Unplugged: Monkey Business (Boardgame)

Monkey Business is a bit of a mash-up of the classic games of charades (where you pantomime something) and werewolf (where you’re trying to discover the odd person out in the mix. All but one player (or all but two, if there’s more than 6 players) are given the same activity to perform while the odd ones out, the “scammers” have to just play it by ear to cover up the fact that they don’t know what they should be doing. After a few moments of acting, players then all must accuse a player to be the “scammer” – the one who was just copying everyone else. Players who are correct keep their card, scammers win half of the remaining cards. After six rounds of play the game ends and the player with the most cards is the winner. Monkey Business is a fun little party game that gets people moving. It won’t carry an entire evening of gaming but is good for a short distraction, perhaps to loosen up a group of people who may be taking themselves too seriously.


Monkey Business
Publisher: Add-A-Game
Players: 4-12
Ages: 8+
Time: 15 min
(review copy provided by publisher)

To set up the game, each player is dealt a colored card from a set of 12. Each card has the same list of 36 different possible activities. Well, all the cards except for two. Those two cards are just filled with various declarations that you are the scammer for this rond. To pick an activity, a red and blue die are rolled. Players look up the matching numbers (a red 4 and blue 6, for example) on their card and prepare. After a countdown, everyone acts out the activity listed on their card, except for the scammers who desperately try to cover up the fact that they have no idea what they should be doing. After a short period of acting, everyone stops. Another short countdown is performed, finishing with every player pointing to the player they think is the scammer. A correct prediction lets a player keep their card, while incorrect predictions cost a player their card, which is placed in the center of the table. Unless everyone correctly accuses the scammer the scammer keeps their card a well a half of any cards placed into the middle. In the case of two scammers, the scammer with fewer accusations takes the other scammer’s card and then cards in the middle are split evenly between them. After six rounds (there are six sets of cards with the same colored backing) the player(s) with the most cards win the game.

As far as party games go, Monkey Business is better for a short break between other games, rather than as the capstone game of an evening. As with many party games, this claims to work well with 4 to 12 players, but I think it doesn’t really start to shine until you get to 6 or so. At that point, you start to get a good amount of craziness occurring. While the game says you are supposed to add in a second scammer card with player counts of 7 or more, I’d probably push that down to six. Having that second card around means that the scammers can’t even trust all the other players – they just might be trying to copy a player who also has no clue. The game also suggests it can be played with more by sorting people into teams, which I think is a pretty good feature.

One downside of the game is that some of the clues are clearly more difficult to infer than others. “Go Bowling” is probably going to be easier than “Peel a banana“ which will be easier than “Search for a network connection”, “Say words that rhyme with O”, or “Stand absolutely still.” It is a party game, however, so that may just be left as luck of the cards. Having more than one scammer and/or playing the game with teams makes it just that much harder for the scammer(s) to pull off the lie. This is a good thing, especially in those clues that are more easily copied by the scammer(s).

One minor quibble, the game box declares “A mime game with a twist” but the rules say nothing about (for or against) making noises. If there are clues that say “speak in rhyme”, clearly making noises is sometimes expected. It will be important to establish the guidelines before starting the game.

While it won’t dethrone some of my favorite party games, Monkey Business is very portable (it’s just a deck of cards and two dice) and a good game as a palate cleanser between other party games during an extended evening of gaming.

Kid Factor
This game should work pretty well down to the recommended age of 8+. They’ll obviously need to be able to read the card. However, some of the activities may be trickier to identify with. “Snap your fingers” may not be difficult, but “Dance like Michael Jackson” might be too dated for the younger set. While almost all the clues seem fairly family-friendly, I did find at least one, “do a strip-tease” that could be edgy for some settings.

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