Game Overview: Battle to be the first monkey to climb to the top of the tree in this push your luck family friendly card game.  You will compete with the other players by knocking their monkey further down the tree by setting and dodging traps played directly on each monkey or onto the tree itself.  Each turn will introduce a spell card that may either help you or cause havoc in the game.  Be the first monkey to make it to the top of the tree and you will face one final battle against Kurgill the Wizard.  Beat him and be declared the winner.

Box Contents: A small box that doesn't take up much space.  Three separate decks of cards (characters cards, tree cards, and spell cards) are included along with the rules manual.  For the most part, the art on the cards is simplistic, but works well for the purpose of the game.  The monkey cards and Kurgill the Wizard card are very detailed and our favorite cards in the game.   

Clarity of Rules: The 10 page manual does an excellent job at explaining the game and providing directions on the different variations that you will find.  There are multiple sample pictures provided to ensure the game rules are understood.

Game Play:  For the basic game, after the tree cards have been shuffled you place four cards face down in a single line, which represent the tree trunk.  Three additional cards are also placed face down around the top of the trunk, for the tree top.  Three tree cards are dealt to each player, these are your  starting cards and will have a colored number on them..  Each player places their monkey next to the bottom of the tree trunk, which is the bottom card.  There are three steps to a player's turn.  You first draw the top card of the tree deck into your hand.  You next flip over the top card from the spell deck and perform the actions associated with that card.  You will find eight different types of cards in the spell deck.

  • Anvil (x2)- The anvil falls on your head and you lose the rest of your turn.

  • Axe (x4)-  You can replace any tree trunk or tree top card with the top card from the tree deck or you can discard a single trap card that is in play.

  • Banana (x4)-  Draw an additional tree deck card into your hand.

  • Dynamite (x3)- The player to your left randomly discards a card from your hand.

  • Faerie (x3)- Peek at any tree card currently in play.

  • Slide (x1)- Your monkey falls down one position on the tree but still gets to take the rest of their turn.

  • Boxing Gloves (x4)- Each player must place a card from their hand face down.  When revealed, the card with the lowest number falls down one spot on the tree  All cards used in the fight are discarded.

  • Gnome (x1)- You fall down one position on the tree and get 2 traps assigned to your monkey.  You immediately end your turn.  You also shuffle all spell cards back into the deck to reset it.  When will the Gnome return?

Finally, if you have not lost your turn you get to take two actions. Spend one action to draw another card from the tree deck, attempt to climb up one spot on the tree, or set a trap.  In addition, you can spend both actions to attempt the tree top challenge.

When you are ready to climb the tree, you flip over the tree card for everyone to see.  You must play cards from your hand until they exceed the number that was found on the tree card.  One very important rule of the game is that color matters.  You can not use a card from your hand that matches the color that is found on the tree trunk/tree top card.  There is one exception.  If a black number is found on the tree, you can only use cards with black numbers or wild cards worth 20 that ignore the color requirements.  If you are able to exceed the number on the card in play, you move up one spot on the tree and discard the cards you played.  If you can't beat the card, you fall down one spot on the tree but keep your cards.  Whether you beat the card or not, the card on the tree is then turned face down again and all players need to remember what card is there, to know if they can beat it.     

When choosing to set a trap, you can place cards face down underneath a tree trunk card or under one of the monkeys attempting to climb up the tree.  When you are successful climbing up a tree and a trap exists, you then flip over the trap(s).  If the number on the card matches any of the cards you played, color does not matter, then you do not advance up the tree.  Whether you are successful or not, when resolving the trap cards, they are discarded.

When you are ready to use both of your movement actions to take the tree top challenge, you must beat all three cards in a row.  If you fail on one, you remain at the top most spot on the tree, just below the tree top.  If you do succeed, one final challenge awaits you.  Kurgill the Wizard has set a trap for you.  You must turn over the top two cards of the tree deck.  If the numbers match any of the cards you played, you have failed and must remain on the top spot of the tree and will need to try again on your next turn.

Replay Ability: You will find more replay ability here than what you may expect.  No two games will be alike with the tree cards and spell cards coming up different each time.  In addition, being able to play solo up to four players allows you multiple ways to play the game, no matter how many people are available.  There are multiple options to play the game as well.  You can share the same tree or have a variation where each person has their own trunk but share the top of the tree.  Kick up the difficulty by playing directly against Kurgill the Wizard as he tries to be the first to climb the tree.  Finally move up to the insane mode where no faeries or banana cards are allowed. 

Appropriate Audience: The suggested age of 6+ seems appropriate.  As it is, there is no reading involved with the game.  However, a younger child does need to know their numbers up to 20.

What We Liked/Didn't Like: This game has been a hit for our family.  It keeps everyone involved, even when it is not your turn as you need to pay attention to the spell cards and the tree cards that you haven't seen yet.  As the spell deck gets smaller and smaller and the Gnome hasn't been seen yet, it really kicks up the anticipation when the next card is turned over.  The only complaint we had on the game was having to use the rules manual to figure out the results of the spell cards.  Eventually you learn them after playing the game multiple times.  It would have been nice to either have the text on the spell card or a player guide card that lists each of the spell cards. 

  * A prototype review copy was provided to us.  The contents of the game or rules may change with future releases.  Our review is based upon the game that we received and also take into consideration changes that the game designer noted to us that were not present in the review copy.