Billabong Boardgamers - 22nd February, 2000
Present: Alan, David, Debbie, Craig, Karen, Donna
Another small evening, boosted by the addition of Karen, back from Seattle for more Tim Tams. We didn't split up but played six-player games all evening.
The second time I've played this one with six players. I agree that it works better with more players, but the card draw is then very random indeed.
I sat to the left of David, who matched me musical-for-musical with the shows he was putting on. I was very lucky to get anything decent as a result, hoping he wouldn't take the one card I wanted. A similar thing happened to Donna, sitting to the left of Karen, but with less good fortune.
I was very grateful for Craig putting the little "Wolf" production on in New York, because I had a very good one I was just about to play (I'd have chosen New York anyway, but it was convenient to not have to choose).
The score ended up being very close between Craig and me, with quite a gap between first and last.
My rating: I give this game a 6 - fun once or twice a month, but not to be played heavily.
David Coutts writes:
Pairs - Craig / Debbie, Alan / Karen, David / Donna
This was played with the Standard (4 player) set, plus 1 add-on. The Standard set features 48 cards for 12 animals (4 cards per animal) from Australia's semi-arid, forest and ocean habitats. The add-on was Red Centre, with 16 cards for 4 animals from Australia's large central desert. The game also features cards representing Threats (introduced feral animals, pollution, etc) and management strategies to counter those threats.
The idea is to breed healthy populations of native Australian animals in each of the habitats. To start a breeding population you must place a minimum of 2 cards to start any animal ; individual cards can be added subsequently. A hand ends when somebody goes out, or you've been through the deck twice. You score points for the animals in each of your habitats, with minus 5 for empty habitats and minus points for the value of cards left in your hand. Rare animals are worth 2 each, others only 1. Get all 4 of an animal and you double your points for that animal. Animals in habitats can be lost to threats if not protected by a management strategy. You earn a management strategy of your choice for each multiple of 8 points worth of animals currently in your habitats (but ignoring doublings for sets of 4 animals).
More detail in the full review, but suffice to say that the game is nicely themed, well produced - and uniquely Australian! The rules are structured at 3 levels, and would appeal to younger players and well as older players. We used level 2 rules, ignoring the level 3 requirement that a player's / partnership's first placement must be 4 animals. A game ends when a player, or partnership, gets to 100 points.
How did this first session go? We tried playing with a hand size of 9 (8 for standard game, plus 1 for each add-on used) as per the rules. It didn't work, as both the discard pile and the draw pile quickly ran out and the rules didn't say explain what to do if this happened. 20
We started again, but with a smaller hand size (6, I think). This worked much better, with people making comparisons to Canasta (but much simpler). However, the general feeling after 1 hand was to leave it there and to try the Standard 4 player game at a later date. It still didn't click, but didn't seem like a total write-off either. A little tweaking might make it a tolerable light card game...
Scores (after 1 hand):
Five Player Game at David's house
We'd just completed a game of El Grande (still one of my favourites), and I persuaded everyone to try a 5-player game of Australian Menagerie.
This time, I had the Australian Alps add-on, so we played with 5 habitats. We tried a hand size of 7, and used the level 2 rules. With 5, one player plays an individual hand and scores full points and partners only get half the total scored by the partnership. After each hand the individual player role falls to the next player, with partnerships shifting so that you play with whoever is opposite.
We decided to play 5 hands, giving each player 1 go as individual player (score marked with *):
David - 2* 16 16 18 4 = 56 (54)
Scores in brackets represent scores without individual scores added. Either way, Alan won by a mile. Generally, people didn't like the way the rotating individual player worked as making 5 habitats was very difficult. 20
I suspect it was mainly playtested with the standard game (4 players), so will reserve judgement till then.