Animals are a staple of modern board gaming. Perhaps they represent qualities that we wish we had within our selves, like totems; or maybe they’re just easy to laugh at. Some people like them cute and cuddly, others might like them strong and ferocious. Do you like your game animals cartoon-like or hyper-realistic? No matter how you like your animals, we can all agree that we want more of them in gaming! Here’s a list of our top six games with animals. Jump to the comments and let us know your favorites!
In Battle Sheep, players control a squadron of psycho sheep, bent on total pasture domination. These sheep may look cute and cuddly, but they’re mean, and nasty, and they’d as soon cut you as let you pet them.
Battle Sheep is an area control game with a modular board and thick bakelite sheep tokens in 4 different colors. Guide your sheep around the modular pasture, making sure to leave one behind to control that terrain.
Do you maneuver your sheep into the best position for your own team, or do you intentionally block your opponent? Battle Sheep is a cutthroat game wrapped in cuddly sheep’s clothing. It plays fast (and furious) and will leave you wanting more.
These camels are fast…and also have zero personal space issues.
Camel Up is a uniquely themed racing game which allows players to take bets on the various legs of a camel race around Egypt’s pyramids. Roll dice using what has to be one of the most unique components in all of board gaming history. Move the camel matching the die’s color the same number of spaces as the die. The catch is these camels stack. That means that if you move the yellow camel 2 spaces, then the blue and orange camels get a free ride.
In addition to betting, there’s also a bit of push your luck. Since each player can only do one thing on their turn, players have to decide if they want to move the game forward by rolling one of the dice or take a gamble and bet on who they think will win. Get it wrong and you actually lose money. But get it right and you’ll feel the groans from your opponents as you rake in the cash.
In addition to being a straight up fun game, Camel Up also plays up to 8 players. My only regret is that I waited so long to play this game. Don’t make the same mistake. Also, you should play Camel Up with your kids! Just tell ’em that the camels are “wrestling”.
Animals on Board
Animals on Board turns set collection on it’s ear with its elaborate cardboard components, the 60 unique illustrations of animals, and a push your luck aspect of never knowing if you’ll get that 3rd zebra or not…
Wait. Back up a minute. Animals on Board is a cute little set collection game with a Noah’s ark theme. It puts players against each other in a race to fill up their ark with the highest value animals; but there’s a catch. The point values depend on how many you have. A single giraffe is worth its face value, 3 to 5 giraffes are worth 5 points apiece. But you better hope you don’t get left with only 2 or that jerk Noah gets them…and you’ll get left with nothing.
Animals on Board raced on to the scene earlier this year, and it’s been a huge hit with every gamer I’ve taught it to. It’s well worth a play, and it belongs on this list…well…because it’s about animals!
Agricola All Creatures Big and Small
I’ll admit it…I’ve never played Agricola. It’s only in the last few years that heavier games like Agricola have even been of interest to me with their myriad of pieces and their choices. But most gamers will agree that one part of Agricola stands out above the rest…animal husbandry.
Wat? That’s right…raising horses, and sheeps, and pigs, and cows.
Agricola All Creatures Big and Small strips out all of that boring “feed your people” stuff and distills the game down to the part most people love; raising animals and getting them to have little baby animals. It gives players just 8 turns to build the best farm possible, with the best herds of animals. It does this by allowing players to place workers on spaces which will earn things like wood, stone, reeds, etc. Players can also earn animals, build buildings, fences, feed barns and more.
The main board is so tightly contested that you’ll likely never play the same game twice. Trying to pair up your cows so they produce a calf? Better hope you have a feeding trough or you won’t have the room. Shooting for lots of sheep to get that sweet bonus? Don’t forget the horses or you’ll actually lose points at the end of the game for not having any.
Agricola All Creatures Big and Small is a game of tradeoffs. You’ll never have enough turns to do all the things you want, so try to do your best at the things you can do and hope you’ve done it better than your opponent. One thing you don’t have to trade is the fun you’ll have playing this game!
Birds of a Feather
Don’t know about you, but when I sit down at the gaming table the first thing I want to do is do some birdwatching. In my case it’s easy because my gaming table looks out over my backyard. But if you’re not as lucky as I am, then Birds of a Feather might be right up your alley.
In Birds of a Feather players are competing to have the best bird book. Roster? Lineup? Pokédex? Whatever it’s called, you get the best book by being more clever than your opponents in your card play. Throw out that Black-Throated Sparrow to complete your desert terrain set, but next turn play your Prairie Falcon bird of prey to scare off any other birds so that your opponents don’t score.
Birds of a Feather is light and sweet, and is a perfect filler game for up to 7 people (amazing!). And because players reveal their cards simultaneously, the game still hovers around the 15-20 minute mark. Birds of a Feather also has a fantastic color palette and some of the most amazing artwork. Definitely a great game to pick up!
Dino Dude Ranch
I backed Dino Dude Ranch during their Kickstarter on a whim. I thought it would be a great game to play with my kids, and it turns out that I enjoy it almost as much, if not more, than they do. Dino Dude Ranch is an excellent way to teach your kids resource management, special ability cards, and tile laying.
In Dino Dude Ranch players are racing to fill up their ranch with dinosaurs from the Jurassic Hunting Grounds. Players entice these dinos to their personal ranches by feeding them their favorite foods, earned by rolling dice and collecting that food type. Each dino has a specific point value, but players can also earn valuable bonus points by fulfilling secret objective cards passed out at the beginning of the game.
Dino Dude Ranch is a simple, fun game for the family. No funny business, no tricks, just good clean fun. Well…and dinosaurs.
As in every Top Six list, there are games that don’t make the cut. Picking six games out of the hundreds we play every year is tough. Here’s a few more that almost made the list…but not quite.
King of Tokyo
If you at least heard of King of Tokyo, then you might have been living in seclusion for the past few years, possibly on a deserted island which was used for nuclear testing, and now you’re feeling the urge to take over Tokyo! Of course I haven’t even played Agricola, so who am I to talk?
But forget your origin story, because you’ve got competition!
King of Tokyo is a light, fun game in which players take the role of a giant monster bent on taking over Tokyo. Cliche? Yes! Rockin’ fun? Definitely! Along the way players will roll giant dice, gain killer powers, earn stars (victory points), and beat up on the other monsters who are really harshing your groove.
Hive is the only game on this list that can say it has animal theme AND could be a viable replacement for chess. Actually calling them “animals” is playing fast and loose with the definition. These things are critters. Bugs. Insects.
Hive plays like chess in that each piece has a unique movement style, but that’s where the similarities end. Pieces move on a grid defined by the pieces themselves. Pieces can move on top of other pieces, around other pieces, and all in an effort to capture your opponent’s queen.
Bullfrogs is a light area control game which pits your frog armies against those of your opponents. The aim is the control the log at the heart of the kingdom…seriously, why can’t these frogs just share?
Place cards from your deck down to determine where your frogs get placed. Leapfrog out from there to take over more and more lilypads as you tighten the noose around your opponents. The last frog standing claims victory for you and for all of frog kind.
What do you think about Top 6 Games With Animals? Give us your opinions in the comments below!