I have been a “casual” gamer since childhood. However, the last ten years or so has birthed in me a deeper passion for board games of all sorts (owing a lot to Mr. Wil Wheaton, actually). This desire meant a growing collection of games that clashed with a noticeable diminish in gaming partners. Luckily, my five year old son, Judah, has been there for me and his newfound love of “pretty toys with rules” has led to the purchasing of a lot of games I might not have otherwise played. My wife, who is not a gamer herself, has (not so subtlety) suggested that I start writing reviews on the games I own or have played instead of prattling on insistently about them at the dinner table. Hence, this is my first board game review, so I hope I am doing it correctly.
Animal Upon Animal (or Stack-imals as it is referred to in our house) was the first game I purchased in hopes of finding something I could play with my then three year old son. If nothing else, I figured he could play with the cool pieces…I had no idea what I was getting myself into…
Brief Game Synopsis
Animal Upon Animal is not exactly rocket science. At the beginning of the game each player grabs one of each animal and places them in front of themselves. On your turn you roll a die, and take one of six actions based off the results (either stacking an animal or handing one to someone else to stack). If you knock over the animals stacked on the crocodile then you absorb your fallen animal brethren into your own pile – so try not to do that. First person who gets rid of their stack is the winner. Oh, and P.S…that person is always my son…because, despite my love for them, I do not board game so well…
Toys With Rules
As with all Haba games, the rule book is in all of the languages. All of them. The production quality of the rulebook is not exactly that of a Fantasy Flight Game, but you do not need three forty-page rule books with a separate reference sheet to understand this simple kids game. The rules are easy to understand and even though I ended up reading the rules in Wiccan, I got enough of a feel to play the game without having to re-reference the rulebook. I is simple enough that when he was three, my son was teaching the game.
Boards ‘N Bits
As mentioned before, the main thing that caught my eye with this game is the nicely crafted and durable wooden animals. They look pretty-as-all-get-out and have held up remarkably well after years of brutal play and tons of “tough” loving. Each animal has a distinct enough shape that even when seeing it from the back, it is very clear what animal it is. We actually used these animals to aid in teaching my one year old to name animals and colors while we played. The use of the unique shape of each animal to create a varied build pattern is so simple it is almost genius.
The die that is included is large and has a good, healthy heft to it when rolled. The pips and images inscribed on each of the six sides is distinct and clear enough for a three year old to call out the result from the other side of the playing surface.
Simple game, really. But that is what makes it so fun. I find my adult friends requesting to play it as often as my son. Someday I would like to try the other versions, the Bridge sounds like quirky fun, but I mostly just would like more of the animals. It is amusing to see what others do with the animals while waiting for their turn – my son for instance, likes to have them argue about who will be used next and what not. Animal Upon Animal does actually cause some tense moments – which is great when a kids game can evoke that gut wrenching feeling when you spend two minutes fighting trembling fingers to stack an animal in an impossible manner and set up the next player for ultimate failure, only to have him (stupid four year old) just kinda shrug and toss his animal up with zero thought or preparation and have it land perfectly and then collapse when you follow it up with what should be an easy crocodile roll…I hate this game…
A quick aside, this game is truly requested by some of my adult friends. We played it one evening with my son before his bed time before we adults transitioned into meatier games. Several hours later the adults were requesting to play “Stack-imals” again. And from that moment on it was dubbed Stack-imals in the Lugger household.
My five year old had this to say:
So, what I really like about Stack-imals is that you might actually get to put the animals on and that if you get the hand (symbol on the dice) then somebody else has to do it and then that someone might not win because they make the piece you handed them knock everything else down. Now one of the things that I don’t like about Animal Upon Animal is that other people can put the animals on badly and then it makes it harder for you because they did not do it right. But I guess that is also pretty funny. It is really hard to win but you only have one way to win. It is up to you to roll the dice and up to you to stack the animals so other people cannot make you lose. Only you lose the game for you. Yep, that is pretty much about it. This game IS fun!
+ Quick setup/break down
+ Rules simple enough for a child to each (literally)
+ Kids LOVE it
+ The joy of dexterity games
- Hard to play well when drinking (cough…cough…move along...)
- Sets unrealistic views as to how living animals actually stack (as our poor pets can attest)
- Kids LOVE it (negative because I usually only want a round or two before moving on…not the case with my son…)
- The joy of dexterity games (I really suck at them and my son doesn’t…and he likes to point that out…a lot…)
Purchase, Play, or Pass
Well, in case it was not clear above, I think Stack-imals is a solid Purchase. It gets plenty of play at home and is just such a mindless fun filler that almost anyone enjoys wasting five minutes on a session. Is it deep or filling? Not really. Does it do a good job of keeping you engaged? Yes. I have seen plenty of adults lose it when they are going for an insane stack attempt and one instance where a beer was thrown due to a table nudging incident (no – my sons were not present for that game).
Marwan Marwan مروان مروان
I recently discovered this game with my kids, and I would have to agree that it does appeal to adults too