« Blog

A random, unofficial player expansion

If you are hoping for an article about the finer details of designing complex eurogames, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. Animal-upon-Animal is a dexterity game where you build up a communal heap of meeples in a big two-dimensional pile on top of a crocodile. It gains a lot from the cheeky, chunky nature of wooden meeples.

Original pile

Original pile

Now, the thing is that it seemed to me that this game didn't have enough diversity in the animals available. Beside the large crocodile for the base, you get seven types: sheep, monkey, snake, toucan, penguin, hedgehog and collared lizard.

While that's fine in terms of game length and playability, I wanted more!

As a designer, an online store I really like is spielematerial {link https://www.spielematerial.de/en/} - it has a great collection of components, and these include wooden animals. (Disclaimer : I have no current relationship with this company other than as a customer.) I tried out a number of these, and some are a suitable size to add to the game.

New contenders

New contenders

And slightly surprisingly to me, every one of them can be added to Animal-upon-Animal as a drop-in expansion without breaking the game. Each one has its own handling characteristics which affects your strategy - the duck is quite slippy, the snail small enough to be poked into gaps, alligators are little ridged bridges, and the moose is large and for some reason my children hate it.

New pile

New pile

Flushed with the success of this, and after the above photoshoot, I also bought some nice blue birds. And they worked just fine too, as regards game-play. When we play with all the creatures the game is significantly longer; we don't feel that it's necessary to use them all in every game now. It might be fun to draft them.

I think it's fair to say that the original pieces are a good range of shapes with a certain degree of intricacy. The expansion parts don't have as many prongs or indentations, which means they mostly don't have as many options in placement. Nevertheless, I think it says something that the two biggest problems I had with adding pieces was finding out if they were the right width from an online listing, and fitting them all in the box (a box insert had to take one for the team).

Full box

Full box

The thing I'd like to take away from this is that it's very easy to think that the way a game plays had to be very finely tuned and heavily play-tested to get it exactly right to optimise the game-play. That sometimes definitely is the case. Some games are fragile, and even small changes will remove the fun. But not always. Sometimes, a game can be quite robust to fairly significant changes and still play well.