There have been several games titled Snapshot over the years but this isn't a reprint of one of those, it's a new game from Paper Boat Games. Like Photographic World (Bright Beetle), which we featured recently on Board's Eye View, Snapshot is themed around wildlife photography and it's a light game that can be played by all the family.
In Snapshot, there are four habitats and a deck of animal cards with each species tying in with a particular habitat. You're trying to photograph animals for their prestige points value and for the bonuses you can earn by collecting sets and by satisfying the demands of your secret individual 'assignment card'. However, to photograph an animal, you need it to be in the open display, you need to 'explore' the habitat and you need to match the 'difficulty' number on the animal card using dice and 'tracking tokens'.
On your turn, you have the option to 'Research', which means drawing animal cards and placing them out in their habitats. You have the added incentive that for every animal card you draw you earn a tracking token. You can keep drawing and placing out as many cards as you like, but you can't place out an animal card if the number on the card (its 'difficulty' score) is lower than the highest card already at that creature's habitat. If a card cannot be placed out because of this limitation, all the animals at that location take fright and go into the discard pile, and your turn immediately ends. So this is Snapshot's first 'push-your-luck' element. However, designers Marcos Avlonitis, Martin Daine and Richard Caves have gone down a very forgiving route, offering players mitigation rather than punishment. To avoid going bust, you can 'reserve' an animal by taking the card into your hand, and you can have up to two cards in your hand so you can usually avoid coming a cropper at this Research stage...
Once you've finished drawing cards to add to the display, you go on to a Preparation phase. This is where you place out dice from a pool of six (standard six-sided dice) to decide which habitat(s) you want to explore and which animals you are going to try to photograph. In the Photography phase you'll actually roll the dice. To explore a habitat (ie: to be able to photograph any animals at that location) you need to match or beat the indicated number (5 for the Rainforest; 4 for the Mountain; 3 for the Savannah; 2 for the Shoreline). You can place more than one die on a habitat but that just gives you more rolls; the dice don't stack. If you have tracking tokens in reserve, you can spend two to re-roll - and you can keep re-rolling as long as you have the tokens to pay. And, again, consistent with the forgiving design, if you still fail then you get back any tokens you've spent in the attempt! If you fail, you have to abandon the prospect of photographing the animals in that habitat.
By contrast with the habitat cards, dice placed on animal cards do stack, and you'll need two or more dice on some of the animal cards in order to have a chance of hitting their difficulty number. That said tho', you can always spend tracking tokens by placing them out on animal cards. Here the tokens each add one to the dice roll. The rules in our prototype copy of the game don't say whether or not you can meet an animal's difficulty level by spending tracking tokens alone but we assumed that you always needed to have placed out at least one die on a card in order to photograph it. If you fail to meet an animal's difficulty number, the animal card is discarded. That potentially introduces a small 'take that' element into the game because it seems to be possible for a player to plan obviously doomed attempts at photography (for example, playing a single die and no tokens on a Polar Bear with a difficulty number of 10) just to frustrate an opponent by driving off the card.
You collect a card when you successfully 'photograph' the animal, and the game ends when a player has collected a set number of cards (9 for a two-player game; 8 with three players; 9 with four players). In a game with so much mitigation and plenty of built in catch-up mechanisms, you won't be surprised to find that once a player hits that target, all the other players get an extra turn to maximise their score. And note, of course, that the win goes to the player with the most prestige points, which may not be the player with the most cards. So there may well be circumstances where you'll want to avoid collecting a card because hastening the end game could benefit an opponent...
With its attractive theme, easy-going forgiving dice management mechanics and short playing time (it's quite possible for a game to finish in just three rounds), Snapshot will especially appeal to children and families. The game is coming soon to Kickstarter. Click here to check out the campaign.