If someone were to ask you to play ‘eye spy’ but then tell you what you were actually looking for, you’d think this to be a simplistic and fairly dull task; especially if the things you were looking for were in a small static place. However, this is effectively what ‘I Saw it First Jungle‘ is and its simplicity is what makes it such a quick and fun game to play.
In A Turtle-nut Shell
The game itself is made up of six connecting card segments that form the hexagonal game base. These fit together like jigsaw pieces. On each piece are a multitude of child-friendly illustrations of different creatures ranging from tiny insects or amphibians all the way through to large mammals. It’s worth noting that the image of each creature is not to scale so a butterfly could be the same size as a wolf for example although the larger animals like an African elephant are easier to find as they do tend to be the larger ones.
On a player’s turn, they put their hand into a box filled with tokens (we swapped this for a small cloth bag as it made the game easier to pack away without having to flatten the token box each time) and having pulled one token out they read the green side which gives the name of the animal then they turn the token over showing the image of the creature and place it near the game board and then it’s a race to see who can find it first. The first person to point at the corresponding image on the board claims the token and play moves to the next player. The game ends when one player has collected a pre-agreed amount of tokens before anyone else.
I Thought I Saw It First
Because the six card segments are double sided (one side with a green dot on each segment, the other side with a blue dot) you can vary which set up to start with and this means that those sneaky critters are now in different locations; remember the radiated tortoise (or not) was just above one of the many species of bat, well now it’s in between two unpronounceable grey fish.
Additionally with the six segments interlocking in the same way, you can also alter which piece goes next to another. Arguably this doesn’t have limitless variations but there are three hundred animal tokens and therefore too many locations to remember.
I have played this game so many times with my kids and even as I sat down to write this to make a witty comment about giraffe weevils or giraffes, I couldn’t find the giraffe weevil anywhere. And that’s another part of the fun; sometimes you don’t really know what you’re looking for until the token gets flipped over. A tiger (Sumatran or Asian) is one thing and everyone’s itchy fingers start hovering over the board above one of a few tigers on display but when someone reads ‘Marvellous spatuletail’ or ‘Gourami’ or even ‘Liturgusa algorei’ a collection of bemused faces sit waiting for the reveal of the corresponding image.
Mad As A Box Of Frogs
Another aspect of the game is that even if you consider yourself to be fairly clued up on your animals; I know an agouti from a pangolin and entered into this game on our first family foray with great confidence, you find yourself clearly overestimating your strengths. As a mammal connoisseur I had foolishly not considered how many varieties of bat there are and how many look very similar. You can be sat or, more likely, standing jubilantly after wildly searching for a particular bat, grinning that you saw it first only to find that the wings on the bat you found are shaped differently or it has a tiny grey patch on its chest and then the manic search begins again. Frogs were another revelation for us.
How many of us can honestly hand on heart, say that they know the many different sub species of frogs and moreover who would want to make such a claim but I can’t recall the differences between ‘Dawin’s frog’, a ‘Sumatran torrent frog’ or ‘Mantella frog’ and I am willing to bet that most others can’t either. It is possible that the frantic searching and always trying to be first leads you to miss or glance over some images that would otherwise be obvious, but there are lulls in the craziness where no body can find a certain creature and the calm and diligent process of looking at each animal in turn, only to miss it all over again and someone declaring ‘it’s not there’, starts until finally someone does see it first and the next token is revealed.
Something To Howl-er Monkey About
This is quite possibly one of the simplest games we own alongside the likes of Dobble but is equally as much fun. I consider it to be an overlooked gem in early children’s gaming experiences as our youngest has had this since they were four and all the family are still always happy to play.
Obviously, this is not to be compared with any euro game of any weight but nor is it supposed to be. It is very much a quick filler game or a fun family gaming experience. We don’t usually play through all the tokens and then count who has the most but instead often play the first to twenty as this gives enough table time without overstaying its very warm welcome. We also used it as a way of categorising animals when we had won tokens so the children learnt how to identify their insects from amphibians and I personally enjoyed learning about creatures that I had never known even existed.
Overall, this game is well worth a go for young families even if you have only just learnt about it… because ‘I saw it first’.