Remember the tale of Noah and you’ll go far in business! Noah had a good thing going, rescuing 2 of each animal, a breeding pair! He was clever; he patented his Ark-based animal survival techniques quickly. But like any good product low-quality copies quickly sprung up. Oh sure, they could save 1 of each animal on an ARK half the size for half the cost, but you soon found out that the Ark was leaky, the zebra was a painted mule and the lion was paper-Mache! And then there were the extravagant opportunists, the ones who could build bigger arks with more animals, they were stylish, but impractical and no-one could afford them. So be a good businessman, innovate, design, patent and corner the market with quality goods that do what people need at a price that you can sell to everyone!
Animals on Board is a 2-4 player set collection game in which you try to collect the best animal sets to take away on your ark. Much like the Ark of biblical fame you have to rescue animals before the great flood. However you don’t want people to think you’re just copying Noah, you’re far too cool to copy that schmuck! So instead you are saving anything but 2 of every animal, pairs are sooo B.C.!
At its core Animals on Board has an “I split, you choose” mechanic, you start each round with a bundle of animals ready for the taking, you can either split this group up into 2 groups and gain 1 food, or you can spend 1 food per animal and take a group. Naturally the group starts way too big to take, so you’ll need to split it a few times before anyone can even afford to take a group. After a player buys a group the other players have 1 more turn to either split (and save up food for later) or take one of the groups for themselves.
Each animal is worth points depending on its age, with babies being worth the least and full grown animals worth the most. There’s no difference between species (though foxes are the best), so you’re free to fill your ark as you wish. Set collection comes into play once you have 2 or more of an animal. Sets of animals all score as if they are full grown adults, giving 5 points each, which is a great way to score a lot of points. However pairs are worthless as Noah engages you in a lengthy legal battle... or something like that.
This makes set collection actually quite risky, and can make the score gaps quite sizeable. A feature I like is the added randomness each round where 1 animal is upside down, you don’t know what you get until you take it. The blind pick can be a blessing or furry poison and it’s fun to use the random animal to try and scare your opponents away from otherwise tempting groups.
Animals on Board is a quick light game, with some surprising tactical depth, choosing how to split the groups can be agonising if you don’t know what your opponent is collecting. The components are absolutely perfect, with each player getting a little ark to store animals on and each animal tile having absolutely charming art, the baby animals are adorable! Sure it’s simple, in time you’ll grow tired of it, but it’s cute, quick and darn near the perfect warmup game.
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