At Board's Eye View, we're always on the lookout for light enjoyable fast-paced games that work either as family games or as filler-length games for seasoned games players. Beasts: Edge of Extinction, designed by Derek Zyn, is a game that definitely fits the bill.
The theme is of animal species scrabbling for survival in a generally hostile environment. Each of the 2–6 players takes one of the six species cards and its nattily matching coloured die. The cards show the species' characteristics (including susceptibility or resistance to certain types of harm; for example, damage by extreme cold) and its one-off (single use per game) special ability. The species cards are also players' health trackers: a clip counts your species health down from its initial 20 points. If your health dips to zero, you are extinct and out of the game. The winner is the last surviving player.
Each round starts with an Event card. Some of these are positive, bolstering the health of all the players, but more often than not the Event will presage a natural disaster that dishes out damage. Because some species have resistance or extra susceptibility to certain types of damage, individual Events may hurt some players more than others.
Players each take two actions per round. They can Scavenge (draw a resource card), Equip resource cards that give them an evolutionary advantage, Eat resource cards that enable them to regain health, Lure an opponent with a resource card that functions as a trap, or they can Attack an opponent. It's here that the dice come in: attacks are resolved by comparing die rolls as modified by any cards played or equipped, with the loser taking the difference in damage. Players can also use an action to Trade resources with another player but this involves a collaborative act in a fundamentally non-cooperative game so it's not an action you're likely to see taken very often.
That, in a nutshell, is the game. Beasts: Edge of Extinction is attractively produced, with engaging art by Alisha Volkman, although the black edges on the cards make them vulnerable to wear so we'd recommend sleeving. What with dice rolls and card draws, there's inevitably a high luck factor but this is a game that will probably take no more than 20 minutes so you won't mind this. There is, of course, player elimination, but Beasts: Edge of Extinction is short enough for this not to be the big issue that it would be in a longer game. Nevertheless, if that is a concern, then the publishers Riftway Games have you covered: a small 3–6 player Revenge of the Dodos expansion is due on Kickstarter next week. This allows eliminated players to wreak their revenge by making life more difficult for the surviving species. Eliminated players using the expansion's Revenge deck can achieve a collective zombie victory by simultaneously eliminating the last two species. We'll post a link to the Kickstarter when it goes live...