What's Eric Playing?: Week of January 7, 2019
Welcome to the new year! We’ve got another four reviews for you, so let’s get straight to them. For the full review, don’t forget to click the game names.
Overall, I quite like Animal Kingdoms! I think that the thing I appreciate most about it is that it has some similarities to a competitive Shipwreck Arcana; the Decrees sort-of create a logical puzzle and solving that puzzle (or figuring out if you CAN solve it with the cards in your hand) is really interesting, to me. That’s kind of why I’m pushing for more intense Decrees; I want the difficulty to be figuring out if a card play is legal, not just strategizing about which card plays are your best option. Maybe a stretch goal; I’ll keep my fingers crossed. It would at least be fun to name the Decrees or some flavory thing. Beyond that, I mean, the art is absolutely breathtaking; this might be the best animal art in a game that I’ve seen (beyond ICECOOL, but, this game has no penguins in it so I don’t have to make those kinds of compromises). Ironically, when I first played it it kind of reminded me of the fast-paced card-playing that I remembered from UNO, and it was nice to see how a two-player game can move that quickly towards the end of the game as players get familiar with it. I don’t find it to be all that complicated of a game, either, so I could see myself pretty easily breaking this out for relatively new or fairly experienced gamers; it’s about the same weight as Realm of Sand, if I had to really think about it. All in all, you really want a strong release when you’re getting started as a new publisher, and I think Galactic Raptor certainly has that, here. If you’re looking for a game with great art or some solid strategy, Animal Kingdoms has a lot of both, and I’d recommend checking it out!
Overall, Dino Dude Ranch is pleasant. I think it’s well-targeted as a family game, especially for younger gamers who can recognize the shapes and figure out which dinosaurs they want, which is good (in that case, just remove the Hired Hands cards and play without them; make it a “roll again” or something). From a “strategy gamer” standpoint, well, there are a lot of games that involve dice and a lot of them have a bit more strategic depth to them than this one does. That’s fine and all, it just means that this might be a game you play with kids before you break out something like Istanbul: The Dice Game or Dice Forge, as I feel like the strategies there are a bit more exact than what I get out of Dino Dude Ranch. That said, I’ve enjoyed my plays of it; it’s very smart in that it’s fast and doesn’t overstay its welcome at all. If you’re looking for a very quick, very light game about dinosaurs or something that the whole family can enjoy together, maybe try Dino Dude Ranch!
Overall, Heads Will Roll is pretty great. It’s one of many games that are rapidly forming a “bring everywhere” kit, including staples like Catch the Moon, Sprawlopolis, and I think Skull King — they’re quick, simple games with a lot of fun components that are going to get people excited about new games. The thing that might turn people off of this game (beyond the macabre theme) is that it’s pretty stripped-down; there’s not much more to the game than just flicking skulls. For me, that’s fine — it’s almost a micro Ice Cool, in that sense. Personally, I just think this is another example of Lay Waste doing something neat and doing a great job of producing it. I can’t wait to see what they do next. If you’re looking for a bare-bones (pun intended) dexterity game, I’d recommend checking out Heads Will Roll!
Overall, Bugs on Rugs is a solid, quick little game. Fans of drafting will appreciate a few spins on the traditional take, in that you draft face-up cards from the center, and players that want a bit more than just “take a bunch of cards and hope you took the best ones” will appreciate the powers that affect all players at the end of each round. Having players be in charge of remembering what cards their opponents have taken is a bit annoying, sure, but I’m sure it would be even more annoying if you had players attempting to count everyone’s total scores before they take a card and aggressively min-maxing during play, so I’m mostly fine with the hidden cards. I think it’s a firm enough foundation that I would be surprised if this is the last we’ve seen of Bugs on Rugs, also, as there are again, plenty of bugs. Either way, if you’re looking for a quick, light drafting game or you love gateway drafting games a lot, I enjoyed Bugs on Rugs, and you likely will, too!