Review: Animalia – animals happy and sad

Animalia - packaging

Some animals live in luxury. They bath in foamy soap every day, scrubbed by two specially trained servants and sleep on ten thick cushions. Each of their hair is a source of admiration, when you arrive to visit. Are really cuddly and sooooo lazy..

And they have no idea, that some of their brothers and sisters languish on the margins of society, goes around human habitats and dig through garbage. Nobody has never brushed their hair, so they are sticking out in all directions. They sleeps on street every day, mostly on hard ground. Most of the time they are sad, and the only exception is, when there comes a child and starts playing with them.

What about you, which of those two types would you take back home with you? You have a choice of cats, rabbits, horses, parrots and owls. At least a card game gives you this choice. Game comes from Swiss company , and it is just like Jaipur (review) one of their first games, who plowed into the world.

Animalia - game is ready

It was created by the joint forces of , and and contains some of the most beautiful illustrations, that were seen in a card game. We owe thank for that to . And all this happened in year , when this game first came out, followed in card edition of this company with Sobek (review) or Tschak! (review).

The game is absolutely gorgeous on first sight and does not contain any text, so it is language independent. You only had to translate the rules. And it is still not very well known game, which is a pity. Perhaps we could change that at least a little with our reviews, so more players learn about this game.

Box will be due to its initial illustration diamond on every shelf. It is roughly twice the size compared to the classic card game and is also significantly higher. Why? Because you will not find only 36 animals cards inside. Although it may seem to be enough. But there are still inseparably ninety round tokens medals there, all of which are gold, at least partially. This game does not play for second place, everyone wants to be the best at shows.

Animalia - game in progress

Just around the exhibition of your pets revolves the whole game. You will make encounter with a total of five different animals in the deck – cats, horses, dogs, rabbits and parrots. Each family has seven members – one champion, one smarty-pants, cutie-pie, scallywag, thief, spy and prankster.

The first four can you easily tell apart with a symbol hovering above their heads on the card – star(s) or black stain. But the thief, spy and prankster are holding always one of objects directly on the picture – a thief has a mask attached to his face, spy holds his indispensable telescope and prankster hugs his arms (or legs?) around a mysterious present.

In box you find couple more help cards, that relate specifically to this trio of characters, that is present in each family and cards contain description, what they can do. You cannot even find their strengths in rulebook, instead you need to consult this card. You use them in the game a bit like action cards, while you can activate their abilities, when you are taking the card and putting it in your collection. Above all already mentioned cards, there sits a brooding golden owl, which serves as a wildcard replacing any color / animal. Yes, it is THAT wise owl.

Animalia - cards

But we are talking about exhibitions, so we now go to one together. Are you ready? Preparing the exhibition for yourself (and the whole game) is simple – all owners surrender their animals to the organizers and each of them will receive a card for each one of them. They must now run with these tickets and put them into the balloting device. Nearby on the table (of course) lies a pile of medals – one for each group of animals.

All cards must now be mixed and then some of them dealt to exhibitioners. First owner, who arrived with animal cards, has a right of first choice. He therefore takes the top card from the deck and looks at its picture. One of the animals is photographed there and he can decide whether he wants to keep it and go with it as a team member to a beauty contest or not.

If he decides yes, he puts this card on the table in front of him, starting the line of five members in total. Should he decided to decline this offer and did not want to have this pet in his team, he can pass the card to his neighbor on the left. That player also may decide, if he wants to keep it or not. And so it goes on and on around the table.

Animalia - game in progress

If it happens, that the card is returned back to starting player, he must add one more card to this selection, taking it to two cards. Now, therefore, he simply again decides, whether he want to sent animals away to opponents or keep it. But he must keep them both, not just one. Cards can again be kept by any of players, or can run second time around back to the start. The starting player draws the card from the deck for the third time, forming a group of three animals. Again, he can decide, whether he wants to retain it. But if these three cuties come back from his rivals (and its quite likely, they will), he has now no choice, but to keep this whole group and lay all three cards ahead.

A rival to his left hand becomes next dealing player. Animals selection now continues in the same manner. Players try to collect a groups of the same families memters, so only cats or horses. Cards are color-coded accordingly, so you simply see, which colour do you want. But also the stars and black dots on cards are very important. And not only when deciding to keep, but mostly when evaluating your whole pack of five.

However, player may have before him a maximum of five cards, never more. Once they reach this number, the game round ends for them. They can accept only those groups, which wont bring them above this number. The last players from all, who does not yet has five animals, must randomly draw cards from drawing deck and he has not an option to choose.

Animalia - cards

Then there’s time for evaluation round. First players can get bonus cards for the beauty of their wards. They all sum up the stars (and subtract black stains) and the player with highest number gets two more random animals – he draws them from the pile. These are the substitutes, he may use. He can keep them in his hand for now. He will have a chance to use them in a moment. Second player in star numbers gets one card and others get nothing.

