Review: On top of the Food Chain

Food Chain - packaging

Little mouse peeked cautiously out of its hole. It seemed, that the coast is clear. Therefore its safe to run for food. Somewhere in distance smelled something terribly well. Mouse run over a few fallen branches under bush, where its hole was located, and after few moments ran out into the open. But when it saw a bench, mouse stopped. Something is wrong here. Scent wafted one foot from the bench, where she saw some goodness wrapped in a piece of paper.

Suspicion has changed in sure, as it heard rinse of wings. Big raven came down from the tree, landed on the bench and started to investigate, what is it lying there. Mouse knew, that its done and there will be nothing for it there, but it waited a little longer. Mouse was engrossed in watching and totally forgot to monitor its surroundings. So when the big cat came running, it did not expect it at all. But this furry creature was not after mouse or paper, but after the raven.

Bird tried to react, stretched its wings, and make the first wave, but before he succeeded in rising into the air, sharp claws were digging into its skin. Cat with a bird rolled in a crowd forwards. A mouse took advantage of it and ran quickly towards the paper, catched a piece of cheese, took it in teeth and quickly jumped back to safety of its home.

Food Chain - game is ready

Wild nature is not an easy way to live. That’s all we know. The will not deceive anyone, and we are at its peak. But today, we must delve into it a little deeper. Although this is not the first time, we will deal with playing hunter and deer, as evidenced might serve for example Dominant Species: Card Game (review).

But something new is here at the very beginning. Today is the first time, we will visit on our review trips country called Latvia, where company operates. Its a brand new partner of our server. And this firm in Riga published game of . It was in and game is called Food Chain. Illustrations are work of and Gints Rudzitis.

Food Chain belongs to category of card games. It can be found in a tiny square box, that is just so high, that there can be deck of 52 cards fit. Unlike conventional boxes for such games, this box is made of hard, smooth cardboard and in particular has a nice square shape. On the packaging, there is image of forest with a boar and a hunter in behind.

Food Chain - game in progress

Inside are seemingly only cards hidden, which is not surprising. The game, however, needs also sixteen tokens, which await you in a small miniature sheet. There are four pieces for each of the possible four players. Obviously in different four colors. The last thing you pull out of the box, are rules on one sheet of paper, folded several times. But the best news is, its short.

On each card, you will see a large cutout of a closed circle of life. In a large brown circle representing surface of Earth covered on all sides with trees, you will find a white silhouette of an animal or plant, which is this card about. It can therefore be a spider, bear, cherry or our heroic mouse. There is of course more animals and the biggest one is human with rifle and a dog at his feet.

Each food card is divided by this Earth picture into two parts – upper red and lower green. Just as you would expect, top with red balloon contains black silhouettes of predators of this animal. For example, there is a fox and wolf for a rabbit. Down in green bubbles, you will see symbols of food, which can be fed to your pet. If we stay in rabbit case, then it’s leaves.

Food Chain - game in progress

In the upper left corner, you will find picture of sun with printed point value of this card at the end of the game, if you manage to eat it with your predator. In the lower right corner is level of this animal on food chain. Here comes into play not only, what you can eat, but also its size. Although rabbit has under it only leaves, it is already at level III, though the food is number I. II should represent for example a mouse.

Beginning of the game means, that players each choose their color. They receive four colored tokens, which will be used later to mark their cards. All rivals get also four random cards from a shuffled deck. These cards form an initial hand of predators. Among them, however, may also be found some of cards from the chain first-level, like grass. And getting rid of them can be quite a difficulty, as we will see later.

But now before we start playing, we must also prepare a common supply of food for all predators, that players have in their hands. So you turn few more cards (number depends on players) and you lay them open on the table in a row. These four animals are currently living in the forest and are therefore create prey. At the moment, they can escape their fate, but eventually end up as food for some other, stronger creature.

Food Chain - game in progress

And then you begin to rotate turns. Each player will always have exactly one action, he can perform. The choice is comprised from a total of five options, two main and three auxiliary, serving a maintenance of your cards.

The most important one is playing a predator from your hand. However, animal can be placed only on a meal, which he has among its favorite treats in green bubbles. At the same time, the prey must have the predator among its red natural enemies. On this played card, you then place one of your tokens, and you start chasing the victim. However, it is not caught yet, and it will survive for at least another round. During that time, also your monster must avoid other dangers lurking in the woods.

Because you are always limited to one action per round and catching prey is an action, you can use it earliest in your consecutive turn. If in the meantime someone puts his card on your predator (with more powerful animal, who feeds on your predator), then chase moves to the next level. In that situation, your pet suddenly becomes prey.

