Run Animals, Run!!
- Designer: Chih-Fan Chen
- Publisher: Mizo Games
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 12
- Time: 30-40 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design
Run Animals, Run!! is a game on this year’s SPIEL list from Taiwan Boardgame Design – though it appears to have been initially released in 2017. In this game, which is subtitled “Zoo of Depression”, players represent various animal species in Taiwan, fighting for survival in the forest while facing the threat of human destruction. Players try to complete their individual missions to score points, and the game ends when a player has reached 20 points (thereby winning the game) or when a player’s graveyard is filled or their species goes extinct, at which point players compare point totals to see who has won.
The designer is fairly well known to the gamers here at the blog, and we have enjoyed previous designs such as: Flip City, Dairyman, Fortune City, PaiMiahhh and Harvest Island. Those games have spanned many different genres, and I was quite interested to see what this game brought to the table. The game is subtitled “Zoo of Depression”, and the back of the box warns you “In the game of wildlife, extinction is the rule. Victory is the exception.” This is certainly a foreboding introduction to the game…
To set up, the 16 map tiles are set up on the table (with resource cubes being put on matching illustrations on the tile) and the graveyard placed nearby. Each player chooses which animal to play as, and takes all of the corresponding action cards and meeples for that animal. Each player also gets a Survival goal card. Then players place their meeples one at a time on the board tiles; there is no limit to the number of species nor meeples on any tile.
On a turn, the active player plays an action card from their hand, choosing any of their meeples on the board, and then taking the actions on that card with their chosen meeple. Some of the options are:
- Acquire cubes – take from the board and place on your survival goal card
- Move – move your meeple orthogonally to another map tile
- Expel – expel all the other animals on your tile to orthogonally adjacent tiles
- Steal – Take one resource from the supply; then discard this card from the game
- Warm up – choose a card from your discard pile and add it to your hand
If there are multiple actions on a card separated by an arrow, you must take them in order. Other cards give you the choice between two actions. Once the action card is complete, see if you have met the criteria on your Survival goal card. If so, discard all the cubes on it, flip the survival goal card over to show you have completed it (and see the points for it in the bottom right), and then choose a new Survival goal card from the supply.
You can recycle your action cards in a number of ways (shuffling the discards back into your deck):
- If you take a new Survival goal card at the end of you turn
- if you choose to remove one your meeples from the game at the start of your turn
- If you play your last card, and do not finish a goal card, then you are forced to immediately remove one of your meeples from the board to trigger it
Any removed meeples are placed in the lowest penalty space still available on the graveyard board.
When all players have taken a turn, the starting player is passed, and the new start player rolls for production – using a d20 and a special d6. Finding the tile shown on the d20, perform the action shown on the d6 – this could add cubes to the tile or it could show human development and permanently block resource production with a cement cube.
Play continues until one of the game end conditions is met:
- A player has 20 points from completed goal cards
- The graveyard is full (6 slots of a 4p game)
- One player is fully extinct – that player is eliminated and the game ends
All players calculate their final score which is the points from completed goal cards minus penalties for dead animals in the graveyard. The player with the most points wins.
My thoughts on the game
This game tries to do two things; provide an entertaining diversion with the game itself as well as making some social commentary about how the ever progressing urbanization of the world squeezes animals out of their natural habitats. As many of our games have ended with the extinction option or the full graveyard option, the lesson has certainly been made in our game nights.
The game itself is relatively straightforward; it is a resource collection / recipe fulfillment game – though it is nice that each of the species has a different setup. The number of meeples might be different, and each has its own manifest of cards given each as unique feel as far as gameplay goes. Some of the animals have some take-that abilities – forcing others to flee certain tiles, etc. You can probably pick and choose the ones you want to play with to suit your group.
You need to be pretty frugal with your actions; as a short interim goal is to be able to fulfil your Survival card by the end of your trip through the deck. As a reward for finishing a Survival card, you get to replenish your deck with your discards. If you do not do this, you are forced to kill one of your animals in order to do so. Then… as you now have fewer animals on the board, things will be harder for you as you have less options to accomplish the goals that you want, and thus starts the downward spiral to extinction.
Also, the board constantly changes – sometimes rapidly due to the dice rolls – and as the world turns to concrete; you will have fewer and fewer spots to collect resources and proportionally fewer spots being refilled. Once this happens, all species tend to suffer as the cubes in easy reach simply run out… which leads to animals not being able to complete survival cards, which means brethren must be sacrificed to renew the action card deck which puts you back in that spiral of doom. As the game subtitle says, it is definitely a “zoo of depression”.
The artwork is both colorful and stark. The colored sides of the animals are happy-ish and in start contrast the the harsh black and white slashes and lines of the concrete jungle. My one concern with the bits is that the Graveyard is the back cover of the rules; and while this is great, it makes it hard to pick up and open the rules to consult in the middle of the game…
Run Animals Run definitely tells a story here, and I think it is balanced in a way that most games will tell the desired story – but, it is not an impossibility for a species to thrive and win via the points limit. The game itself is fine, but I’d definitely highlight the usual way the game ends so that people don’t feel frustrated if they enter the death spiral. I think a re-adjustment of expectations from the start will help the game’s reception for sure.
OG Rating: neutral
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor