I need a hunting game!
I had an immense herd of toy dinosaurs. I had a small tribe of plastic cavemen. I wanted a game pitting the cavemen against the animals. After looking at possibilities of converting other games to cover my needs, I found this little-heard-of game called "Tusk: Mammoth hunting from 12,000 BC to 1914 AD" by Matthew Hartley.
The first thing that caught my eye was the price: $6.50. So I ordered it post-haste! I should not have been surprised at the size of the rulebook (for that price) when it arrived; it was a mere pamphlet of 12 pages (including all the rules and scenarios), but I found it to be a nice little gem. The game was written for use with 6mm and 15mm figures. "Official" figures, both cavemen and Victorian hunters (for a "Lost World" hunt) are available from Irregular Miniatures. The game can also be played with 28mm figures with just a few changes with measurements.
The core of this tongue-in-cheek game lies with its animal reaction tables. These charts give a predetermined list of possible actions that an animal might take depending on its current situation. For example, a mammoth quite a distance from your group of hunters may simple graze with little fear, while a mammoth confronted with a raging fire (set by your hunters) will probably flee.
Your turn begins with the roll of a dice which determines your "action points" for the turn. These points can be used to move, fight or light fires. After your actions are taken, you roll a dice and compare it to the animal's reaction table to determine its course of action. There are different tables for different animals, and once you get the hang of the game, you can easily extrapolate your own custom reaction tables for new animals.
Eventually, a basic game will descend into chasing an animal until it either escapes off the board, or until your hunters engage the animal. The game then descends into a basic hack-and-slash, with turns taking less than a minute to roll for fighting/hunting/killing.
However, fire changes things up a bit. One of your available hunter types is a firemaker. His job is to light the grasslands ablaze! The resulting fire will (should) drive the animal away. The fire can also spread- toward your own hunting party if you're not careful. Fire is useful in scenarios requiring your party to capture animals: Set traps, set fires, try to drive your prey into the traps (or ambushes.)
Different character types are available for a hunt and bring their own little nuances. Firemakers bring fire, hunters are your basic rabble, dogs cannot attack but are useful in "enraging" and pulling an animal back into the game if it was about to escape, and Ogs (heroes) bring a little bit of extra fight to your game.
The game can be played cooperatively, as mentioned earlier. It can also be a versus game, one tribe against another tribe (run by any number of players) competing for the same animals. The animal reaction tables also allow the game to be played solo.
You know, for kids!
The rules are simple enough for children, and Tusk allows for kids and parents to be on the same side. Now, Mom and Dad, you don't have to worry about letting your kids win a game because in Tusk, everybody wins! ... well, unless your prey escapes.
Cooperative play also teaches the kids teamwork. Having a limited resource (action points) forces kids to learn negotiation and compromise skills as they try to choose the right actions that will benefit the whole group.
The reaction tables are what makes this game work. They allow solo play, they allow for use of other game systems (by simply integrating the animal reaction roll into your favorite game system), and they are easily extrapolated into different settings and for different animals: Simply exchange a tyrannosaurus for a dragon, and your cavemen for knights and you have a medieval fantasy game! Any setting is possible, and are, in fact, covered by the expansions available to Tusk- Tusk II: The Wrath of Kong (Yep, rules to hunt King Kong as well as added rules for trained and tame beasts) and Tusk III: Apocaplyse Soon which sends your hunt into science fiction realms.
Give it a try! All you have to lose is around $6.