Moogoo Monkey

Giuseppi playing Moogoo Monkey on the river boat
This is where Giuseppi spends a good 80% of The Urbz.

Giuseppi is a big fan of games, especially games that involve winning money from his skills in reading his opponents, weighing probabilities, and maintaining a pokerface - or as he calls it, a "Moogoo Monkey face". Moogoo Monkey is a card game mini-game featured in The Urbz that is kinda like a cross between poker, horse racing, cockfighting - but all somewhat sanitized and instead themed around monkeys. In any case, Moogoo Monkey is perfect for our favorite "shady guy". Giuseppi spends a lot of his time playing this game at the riverboat casino, and he is skilled enough at it that he considers it his best career opportunity in Miniopolis. Moogoo Monkey can also be unlocked in The Sims 2 for DS in the Strangetown hotel's Snake-Eyes Casino, which is another location where Giuseppi spends a lot of his time, as if he's there waiting for you to meet the esoteric conditions that will let his favorite game become available to play.

The game

The premise of the game is described in The Sims 2 like this:

Which monkeys will survive? Bet coconuts and play a card. When all monkeys have a card beneath them, the monkey with the lowest card is eliminated! The game ends when 3 monkeys remain. The player with the most fruit wins.

This description doesn't help a whole lot because it is very brief and it wastes most of its few words emphasizing that you are playing with fruit, not money, this is definitely not gambling, please don't rate this game "M for Mature".

Moogoo Monkey from The Urbz

So, to explain the game in a bit more detail, there are six monkeys, and you want to play cards so that the monkeys you bet on survive, while your rivals' favored monkeys get eliminated.

The game starts with everyone placing a single bet on a monkey of their choice. You use coconut tokens for your bets, while the other players get watermelon or pineapple tokens. Then each player is dealt a hand of five cards and play goes around in turns.

Each turn, three things happen:

  1. First, you place a bet on a monkey. A monkey cannot have more than four bets on it, so later in the game, you might need to place your bet on a monkey simply because it has space open for another bet, even if you don't particularly want to bet on that monkey.
  2. After placing your bet, you then play a card from your hand onto a monkey. The numbered cards are each associated with a particular monkey - you can only play an orange-monkey card on the orange monkey. You can override a card that was played on a monkey earlier by playing a new card on top of the old card. There are also some special cards that do special things, some of which can be played on any monkey. For example, the Gorilla is a wildcard that counts as zero, and the Rainbow Gibbon scrambles the values of the monkeys.
  3. After placing your card, you draw a new one from the deck to again have five cards in your hand.

Fanart by Denise
Fanart by Denise

As play goes around, the players put cards on the monkeys, and the number value on each monkey goes up and down. When the game reaches a point where all the monkeys have a card on them and there is a monkey with the lowest number value (without a tie), that lowest monkey is eliminated. Any bets on the eliminated monkey are lost. The cards are cleared from the monkeys, and the players resume placing their bets and playing their cards on the remaining monkeys. If the deck runs out of cards, you continue playing with the cards left in your hand. The game continues until there are only three monkeys left or when everyone is completely out of cards (a state dubbed "stale bananas"). At that point, the bets are tallied, and the winner is the one with the most bets on the surviving monkeys.

You can strategize in this game based on which monkeys you think will survive to the end. You can predict how well you will be able to protect or eliminate certain monkeys based on the cards in your own hand, and you can read the other player's moves to guess which monkeys they are trying to protect or eliminate. You can try to place your bets to piggyback along with another player's best interests or you can play a card to attempt to disrupt your rivals' goals. The version of Moogoo Monkey in The Sims 2 allows up to three local human players to play the game against each other by passing the Nintendo DS around, and especially playing against other humans lets the depth of Moogoo Monkey's gameplay shine.

The name

If "Moogoo" is not entirely a nonsense word, we wonder if it is a corrupted version of the American slang "bookoo" which itself is a corrupted version of the French word "beaucoup" as learned by American soldiers from the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. Denise has only ever heard this slang in the movie Fern Gully, but it is apparently still in use around New Orleans, possibly due to its French roots. New Orleans being the model of Miniopolis, that's probably the deal. That means the name of the game is something like Extremely Monkey. Majorly Monkey. So Many Monkeys!

Gameplay origins

Grand National Derby

The gameplay of Moogoo Monkey seems to have been inspired by Grand National Derby, a 1996 board game by Reiner Knizia. Grand National Derby is modeled after betting in a horse race: players place their bets and the cards that they put on each horse represent the horses' speeds in the race. The slowest horses fall behind and get eliminated until the three winning horses are determined. The players who bet on the first, second, and third place horses score based on their bets.

Reiner Knizia made revisions of the same basic idea as Grand National Derby in later board games, such as Colossal Arena, in which the players bet on which monsters will survive in a fantasy-themed arena free-for-all. We think this game might have had an influence on Moogoo Monkey as well, given the implication that the monkeys seem to be fighting for survival, plus a rule update (a tie for lowest place in Grand National Derby means that the horse furthest to the left is eliminated, whereas, in Colossal Arena, play continues until there is a single loser each round - which is how it goes in Moogoo Monkey).

We suspect that Moogoo Monkey was originally intended to be more like Grand National Derby and Colossal Arena, but changed to avoid copyright infringement, and also to tone down the similarities with real-life gambling and real-life cockfighting. The poker, horse racing, cockfighting aspects make sense for a game based on New Orleans: New Orleans has many casinos, including casinos in docked riverboats; the New Orleans Fairgrounds are home to the Louisiana Derby horse race; and, as of when The Urbz came out in 2004, cockfighting was still legal there (Louisiana was the last US state to ban the sport, in 2007). However, people in the United States generally view all of these activities as having some level of shadiness - making them perfect for "shady guy" Giuseppi. Perhaps even too perfect... if the developers wanted to keep the rating under M for Mature, it seems they needed to sanitize this mini-game to hell.

Unfortunately, these changes mean that the premise of Moogoo Monkey has become kinda lost and now it all just seems kinda random. What even are we supposed to be imagining as the premise of Moogoo Monkey? Why are we betting on monkeys? Why are we increasing or decreasing the number of bananas? Why are we betting with coconuts and fruit? Why are monkeys getting eliminated? Why does the gameplay stop when there are specifically three remaining monkeys?

While Grand National Derby and Colossal Arena might have been inspirations for Moogoo Monkey, Moogoo Monkey does have some gameplay aspects that differentiate it from the earlier games. The rules of Grand National Derby have an added wrinkle that bets made earlier in the race are worth more, but Moogoo Monkey simplifies this detail. Colossal Arena gives each monster special powers that their backers can harness, but in Moogoo Monkey all the different colored monkeys are functionally the same and have no abilities. Moogoo Monkey also has the addition of special cards that could not easily exist in a physical board game, such as the question mark cards that represent an unknown value until after they are played, and the Rainbow Gibbon that scrambles the numbers for each monkey. Also, while Grand National Derby involves betting on eight horses and has cards for each horse numbered 0 to 9, Moogoo Monkey involves betting on six monkeys and has cards for each monkey numbered 1 to 7, with the zero being a special wild card.

Playing Moogoo Monkey in real life

The implementation of Moogoo Monkey in The Sims 2 for DS gives the option for multiple human players to play the same game against each other by passing the Nintendo DS around to each take their turn. Being able to play the game against each other that way made us realize just how fun and deep of a game it is to play, and we wanted to be able to play it ourselves with real cards.

First, for a test, we used cards we already have. Moogoo Monkey has six monkeys to bet upon, so it essentially has cards of six different suits. To get six suits, we used Ace through Seven of Diamonds, Spades, Hearts, and Clubs from a French-suited poker deck, and we added in Ace through Seven of Coins and Swords from a Neapolitan deck (which is a deck commonly used in southern Italy; Rosy being southern Italian, these were the cards she used the most growing up, with the French-suited deck being nearly non-existent during her childhood). We added two Jokers from the poker deck to serve as the zero "bombs". And we used poker chips instead of the coconut, watermelon, and pineapple tokens.

We played Denise versus Rosy versus us both roleplaying as Giuseppi, who kept his cards face-up on the table. We put Rosy's leather jacket on a pillow in the chair to give him physical presence.

Giuseppi Pillow playing paper Moogoo Monkey

This version of Moogoo Monkey worked out pretty well, but the Neapolitan deck has cards of a smaller size and with a different back than the poker deck, so it's obvious who has Coins and Swords in their hand. We also realized that, in the video game Moogoo Monkey, they're using a double deck, something we had not noticed before, but which became obvious once our version of the game ran out of cards way too early.

