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Top 5 Animal Themed Board Games

I am a huge sucker for games that involve animals, whether the game uses cards, animeeples, or even cardboard chits. I’ve done a top-5 animal themed board games video in the past, but thought I would update my list based on games I’ve played recently, as well as changes in my opinions and desires to play certain games. Let’s take a look!

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Number 5 – Zoo Tycoon 

This is a game that almost fell off my list, first and foremost because I haven’t had a ton of time to play it as it’s such a massive game that takes up so much time. Still, the production value here is off the charts, especially if you are able to secure a deluxe edition of the game as I was. The screen printed animeeples are fantastic, and really make the game have a great table presence.

I enjoy making the hard decisions this game requires of you, and yes, a few wrong decisions could mean you are down and out when it comes to actually winning the game. However, I’ve enjoyed actually making my own zoo so much that even after a few hours, and knowing within an hour that I was probably going to lose, I still had a fantastic time. And that, in my opinion, is the key to a really great game – that even if you lose, the experience was well worth the effort.

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Number 4 – Forest Shuffle

Forest Shuffle was a game that I actually didn’t really like when I first started playing it. The game requires players to play cards from their hands in front of them to create a forest. Trees are key to your forest as it is what you will play plants and animals with. What I initially hated was the disappointment in not getting the right cards into your hands. I have a Lynx for example, but they only score if you have deer. And I have no deer.

Overtime, however, you learn that holding onto cards isn’t the way to play. If you don’t think you will play it within a turn or two, then let it go and fcus on something else. Get too tied to your cards, and you will have a poor experience. That was my initial trouble. Once I began to play a little more fluidly, allowing the cards in my hand and on the central board to dictate how I played each game, I realized I really enjoyed this little card game. It’s not much when out on the table, and the rules are not difficult to understand. However, this has a TON of decision space, and a lot of strategy is required to get a good final score!

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Number 3 – Zoo-ography

Zoo-ography is a lesser known animal themed board game from Doomsday Robots. I initially backed this game on Kickstarter, and the fantastic pricing made it an easy back in my opinion. In Zoo-ography, players will be building out their zoo using square tiles, creating attractions, shops, restaurants, and animal pens. Animals can be taken from a central board, but the trick is that some animals require specific water requirements, and all animals can only be in pens with certain other animals. This is a light tile and animal placement game that still has a decent amount of decision making. Deciding how to play out your tiles requires a bit of skill, although there is some luck to how the animals end up on the various cards as well, which can make your game difficult without it being your fault.

Zoo-ography is a bit harder to find, but if you do, you are in for a really fun tile and animal placing game.

blankNumber 2 – Ark Nova

Ark Nova is the only game on the list I do not own, but have had the chance to play my brother-in-laws copy on multiple occasions. Like with Forest Shuffle, I did not enjoy my first play of Ark Nova and I think even said I would never play again. However, as I’ve played it more, I really enjoy the card play and how your zoo comes together right in front of you. I’m a sucker for animeeples, so by that logic Ark Nova would be further down the list, and you’d expect more games like Wild Serengeti on the list. However, this game flows so well. It’s easy to play, even though there are a lot of decisions to make and things to consider.

I am a bit shocked that Ark Nova is so high on my list, but right now it’s a game I really enjoy and would table before all the others if I had the chance!

Honourable Mention – Zooloretto

Zooloretto was one of the first board games my wife and I purchased after we got married, and we still have a lot of love for that game. It reminds me a lot of Zoo-ography but without the placement of actual zoo tiles. I think this one falls off my Top 5 list because if I’m going to play a game where I’m moving animals from a central region into my own zoo in a group, I’d rather do that in Zoo-ography than in Zooloretto!

Honourable Mention – Wild Serengeti

Wild Serengeti is a phenomenal game, and would probably be on this list if not for one thing – it is way too freaking long, and getting a game that is played is a pretty big challenge for our gaming group. I love placing the animals out on the board and moving them around to complete objectives, but it’s the length that keeps this one from getting played more often than we do.

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Number 1 – Life of the Amazonia

Life of the Amazonia is such a fantastic game. It mixes things I really like, tile placement and animal placement. I love the additional scoring features that look at lily pads and trees, and the plethora of different animals to use and animal cards makes each game feel different.

I’m not a huge fan of 3D cardboard objects for board games, so obviously the waterfall feature in this game is a big miss for me. But everything else is really good. It is worth noting that when I reviewed this title, the designers sent over the upgrade packs as well. I think the base version of Life of the Amazonia is a pretty bad purchase. Without the upgraded components, you are using some REALLY thin cardboard chits, and as it is a bag building game, those are going to wear out pretty quickly.

 

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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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Twitter: @AdamRoffel