It seems like every time I turn around I hear about Stronghold Games‘ Animals on Board. I’m always looking for terrific family games, so I talked it up to my wife. Cortnie was disinterested ‘we’ decided not to buy it. It took about three more days of my twitter feed turning into the Animals on Board feed before I, like a lemming, ordered the game. Was it worth it? or did Cortnie have some foresight that escaped me. Let’s find out…
Animals on Board is a game largely based on the I split you choose mechanism. In the middle of the table is a group of animal tiles. The number of animals depend on the number of players. Each animal is part of a set of five, numbered one to five. Every player has an ark that they need to fill with animals. On a turn each player has the choice between two actions.
- Split: choose any group of animals on the table and divide it into two groups, any way you want. Also take a food token
- Take: choose a group of animals and add them to your ark. Pay one food for each animal in the group
At the end of the game, if you have two animals of the same type (two turtles, two rhinos, two tigers, etc) they are forfeited and score no points. Single animals score the value printed on the tile. Animals in a herd (three or more of the same type) each score five points, ignoring the number printed on them. When one person gets to ten animals in their ark, the round finishes and the game ends.
Again, Tesla and I teamed up vs each of the rest of my family. For some reason she latched onto the alligators. We all started splitting the groups to build the herds we wanted to take. Cortnie was building giraffes, Zeb was building gorillas, and Ripley just would choose to take a group of animals as soon as she afford the food cost. Every round the I was able to get the groups I needed, however I was the only one. Zeb always split Cortnie’s groups and Ripley split Zeb’s.
On the third turn, our first panda bear came out. Both Ripley and Zeb declared that it would be theirs! There were actually two in that round, and even though I tried to convince Ripley it was a bad move, she split them into a group by themselves. Zeb snatched them up, and to my surprise, after a quick pout face, Ripley continued with play.
At the end of the game, it was time to reveal our animals. Cortnie had two pair that she had to get rid of. Zeb had FOUR PAIRS (including the panda’s he took from Ripley) of animals, all of which scored zero points. Ripley had no pairs, but ended up with 39 points! Tesla ended up with a complete set of alligators and won the game. She wasn’t secret in the animals she wanted, and I think that her siblings (and mom) simply let her have the animals she wanted.
All in all I think the scoring is a little complex for a four year old, which is appropriate given the recommended age of 8+. Even with the scoring, my kids loved it and wanted to play immediately again (although we didn’t). I think it’s a solid game. It plays quickly, has several strategies to play, and has excellent components. But, does my wife, who wasn’t interested in the first place, think its good enough to keep on the shelf?
YES! While it’s not her favorite, and it’s probably a family only game, she said she’s looking forward to the next play.