Animals on Board is a game that I think it is fair to say doesn’t have a lot of shelf appeal. The only reason it was on my radar is due to some quite relentless publicity by Stronghold Games. I actually happened across the original Pegasus Spiele printing on a Facebook group and thought it was worth a punt at £10 or £15. So is Animals on Board the Spiel des Jahres weight game that Stronghold Games claim?
In Animals on Board you are trying to populate your ark with a group of ten animals who will score you the most points. Unlike traditional ark builders like Noah you don’t want pairs of animals – ideally you’re looking for large groups, but single animals can be worth points too, varying depending on their maturity.
|Setup for a two player game|
There is only really one mechanic, which is an ‘I split, you choose’. Each round there is a tableau of face up animals and one face down. Players take it in turn to either split one group into two smaller groups or pay to take one group of animals. If you split, then you gain a crate of food, and this is the currency you use to pay for animals – one crate per animal. There are different species of animals available and they range in age from 1-5. If you only have one of a species at the end of the game then this 1-5 value is the points you score. Pairs score nothing, but in larger groups, each animal is automatically worth 5 points each.
|Cute baby animals are only worth one point each, but if you get them with two more friends, then they're worth 5 points each!|
That really is all of the rules of the game, so it’s definitely simple, however I do find that the simple decision of splitting a group can be critical – trying not to be too obvious about the group you need whilst also remembering what your opponents have been picking and reading which groups they have an eye on.
For us, Animals on Board is just a light filler, and perhaps doesn’t really justify its big box, but this is housing some good quality components – mainly the 3D arks that are your tile holders. We might eventually tire of this simple game, but currently it’s got enough decision making to keep us interested and is back on the shelf within 20 minutes, which fits well with our current style of gaming. For the Yellow Meeple, Animals on Board is a 6/10.