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Subject: Bickering Gaming Couple - Habitats review rss

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Willem Verhoef
Netherlands
Weert
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I'm a 38-year-old Dutch guy with a 38-year-old Polish girlfriend. She indulges me by playing games together, and we do not shy away from confrontation at the table. Also, away from the table

I like zoos. Whenever we went on holidays as a child, we visited the local zoo if there was one. When I was a kid, there were still a lot of animals in cages with bars (not the good kind of bars) - but thankfully, more and more zoos try to keep the animals in something close to their original habitats, mixing zebras and giraffes as they would in the wild (perhaps hoping to breed the mythical zebraffe).

I also like games about zoos. The Zooloretto games come to the table regularly. mostly the Junior version with my daughter. So when Habitats came to kickstarter in 2016, I was intrigued. The price was fair, but I didn't back it - it had an Essen pickup and I figured I'd check it out there. Which I did - the game looked nice enough, but way too hard to play with my 8-year-old girl. So I passed on it, buying a lot more other games.

And still... Habitats was on my mind after that. I kept an eye on reviews (which we positive) and every once in a while I thought I might have been better off buying the game at Essen after all. So when the second printing came to kickstarter in 2017 (again with Essen pickup) I took this second chance and hoped I wouldn't regret it.

The game itself consists of three years, in which you gather tiles of animals, flowers, watchtowers and other special tiles. The animals and flowers have their own terrain: rocks, grassland, jungle or water. Each animal requires certain terrain around it to actually score. The puzzle is to orientate your tiles in such a way that as many animals as possible get the terrain they need.
You choose tiles from a grid, based on where your animal (in the original printing) or zoo-guy (in the second edition) is located: you can take the tile directly in front, to the left or to the right of you - never from behind you! He then moves to the empty spot you created, filling the spot where you were with a new tile.
Each year gives variable bonus points for what's in your zoo or how the tiles are organized: for example, the longest diagonal or the biggest continuous area of terrain.

I gave the game a solo run-through recently (the designer has a 'official' solo variants that he didn't put into the rulebook as he prefers the game at more players) and played the game with my girlfriend yesterday.

These are our impressions:

The components are good and sturdy. I'm not a big fan of the way the 2/3 player scoring board was handled (you have to put a bit of cardboard onto the regular scoring board) which I would have preferred to be solved by making the 4/5 player scoring board separate too. We liked that the animals were drawn, not photographed, but in a lifelike way - no cartoon animals as for example in Animals on Board. The watchtower tiles look bland in comparison to the rest. I'd say the looks are functional: nothing flashy or beautiful, but nothing distracting either. When you're done building your park, you have a nice display of happy little animals. I imagine it's the nature photo taken just before everyone starts eating each other.

There's a reason why you don't want this game to look cartoony: it's pretty thinky. I was right in thinking it's too heavy for my daughter, there's a lot to keep track of and think about. Forward planning is essential in scoring well - not only for the yearly goals, but also just for scoring your animals. It's very puzzly, and especially in the last year you're thinking four steps ahead to see which tiles you can still try and score. It's by no means a heavy game, and it plays fast, but it's not a light game either.



The bickering factor was very low. There's a little interaction in which tiles you take (I might take one that she wanted to have) but apart from that, it's mostly a solitaire experience. You keep an eye on your opponent for the yearly goals, you might take a tile to foil her plans once in a while but that's it.

Reading back, it seems I'm lukewarm about this game, like a coldblooded snake basking in the sun on a riverbed. But I really like my plays so far. It's puzzly, but I love puzzles. My girlfriend was less impressed. She found it fun, but nothing special: she'd like some more interaction. My daughter thought it looked too complicated and didn't even want to try it.

I'd happily play this again but I fear this one will not come back to the table soon, as there are games my daughter and girlfriend enjoy more. I'm definitely keeping it though.


Recommended, but mostly for people who don't mind low confrontation and who like thinky puzzly games. For us as a couple it doesn't quite work, for me personally it certainly does.
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Michael Frost

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Sorry to hear about the experience of the other players. I've never had anyone not enjoy this lovely game at all player counts. I suspect a key is the right teaching approach. But who doesn't want to build a beautiful African Wildlife Park and stock it with animals? Great tile-laying game!
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Tim Tix
Germany
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I love zoos, too, and wish there would be more zoo-themed games.

Here are all the ones I've heard of: Zoo Games

Cheers!
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Willem Verhoef
Netherlands
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
Sorry to hear about the experience of the other players. I've never had anyone not enjoy this lovely game at all player counts. I suspect a key is the right teaching approach. But who doesn't want to build a beautiful African Wildlife Park and stock it with animals? Great tile-laying game!


Well, my girlfriend didn't dislike it - she just likes other games more. We, as many on this site, have the luxury problem of so many great games being available. Given the choice of what to play I highly doubt that she would choose this one. Whereas I would jump to the opportunity.
I have hopes for my daughter still though

So it was not so much a negative experience, as a not awesome experience.

I agree that the theme should work for just about everyone, although I've played Zooloretto with some friends that liked the game, but would have preferred a 'more adult theme' (their words, not mine). To each his own
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