Dale Yu: First Impression of Fast Sloths

Fast Sloths

  • Designer: Friedemann Friese
  • Publisher: 2F Spiele
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Played 5x on review copy provided by 2F

When I talked to the folks at the 2F booth, they quickly sold me on the idea of a race about sloths, where the sloths never move!  Instead, in each game, 6 different animals (from a pool of 12) help pick up and deliver the sloths. Because, let’s face it – a sloth would much rather be carried somewhere than have to move on their own! 

The game is played over a huge double-sided two-part board which shows a landscape of 7 different types, and the discs for the six species chosen are placed on starting spaces.  Additionally, the deck of 10 cards for each species is set up. Each player chooses a sloth and then places one leaf in their color on the 9 trees. Starting trees for sloths are chosen in reverse player order, and each player collects their leaf from their starting tree and places it on the leftmost column on their player board.  As you collect more leaves, your ability to draw cards and the number you can keep in hand at the end of the turn will change – always worsening. I guess the weight of all of those leaves really tuckers you out!

The game is played around the table until the race is complete – that is the end of a round when at least one sloth has collected 8 of his 9 leaves.  On a turn, the active sloth (ha, I guess I should say the inactive sloth) has 3 phases. I) Must draw cards, II) May be moved, III) Must check hand limit.  These actions are shown pictorially on your player board, and the limits for drawing and hand capacity are determined by the number of leaves that you have collected at that time.

I) Draw cards – per your board, draw cards from the top of different animal decks. You cannot draw more than 2 cards from any particular deck.  As you progress along, you may be required to also discard a card from your hand after drawing. Discarded cards are placed at the bottom of their deck so that the decks are constantly recycling/replenishing.

II) Be carried by an animal – if you choose to be carried, play as many cards as you want of a single species, and add up the values on those cards.  This total is your movement points which any single disc of that species can use this turn. Each point allows the chosen disc to move to an adjacent hex on the map, so long as that terrain type is shown on the movement card for that species.  Also, don’t forget to check the special ability that each species has, this may allow you to break the regular rules to your advantage! Once during the turn, that animal can pick up your sloth for its space or a space adjacent to it. The animal can also drop you off on any space it is on or any space adjacent to it (well, not a mountain nor river because sloths can’t be dropped off there).  If you pass through or stop on a Tree space, you can collect the leaf of your color from that tree. If it drops you off, its movement ends immediately. Otherwise, it moves until it is out of points or you choose to stop moving it. It may not stop on a space with another animal. At the end of this phase, all cards are placed in ascending order underneath the matching card stack. 

III) Check your hand limit – if you exceed the limit (based on the number of leaves that you’ve collected), discard the extra cards onto the bottom of the matching card stack.

Again, this continues until the end of a round when at least one sloth has collected 8 leaves.  The winner (once all players have had the same number of turns) is the sloth who has collected the most leaves.  If there is a tie, the player with the highest total of movement points left in their hand is the winner.

My thoughts on the game

Fast Sloths is a brilliant idea; and though I called it a race game at the top, it’s really more of a pick-up-and-deliver game.  Though, even this nomenclature may not truly fit – as the destination of the good (the sloth) is not pre-determined. But, regardless of which gaming genre box you’re going to put this in; the game delivers a fairly quick paced and highly strategic affair that challenges you to optimize routes while not outstaying its welcome.

One of the selling points for many is the variability of the game.  In the box, you will get 12 different animals; each with their own certain number of animals as well as their own unique special ability.  Each game only uses six of the possible twelve animals, thus, you will likely always have a different combination of animals and special abilities when you play.  In addition, the board is double-sided which allows for a number of different terrain possibilities as well. While I think that this is great; I have found that I don’t necessarily even need that variance.  Even the recommended starting setup will play differently depending on how the players choose to move the different animals.

The game tends to play differently with the different player counts. My 2p game was very thoughtful and allowed for a fair bit of advanced planning.  As you got to make a move every other play, you could often foresee where certain animals would be a few turns into the future. When you play with 5, the game becomes much more chaotic; sometimes becoming difficult to even string together actions on two consecutive turns.

courtesy of henk.rolleman (from BGG)

Regardless of the number of players in the game though – the game rewards those who are best able to adapt to the conditions.  Clever drafting of cards to give yourself flexibility is important here. Often, your most obvious play will be stolen from underneath you as someone else will grab a particular animal, and this will cause you to have to switch to Plan B!  At first I was worried that this interaction was going to have a strong take-that feel to it – but in reality; these actions are really not overly targeted. Generally, opponents are only going to move animals that help them move their own sloth around.  I mean, there’s nothing stopping them from screwing with you and not gaining anything, but we didn’t see any of this sort of decision making in our game.

Due to the restrictions on drawing and hand limit, the game has a built in catch up mechanism in place, though it is not so strong that it automatically keeps players in the game.  I have seen runaway winners (and runaway losers) in my games thus far – but I do think that it does make it a bit more interesting near the end as each player has fewer options at their disposal.

The artwork is done by Harald Lieske, and pretty much it fits right in with every other 2F game.  If you like the style of previous games, you’ll like this. If you hate green, well maybe it’s not for you 😊.   The rules are laid out in an easy to follow pattern, and I really like the way that an illustrated example is given for each of the twelve animal species in the game.

Overall, I enjoy Fast Sloths, though I am likely to want to play this with 3 or 4.  With 2p, it was maybe a bit too thinky, and with 5p, it was too chaotic for my tastes – but of course YMMV.  I know a few groups that only want to play this with 5, so do what makes you happy. As I mentioned earlier, there is plenty of variety inherent in the different animals, and there is already an expansion board available! And, I’m guessing that FF has already worked on a few extra animal species to throw into the mix soon.

Thoughts from the Other Opinionated Gamers

Dan Blum (3 plays): I like this quite a bit, although I tend to agree that playing with more than four gets too chaotic. I have a few other caveats. One is that I’m not sure that any mix of animals will work well. The suggested starting set is good, but the one game where we used the other six animals was distinctly less good; I’m sure all of those animals are fine individually but possibly shouldn’t be all used together. The other caveat is that poor animal placement during setup can really hurt the game. Granted this, like the selection of animals, is under player control, so it may seem unfair to consider it an issue with the game, but it’s something to be aware of. 

Mark Jackson (1 play): I like the idea… and there are numerous opportunities for clever plays. But the actual game fell a little flat for us. Note: I love some of Friedemann’s designs – but my reaction to this was similar to my reaction to Fearsome Floors – a nice set of design ideas that wear out their welcome before the game is done.

Joe Huber (5 plays on a review copy): I like Fast Sloths; it’s an interesting and unique take on a racing game, and I do like the variability possible with the expansion board.  But while I’m still happy to play the game, between my general apathy for racing games and some of the issues Dan enumerates, it’s not a game I’m actively looking to play more.  I have no difficulty in seeing how this game goes over gangbusters with the right group, though.

Fraser (2 plays): I have played it two and four player so far and really liked it.  Interesting decisions about how your sloth is going to be transported both now and in the future as well as which of the trees you will not prioritise.  In my vast experience of two plays the tie-breaker rule has always been used, with three out of the four players in the four player game.  As Dale said there’s actually plenty of variation on the recommended first game set up depending on where the sloths start and what animals they choose for their transportation.  There are other recommended setups available, or you can just do it yourself. For what it’s worth, I really like Fearsome Floors too although it usually doesn’t have quite as tight a finish.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!  John P, Fraser
  • I like it. Dale Y, Dan Blum, Chris W, Eric M, Jonathan F, Mario P
  • Neutral. Mark Jackson, Joe H
  • Not for me… Steph H

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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