English language edition
List Price: $14.95
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The two hedgehogs won! You ask, "How could that happen?" It all started with a stately lion, who was chased away by an elephant. The single elephant naturally yielded to the pair of elephants. Then two mice came along and scared the elephants away. Finally, the two hedgehogs came and bested the mice. A pair of foxes could have won, but they stayed away and left the victory to the hedgehogs. If you are not yet a believer, play and see for yourself!
I played this game for the first time on New Year's Eve with 5 friends. We range in age from 26 to 44 and are all very highly educated. We had a blast with this silly little game. It is easy to learn and easy to play. It's hard to imagine that such a simple little card game could make us laugh so hard for hours. It's small, cheap, and great fun for up to 7 players.
That's one of the bad puns you'll hear while playing this game, but I generally hate trick-taking games and this one had me wanting to play more. The changing partnerships are charming and learning the way the cards work together in the food chain makes strategy intriguing. You get such dilemmas as whether to play your elephants on the gators to try for the hedgehog or to save them to take the lions. Tough! Then again you could ask your partner for help...
We played this game with 6 players during our vacation. Even the old folks joined in (and by old, I don't mean the 40 somethings, I mean the 60 somethings.) All I can say is, we all had a laughing good time. I generally prefer strategic board games over card games, but my older relatives do not. We both found things to like about this game. There was plenty of strategy to keep me interested, while the older folks enjoyed the social interaction provided by the round-to-round sparring whereby players would try to 'eat' (outrank) thier loved ones' previously played animals. It is difficult to pinpoint one optimal strategy because there isn't one. During some hands, lady luck was kind to the players who disposed of the most cards the earliest. During other hands, fate favored those who held the most cards for the longest period of time. It's fun trying to second guess your opponents. I enjoyed 'passing' early in the game, sitting out each round while watching the other players fight it out amongst themselves for small point cards. Then, when the high point lion cards came out, I was throwing my beasts out there like some kind of crazy gladiatorial arena master. Of course you may not choose to think of the card play in such gruesome terms (especially if you are from the Animal Humane Society). So you can tone it down to suit your preferences by saying the animals 'scare' each other away. Either way you do it, it's a blast!
First, the 60 delightful animal cards in the deck are dealt and played to a series of tricks. Then, the opening player puts down one or more cards showing the same animal. Following players must (1) pass, (2) lay down more cards of the identical animal, or (3) lay down the same number of cards showing a more valuable creature. Table-turning is possible. The lowly mouse defeats the mighty elephant to bring things back to the bottom of the hierarchy. The trick continues until someone wins. The faster you get rid of your cards, the more you'll score when only one player has cards left and the round ends. In subsequent rounds, players form partnerships based on current scores. You share your partner's score, and can even request his assistance, but there's strategy involved: You'll still want to win bonus cards for yourself. The shifting partnerships make this charming game a menagerie of fun.
This is another game of the "race to get rid of your cards" type. Where it differs from Career Poker, The Great Dalmuti and the folk game from which those two derive is that it is played purely for points and with a special deck, which, unlike the standard one, is not linearly ordered. The cards in this case depict animals and there are rankings based on who has reason to fear whom. So, for example, the sardine fears the perch, the seal, the crocodile and the whale, but it does not fear the polar bear, for whom it would be too small a meal to be of interest. The perch and the seal, however, do fear the polar bear. In general, little animals fear more creatures than do big animals--though the hedgehog, as you would expect in a game from Doris and Frank, is an heroic exception to this, fearing only the fox. At the top end, the whale fears nobody, the lion and the crocodile worry only about the elephant and the elephant, with a touching display of phobia, is only afraid of mice.
One player leads to the trick by laying down a number of cards of the same type. Thereafter you may either pass or lay down a 'better set'. A 'better set' is either the same type of animal but one more card or the same number of cards but of an animal that outranks the previous one. This continues until you reach a stage where the person to play finds that the set they played last time still rules the roost. The trick is then set aside and this player starts a new one. So for example, a trick could go one crocodile; two crocodiles; two elephants; two mice; two foxes; two polar bears; all pass. The person who played the polar bears would then start a new trick by laying down more cards from hand, maybe three sardines, hoping that nobody would have three of a kind of one of the sardine's predators.
The first person to get rid of their cards scores one point for each player in the game, the second to finish scores one less and so on down to the last player to get rid of their cards, who will score two. This leaves one person with cards still in their hand and they score zero. The game is to a pre-set points target, usually 19. For the second and subsequent hands the game offers you a choice of either playing the same way as you did in hand one or forming temporary partnerships based on the current score.
And that is it. The game is certainly not another Mü, but it is entertaining and does offer some scope for tactics and planning. The cards are easy to use--pictures show which animals outrank the one just played--and wonderfully illustrated. Tell Doris that the assignment involves hedgehogs and the woman becomes inspired!
The game is also available from Rio Grande games under the changed title 'Frank's Zoo'. (The German title translates as 'Trouble in the Zoo', which seems like a better title to me, but I'm sure they had their reasons.)