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Thisss apple is mine! No, it'sssss mine I ssssaw it firssst...
Life is getting harder for the snakes of the forest. When the apples fall from their trees all snakes try to take them for lunch. They run furiously to get the apples and to avoid the mushrooms... and the trees. They try to not pass over one another, but it is not so easy with their empty tummy!
The players maneuver their snakes playing the movement cards. They have to try to reach the apples and to avoid the mushrooms to get the points. They have also to reach the border of the map to score so many as the length of their bodies. There is score limit (different for a 3, 4, 5 or 6 player game) and when a player reaches this limit he is the winner.
Players: 3 - 6
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
Weight: 1,168 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English). This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.
- 6 wooden heads
- 48 wooden bodies
- 10 tree counters
- 18 apple counters
- 9 mushroom counters
- 6 wooden counters
- 6 snake boards
- 42 movement cards
- 58 event cards
- 1 double-sided game board
- 1 score board
- 1 reserve board
- 1 rulebook (English, Italian, Spanish, German and French)
Average Rating: 3 in 1 review
I remember vividly that silly DOS game in which you had to quickly move a snake around to eat an asterisk, and how it grew longer each time, and you had to avoid hitting your own body when you moved. It was a stupid, dorky game, yet I played it time and time again. As soon as I read the rules for Snake Lake (Tenki Games, 2006 - Piero Cioni) I was reminded of that old computer game. Players manipulate snakes around a board and must maneuver them into eating good apples and avoiding other snakes, themselves, and horrible mushrooms.
With super high production values, I've come to the conclusion that Snake Lake is a really nice kids game, a lot of fun to play, and useful for learning more gaming skills down the road. For gamers, the idea is cute and interesting, but probably too light for their tastes, as some randomness really plays a role into the winner. This doesn’t mean I dislike the game; it simply means that it suits a younger audience. Teenagers and children will have a blast trying to outmaneuver each other in a game that has programmable moves and a little bit of "take that" interaction.
A grid of squares is placed on the table, and its size is determined by the amount of players in the game. Each player takes a player board, snake heard, eight body segments, seven move cards, and a score marker of one color. The score markers are placed on a central scoring board, while a deck of Event cards is shuffled and placed on a "reserve board". Piles of Apple and Mushroom tokens are shuffled and placed face down on the reserve board, and then players take turns and place tree counters on the main playing board (number determined by amount of players). Once the trees are placed, each player places their snake head on one edge of the board, placing five of their body segments on their "body" space of their player board, and the other three in the "segment reserve" space. Players then look through their seven move cards and choose three of them, placing them on three spaces on their player boards. One player is chosen to go first, and play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a turn, the player turns over the rightmost card on their player board. This card shows what direction their snake moves. Players move their snake head one space in that direction, placing a body part from their "body" section on the space vacated. If all of a player's body parts are on the board, then the last one is removed and placed in the space vacated, simulating a snake slithering around the board. If the snake head runs into an apple or a mushroom, the corresponding token is flipped over and the points are added/subtracted from the player's score. If the snake enters a space that contains either a tree or a body segment from any snake (including its own), the snake is "knocked out". A knocked out snake is removed from the board; the player "resets" the snake (placing the segments on their board just like in the beginning, adding three new movement cards and placing the snake head on an unoccupied square on the edge of the game board.
When moving, if the player hits the head of another snake, then the snake being rammed is knocked out instead. The ramming player receives points equal to the segments on the board of the attacked snake. If a snake exits the game board when its full body is on the board, then the player receives points equal to its body length; exiting without having your whole body on the board scores no points.
After moving (or not - one card allows the snake to stay still), if
the movement card shows an event card icon on it, the player draws one
and resolves it. The cards are:
- Apple: The player places a random apple token face down next to any unoccupied square orthogonally adjacent to a tree.
- Mushroom: The places a random mushroom token face down on any unoccupied space on the board.
- Stretch: The player moves one of the "segment reserve" body parts into their "body" section on their player boards.
- Shrink: The opposite of stretch.
- Sleep: Choose another player, who loses their next turn.
- Rotten Apple: Remove an apple counter from the board and placed it back in the supply.
After resolving the event card, the player discards it and takes the movement card they used back into their hand. Each movement card they have on their board slides one space to the right, and the player chooses a new card, placing it in the leftmost position. The next player then takes their turn. Play continues until one player reaches a certain score (determined by number of players) at which point they are the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: Snake Lake, from the cheerful, cartooney box, to the bright colored components inside, really looks like a pleasant children's game. The snake pieces are wooden, quality bits and looked like a wooden snake when moved around the board. The boards are of good quality, having clear locations as to where to place the different tokens. The tokens themselves are also good quality - the mushrooms and apples are round tokens with the numbers clearly printed on the back, easily standing out on the board. Player cards are heavily laminated and show the direction the snake moves in a pictorial format, with a picture of that player's snake on the back. The snakes are drawn, as all the artwork is, in a very silly style, and the large square box itself has more of the same - really standing out on the shelf. All of the components fit well inside the plastic insert in the box, although I did bag the different types of tokens.
2.) Rules: There are four full-color pages of rules, with examples and illustrations abounding. Some translation problems may have occurred, because it took a bit of effort on my part to understand the snake "reserve" section - it was a bit unclear. Other than that, the rules are very easy; and I was able to clearly and easily teach the game to others. Younger children might have a difficult time learning the "play an event card two turns before using it" technique - but it's a good one to learn!
3.) Randomness: As strategic and interesting as the game sounded, there really was a ton of randomness included once we started. First of all, the event cards can skew the game, depending on which ones you draw. I really didn't like the "sleep" cards - making someone else lose a turn is a tired, annoying mechanic, especially if it happens to you twice in a row. The shrink and stretch cards themselves were also interesting, but again random. A player might be about to exit the board, when their snake grew and they suddenly score no points. The apple and mushroom tokens are also a source of randomness, as they have mild point swings (apples are eight to twelve points) - but enough to make a difference in the game. I actually didn't mind all this randomness, but it does relegate Snake Lake to being a children's game for me, because it would be too frustrating played in a serious manner.
4.) Programming: One good thing about the game is that it teaches programmed moves - similar to other games such as Robo Rally. This teaches kids to plan ahead; and while sometimes a random event makes this planning take a terrible turn, it still is interesting and fun. There are only four choices to pick from the cards: go forward, turn right, turn left, and stop; but it still takes a little bit to figure out exactly where your snake will end up.
5.) Points: Getting apples is by far the best and easiest way to score points, scoring at least eight points each time. Being the person to draw apple cards, thus putting them close to or exactly in your snake's future path, will really help a player out. I wish that the points for hitting another snake or leaving the board with your entire body intact were higher, since they are much more difficult.
6.) Fun Factor: The game is most interesting and fun for me when there are six players, as there is a lot of snakes moving around the board and collisions will happen quite a bit more. The board will seem fairly cluttered, with trees and other snakes, and it's very rare for a snake to successfully pull off an exit from the chaos. Because of the wild luck swings and the chaos of movement on the board, I really can see this one only appealing to kids or teenagers (possibly families) who don't mind a higher luck quotient in their games.
Bright, quality components and a high luck factor certainly push this game into the category of children's games. The idea is really neat, the artwork is superb, and gameplay fairly fast - but don't expect a strategy game of any sorts here. Instead, you have an action game that really does simulate several snakes moving at top speeds all over the board, with collisions and more occurring frequently. Adults found it mildly amusing, but too lucky for them. Instead, being great for teaching forward thinking and fun to play, Snake Lake will be a frequent visitor to tables with my younger groups.
"Real men play board games"