The board game market is becoming more and more populated with fantastic animal and nature themed board games – it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decide which new games to add to my collection! Animals Gathering caught my eye at the 2023 UKGE because of the beautiful geometric animal artwork, designed by Yuan Momoco, and the combined mechanics of dice rolling and tile placement. Animals Gathering is a light-strategy family game designed by DuGuWei and published by Wonderful World board games. It plays in 20 – 40 minutes for 2 – 5 players, ages 8 or above.
Players become mages in the magical kingdom of Crystal Forest and must gather magical stones to revive long-lost animal companions. Players roll dice to collect magical stones and place them on their animal cards to revive them. Once one of the players has revived five animals (sometimes four if you have a certain animal card), everyone adds up their points from their cards and bonus scoring powers to see who has won. The person who ends the game is not necessarily the person who wins!
Players start by being dealt a mage card that will grant them a magical bonus power throughout the game and three animal cards to choose their starting animal from. The different mage cards grant you different powers, such as rolling two extra dice, being allowed to re-roll once per turn, and sometimes picking out bonus magic stones depending on what you rolled. Five animal cards are placed face-up in the middle of the play area to form a communal supply, with the rest of the cards forming a face-down deck next to it.
Once cards have been dealt and starting animals have been selected, starting with the player with the lowest mage number, players take it in turns to either roll dice or choose another animal card.
When players take an animal card, this is a good way of making sure that when you roll the dice you can assign most, if not all, of them and not let the other players take any unassigned symbols. Finding the balance between having enough incomplete animal cards in front you that you accomplish this and not having too many so you can still roll plenty of dice is a big part of the game. I often find it’s good to have two or three incomplete animal cards in front of you at a time. Once a card has been taken, the communal supply is immediately replenished from the face-down deck so the next player also has five cards to choose from.
When players roll the dice, they have to subtract the number of incomplete animal cards they have in front of them from six and choose which colours they would like to roll. Each colour die has a different distribution of symbols, which is depicted very helpfully on the mage cards. After rolling, the active player assigns any matching symbols to their animal cards and turns them into magic stones (one die turns into one stone), and any unassigned symbols are offered to the rest of the players. This is part of why I love this game – there is lots of player interaction and unexpected developments that can happen between someone’s turn.
Once an animal card is completed, you move it to the left side of your mage card to the ‘companion area’ to indicate that it has been revived. Some animal cards have special powers that activate once they have been revived. This can include stealing magic stones from another player’s incomplete animal card, picking up bonus magic stones and picking up another animal card from the centre. This happens not only when that card is revived, but every time an animal card is revived. If you complete a card on another player’s turn by taking their unassigned dice then you can still revive that animal and activate its powers!
Game End and Scoring
The game immediately ends when a player has moved five animal cards to the companion area (sometimes four if they have the elephant card), and that player has finished their turn. Then all players score the points on their cards and any bonus scoring points indicated at the bottom of their revived animal card. Only revived animals score points. In the event of a tie, whoever has completed the fewest number of animal cards wins. If there is still a tie then the victory is shared.
Animals Gathering also has a game variant you can play with, although I recommend doing this once you’ve played a game or two first. Players can play with a spell card which grants them a one-time-use ability on their turn. This ranges from something simple like rolling all the dice, to choosing another animal card from the communal supply and then rearranging magic stones on any incomplete cards.
Animals Gathering is a beautiful and light-weight, dice-rolling game that can be played with friends and family. The artwork on the cards is a masterclass of geometric simplicity. I found the game very easy to learn and then teach to other people as the rule book is straight-forward and logical. As it’s a dice game, no two games are the same and you often discover new animals each game.
The quality of the cards, dice and magic stone tiles is great, and some of the magic stone tiles have different coloured sides which means you can customise the look of your animal companions. There is an element of push your luck when balancing the number of cards and dice, which I think adds an exciting mechanic to the game. The mage cards and animal activation powers also mean that it’s not just a dice rolling game, as bonus effects can be triggered.
I am excited to see if they make an expansion with more animal cards and mage cards, or possibly more dice and magic stones!