Animals on Board: Load your arc-beware of Noah



So, I have this neighbor named Noah. Interesting fella. Flowing white beard wearing a robe that flows like his beard. Lots of kids too. I think I know how his beard became prematurely white. He claims to have inside information on the weather. Recently I’ve noticed more and more piles of lumber being delivered to the Noah homestead. One day I go over to ask what’s up with all the activity. Noah looking left then right leans in close to me and whispers that we’re going to be in for a really long rain storm. One of “biblical proportions” whatever that means.  Noah stares at me. His expression says he knows I’m not sure if I believe him. He turns and starts to run back inside his house. Suddenly he stops, spins around, and tells me to stay right there he’ll be right back. Walking back down his front lawn he’s cradling a stone tablet in his arms. “Now see here neighbor this contract says I have the anti-pairing rights. I got it directly from my boss.” I say the only thing my brain comes up with. “Huh?” He turns the tablet towards me and with a bony finger points to the anti-pairing clause. Curious, I ask him about the section underneath. “What’s that?” “Oh, that’s a clause. It’s in every contract. That just says if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind the entire agreement is nullified. It’s what they call a sanity clause.” I laugh and tell him, “There is no sanity clause.”*

Walking home I know Noah has been right about the weather before. I’ll hedge my bets and start building an arc.

Each player gets an arc, 1 food crate, 1 break flag, and 3 animal tiles of which they will choose 1 to put on a tier of their arc and then put the two left over animal tiles face up in the middle of the table. One of the players will get the starting player flag. In the middle of the table there will be one big group of animal tiles made up of, in part, the extra animals tiles players did not choose. How big that animal group is depends on the player count. The number of animal species used also depends on player count. In a 3 player game there will be 10 species used. The big group of animal tiles in the middle of the table for a 3 player game will have 10 face up animal tiles with 1 face down animal tile. Extra food crates will be somewhere nearby within reach of all players.

During the night someone or somemorethanone tagged our arc with a crudely drawn elephant family and some cute flowers. Wonder if the anti-pairing clause applies to Noah’s children. Meaning I hope he has to take only two kiddos on the arc with him. I know I know this kind of talk could bring down the wrath of Noah’s boss on me. Or at least I think that’s the point Noah was trying to make when he told me the following story. Once when Noah was Little Noah he was playing marbles with a friend. Little Noah lines up a shot. “$%&# I missed” he says. Little Noah’s friend tells him, “You shouldn’t talk like that.” “Ah $%&&$#@%,” says Little Noah. So Little Noah tries another shot. He misses.  “$%&# I missed.” Dark clouds immediately form. A bolt of lightening strikes. There’s a small pile of smoldering ashes. A voice from up high says, “$%&# I missed.”

Who am I to complain then? I’ll keep getting the arc ready just in case Noah is right.

Remember at the start of each round there will be one big group of animal tiles. Each player can do one of two actions on their turn. One choice is to split an animal group in the middle of the table and take a food crate. Or the player can buy one animal group with food crates they’ve stockpiled. In this case the player would need one food crate for each animal in the group they want to buy. If the player takes the second action they are done for the round and place their break flag on their arc for all other players to see. The first player to do the second action will get the first player marker and be the start player for the next round. The round ends when there is one player remaining and that remaining player  gets one more turn to do the first or second action. So how many rounds do you play? Depends. The last round is when at least one player has at least 10 animal tiles on their arc. Any player who has more than 10 animal tiles must reduce that number to 10 before counting their point total. Noah knows so any animal pairs are tossed overboard. If you have 3,4, or 5 of an animal species (aka herd) you score 5 points for each animal tile. If you have 1 of animal tile you score the number printed in the upper right corner of the tile. Most points wins. There is one tie breaker. The player with more different animal species on board wins. Past that it’s a shared victory.

My arc is built and it started raining three days ago. I’m starting to wonder. I go over to Noah’s place and ask him to define “Biblical proportions.” He shifts his eyes to look directly into mine while stroking his beard and says, “40 days and 40 nights neighbor.” “I don’t believe it,” I say. Noah ends the discussion with, “Well then, how long can you tread water?” Time to load the arc.

We’re setting up for a four player game so we use all 12 species. Two of us have played before the other two are first timers. I’m sitting across the smooth butcher block table from the two rookies. To my left is the start player. So after the first turn I can see that the two new players seem to have already picked up on how to play as they don’t take long to divide a group and take a food crate. I must have done a good job explaining the rules. As the first round progresses the start for this round buys a group of animal tiles first and so will be the start player for the next round as well.

After the 2nd or 3rd round the “newbies” understand the flow of the game very well. When they choose to do the divide action they are not making any obvious mistakes. I’m having a hard time figuring out what animals they are collecting. An interesting development is the initial face down animal tile is still out there. Around round 4 the rookie to my right finally pays his food crates and takes it into his arc. As I recall I think the face down animal was purchased only twice in the game. As for myself  going for the giraffes seemed a good direction to go. Also the pandas seemed like a good choice until a group of animal tiles with a panda in it was taken before I could get it. At game end I was still able to score 3 pandas so it wasn’t a total bummer. It turned out that I would get 4 of the 5 giraffes. The other 3 tiles I would score would be single animal tiles so would only get the point value on the upper right of the tile. Early in the game I gave advice to the new players that a common rookie mistake was being stuck with animal pairs when scoring time happened. They must have listened to that advice because when it came time to score none of the players had to throw out animal pairs. In fact the two so called rookie players caught on to how to play finished 1-2. They each had over 50 points with the margin of victory for first place was attributed to the fact that a face down tile they payed for was worth 5 points. So second place was less than 5 points behind first. The two ‘veteran’ players wound up with 44 and 43 points respectively. Next time I’m not sure I want to do such a good explaining a game.

*This is, of course, a blatant borrowing of a scene from the Marx Brother’s movie Night at the Opera.

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