Designer: Ralf zur Linde & Wolfgang Senter Artist: Alexander Jung
Publisher: Stronghold Games, Eggertspiele 2-4 players 30 min. ages 8+ MSRP $29.95
You and your friends have heard a big flood is coming and so, naturally each of you has decided to build an ark in order to save as many animals as you can.
Only problem is some guy named Noah got started way before you and he is claiming pairs of animals to take with him. In fact, he’s made it illegal for anyone else to take pairs of animals with them.
Since Noah is kind of a jerk, when the flood comes and the arks depart, you want to have herds of animals on board!
There are 60 animal tiles in the game with 12 different species numbered 1-5. Each animal tile is unique. As the number on the tile gets bigger, the animals on the tiles get bigger as well. Alexander Jung’s artwork is ridiculously charming and fun. If you like this game, I encourage you to check out Beasty Bar, another fine game featuring Alexander’s art.
There’s a starting player flag.
Most notable and most important, each player gets a 3-D ark! They are made from sturdy cardboard and they function as a two level tile rack. The arks come unassembled when you buy the game, so you have a fun side project putting them together before you play the first time.
To play, you’ll mix up all the animal tiles and form them into draw stacks. Each player will take a food crate tile and an ark and break flag. Then everyone draws three random tiles from the stacks and places these animals into his or her ark and we’re ready to go!
Animals on board is a split or choose game. If you don’t know what that means, you will in just a minute!
Each round a large set of animal tiles will be placed in the center of the table. Players will take turns either dividing this set in to smaller groups or taking one of these group of tiles and adding them to their arks.
The game ends at the end of a round when one person has collected 10 animals into his or her ark.
Now let’s dive into this split or choose thing.
Depending on the number of players a certain number of animal tiles will be placed face up in the middle of the table each round PLUS one face down animal tile.
On your turn you can SPLIT this group into a smaller sets OR you can CHOOSE a group to take.
If you choose SPLIT as your action for your turn, you select a group of tiles and make it into two groups of tiles. The groups you make do not have to have the same number of tiles but each group has to have at least one tile.
At first there will be only one big group to split but as each round progresses there will be several and these groups can and will be of different sizes.
After splitting a group, you get to take one food crate from the supply.
On your turn if you take the CHOOSE action, you select a group of animal tiles and place them in your ark. However, you must pay 1 food crate for every tile in the group you choose! If you don’t have enough food crates for a larger group, you will not be able to take that group.
Once you select the CHOOSE action, place the break flag in your ark to indicate you are out for the rest of the round.
So there you have it: SPLIT or CHOOSE. Divide the tiles into groups and get a food token. Or take a group and pay food tokens for each tile in the group. Once each player has CHOSEN in a given game round, the round will end, another set of tiles will be flipped over and it’s lather, rinse and repeat until one player collects at least 10 animals onto his or her ark.
Split-and-choose games offer an incredibly simple set of rules that makes them easy to teach and learn. In the case of Animals on Board this simple set of choices also provides for some really fun decisions once you know how to score!
The scoring system is what really makes Animals on Board shine. It will help guide every decision you make.
As mentioned in the story of the game, Noah has all claims on pairs of animals. So your goal is to assemble herds of animals or individual animals on your ark. At the end of the game, any pairs of animals in your ark will be discarded and will not score at all!Any single animals in your ark will score the number on the tile. A panda with a 3 is worth 3.
A herd is a group of 3 or more tiles in your ark. Each tile in a herd in worth 5 points!!
If you have any food crates left, each one is also worth a point.
So, your goal when splitting and choosing animals from the table is to try and create herds of 3 or more animals and avoid being stuck with pairs or low value single animals.
Of course everyone is watching as you choose your sets so it becomes clear what animals you are interested in, making it difficult to assemble big herds, since you may end up having to take a group with animals you dont necessarily want or risk someone else choosing that group before you.
The face down tile becomes a really interesting element of the game now that we know the scoring system as well. You may want to include it in a set you know someone else wants so they have to take a chance at getting an animal that will mess them up and create a pair. OR you might be tempted to take the face down tile in a group if you are watching closely and are waiting for particular tiles that have yet to surface.
Split and choose combined with trying to avoid pairs of animals makes the game engaging, thoughtful and fun!
Animals on Board is a sneaky game. I don’t mean when you play, you are sneaky. I mean that the game sneaks up on you. The simple rules make it one you can enjoy with kids and family or friends but the scoring rules add depth and strategy that is such a wonderful surprise. You may have to split groups more often than you might like just to build up your food crates so you have more options when it comes time to choose. There’s even a bluffing element since each player starts with three random tiles and if you take the face down tile, it can be a challenge to be sure what animals each player might be collecting.
You know the rules so quickly, so easily, you might be tempted to see it as too simple or a game only for young kids. But that’s where the game sneaks up on you! There will be several light bulb moments when you realize there’s more going on each turn than you realized, IF you pay attention. I love it when a game like Animals on Board sneaks up on me like this. The gameplay is as charming as the animals on the tiles you collect. No need to wait for the next flood. Give it a try and I think you’ll discover it is Major Fun!