card into the deck, holding it upright next to the deck.
After doing that, you should be ready to start!
Your goal in Hungry Monkey is to run out of cards! You have to play cards to run out, though, so let’s talk about how to do that.
On your turn, you must play one or more cards. You can either play multiple cards of the same type from your hand, flip the top card of the draw pile onto the Animal stack in the center, or eventually play one card from your card row.
When you play a card, you may activate its ability (if it has one). Some force you to take all the cards in the pile, some let you look at your card row, and some even let you take another turn! They’re fun. This happens no matter where you play a card from. You must always play a card of the same value or higher than the top card.
Should you ever play cards such that there are four or more of the same card on top of the deck, you activate a Gang of Four! You remove the entire Animal stack from the game and then take another turn. Hungry Monkey cards are considered identical to the card they duplicate, so they can still activate a Gang of Four.
If you ever cannot play a valid card, or if you reveal the top card of the deck (or a card from your card row) and it’s invalid, you take the entire Animal stack into your hand. Congratulations! You have more cards.
At the end of your turn, draw back to three cards. If the Bad Kitty is revealed, you no longer draw cards! Instead, when you run out of cards in hand, you unlock the ability to play cards from your card row, on your turn. You can play one per turn. The first player to completely run out of cards wins!
Player Count Differences
The biggest one is probably the more obvious one. At lower player counts, there’s some predictability to how the animal pile increases in value, and it tends to be a bit more chaotic at higher player counts. This isn’t really surprising; more players means more cards played across more turns, so your individual turn really doesn’t have a ton of bearing on what card ends up on top of the pile. On the plus side, this just means you’ll probably be flipping over the top card of the pile more frequently, which may work out in your favor or not. You might end up with more cards in hand, or you might get a bit more lucky, depending on what cards end up on top. While this means that the game gets increasingly chaotic with more players, that chaos is always relatively controlled, since there’s only so many card values that can actually be played. As a result, not a huge preference for player count, here; I’ve enjoyed Hungry Monkey with few players and enjoyed it with more.
- Taking the whole card pile pretty early on isn’t the worst idea. I mean, starting off with a variety of useful card options can be great, especially if that means you can play the occasional 2 to swap a high-value card for an unknown card in your card row. That will pay dividends later, assuming you don’t end up with so many cards in hand that you never get to play cards from your card row.
- Honestly, sometimes you just have to flip the card off the top of the deck and hope for the best. If you’re kind of thinking about taking the pile anyways, why not? Especially if you’re just going to take it next turn. It’s not necessarily that much better to wait and get stuck with even more of your opponents’ cards. That said, if you think you can ensure that your opponent gets stuck with the cards, especially later in the game, that’s probably more ideal.
- Keep in mind that sometimes you can just set your opponent(s) up for failure. Playing 9s / 10s is usually a good way to do that. Best-case, you draw out one of your opponent’s Hungry Monkey cards or their 11s; worst-case, you can set them up so that they’re the ones who get stuck pulling all the cards into their hand.
- By the time the Bad Kitty comes out, you really should try to know all the cards in your card row. If you don’t know them, well, then use the cards you do know and hope that you can either take a risk when the card pile is smallest. It’s not really clear that counting cards or something will help that much, unfortunately; there are still so many cards that get removed each game that you’ll likely never know exactly what’s available (especially with so many cards getting played and pulled back and played again).
- Taking a few extra turns can also speed things along. The Mongoose card lets you take an extra turn, which can be a pretty useful thing if you’re looking for certain types of cards to play (or you just want to have a 7 on top of the pile. You can’t do much with it, but it’s not nothing.
- Towards the end of the game, it’s best to keep the card pile lean, just so worst-case you’re not taking on a ton of cards. It’s not usually worth the risk, in my mind, just to guarantee that one player loses. That player might end up being you! So throwing an 11 or a Gang of Four to keep the card pile fairly small isn’t a terrible idea, I think.
