Updated: Aug 20
There is no denying that Wild: Serengeti from Bad Comet is a captivating game. Designer Gunho Kim has somehow managed to distil some 30,000 sq.km into just 30 sq.inches, entirely retaining the sense of the wild plains and the fullness of beasts to be found on your safari. The box cover alone is striking, and the 3D ‘Rock of Ages’ provides excellent tabletop eye-candy – even if it does instantly have you humming various songs from The Lion King. Artists Hani Chang and Sophia Kang have done a fantastic job. This is a game that grabs attention, but have this creative team managed to turn big game into, a big game...?
Just like the real safari experience, by far the most exciting and satisfying aspect of this game are the animeeples, of which there are a jaw-dropping 37 – each beautifully designed into 12 sets of 3 (plus 1 bird for use as a turn tracker). If the striking but not particularly functional ‘Rock of Ages’ pulls you to the table, then it will be the animeeples that keep you there – I guarantee that the last time you were this excited was when your auntie gave you a Noah’s Ark set for you 1st birthday!
In Wild: Serengeti, you are a wildlife photographer come to simply see and admire these wonderful beasts. The hard work comes in as the producer wants particular scenes of animals to be photographed, and you are compelled to manipulate and chivvy the animals about in order to earn your place as number one award-winning documenter.
The game itself employs a simple worker placement action to enable you to then place or manoeuvre the animals into the plains, as dictated by the ‘scene cards’ which serve as your objectives. Once complete, the scene cards form your points engine, which neatly guides you to seeking out cards that synergise across a plethora of routes to winning.
Overall, this plays like a very complex game of Connect 4 (Hasbro/Milton Bradley). Certainly, Wild: Serengeti is a puzzle game, with some limited opportunities to interfere with your opponents' aims. There's a risk tho' that the dreaded analysis paralysis can set in as players try to figure out which objectives are possible at the same time as they build their points engines. Asymmetric powers can be added to give a little more depth, and a solo mode is also included.
There is a bit of thematic dissonance. For example, the use of coins as a resource for worker placement seems a little superfluous to the theme, and I’m not convinced that the offer of meat would attract a gazelle. However, what really tripped me up from my safari fantasy was the lack of animeeple interaction. Why hadn’t those three leopards taken out the zebra? Why was the vulture in the water and the crocodile on the rock?! Why in the ‘Great Migration’ did one wildebeest leave the others? I was left yearning for the animals to interact with each other to create a more dynamic play space. Perhaps there's scope for an expansion to reflect the potential for animal interaction and predation. That would be a truly wild game!
(Review by Michael Harrowing)