One must admit that the name of the game, Animal Upon Animal balancing bridge, isn’t what one might call “catchy,” on the other hand, the original German name, Tier auf Tier, isn’t that descriptive.
There are 29, brightly colored wooden animals, each with a variety of ridges and bumps that can provide a welcome, shall we say, clawhold, as players attempt to balance the animals on top of each other. In addition to the animals, there is also a die which determines which animals, on which side or sector of the box a player can choose from.
Also included is a deck of cards, each card depicting the player’s assignment – the three animals that must be balanced and arranged so that all three are in contact with each other, and fitting comfortably on the cardboard bridge; the rules (in several different languages), and, of course, the beautifully illustrated box which, in fact, plays a central role in the game.
Each player gets three cards. The first player to get all her cards solved wins the game. It doesn’t matter who solves what, as long as three animals depicted on one of your cards are, at any moment of the game, all on the bridge, and all touching each other, and you only have used one hand to make that happen. This keeps everyone involved throughout the game, as one player might easily, accidentally or simply in pursuing his own goals, connect the very three animals that are on someone else’s card. Also, getting all three animals to connect, each with the other two, adds a uniquely inviting challenge, conceptually, and physically. Finally, a player might, just as easily, cause some or all of the animals to fall off the bridge. The animals remain where they are (except for the big green crocodile, which is returned to the bridge), and the player who made the animals fall gets an extra assignment card as a penalty (depending on the age of the player, you may or may not want to use the penalty rule).
At the beginning of the game, all the animals are distributed, more or less equally, outside the four sides of the box. Inside the box, there are four triangular divisions, each depicting a different environment – volcanic, oceanic, forest, and desert. The markings on the die reflect each of the different climates, with two additions – one face allows you to move an animal that is already on the bridge, the other allows you to select any animal. A bridge spans the four environments. Animals that fall off the bridge during the game still can be chosen, along with the animals that are outside the sector, as determined by the die.
Animal Upon Animal balancing bridge can be played by two to four players (the more, the merrier), age six and older. It is as engaging a challenge for adults as it is for children. A steady hand, and a good sense of humor are highly recommended. Success in the game is not simply a question of dexterity, but also of reasoning and imagination – imagining how any given three of these irregularly-shaped wooden animals, with all their curves and notches, can be made to somehow and somewhat fit together. And, of course, it’s really all about fun.
Because of the cards, it is easy to adjust the challenge to the abilities of each player, giving younger players fewer cards, and older, more steady-handed players more cards. At last a family game that your two-card-holding adult has a chance to win against your five-card-holding kid!
Designed by Klaus Miltenberger with art by Michael Bayer, the game, like most games from Haba, is as delightful to look at as it is to play. Well-made, well-designed, well-worth its Major Fun award.