“You’ve got this, you are The Champion of the Wild!” You tell your Grasshopper. You both eye the angry African Elephant rampaging around the ring. Your decision to choose the Grasshopper seemed faultless when you were watching your opponents check every nook and cranny during the Hide and Seek round. Now, however, it’s the Royal Rumble and it’s your Grasshopper’s time to enter the ring. You look on from behind your hands, hardly daring to peek through and OUCH… Maybe the next event will be more to your skill set...
This may sound extreme, but in The Champion of the Wild these exact scenarios can happen! Players take on the role of an animal trainer with the ability to talk to animals. You must compete against other trainers by pitting your animal athletes against theirs to become The Champion of the Wild!
Meet the Champions of the Wild
Gameplay for The Champion of the Wild is very simple and accessible for all of the family. First, the group decides which competition they would like to play. The rulebook recommends certain competitions for certain groups, taking into account age and number of players as well as length of game. Generally, the rulebook recommends a standard Triathlon, as this will teach you the fundamental rules required for the other game modes.
The setup is very simple no matter what competition you decide to partake in, essentially just shuffling the event and animal decks. Then you take the Ready to Vote card of your chosen colour and the appropriate number of voting tokens (one fewer than the number of players).
The first stage to any game of The Champion of the Wild is drafting your champions. Players start with a hand of animals and choose one, placing it face down in front of them. They then pass the others on to the player to their left. Depending on which competition you choose, you will collect between 5-7 animals as your competitors. I'd recommend recruiting a variety of athletes in order to cover a broad spectrum of possible events. A full collection of large powerhouse animals may come back to haunt you when you must play musical chairs or dodge a tennis ball, for example!
Next, roll the weather die to determine the conditions that these events will be played in. The die is a standard D6 which has different weather conditions displayed on each face. These rolls can result in clear and sunny skies, to heavy rain or even cloudy with strong winds.
Events Gone Wild
It is time for the events to be revealed! Players wait with bated breath - has their choice of animals been good enough? The events are drawn from five different decks; Power, Teamwork, Speed, Technical and Endurance. In the Standard Triathlon, three Event Selectors choose a category each. Then draw three cards from their chosen category and then decide on one each to use. In the other variants, the event selection is randomised. Some events have multiple options that can be chosen. For example, one power event card gives the options of Shot Put, Discus or Javelin.
The chosen events should then be read aloud, with any additional water or flying rules added at the bottom of the card. This clears up the rules for aquatic and aerial animals respectively.
In the Standard Triathlon, players then choose one animal to represent them in all three events. Other variants allow for different animals to be used in the different events.
Players then place their Ready to Vote card in front of them with the ‘Undecided’ side face up.
And in the Blue Corner...
After reading the rules of the event, each player participates in an open discussion about which animal they think would win. Each player must argue the case for their own animal. You will need to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the other competing animal athletes, as well as their strategies.
When each trainer feels they have heard enough from their opposing coaches, they turn their Undecided card over to the Ready to Vote side.
Once the majority of players have turned their cards this way up, the voting is ready to take place. Has the Green Anaconda done enough to beat the Gibbon in the egg and spoon race? I doubt it, but it may have pipped the Honey Bee to the finish line!
The Voting round now takes place. Each trainer secretly gives their opponents a position in the event, excluding their own athlete. They pass a token with the chosen position face down to their opponents.
In the Standard Triathlon, the same animal is then used to compete in the next two events. Different variants have different event structures, some allowing for a one-time tag team where two animals compete together. Others consist of three separate Triathlons for a longer game, before the top two coaches compete in the grand finale of the Decathlon.
Regardless of which variant you play, it all comes down to the final scoring! After playing all the events, players reveal how many points they earned in each event. The scores for all events are added up and the player with the most points wins the most prestigious title in board games... The Champion of the Wild!
Congratulations! Time to go and celebrate down your local with a 180KG Gorilla!
The Closing Ceremony
The Champion of the Wild is a brilliant, family-friendly game. It is both perfect for hardcore gamers as a mood lightener or for rookie groups getting their first taste of the greatest hobby.
The artwork on the cards is sublime, combining hilarious scenarios with detailed pictures. This is a game with very few components, just a few decks of cards and eight tokens for the eight player cap. The tokens are thick cardboard so won’t bend. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the cards. Despite looking sturdy and hardy, the cards have bent in my box. Hopefully this is an issue that only I have come across!
The player interaction is fantastic in this game, with everyone debating where each animal would come in a given event. This can be chaotic if a loud-mouth member of the group easily takes control. I find that if the discussion is done in a circle giving each player time to speak, this is not an issue. The group then has a chance to counter any points that you make after you have had your say.
There is an online variant mentioned in the rulebook for players to look up facts about their animals. Although this is a great idea for a group looking to learn whilst they play, I personally like having phones switched off to maximise group concentration. The lack of actual knowledge of some animals also provides some amazing arguments when trying to argue their case in an event. I find making up your own solution to having a sloth in a 100m sprint, is more comical than looking up a rare breed that isn’t as slow as its cousins.
The Final Result
The replayability of the game is theoretically endless, with so many different combinations of animals and events. The only issue lies with the fact that it is the same concept of choosing an animal and arguing its case over and over. Nevertheless, I find that the several different variants make The Champion of the Wild a game that you can play week in, week out. Besides, once you've had one taste of victory, you'll want to fight to keep your hard-earned crown as Champion of the Wild.