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Originally published in Out of Touch Gamer Board Game Review
Epic, hours-long games are great. They offer deep, fulfilling experiences even though by the time you finish a game you might realize you only have an hour to catch a few winks of sleep before heading to work. Therefore, the demand for shorter games that are somewhat satisfying is increasing in recent years. Especially since it has become increasingly difficult to find serious gamers in my neighborhood that, most often than not, convincing someone whose core gaming experience is Angry Birds in the bathroom to try out board games is inevitable. That is where micro games come in. And in recent years, many small independent publishers in Japan has churned out so many, often good, micro games. String Safari is a very good example.
Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Publisher: IDW Games; OKAZU Brand; Pandasaurus Games; Japon Brand
Year published: 2013
Number of Players: 3-5
Playing time: 30 minutes.
Players are animal experts, or zoologists, trying to gather as much information about the wild animals living in the savanna. The main goal of the game is to fulfill certain research goals, which are different for each player. The unique selling point of this game is the board is made up of your gaming table and a piece of long, spread out piece of string, which represent the savanna. A turn consists of 6-8 steps, which I will elaborate on later in this review. Players take their turns in clockwise order. When all players have had their turns once, a round ends. Players then start a new round and continue until a set number of rounds based on the number of players has been completed.
I have the Japanese OKAZU Brand version, the first edition of the game. The components might not be as nicely produced as the other versions but it gets the job done to some extent. The tiles are well produced and the illustrations are fine. The animals look like those you might see on a poster at a pediatrician office, which I understand is a strange example but you get it right away, don't you? If I have one complaint it is with the coins. They are cheap, tiny plastic coins in four different colors to represent four different point values. However, they all have the same faces, which requires you to decide beforehand which color represents which value before the game. It annoys me slightly but it is functional. I suspect the English versions of the game have better components.
To set up the games, you take the long dark brown string and spread it out on the playing surface. Then, within the confines of the string, place 16 animal tiles randomly face up on the field with at least a finger's breadth between each of them. This is the savanna. The research tiles are then shuffled then placed next to the savanna with 5 of them placed face up. Each player gets a number of markers based on the number of players.
At the beginning of each round, all players do 2 things:
1. Draw an animal tile.
2. Take a face up research tile or draw one randomly from the face down pile. Then replenish the face up tiles.
A Player Round:
1. Place an animal tile from your hand on the field.
2. Enclose tiles (animals and/or land) with the grey Research string.
3. Collect Victory Points based on the tiles you enclose and your current research tile. Look at the picture below for an example scoring.
4. Place a Research marker on one of the tiles you have enclosed that does not already have a marker on it.
5. Carefully remove the Research string. Make sure it does not shift any tiles around.
6. Draw a new animal tile from the deck.
7. Take a new research tile on place it on top of your current one.
8. Pass the Research string to the player on your left.
This enclosure, for example, requires a player to enclose three carnivores near the edge of the savanna (the icon on the bottom right of the Research tile). This particular research gives the player 3 points (for the carnivores) + 1 bonus point (for the "footprints" tile). However at the end of the game, the owner of this research would get -1 point (bottom left of the Research tile).
Continue playing a number of rounds. In the final round, skip steps 6 to 8. Then calculate your final score by adding the following:
- Your accumulated coins.
- The total points on the bottom right of all your Research tiles.
- The total points on the bottom right of all Animal tiles with your markers on them.
The player with the most points wins the game! Roar!
A quick, simple game that is still interactive due to the marker placements. The innovative use of strings is also a big plus. Here are some reasons why String Savanna deserve a place in your collection:
- Family friendly due to the simple rules and its educational nature. Not only can young children learn the names of animals, they can also to some extent learn about their characteristics, e.g. Leopards are nocturnal carnivores; Golden jackals are canines, etc.
- Small enough to carry around and as long as there is a flat surface it can be played almost anywhere.
- A relaxing, tactical game for those looking for fillers between longer games.
- Comes with simpler rules for younger children. The lowest recommended age is 6 years old.
And there you go. I might post something other than reviews for the next one. Meanwhile, have fun gaming!