Animal Kingdoms did not surprise me. I was expecting it to be a memorable experience and it was exactly that. It was challenging and creative.
Publisher: Galactic Raptor Games
Designer: Steven Aramini
Artist: Michael Cofer
Artist: Danny Devine
Artist: Katy Grierson
Game Type: Hand Management
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 8+
Expected Playtime: 45
Number of Players: 1-5
Theme and What is it?
The battle for the five kingdoms in under way. Only one ruler will be able to unite the kingdoms under a single banner. The leader of each faction will use their influence to attract powerful beasts and receive their pledges of allegiance. Once pledged, the beasts will travel the kingdoms to increase their ruler’s influence and position. As animal diplomats move to the capitals of the kingdoms, they will be able to join the councils in these cities and have lasting influence and power. In the end, only one true ruler will take their place as the ultimate power over the five kingdoms.
Animal Kingdoms is an area influence/hand management game for 1-5 players.
Each player starts the game with four animal cards and their influence cubes. The board is separated into five kingdoms. Each kingdom is dealt a decree card, which sets the rules for which animal cards can be placed in that kingdom. The kingdoms also get victory point tokens, one for each age (round), that is given to the player with the most influence at the end of the age (round).
Players have three options on their turn.
- Play an animal card to a kingdom. It must meet the decree card requirements.
- Rally their cards. This is a discard and redraw option and can only be done before someone withdraws from the round.
- Withdraw. This happens when a player cannot play any cards or if they played an influence token into a kingdom capital.
When players play a card, they place influence tokens on open spaces in the kingdom. Each kingdom has a different number of open spaces. Once all players have withdrawn from the round then each kingdom rewards points based on influence.
Sometimes players share influence in a kingdom. These players battle to see who is the winner of the kingdom. Battling is basically like war. The highest card wins, except a 1 will trump an 8 (the highest value). The player with the most influence or the one who wins a battle to become the most influential gains points based on the victory tile in that kingdom. The second most influential gets 3 points and the third most influential gets 1 point.
After three rounds the player with the highest score wins the game!
Animal Kingdoms was very easy to learn and teach. It only took about 20 minutes in all. I went through a few practice turns with the three other players and everyone was ready to go in no time.
The game has a very fun pace. There can be tough decisions to make, but it does not slow the game down because everyone else is studying the board to prepare for their next turn, so down time is minimal.
Everyone that played reported that they enjoyed the game and wanted to try it again. They felt that it offered something different and found it to be a fun, fresh experience.
Game Build Quality
The build of Animal Kingdoms is pretty much up to industry standards. It has nice cardboard for the box and game board. The cards and tokens are well made. I had one wish that I thought would have helped and that was to have the two-layer game board so the tokens had a slot to sit in. Sometimes the table would get bumped and we had to remember where everyone was at. This was tough in later rounds when people were in the council spaces and needed to remain there the rest of the game. Not a huge deal, but it would have been a nice addition and the factories know how to do it effectively now.
Artwork is stellar in Animal Kingdom. The colors are vibrant and eye catching. The board looks great once it starts filling up with cards and tokens. The animals are wonderfully done and really allow players to engage in the game.
The art is what drew me to the game in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the art was just one amazing facet of an all-around solid game.
What I liked best about Animal Kingdoms were the decree cards. These really changed what strategy players took each round. There are lots of decree cards and they allow for a great deal of randomness each play of the game. Some of them force players to play in a certain kingdom early in the round which creates some tough choices.
I also enjoyed the player interaction. Everyone was looking at the board to figure out their next move and would help the person who’s turn it was. There was almost no lag time in the game and all players felt very involved and engaged.
Age Range & Weight
The suggested age for Animal Kingdoms is 8+. There are some situations setup from decree cards that make players really have to do some serious brain exercises to figure out their next moves. These skills might not be developed yet in younger players. I would suggest going through the decree deck and removing some of the tougher options when playing with kids under 10 or 11. There will still be plenty of options to keep everyone entertained and still allow it to be accessible to young players.
Animal Kingdoms did not surprise me. I was expecting it to be a memorable experience and it was exactly that. It was challenging and creative. The player interaction was very high and all players said that they wanted to play it again. The art is fantastic and lets players fully engage in the game and feel like they are in the story.
If you are looking for something new that has the ability to be played again and again, then I suggest you check out Animal Kingdoms. It is a great game and one that will make it to my table often.
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