- You don’t necessarily need to play a group of cards all at once if you’d rather just use the card abilities one at a time. For the Snakes and Sparrows, for instance, you might want to hold on to them (especially in the early game) so that you can look at or swap out all the cards in your card row. Playing them all at once is fine, but you might miss out on the opportunity to get to use the full extent of their abilities. Playing them as a Gang of Four to remove them from play so that your opponents can’t use it, however; that’s totally fine.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The Gang of Four rule is an interesting way to get rid of the card pile if it gets too tall. I like it, especially because it disincentivizes players playing a lot of the same card over and over. 3s and 2s see a lot of play in my games, for instance, and play enough of them at once and you can remove a whole bunch of cards from the game. Later in the game, it becomes an interesting way to clear the animal stack and then immediately take another turn, which is always good.
- I like the variety of the animal abilities! They do a nice and interesting bunch of different things, from letting you view or change cards in your card row to giving you another turn to clearing the entire animal stack to letting you take the entire Animal stack into your hand. There’s a nice bit of strategy around what cards you want to play when, but the tactical element is dealing with what you draw. A good mix!
- I think the most interesting part of the game is strategizing how you get your face-down card row set up for success. I mean, that’s how you win, in the end, so trying to figure out what cards you have and how to ultimately play them is a fun and interesting strategic problem to solve. I do appreciate that even if you don’t get around to it, you can just flip the cards and hope for the best, though.
- There’s a nice portability to the game. I really like all these small-box card games, though frankly, this is just cards, so even then I don’t totally need to take the boxes; I can just shove all of these into one of my Quivers.
- This is a pretty interesting shedding-adjacent game, since the actual shedding doesn’t matter until the deck is empty. During the game, you’re more just trying to set up your card row until you suddenly can’t draw any more cards. Then, the shedding starts. I think that’s very interesting. At that point, you need to play very strategically to make sure you run out of cards and stay out of cards, which is where things get neat.
- Plays quickly, which is always appreciated. Just a nice and quick little card game, which is always nice.
- The art is a lot of fun! It’s bright and colorful and features a bunch of fun animals; I’m really all about that sort of thing. The game looks great! I particularly like the bold blue of the box. I don’t get to see that color a lot, so it’s appreciated.
- I also generally like Spicy and Hungry Monkey’s method of determining where the Bad Kitty gets placed. It’s so … simple. You just place the Bad Kitty card next to the deck and slide it in at about the spot indicated for your player count. It’s genius, really.
- It’s not entirely clear why you would want to look at someone else’s card row? Beyond, perhaps, trying to strategize around that, but I haven’t seen that work for players. Just an odd use of the Sneaky Snake, I think? I mean, I’d almost always look at my own cards. It’s not like Swift Sparrow lets you swap with them or anything, anyways.
- The multi-game Bean scoring doesn’t really do anything for me? This kind of thing tends not to, though. I kind of understand the motivation behind these kinds of things, but they always read to me as a way to artificially extend the “length” of a game. Hungry Monkey’s core game is already robust enough without needing to pad it out, so I’m a bit confused by why it’s here, really.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I think Hungry Monkey is a blast! For me, it’s nice to have more quick card games with relatively low complexity and overhead to play. What I particularly like about it is that it’s a competitive card game with high player interaction (via the shared central pile) where you can’t really do that much to mess with your opponents beyond trying to make it hard for the next player to play a card. It’s interesting, quick, and easy to teach! As with a lot of these games, I’m not as much for the “here’s how you score multiple games as one game” sort of scoring format; I figure just play as many games as you want, and Hungry Monkey is definitely quick enough that it’s possible to do that with no real issue. There’s probably a place to answer the question of how it compares to Spicy, and the quickest answer is that there really isn’t a comparison! Despite being similar sizes and the same publisher, they have very different energy. Spicy is more of a bluffing game and Hungry Monkey focuses more on your classic card games. If you’re not much for bluffing but you want something quick to play around the table, this is a solid choice. I find the four card row hidden at the start of the game to be an elegant way to finish up, even if the game ends with me watching another player go out while I still have a handful of cards. It’s nice to have to strategically manage what’s in the row or play big and hope for the best. Both strategies work! And there are even more to try, which is why I enjoy Hungry Monkey as much as I do. If you’re looking for a solid, quick card game, you enjoy the more classic shedding-style card games, or you just want to play a card game with fun art and fun animals, I’d definitely recommend checking Hungry Monkey out! I’ve really enjoyed it.
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