Haba‘s Animal upon Animal is a stacking game for two players. The pieces are small, made of wood, and designed so that there are many ways they can be stacked, more-or-less securely, one on top of the other.
There are 6 different kinds of animals, two of each, each a different color and shape, plus one larger, wrinkled-back alligator that serves as a base for the stacking game. There is also a comparatively large, wooden die which determines the game play.
Before you start playing, you divide the animals equally, so that both players have exactly the same animals. This is important, because each animal has a different shape, and the shape has a lot to do with how difficult the stacking task becomes.
Each turn begins with the roll of the die. If you roll a 1, you take one of your animals and place it anywhere on the alligator or any other animal that has already been played. If you roll a 2, then you get to place two of your animals. Since the object is to be the first player to no more animals left to stack, it’s clearly more advantageous to roll a 2 than a 1. If you roll the hand symbol you give any one of your unplayed animals to the other player (good for you, not so good for your playmate). Roll a question mark and your playmate gets to decide which of your animals you have to try to stack next.
Depending on the nature of the pyramid, larger animals usually offer more of a challenge. Roll the alligator symbol and you get to put one of your animals next to, but touching the alligator. This gives both players a larger base for their pyramid, and makes the whole game a bit easier.
That’s just about all there’s to it. Just enough luck to keep the game even, just enough challenge to keep the game inviting. Just large enough to be endearing.
There are a couple more rules that make the game a little more forgiving. If, on your turn, one or more of the animals fall off the stack, you take one or two of them back and put the rest of the fallen animals back into the box. So the penalty is not as egregious as the collapse of the pyramid might indicate.
All-in-all, a well, shall we say, “balanced” dexterity game that offers a meaningful challenge, and an even more meaningful invitation to fun with a friend.
One such friend of mine is Douglas Wilson. He loves Animal upon Animal and was especially excited to learn that there are different animals in this set than in the Animal upon Animal Game (with 14 different animals, plus alligator) and of course Animal upon Animal Balancing Bridge (with another 14 different animals).
All the versions of the Animal upon Animal games are designed by Klaus Miltenberger, with art by Michael Bayer. This set is for two players – kids 4 and up (which could mean you) – and is available in the US from Haba and others.