Monday, November 23, 2009

Kid Game Reviews: Animal Upon Animal: The Duel

Animal Upon Animal - The Duel
  • designer: Klaus Miltenberger & Udo Peise
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2008
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.04
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $12.59 (
I first saw Animal Upon Animal being played at Kublacon (a gaming convention in the San Francisco area) by four very excited adults... and over the next 10 minutes or so, the game (and the exuberant players) attracted a crowd of people. It would have #101 on the Kid Games 100... and if I were to re-do the list today, it would probably be there.

Animal Upon Animal - The Duel is a two-player version of the aforementioned Animal Upon Animal... with some similarities & some significant changes. First, the similarities:
  • cool wooden animal pieces... this time around it's an octopus, a goose, a lioness & a squirrel.
  • they're both stacking games
  • all players have an identical set of pieces to begin the game
  • dice determine how to place the pieces
  • they're made by Haba (ok, that one's painfully obvious)

And the differences:

  • The Duel is a race game - the two players both build in real-time, seeing which one can complete their assignment first.
  • the big alligator is AWOL - you simply use any flat surface (which makes this a great restaurant game)
  • there are two dice (of different sizes) rather than one

Game play is very simple - each player rolls one of the dice. The big die shows what animal has to go on the bottom of the stack & the small die shows which animal goes on the top. Question marks are "wild cards" (so to speak) and matching dice mean you can put the indicated animal at the top or the bottom.

As soon as the objective is clear, players begin building as fast as they can. No animal can touch more than 2 other animals & (just like the original game) they must be on their narrow sides. The first one to finish gets a gold coin (aka "wooden token"). The first player to accumulate 3 gold coins wins the game.

The stacking is trickier than with the original game - the octopus in particular can be difficult to get into position. And, of course, some combos are harder than others... it all depends on the dice.

I think the age number from Haba will work fine on a kid vs. kid level - but more than the original game, this game will reward better fine motor skills (aka "age"). When playing with adults, you could easily handicap it by requiring the older player to get more coins in order to win.

A number of folks over on Boardgamegeek have bought two copies of this to act as "Animal Upon Animal - The Expansion"... which is very cool if not a little pricey. Jeff Goris made some really good suggestions on how to use a single copy to expand the game in a discussion over there that is worth reading.

Do I like The Duel more/better than the original game? No. Have we had fun with it & am I glad I own it? Yes.

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