- Mark Halsey(TWrecks)United States
My local FLGS was hosting their first "Family Game Day". A store that is frequented by Magic the Gathering card slingers and Heavy Mech Warhammer pilots opened their doors to the families of the aforementioned as well as any newcomers that wanted to explore the hobby of tabletop gaming.
As some folks shuffled their various Fluxx decks and others broke out their copies of King of Tokyo I began to unbox Wildlife Safari and sort the animal miniatures by species.
The animal mini-figures caught the eye of many like a fishing hook and I reeled them to the table.
The first question I got was, "how many of us can play this?" When I said, "five", the closest five people took a seat leaving others, myself included as spectators.
I dealt the cards and explained the rules; short and sweet. Play a card, take an animal. Each animal has a corresponding set of six cards valued zero to five. The played cards determine the current value of each animal. If all six cards of any one of the animals has been played, the game ends.
Cards were laid and and you could see strategy starting to evolve by the third turn when it began to click. The players ranged from age 12 on up to the parents of some of the regulars of the store.
In the first round, the game ended in just minutes as one player, Cole, decided to run up the value of Rhinos and end the game with the sixth card. This strategy held and he was the victor but the others learned from this. Round two was very different.
In round two, another boy, Robby took control of the game. He had a great hand of cards, the highs and lows of a couple of the species. He ran the table like it was a game of Texas Hold'em. Those longer in the tooth were trying to lure him into collecting leopards but he had no part of it. When he dropped a value zero on the zebras, the table erupted and Robby revealed that he had the five card still in his hand. Anyone that had a zebra playfully shook a fist in his direction as they knew that they had been had.
The volume of our game brought more people over to the table. Even the "gamers" of the room took interest and sat down to give it a go. What looked to them to be a kids game became one of luck, yes, but also great strategy. In this game, you play the cards you are dealt but how you play them and when you play them becomes the brain burner. You could see the wheels turning as some of the sessions took longer and play became more deliberate and thought out.
Players discussed their secrets of success, whether it was to hold a low card until the end or to collect the animals others were apparently trying to hoard. Some played slow and steady and profited just by keeping the middle valued animals that saw little activity.
If you hold your key cards for too long, you may never get to play them at all because the game can end prematurely when the sixth card is played down on any one species. I saw someone drop a high value card just one second before she realized that the person just before her finished the game! Here she sat with four elephants that were only worth a couple of points each. She gave a sad face as she looked at her unplayable card.
Family Game Day was a success and the Wildlife Safari table stayed busy. I just left the game out at the table and people that played a round earlier, quickly were showing others how to play. I didn't see less than five people play this even once (it was pretty popular) so I'm not sure how it scales down. The game plays with as little as two players. In the rules I saw that there are hidden cards for two and four players. Hidden cards would probably keep just that much more guesswork in play for the guy who is reluctant to throw out a high or low card too soon or even worse, too late.
- [+] Dice rolls