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Paper Safari

This filler-length family game from Mandoo is appealing and easy to play. Each of the 2–5 players is dealt six cards face down and these are placed in a 3x2 grid (ie: 3 rows and 2 columns). Players flip one card in their grid so that it is face up. On your turn, you draw a card (from the top either of the face down draw deck or the face-up discard pile) and use it to replace one of the six cards in your grid; either a face-up card or one of the face-down cards.

The cards are all picture cartoon animals - for some unaccountable reason, string puppet versions of the animals portrayed. Art credits go to Hami, Marcin Minor, Playoff Inc. and Earl Rhym, Each card also represents a numerical value from -2 (the cunning foxes) up to 10 (elephants and Tarzan). Your aim is to end the game (have all six card face up) with a lower total value than the other player(s).

Substituting lower value cards for face-up cards of higher value is an obvious no-brainer but if you are already displaying low-value cards then you'll be pushing your luck to exchange the card with one of your face-down cards and hope that that doesn't mean you're discarding a precious low-numbered card: doubly so because the next player will be able to pick that up.

There are a few subtle twists to the game. If you have two cards with matching numbers in the same row then they score as zero regardless of their numerical value. When you draw a value 10 elephant card than, by way of consolation, you get to peek at one of your face-down cards. When a player draws the value 10 Tarzan card, they get to move one of their cards to the corresponding position in the neighbouring player's grid, with a knock-on effect for all players. These little rule twists don't overly complicate the game but they introduce a little more interaction and even a 'take that' element to this push-your-luck game.

And if Paper Safari gives you a sense of deja vu, it's because designer Kevin Kim has repurposed the same design in several very similar games. Paper Safari follows an earlier design, Ruby Gloom, and it has been replicated more recently in the bird-themed game Papageno (Helvetiq). Both Paper Safari and Papageno are compact small-box games of a similar pocket size to those published by Oink: so they don't take up too much room and they are eminently transportable.

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