It’s a literary device that dates back thousands of years. You may think of any number of books, cartoons, movies and games that feature it…
Anthropomorphism: the idea of giving human characteristics to non-human entities and, more often than not, animals. Think of Sonic the Hedgehog, Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse; all are anthropomorphic. They talk, they laugh, they joke and feel human emotions. Animals that walk around in clothes, work office day jobs and go on romantic date nights have become something we just accept without ever even wondering why. Do we really question the notion that Mickey MOUSE has a pet dog that is smaller than he is? So now let’s suspend reality some more as we examine some of the best games on the market that feature walking and talking, wheeling and dealing (and sometimes even brawling) anthropomorphic animals!
I’m a little biased as this is one of my all time favourite games so I had to put it at the top of the list. What makes Root so fantastic is that, not only is it a great tabletop strategy game featuring Robin Hood-esque woodland creatures fighting for control of the countryside, it has so much depth and complexity that the game never gets stale! Don’t let the cutesy artwork fool you, these critters are anything but sweet and cuddly; the armies of the Marquise de Cat will spread like wildfire whilst the mice and rabbits revolt and create dangerous uprisings. With a wealth of expansions, and in turn more animal factions to play as, Root will really scratch that animal lovers itch. There’s something very satisfying about marching a horde of cat meeples through the forests and clearings! From merchant Otters travelling along the waterways selling their goods to the fearsome marauding rats…. It’s pure anthropomorphic animals joy!
If you love animals and you love worker placement games then this game deserves a special spot on your shelf! Chances are this won’t be the first time you have heard of Everdell. In this endearing worker placement game you will be building up the fictional city of Everdell, home to all manner of industrious animals. Remember what I said about the deceptively cute animals of Root? Well this lot are a much more peaceable bunch. In fact, you’ll struggle to find a game out there that can match the charm of Everdell; postal pigeons, miner moles, and wood carving squirrels are just some of the cards you can play. You know the drill with worker placement games; place a meeple, take the resources etc. However, this isn’t just a generic game with a nice animal ‘skin’, it really leans into these critters and their occupations, the town buildings and woodland resources to be gathered. You will come back home to Everdell again.
Do you like refined and dignified animals? How about a fluffy white cat wearing a string of pearls, a gentleman fox in top hat and tails (sorry for the thinly veiled pun) or a bear sipping her afternoon tea? If that sounds like your kind of thing then you’ll love Raccoon Tycoon! To read the product description you probably wouldn’t be expecting it to be particularly animal themed; business tycoons investing and producing materials in a commodity speculation frenzy. However this all takes place in the fantastical land of Astoria, where the local critters dress in their finest and bid on the various commodities on the market. Sell at the right time and you will bring in the big bucks, but don’t wait too long because other players actions can affect the market value of resources for all players (You’d been stockpiling coal? Well now it’s worthless). Building up a small fortune is vital if you are going to be the proud owner of the Top Dog or Fat Cat Railroads! Through high stakes bidding wars you will see why Raccoon Tycoon has such a special place on this list.
Departing from the adorable and the charming, it’s time to take a stroll down the mean streets of CRIME CITY! If, like me, you were a child in the 80s/90s you will be familiar with the ‘Where’s Wally?’ books and all of the detailed goings on that happened in those pages. Now in MICRO MACRO: CRIME CITY you will be the lead detective searching for the truth in this world of anthropomorphic animals and humans. From cases such as ‘The Bank Heist’ to ‘Death From Above’ there is a wide selection of disappearances, robberies and other crimes to solve. “Mr Cat was found dead in Neptune Park” is a phrase you probably never thought you would read in a board game but it’s just one of the many ridiculous introductions to the dastardly deeds in Crime City. Following the characters throughout space and time on the oversized city map, players will need to piece together who did what, when and where. Who dropped the piano? Where did the busker disappear to? Who’s been shaving peoples heads? And will there be justice for the dear departed Mr Cat. This one is a riot to play!
Well there you have it, 4 games that bring the animal kingdom to life and this list only just scratches the surface. Still, if you love your larger than life critters, then these games with anthropomorphic animals are certainly worth exploring.