So we wanted to know, maybe it would be possible to print out our own Moogoo Monkey cards if we wanted. First, to test, we cut all the paper and wrote numbers 1 to 7 in different colors markers, plus two bombs. This is a total of 86 cards, which in our case were all on shitty printer paper. Rosy also drew beautiful monkeys on a sheet of printer paper to be the placeholder for where the cards would go.

Paper Moogoo Monkey

The verdict is: it works, but it's not nice playing with printer paper, since this is a game that requires a decent amount of shuffling and handling the cards. So, it's possible, but very ghetto, and even if you printed out the actual in-game assets, the quality of the paper should be better than what our home printer is capable of, and we would really want real cards - and, as proven by this entire fansite, we can go really far for Giuseppi, but we're not going to get custom cards printed for us to play his game.

So, can we make an edited version of Moogoo Monkey that uses a regular standard poker deck? Maybe there could just be four suits, and play until all are eliminated but one. We started putting down the placeholder with the monkeys from before, but since this only needs four suits and we have the remaining cards from the poker deck, we realized it would be simpler to use the King of each suit as the placeholder monkeys. Now we have four Kings, and we're voting for the Kings... is this democracy or monarchy? Maybe the old king has died, and this is a war of succession involving all the cousins of the king. Maybe we can call this version of Moogoo Monkey "Succession" or something?

As Denise was deliberating on the title, Rosy quickly replaced all the Kings with Jacks, and announced: the game is called Jack-off. We think Giuseppi would agree.

After playing a round of this version of Jack-off, we realized that you really need more than four monkeys. So, actually, let's try a different idea: we'll use a double deck, and there's two of each Jack to put cards on. This adds a new wrinkle to the gameplay from Moogoo Monkey in that there are potentially two Jacks of each suit for you to put your cards on, rather than there being only one monkey of each color. We found that using Ace through Seven just wasn't enough cards now that there are eight Jacks to bet on, so we increased it to use Ace through Nine, and that seems to be the right balance.

The rules of Jack-off

The Jack of, of course, Hearts

Here is the current version of the rules (subject to future refinement) for how to play our Moogoo-Monkey-inspired game Jack-off (or, if playing with more polite company, "Succession"). This game seems to be best played in three - we're still trying to figure out how to modify it to be fun for two players, and we haven't tested it with four or more players yet.

This game uses a double stripped deck with Ace through Nine for all four suits (with Aces low, counting as one) plus a total of four Jokers for the zeros, and all eight Jacks to serve as placeholders. You'll also need poker chips or some kind of tokens to make your bets.

To start:

  1. Put down the eight Jacks on the table.
  2. Each player makes an initial blind bet on one of the Jacks.
  3. Then, each player is dealt five cards from the deck to form their hand.

Play starts to the left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. In your turn:

  1. If possible, you must first place a bet on one of the Jacks. There is a limit of four bets on the same Jack.
  2. Then, you must play a card on a Jack. The card you play must match the suit of the Jack it is played on.
  3. If there are cards still in the deck, draw a new card to refill your hand.

Jokers can be played on Jack that already has a card on it. They cannot be the initial card played on a Jack. Jokers count as zero.

Whenever all the Jacks have a card on them and there is a Jack with a lowest card (without there being a tie), then that Jack dies. Turn it sideways and remove its chips to mark its death. All the cards on all the Jacks are cleared into the discard pile.

Whenever both Jacks of the same suit have died:

  1. First, the dealer removes all cards of that suit from the deck and puts them into the discard pile.
  2. All players discard any cards of that suit that they might have on hand.
  3. Going clockwise, the players replace the discarded cards with fresh ones from the deck until they have five cards again in their hand (or until the deck runs out).

If the deck runs out, that's it for new cards. Play continues until there are only three Jacks left, or until everyone runs out of cards.

If the game ends and there is a Jack without any cards on it, that Jack is also considered dead.

The players count their score based on how many chips they have on the surviving Jacks. The winner is the player with the most chips on the surviving Jacks.

We hope you enjoy playing Jack-off as much as Giuseppi did!

Giuseppi Pillow playing Jack-Off