21 February 2023
A solid system and a few tweaks
Sometimes you thumb through a rulebook and find yourself thinking, ‘Oh, no!’
And your reaction and the resulting play experience correlate. Thankfully that’s not the case with Hungry Monkey.
My initial misgivings were due to the games unnerving similarity to the classic card game beloved by students everywhere, 'Shithead', and while it cleaves pretty closely to that classic format it makes a couple of tweaks that makes it a surprise for a Shithead veteran like me and ensures a fun time for those new to the system.
Players are dealt three hand cards and four face-down cards in front of them. Cards are played to the centre of the table with the requirement that they be higher than the previous card played. They then draw back up to three hand cards. This proceeds until the draw deck is empty.
Once this happens a race begins to get rid of all of their hand cards so they can play the face down cards in front of them. First to do this wins.
The bite in a game of popular traditional card game ‘Shithead’ and subsequently, Hungry Monkey, is that if you can’t beat the active card you have to take the whole stack of played cards into your hand. Forcing this onto your opponents is the heart of any game using this system.
Special cards abound in the original game and this iteration. They break the rules and give you benefits. Most of them are standard ‘Shithead’ fare but the 1 card presents a delicious challenge. 1 will go on anything but you then have to take all of the cards that aren’t 1s into your hand so looking down and seeing your beautiful hand of cards clogged up with 1s is a problem that is great fun to solve.
Designer Erik Andersson Sunden has also introduced a ‘Hail Mary’ element to the game that is very enjoyable. If you can’t beat the active card you can choose to play blind from the draw deck. This brings the lightness of chance into the game and also some tasty schadenfreude.
All in all Hungry Monkey takes a solid system and introduces tweaks that make it perfect for fans of rudely named classics and those who have no idea about them at all.
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: Erik Andersson Sundén
Publisher: HeidelBÄR Games
Time: 15-30 minutes
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