Hey board gamers, here in south Louisiana, our two days of spring are but distant memories. The onslaught of summer heat can only mean one thing: more time for board games! The Gumbo Pot this week was filled with the raucous sounds of animals bursting out of their cardboard boxes. Okay, that’s a little bit of hyperbole, but we did have an animal themed Twitch Tuesday this past week involving Wild: Serengeti, Savannah Park, and Roar and Write! We’ll talk about two of those today, plus our thoughts on an interesting puzzle game from Unexpected Games, but enough blather, let’s get to the games!
Marlin Perkins Would’ve Been Proud
Jeremy and Jamie, two of our local Anubis vets and SoBo volunteers, visited the Gumbo Pot this past week, and brought a gorgeous looking game that we’ve been seeing on social media. Wild: Serengeti is a 2022 release from Bad Comet Games, designed by Hani Chang and Sophia Kang. Wild reminded me of a souped up version of Dragon Market, without the pick up and deliver part, and is in that vein of games that require you to pattern build to score points. (Or, imagine a version of Bullet: Heart without the real time aspects!)
The game plays from 1-4 players, and took us about two hours to play, which is a little long for me in playing pattern matching games. I’m actually a fan of that genre — Sagrada, Blazon, Cascadia, Way Too Many Cats, I like them all! — and the theme here is admittedly unique. Players are working on their own animal safari style documentary, trying to capture “scenes” of certain types of animals in specific combinations from a market of cards they can draft. They will do this by moving animals around the landscape, trying to get the right animals to be on the right habitats in the Serengeti or in the right pattern (like having two giraffes next to a rhino) to complete their personal scene cards.
I did like the action system — players get a certain number of action points each round and can choose to spend them in whatever fashion they want, but as soon as they are out of points they are out of the round. It is tempting to spend an extra coin or two to get that action you really want, because this is at heart a worker placement game where some actions can get blocked out, but efficiency is the name of the game. I also liked those “feeling clever” moments when you expect someone to move an animal into position and that gives you the opportunity to say “thanks, I set that up” and score a tough card.
ROUX DAT SAYS: Wild: Serengeti is animal chess on steroids, and if there was a way to streamline this into a 45-60 minute game, I think I would have enjoyed it even better. Jeremy and Jamie did a good job of teaching the concepts, and the three other players were obviously much better at me at identifying the scoring opportunities. I can definitely see why Jeremy and Jamie enjoy this — Wild: Serengeti is gorgeous on the table and should appeal to any fan of puzzle / pattern matching games.
Unlock My Game!
My buddy, Eric Buscemi from the Cardboard Hoard, has good taste in games. I’ve enjoyed just about every game he has recommended to me, so I was intrigued when my fellow Punchboard Media veteran forwarded us a copy of The Initiative from Unexpected Games. It’s got a pedigree, designed by famed designer Corey Konieczka as the first release from his own studio after nearly 15 years at Fantasy Flight. Plus, I was really intrigued by the conceit of the game — teens find a board game called The Key at a rummage sale and take it home to play, when Stranger Things Happen.
It’s hard to talk about the first two games Jerod and I played without spoiling the experience. This game is all about the mysterious nature of the game within the game, and discovering the secrets along the way. I’ll just say that this is at heart a puzzle game, and we learned just enough in the first two sessions to want to see more.
In the early going, players are tasked to cooperatively play cards to one of four actions that allow you to move around the intriguingly designed game board, discover secrets behind the tokens on the board, and grab certain items before the game timer (the cards that you play) runs out. Yes, that’s pretty obtuse, but it is better to experience in person or watch our stream.
ROUX DAT SAYS: Two thumbs up from me and Jerod for our first two sessions. We both loved the storyline that comes in the included comic book. We found the characters were each interesting to play, with special powers that allowed us to play off each other’s turns. At least in the first two sessions, the puzzles grew appropriately in challenge from game one to game two. We’ll have to take a short break, because in describing the game to Jamie and Jeremy, they too got intrigued by our description, enough to borrow it and play it. Maybe we’ll get a full review from them soon? But I can definitely recommend this to fans of puzzle games or escape rooms that want to see the game evolve as they play, maybe a more thematic My City would be a good comparison.
Randowriters continue to explore so many new spaces. We’ve played the big board game style ones like Hadrian’s Wall, and the quiet thinky ones like Trek 12. Carla Kopp from Weird Giraffe Games tried her hand at a roll and write, this time in the Animal Kingdoms universe from her sister company, Galactic Raptor Games. Since Jamie and Jeremy and Jerod were on a roll with animal themed games, I thought we’d chunk this one into the mix.
I had not played it since the Kickstarter, so I was a little rusty on explaining the rules. The gist is that players will chuck a big handful of dice three times each round (there are five rounds in the game), and each round use whatever results they want to advance their “council offering”, basically trying to complete the requirements that the head of each animal family wants for scoring. Yes, as you can tell, this is a completely abstracted version of Animal Kingdoms, but it appeals to any fan of mathy puzzlers, with juat a little bit of that push your luck feeling.
The game comes with a bunch of double sided cards for each of the different animals. Some of these cards are looking for you to roll a bunch of numbers, yahtzee style, and others are only looking for certain combinations. But there is a real tension in how you divvy up the dice, because you also have to try and score points on the Kingdoms part of your sheet. Everybody has the same kingdoms, and they are looking for you to drop dice results to complete a section to score those points. But normally, you can only drop one die on that section — unless you are willing to sacrifice one of your kingdom spots below. Will you burn a spot and take a chance that the last roll will give you that five you need? It’s juicy but quick playing and quick decision making.
ROUX DAT SAYS: We were all impressed with how playing shared dice meant we were essentially playing solitaire but the competition is in seeing who can maximize those same dice rolls into the most points. I could see breaking this out at a convention, like Southern Board Game Fest, where we could get a whole room full of players together to compete. Roar and Write seems tailor made for game nights at your pub, game store, or library where you want something easy to teach that plays a lot of people in under an hour.
THE WRAP UP:
So that’s it for our recent plays. We want to thank Galactic Raptor and Unexpected Games for these review copies, and to Jeremy and Jamie for teaching us Wild: Serengeti. Roux Dat will be back soon with more early looks at recent plays.
Is there a game out there that you or your friends are curious about? Hit us up with a tweet @boardgamegumbo and we will see if we can get our hands on the game!
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo