English language edition
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Millions of years ago the first men fought with other creatures for survival. By their ability to adapt to new types of terrain, they were able to flourish and eventually dominate the Earth. In this evolutionary game, players control up to six types of creatures indigenous to different regions of the land: Eagles (mountains), Bears (forests), Crocodiles (water), Mammoths (plains), Men (savannah), and Snakes (desert).
Each player takes the role of one of these six creatures, and tries to expand their herd and learn new abilities. As long as there is enough room in the region for all of the animals, the creatures can live together in harmony. Otherwise, battles erupt amongst the creatures for control of the region. Now, the success of the creatures depends on how well they adapt to their new terrain.
Which creature will grow its herd and develop the best strategy for survival?
I didn't know what to expect when I first opened the box of WildLife (which is probably too big, by the way.) I had heard that Wildlife (Uberplay, 2003 -- Wolfgang Kramer) was a "meaty" game, and I certainly expected a good game from Kramer, who has produced such masterpieces like El Grande and Tikal. The game came with piles of tiles, cards, and chips, and I hoped that the gameplay would match the "bits" factor. Wildlife is a game that simulates the theory of evolution, as each player takes a different creature type (mammoth, bear, crocodile, eagle, or snake) and make it the dominant species.
Upon playing WildLife, I was immediately impressed by the ability to customize one's race. The options to a player are many; and while this can slow the game down, it made my playings of it extremely fun. It's one of my favorite Kramer games, and I enjoyed the huge player interaction, the many, many ways to score points, and how Kramer managed to masterfully integrate area control, attacking, special abilities, and food supplies is simply amazing. The game is a little on the heavy side; and with five to six players, there can be some significant downtime; but the game, for me at least, was so intriguing that I didn't mind. It's not for the fainthearted, with the blatant attacks involved, but the payoff is worth it.
A board is placed in the middle of the table, showing a large island split into a square grid. Each square is one of six terrain types (forest, savannah, water, plains, desert, and mountains) and is part of either a "large" region of that terrain type (8-9 spaces) or a "small" region. (4-5 spaces). Each player chooses a race card and takes an amount of creature tiles (from 18 to 30) that match it, depending on the number of players. Each race card shows the six different types of terrain on the board, and the current level of adaptation of that creature in the terrain (no action, migrate, expand, or attack). A pile of food chips are placed near the board, with each player receiving eight of them. Fifteen ability cards of five types are sorted and placed face up near the board, as well as seventy-two adaption tiles, twelve of each terrain type. Each player places a scoring marker on the first space of the scoring track, and eleven "region markers" are placed on the Minor scoring track, and a purple scoring marker is placed on the Major scoring track. A deck of cards is shuffled, with ten being dealt to each player, and the remainder forming a face-down deck. Players then, in turn order (oldest player goes first), place a certain amount of creatures on the board (amount varies with players). Each player places a creature in one terrain square - but only if they can migrate, expand, or attack in that square. There are some restrictions as to the total amount of initial creatures in each region. The first player then takes their turn, with play passing clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they can take three actions, but playing cards from their hand. One of these actions must be auctioned off to the other players, which can be done at any time during a player's turn. They simply show the card, and players bid in a clockwise order around the table, using food chips (minimum bid is 3). Once all players but one have passed, the player who won the auction immediately plays the card (or discards it if they want). Players may also, at any time, trade three food chips for one point on the success track, or vice versa. The cards a player can play are of five different types:
Players may also take one free migration per turn, as well as use the abilities on their Ability cards. Whenever a player places a creature in the last space of any of the twelve regions, then a "Minor" scoring occurs. The first region marker is placed in the region, to show that that region has been scored, and the player scores the points underneath the region marker. When the fourth, eighth, and eleventh region markers are placed, then a Major Scoring occurs, tracked by the purple marker. Players score for a variety of things, such as:
Some comments on the game...
Wildlife is not a quick, easy game; but as with many Kramer games, there is a lot of depth and strategy involved. I enjoy any game that permits players so many options, and games in my group have been close and exciting thus far. The game suffers from a bit of fiddliness -- there's a lot of pieces to move, and players have to keep an eye on many different scoring opportunities, but all in all, it's a very satisfying experience. If you are looking for a deep, strategic game that allows you to customize your strategy, then this excellent game by Kramer will delight you.
"Real men play board games."
Jethro Tull's rockin' animal kingdom tune is perfect for Wildlife! This game well deserves Games magazine top honors for Advanced Strategy game. It really challenges the player with lots of manageable options and ways to score. And with Uberplay getting ready to print it in English, look for a lot of game play.
Basically, up to six species ( mammoths, snakes, eagles, bears, crocs, man ) fight over twelve areas of land using action cards. Each species has its strengths and weakness in each area. Players migrate, expand, and attack to dominate areas & create the largest herds. Action cards also enable each species to obtain added abilities and even evolve, allowing it to dominate in more areas. You may play up to 2 actions cards per turn, but you must also auction off one action card per turn, which an opponent uses immediately. Scoring is broken down into eleven possible 'small' scoring events (one player receiving VP's) and three 'big' scoring events (all players eligible for VP's). Game ends after the eleventh small / third big scoring takes place, OR a player has all species tiles on the board. Highest score wins.
This game has lots of great bits that all fit around the theme. The core of the game, card play (instead of Kramer's action point systems) works out very well. It hard to really have a totally bad hand as you are dealt 10 cards. You are also faced with the constant struggle of evolving / obtaining ability cards / covering terrain. Grab the food ability cards early and take what you can. Kramer put in a nice check & balance with the ability cards to keep someone from running away too far with them. In fact, BGoR thought one player was going to run away with a game just by using the food cards, but as he relied on them too heavily, he failed to evolve in the later game and lost. Also, forming large orthogonal herds score big points, so look to keep them in check. The auction phase is a nice touch as well since it keeps all players involved during others' turns. Unless you completely screw-up, all players run fairly close, and its easy to gang up and take out the leading species if he getting too far ahead. I suppose there could be a 'kingmaker' aspect towards the end, but BGoR haven't had that happen yet.
Get this game. It really becomes nasty as the island fills up, and keep an eye on how many tiles a player has left. He could end the game early by getting all his tiles on the board forcing the game end and final scoring. Great colors, tiles and cards. In fact it is amazing that Clementoni has such a great color scheme with Wildlife and so thoroughly screwed-up Magna Grecia, but I digress. BGoR likes Wildlife as one of it hard-core main games for an evening.
There are enough strategies you can pursue to ensure that different players will pursue different ones, but not so many that you are confused.
Our only criticism of the game is that a few rules variations are necessary. We ended up playing the game multiple times on a trip to visit friends and found that the Crocodile always won. Here are some suggestions to even things out.
Instead of having the first player start out behind the others on the scoring track, have everyone start out at the same spot.
Once the Wildlife cards (the Aggression, Food, etc. cardboard cards) are gone from the supply, instead of automatically taking the desired card from the person in the lead, let the player take the card from anyone they wish.
Let someone go back as many spaces as they want on the scoring track based on bidding. Why not!
We love this game. Enjoy.
Start with animal tiles in your species, food, and 10 cards. Initially, your species is very limited in what it can do in the board's six different types of terrain: It can expand (by placement of a piece from the supply) into only one type of terrain, it can attack in only one other type of terrain, and it can move from an adjacent region into only two other terrains.
You play Upgrade cards to increase the scope of your species. Cards also allow you to: place animals into a permissible area's spaces, including those that attack; select an Ability, which offers an awesome range of advantages in attack, defense, or increased card holdings; or force competitors to lose animals or food. You play three cards per turn, auctioning one to the other players, who bid with food.
Placing an animal in an area's last space earns points. This sometimes triggers a scoring session, during which points are awarded for having the most animals in each area, largest groups of connected animals, and most Upgrades, Abilities, and Food. Highest score wins after the eleventh area is filled. Another effervescent Kramer masterpiece teems with life!
This was released early in the Nuremburg chain of games and yet for some reason it did not get the early translators going. Probably because there were too many games coming out and the Puerto Ricoitis epidemic had already started. However, thanks to the efforts of many, and to the BoardGameGeek for publishing the output, the game is now in the shop front. Generally, the Kramer games have had logical, integrated systems, such as those in El Grande, Tikal and Torres, and so with that pedigree any game from Kramer has the potential to be superb.
Wildlife is a game set on an island, with many areas, each of which has a different terrain from its neighbours. These include Forest, Mountain, Desert and Water areas and the board and terrains are in autumnal colours. Each player is given a type of animal that has different abilities in each terrain. For example, the crocodile is well suited to water areas, but hopeless in deserts. This is shown on a small card that depicts each terrain and the abilities that animal has in the terrain. The best ability is the ability to attack and if a creature has this, it also has all the lower level abilities. These are (in descending order): expand - the ability to add to your tribe of creatures; move - the ability to move into that terrain and no action. Not surprisingly, the crocodile can attack in water and has no actions in deserts. However, during the game the creatures can evolve, and so the crocodile may upgrade from no action and eventually be able to attack in the desert! In addition, each creature can acquire special abilities, through mutations, that they may use to gain additional game benefits.
As soon as each area is complete, it is scored, with first and second places getting victory points. Three times during the game, a major scoring takes places and all areas are assessed, including those that have already been counted. In addition, there are three extra scoring allocations - for the largest contiguous set of animals, for the creatures that have the most mutations and for the creature that has evolved furthest into different terrains. The scoring systems provide a small bonus to players who complete the areas, so players are encouraged to cover the whole of the board.
Each terrain area varies in size between 4 and 9 squares and each terrain also borders at least two others, so there is plenty of scope for placing your animal markers in the right place on the board. The board is clear enough and is surrounded by the familiar scoring track.
Each player is dealt a hand of cards, which are produced to the standard you have come to expect. These include:
The graphics on the cards are distinct and there is a symbol on each card to tell you what type it is. For non-German speakers, the rules on the Geek are clear and you only need to refer to translations for the event cards, which is not onerous or time consuming as there is plenty of time to do this while you wait for your turn.
The game revolves around the playing of these cards and you have to play three of them on your turn. One of these must be auctioned, and the proceeds are paid for in food markers to the person who auctioned the card, so there is a closed system. The food points that you earn are used to pay for events, which may demand food points as a penalty. The food points can also be converted into victory points on a 3:1 basis, though you only need to do this just before the game ends, as there is no advantage in having those points showing on the victory point track as they attract the attention of other players! (Of course, you must covert them, as they are wasted at the end and it is important not to miss this opportunity.)
The bidding levels are also worth pointing out. Bids that exceed a player's current food point holding must be paid for using accumulated victory points, which are translated back into food points. As the system is a closed one, if everybody bids high, the available food points are high, and the victory points are lowered. If everybody bids low, the victory points are higher and there is a lower stock of food in the game. You can only convert victory points into food if you pay for an auction card.
The level of player interaction is good - you can decide which areas to compete in, using the evolution of your animals as a route; you have to decide which auctions to compete for, though I found in the games that I have played, that terrain cards only interest one or two players, so these auctions are quick to conclude. You can also decide to leave an area and compete in a new one, which will probably affect other players. (But see below for comments on how this slows the game down.)
The game is well constructed, with plenty of options for each player to consider: the range of cards, which card to auction, whether to defend an area by adding more animals, when to complete an area, and when to play the upgrades to other terrains and mutations. The mutation cards are all good, so it seems a good idea to play these as soon as you can, as the bonuses that they bring, such as an extra action and more food points are used for greater periods in the game. As the number of mutation cards is limited and differs for each type, there are not enough to go around. If this occurs, you can take the card you want from the person who is furthest around the victory point track and owns that card. This provides an incentive to keep just behind the person who has these cards, of course.
The rest of the actions can only be really considered when your turn begins. Each person could easily spend two minutes deciding what to do and in which sequence, so for 5 or 6 player games, the down-time is high and (I suspect) unacceptable for most groups. The game can drag on and then the game playing experience is no longer as good. Perhaps this sort of game fits best with 4 players or at a convention when time is less critical and the experience of playing the game to the end is more crucial?
I have not yet had the opportunity to play the game with 2 or 3 players, but I suspect it will be more enjoyable, as turns will come round more quickly. My verdict so far is that it will work better with 4 players than five or six, but I look forward to more games when players have got a better handle on the rules and the options, so that play proceeds more quickly. Early comments on this would be appreciated as the game itself appeals and the systems seem well integrated, so after more plays my natural enthusiasm for this type of game should re-surface.
RULE ERROR: Just in time to make the "stop press" but not soon enough for Alan to take account of it in his review, it has emerged that there is an error in the German rules, and hence in the English translation. According to the designer, each player may possess two ability cards of each type and not just one as the printed rules state.