Food Chain - cards

Yet in the end some player will get his pet fed. He takes his prey (the top lower card in created food chain) and puts it into his victory package. Predator himself then heads over to the discard pile. But you also take token of victims cards to you, regardless of color. Of course, you take your predator token back, too.

In the battle for spoils, you can also reconsider your decision and pounce on other pursuits. Instead of sending new cards or feed, you can during your turn choose to withdraw your predator card back into your hand. But only in a situation, where it has not yet become prey. Similarly, you can replace a predator on the table for another from your hand, but new one has to be weaker (level with Roman numerals), than its predecessor, and must have pursued prey animal among his feeding green bubbles.

The last option is to give up your turn. For that, you get a reward in the form of exchanging one card from your hand for a random top card from the deck. At the moment, when drawing pile gets empty, game ends. All opponents can add up points for caught prey (written in sun symbol on each card) and also accumulated tokens. The player with the highest profit wins the game.

Food Chain - game in progress

Food Chain is a card game trying to create a simple trumph entertainment of playing cards on top of each other. And food chain is precisely the place, where you always get stronger and weaker creatures to beat.

For this purpose, system uses a simple parent and subordinate animals, whose symbol is always drawn on the cards. Players have a nice space to attack each other and mutually eat up their creatures. Especially option to feed both on one animal or jump on undefended enemy animals brings interesting moments to the game.

The superiority of the procedure is also determined by an animal level, that decides in the event of a tie. And then there’s also man, who is the ultimate weapon against anything that moves. Just like in real life. He is not afraid even of the bear.

Food Chain - cards

The game, however, is marked by a huge dose of luck, when dealing cards. You can simply get a good cards for start and win it all. But if you are unlucky, you still have a chance for saving yourself, because you can exchange cards (for example those unfeedable) for cards on the table. But you will offer them as easy targets for your opponents. And here comes first of your many dillemas.

The second one and maybe even more difficult is decision regarding tokens. Once you put it one table on top of your card, you put yourself at risk, that enemy will eat it up and capture your token. Its good to have a backup plan. Once you gather some enemy token, you can exchange it with him, but you won’t. Its more valuable to keep, while in the end, you can pick one of scored cards of this particular opponent and make it yours. And that sucks, if you are the other player, trust us on that.

There is surprisingly lots of strategy in this little game. For a card game, that seems childish all around, you must really try and plan forward. But yet, the whole family will get easily entertained with this, although game is pretty aggresive and players are getting at each other throats all the time.

Food Chain - cards

Unfortunately, there is one big con, which keeps you from enjoying Food Chain properly from the start. You will have to read your way through several threads on Internet, before you learn, how to play the game properly. Basic rules are really flawed and do not emphasize some principles enough. It can easily happen, that you could play match without exchange option. And then the game really sucks, we experienced it for ourselves.

Food Chain is basically a card game with nice graphics. But its not only for families with children, who will admire graphics, but also for serious fans. These players will enjoy quick gameplay and cutthroat nature of some actions. And despite a dose of luck, you will be glad on top of the Food Chain in the end.

DesignerMeelis Looveer
ArtistRaimo Koppel, Gints Rudzītis
Publisher(Self-Published), Brain Games, Dino Toys s. r. o., G3, Goldmerk
Year Published
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3 players
(4 voters)
Playing Time30
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
User Suggested Ages6 and up
(3 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(4 voters)
CategoryAnimals, Card Game, Educational, Environmental
MechanicCard Drafting, Hand Management
Primary NameFood Chain
Alternate NamesHарчовий Lанцюг, Kes keda sööb?, Kto kogo? czyli łańcuch pokarmowy, Predátor, Who eats Whom: The Cardgame, Кто кого ест?

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: On top of the Food Chain
Final word
Food Chain is simple card and children game, which has several interesting tactical choices even for advanced players. Goal is to gather the most valuable preys. But everything is different, than you would expect. While bear or wolf are of almost no value, hitting a frog, spider or even a leaf, that is the real art and holy grail of hunting. This means, that precisely for these smaller creatures will be interested players the most, while risking, that their predators might end on the plate as well. During a match, there is several cards in the middle. These are available prey. And it can even be fruit. Every animal has written on its card, what it eats. Everything else is not tasty for it. So in case you own an appropriate predator, you can try to get a valuable catch. But before you really get it, you must wait for next round. Other players can not only attack the same prey as you, but also your predator and bring you some tough moments. You can also switch cards with the middle or change your predators in play, but only with rule limitations. Unfortunately, game is not easy to learn, because rules are quite terrible. But if you take your time to read through several forums, you get nice addition to a easy card game family.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
nice illustrations
simple game
cards can be exchanged with quarry on the table
hunt has two phases and others might ruin your plans
lucid graphics
option to steal enemy tokens
Cons
rules are not clear, you have to look for answers to play the game right
luck in cards drawing
3
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