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Wild Serengeti

Designer: Gunho Kim
Artist: Sophia Kang & Hai Chang
Publisher: Bad Comet
Year Published / Kickstarted: 2022 /2021
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages:14+
Playing Time: 45-120 min
Main mechanic / Theme: action selection, set collection, worker placement, pattern building / wildlife

A gorgeous game that plays as great as it looks  with some of the best looking animal meeples!

Find more info on https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/335427/wild-serengeti

Overview:

Players are wildlife documentary film makers hoping to win a contest by the Good Comet Society to promote environmental conservation. To do this you will need to complete scene cards with specific criteria of animals in particular terrains. 

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Gameplay and mechanics:

Using action selection,  animals will be placed and moved around the landscape until you’ve got the scene card lined up & can score it on your turn. Each turn you will place one of your workers (camera) in an available spot & in the first round the only ones open allow you to place animals on the board. There are 4 different varieties of animals & each category has 3 different animals to choose from. After the first round, other spots open up which allow you to move an animal up to 3 spaces, swap the positions of 2 animals on the board, take a scene card from the card pool, and refresh the entire card pool & then take a card. Each space costs one coin and most only allow one player to be there at a time. If you really need to go to a spot that is occupied, some spots allow you to pay an extra coin to go there. But that is costly so usually a better idea to find another action to take. If you do get short on money, two scene cards can be discarded for one coin. 

Scene cards require certain types of animals either in a specific pattern (straight line or adjacency) while other cards require them to be on certain types of terrain (grasslands, water, rock & woodlands). Many will require a pattern with a terrain requirement for one or all of the animals also. Once completed, a card is placed under your video gallery bar & then any icons on the card will provide benefits from then on.  Some simply score points while others reward plant & fruit icons which can combo with other cards rewarding points for the number of those icons you have. Likes (hearts) provide set collection points awarded at the end of the game depending on how many you have. Food & VFX tokens can be earned each round if they are on a completed scene card. The food tokens allow you to move animals up to 3 spaces on the board & VFX tokens allow you to ignore a terrain requirement on a card. These can be very handy to get that perfect alignment of animals for a quick score. Diamond cards are very rare but provide big chunks of points (but are harder to accomplish). 

Each player is dealt 3 specialist cards at start of the game & picks one to keep which will give either special powers during the game or provide endgame scoring opportunities. Each card features the level of difficulty for the ability which is nice for newer players. I´ve played with some that have the end game scoring and with ones that provide special abilities during the game. They seem pretty balanced but will definitely shape your strategy if you want to be successful with them. There is a wide variety of them and even more included in the Kickstarter expansion. 

There are 6 rounds in the game & before round 4 a great migration card is drawn which will remove animals from the board according to a random diagram on the card (it does get crowded) so plan accordingly! Also before rounds 4 & 6, an awards ceremony is held which rewards points for having the most of a certain animal (this also includes paw prints on certain cards which act as wild symbols). First place gets double the number of animals the player has so it’s important to keep those goals in mind. Since completing scene cards is the main way to gain points, it's important to get the right cards. That  means balancing burning through the card stack to find just the right card versus  spending a few turns to move the animals around on the board to match the cards you have. This will be one of the big game decisions youĺl be faced with. 

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Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout:

As previously mentioned this is a great looking game. The animal meeples look great & are top quality (& there are a ton of them). The 3D round counter (Pride Rock) is a bit unnecessary but looks great on the table & it is not as obtrusive as the Everdell tree. Thematically everything works well together. Working to get the exact wildlife photograph needed carries through all aspects of gameplay.  The artwork is really nice even if the cards are kind of minimalistic. There isn't a ton of iconography and it is all easy to understand. 

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Inclusivity and Accessibility:

The many specialist cards have a nice diversity of characters which is always great  to see. Some might think the numerous animal meeples can be a bit fiddly with all the moving around the board of them. Plus some of them are very easy to knock over if not careful so watch those loose sleeves (looking at you, giraffe!). While the iconography on the cards is easy to understand, it is a bit small & might not be easy to read by someone across the table.

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What worked:

This is a relatively easy game to understand the rules so it's quick to the table. The strategy hits when you dive in after a few turns and are trying to move everything around for that perfect picture. The specialist card with the asymmetrical player powers will help keep the game fresh because your strategy can be shaped by them or by the endgame scoring they provide.  

There has been some discussion if the Likes (heart symbols) set collection aspect is overpowered & while it does present the chance for huge points it is dependent on other factors. You might have to burn through that large deck to find some of those hearts. The diamond cards can also give big points but their requirements are much bigger so it takes longer to achieve them. So I feel it's pretty balanced unless a lot of heart cards come out & in that case you better grab some quickly.

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Final thoughts:

Anyone who is a fan of nature\wildlife games will thoroughly enjoy this. It is definitely a puzzle game but the strong unique theme keeps it from being just an abstract puzzle.

There are a TON of cards in this game (not Ark Nova amount but still a good chunk) & cards seem a little  thin but we just barely made it through the deck once so not sure how much shuffling will be done after the initial one. Other than that super high quality all around. 

Again, this is one of those games that plays as great as it looks. It would be perfect for families and more seasoned players alike. There are also animal facts on every card so it can be educational too. I played 3 handed first and it might’ve played a lil long but I wasn’t bothered by it. Turns can be quick when you have your plans mapped out but can cause some AP if you have to start over. Great gaming experience all around!

 

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