Designed by Marlon Fussell, with tongue-in-cheek art by Missy Rayment, Satanimals is a light-hearted set collection and hand management game from Mega Mint where 2–4 players are each trying to earn the most points by building their own satanic petting zoo.
The deck of cards comprises five different types of 'Satanimal', zoo keepers and visitors. At the start of the game, each player is dealt a 'Main Attraction' card representing one of the five species of Satanimal. You keep that card face down, but it gives a 1 point endgame bonus for every Satanimal of that species you have in your zoo.
The deck of cards is divided into nine equal stacks and laid out in a 3x3 grid. The rules specify that only the top cards are face up but we found it unnecessarily fiddly flipping cards every time a card was drawn so we played with nine face-up stacks on the basis that you can only see cards beneath the top one when that card has been drawn. Players on their turn must draw to their hand a row or column of three cards from the grid. They then have the option of taking up to two actions: they can play a single species of Satanimal from their hand to their zoo (tableau in front of each player), they can play a zoo keeper on a stack of Satanimals or they can 'sacrifice visitors'.
Once you play a stack of one or more Satanimals to your zoo, you cannot subsequently add to it. And each stack of Satanimals scores incrementally more for each Satanimal in the stack, so a stack with just one in it would be worth just 2 points at the end of the game but a stackk with four would score XX points. The calculation won't intuitively obvious for everyone but the game comes with a set of scoring cards which show the cumulative scoring. Players can sacrifice a visitor card (discard it) to ask another player if they have a particular named species in their hand. If they do, they have to hand it over. Sacrificing two visitors allows a player to destroy a card from a stack in your zoo, but any stack with a zookeeper on it is protected (tho' two visitors can be sacrificed to kill the zookeeper).
Incremental scoring means players will probably try to accumulate cards of each species before playing them to their zoo. There's a strong push-your-luck element to this game, however, because it ends immediately a player is unable to draw three cards from the 3x3 grid. Holding out for a high score for your zoo means you stand the risk of being stuck with Satanimal cards in your hand, which will give you negative points.
Satanimals may be hellishly simple fare but it offers players enough choices to make for an enjoyable filler-length card game. And there's really nothing here to turn you to devil worship or give you nightmares; the demonic theme is just a bit of fun and doesn't make this game unsuitable for children.
No humans were sacrificed in the drafting of this review.