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Subject: Only Cute Endangered Animals Should Be Protected! rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
Port Macquarie
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Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.

An Area Control Game for up to Six Players
Designed by Wolfgang Kramer
Published by Uberplay (2002)

It’s a dangerous world out there – a struggle for supremacy between Mammoths, Crocodiles, Snakes, Bears, Eagles and Man. I was going to say that it’s a dog-eat-dog world but in Wolfgang Kramer’s Wildlife there are no dogs, only the six creatures previously mentioned.

With Wildlife being a game about the struggle for supremacy between different types of animals it is only appropriate that it is a lot more confrontational than your average euro-game.

I am going to start off by saying that I generally enjoy Kramer’s approach to game design and even have a microbadge that announces to the world that I am a ‘Kramer Freak’, but I won’t let this bias my review in any way. Even though Wolfgang Kramer is the greatest game designer in the entire history of the world I will, in fact, play down the incredible quality of Wildlife and attempt to make it sound less of a game than it actually is in an effort to be quite unbiased.

Wildlife is the absolute best Kramer design that I have ever played.

Wildlife has everything.

Let me give you a quick rundown on how the game works.

There is an island that has twelve different areas and six different terrain types. There are two areas with each terrain type and in each case one of the two areas is small and the other is large.

There are six different animal types and initially each animal type has one terrain type where they may attack, another into which they may expand, two into which they may migrate and two into which they are not allowed. Attack, expand and migrate are terms that refer to the natural advantage that an animal has in a particular type of terrain.

A Player's Turn

Players each have ten cards and during each turn may perform a specified number of actions.

Players must play three cards – at least one of the cards must be auctioned amongst the other players (giving the winning bidder an extra action).

The player may perform actions based on their special abilities.

Players may perform a free migration.

Players may also convert food into success points.

The Cards

When I first opened the game and looked at it I thought that it was going to be hellishly complicated due to the wide number of icons on the cards – I was wrong. After reading the rules playing the game becomes second nature and the cards are incredibly easy to read and use.

You can use cards with terrain icons to migrate, expand or attack in the matching terrain – expand and attack are the best as they allow you to place new pieces on the board while migrate only allows you to rearrange what you already have.

Ability cards allow you to take ability tiles which give you special bonuses.

Adaption cards allow you to improve your adaption level in a specific terrain.

Wild cards allow you to do just about anything you want.

There are also some text cards, but you have to be able to read to use them.

The Scoring

There are just so many different ways to score points.

Each area will give bonus points, just once each game, to the person who fills up the last vacant space.

After a certain number of area bonuses have been given there will be a Major Scoring – these occur several times during the game. This gives points to the person with majorities/monopolies in each area (it is an area control game after all), the biggest herd, most abilities, most adaptions and the most food.

Playing the Game

The game is very confrontational as people fight over areas to both have majority/monopoly (these are fancy technical words for control) in each area and grazing rights to build the biggest herd.

The game is very confrontational as people seek the best abilities – there is only one aggression tile and it allows you to attack other people. Intelligence gives you extra actions. Food gives you extra success points. One of the things that make this game so superb is that an ability’s actual value will change as the game develops. There is a limited number of ability tiles and once the general supply runs out they are taken from the person who has them who is highest on the success path.

Did I mention that this game is extremely confrontational?

One of the things that came as a bit of a surprise is that even with six players the games moves fairly quickly and you always feel as though you are doing something.

The first time I played the game it was with only five players. There was a balance problem as the Humans were the only ones who could effectively access the plains and this game them a big advantage. Reading the pages of BGG later I read that with a five player game you should ensure that both Humans and Mammoths are in the game as this is necessary for play balance.

I had read reviews about Wildlife before purchasing it and, given the exorbitant price of this out of print game, I had high expectations of it.

It has Wildly surpassed my expectations.

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Henrik Lantz
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Oooo, interesting! This is available cheap from some places around here. Just might buy it!
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Darrell Hanning
United States
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We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Just like you, David, Wildlife is - hands-down - my favorite Kramer design.

And for anyone who thinks all "Euro" games are namby-pamby non-confrontational, just wait until my Mammoths turn you into toe-jam.
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United States
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Great review for one of my all time favorite games.

but a helpful hint:
da pyrate wrote:
The first time I played the game it was with only five players. There was a balance problem as the Humans were the only ones who could effectively access the plains and this game them a big advantage. Reading the pages of BGG later I read that with a five player game you should ensure that both Humans and Mammoths are in the game as this is necessary for play balance.

This is not a balance problem with experienced players (but admittedly is often for first time players) two reasons why:

1. What are folks doing with terrain cards they cant use? If they are auctioning then they are indeed favoring the player with the terrain unique race. If however they hold them then the second pass of the deck will find very little of that card. Crocodile and water have this problem too as their is an imbalance to water. In our earliest games it favored the croc as people just auctioned it. Now if people hold unplayable terrains the croc starves. Played right its more of a liability than an asset to be terrain unique. It all depends on the group think.

(what I often do is hold all unplayable terrains until the end of the first deck and then whatever terrain I have the most of use wheels to gain access to placing in that terrain)

2. Many races have migrate in plains. A good strategy is often to fill an area right next to it and use the free migrate to slowly fill the plains. Long term migration strategies with free migrate are very powerful.

Let us know how your next game goes!
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