But medals are awarded for the family, that you managed to put together. More same race animals, more medals for you. Thus you get medals for each group of animals of the same race in your collection, but you must have more than one animal of this species. In this case, you get so many medals of this color, how many animals have you collected. If you had put together for example two dogs, two rabbits and a parrot, you get two dog medals and two rabbits. You get nothing for that parrot. Yes, animals are better off, when they are with their friends, just as we do.

But before you give out the medals, you can use substitutes from your hand. You can replace any of your team members with them. Of course you are trying to do so in a way, that you have the most medals and thus always at least two animals of one species.

Animalia - cards

Such exhibition is one round. The whole match is made up from a total of three of those. Each time cards are shuffled back and you gradually collect only medals. These are, of course, your way to victory, but you still have to apply a little more strategy. At the end of the game, you get points not only for all the medals, you have earned. Additionally as a bonus, you get one more bonus chips for each set of five medals of the same color. And this medal is worth five points! The winner is the player with the highest sum in the end.

And how can the owners get their pets back, when the show is over and all winners are announced? It’s simple. Pets will find their lords themselves, because they like them after all, even though they did leave them behind.

Animalia is a great card game, that will inspire each person, who plays it, with its speed, simplicity and elegance. Its considerable share is hidden in amazing graphics processing, that must captivate all.


We like very much this modified draft systém, where players send cards to their neighbours, but do not keep any for themselves. This raises an interesting tactical options, and players must calculate, what may yet come in the next draw and if they prefer to keep this one right now or risk, that others will take it.

Decisive moment is the first keep, while you simply determine the course of the whole round for yourself in that one choice. So you have to do it very carefully. Sometimes its better to wait, sometimes not.

How to fill the five ranks of your group, you also gradually refine your taste in color. Everyone can see each other’s cards, so you can adjust your strategy. And you can even steal a card tactically from your rivals and keep it. Besides colors themselves, also stars are really important, because they give you a great tactical advantage in the end of the round.

Animalia - tokens

Moreover, if you do not get animals, which suit you now, as a stars reward, you can keep these two animals into the next round! And they will not be in the drawing deck. Then you can even adjust your strategy to this knowledge and precisely pick, what cards comply with them the most, so you can maximize your profit.

Most important, however, is gaining gold medals. And here is the need to closely monitor, how many tokens you have from each color. If you accumulate five for a race, you get a full five bonus points, which is a big lump at the end of the game.

We had concerns about playing this game in two players. Animalia benefit largely from the dilemma of players about sending cards on to others. And in two, it first looked like it might be missing the necessary tension. But the authors made a clever change – every player now has to collects two sets of five cards instead of one. He evaluates them separately and collects all medals into one bag. So in the end, even a game in two is pleasant and enjoyable beyond our expectations.

Action cards have great influence on the whole game – in each race, there are three same cards: a prankster, a spy and a thief. Each of them allows you to use its ability after putting it in your collection (which again affects your decision, which card you should keep and makes it even harder choice).

Animalia - cards

The game has simple rules and does not contain any text. It can therefore easily be played by smaller kids around the eighth year of age, when they manage strategic decision-making. And it opens as accessible for whole families too.

In conclusion, we must once again return to the graphics. Each of the cards is completely unique and individual races are overwhelmingly cute. Animals are well chosen and you will take them all instantly home, when you had a chance to. In addition, the box is made with precision, because it contains tray not only for slightly oversized cards, but also also six chimneys for tokens. And there is even a place, where you can put your finger, so you can easily pull them out.

Animalia is a great game for any occasion, that we can think of. Due to the high level of strategy and interesting gameplay mechanism, it will be enjoyed even by experienced players. But it will totally impress true beginners and kids will want to play it almost all the time. Animalia is exactly, what every card game should be – quick and great fun!

DesignerMalcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, Sébastien Pauchon
ArtistMathieu Leyssenne
PublisherGameWorks SàRL
Year Published2006
# of Players2 - 6
User Suggested # of Players Best with 6 players
Recommended with 3, 4, 5, 6 players
(15 voters)
Playing Time15
Mfg Suggested Ages7 and up
User Suggested Ages6 and up
(6 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(10 voters)
CategoryAnimals, Card Game, Humor
MechanicOpen Drafting, Set Collection
Primary NameAnimalia

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Animalia – animals happy and sad
Final word
Animalia is a sweet surprise and quite a revelation for us. Simple and elegant gameplay and tough choices, that is what makes it so special. But there is one more specialty to this game - looks. Gorgeous and unique illustrations decorate every card. You are trying to gather a group of animals to win the exhibition. Each turn, you can keep drawn card or send it to your opponents. But they can return it to you and even the ugliest animal must find its owner. But everything is only about medals in the end. Collect so many, that your neck feels numb! Yes, you can and its great feeling. Animalia offers great fun for all players - no matter, if they are experienced or not.
Reader Rating0 Votes
amazing illustrations
perfect box
simple gameplay
different card draft
tough choices for players
action cards
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