Endangered: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Play, and Initial Impressions

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Endangered is a cooperative board game about endangered animals: You all work together on a “global scale” to help save (in a conservation sense) some endangered animals.  This game was on Kickstarter in April 2019 and successfully funded.  It delivered to me about a week ago (April 7, 2020).  It promised delivery in March 2020: given the current state of the corona virus, a month late is actually pretty good.

I won’t be doing a full review until I can get this played with multiple people!  Multiple people playing is really difficult right now with Social Distancing.  So, you may be waiting a while to see Part II of this review.   I can tell you my initial thoughts from my first solo play.

Components

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The game looks real nice: the back of the box shows some of the components and does a good job describing the game.

Upon opening the box, you see lots of cardboard (well, not too much) and lots of little wooden bits.

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Foam to hold board firmly in place

The board is packed interestingly: notice the foam around the edge!  The foam holds the board firmly in place.

The little bits in the game are good quality: the orange wooden tigers pieces are especially nice, as are the brown otter pieces.  The dice are interesting …

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The main board

The main board is two sided: one side is for the Tigers (pictured above) and one side is for the otters (not pictured).

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The main cards

The cards are all linen coated.  For some reason, the iconography and pictures remind me of Pandemic …

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Summary Cards!

I am always so happy when the game has summary cards!  One for each player (2-sided, both sides shown above).

The components, overall are very nice.

The Rulebook

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The first few pages of the rulebook: It shows all components

This is one of the better rulebooks I’ve read in a while.  First of all, it starts with the components VERY CLEARLY labelled, so you can go through the game and find everything (see picture above).

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Set-up

The set-up is right there on the next page, describing general set-up and player set-up.  There’s very nice pictures showing everything.  This was a really good start!  I had no trouble diving into the game.

Overall, the rulebook was excellent!  The rules were described well, the pictures showed what was needed, the art was very nice, and the book had big fonts (I don’t like rulebooks with small fonts).  In general, I wish all rulebooks were this good.

Again, for some reason, this rulebook reminded me on Pandemic: it had a vibe like Pandemic.

Set-Up For First Game

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The game set-up pretty quickly: see picture above.  It looks nice on the tabletop.  I was able to keep the rulebook open while I played the game (lower left).  I did need the rulebook open much of the game, even though the summary cards are good.

The first major decision during set-up: do you save the Otters or Tigers (or, if you have the expansion, the Pandas)?    I chose “Tiger” because that’s what the Rulebook defaults to for the first game.  By choosing “Tiger”, I choose side A of the board (green jungle in the middle), a certain deck of Bad News cards (called IMPACT cards, on the left side), some “Tiger” minis  (in the jungle board) and the “Tiger” dossier, which describes how the “Tiger” game is different from the main game.

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Each player then chooses a role: each role has special abilities.  The Zoologist above has a special ability for Migration Paths.  Each role has a different special ability.

Solo Play

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Solo game: Mid-game

So, this cooperative game has dedicated solo rules (Huzzah! They follow Saunders’ Law).  It’s a very straight-forward solo game: the solo player takes the role of two roles who alternate play.   It seemed to work pretty well, although there was a lot to learn on your first play.  I am always a big fan of solo rules that only make you use one character, but there’s a reason you have to have two characters: this game is (among other things) a dice-placement game, and you need the tension of having some of the dice locations unavailable when your character plays.  That seems to be a core mechanic in the game, and taking this away this tension for a one player/one character solo play would immensely change the game.

First Play

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A bunch of actions available

The object of the game: You are trying to convince a certain number of nations to enact laws to save the Tiger, and each nation has a different “victory” condition (usually, you just need more influence)!  You win if you can convince enough nations to save the Tiger!  To accomplish this, you perform actions.  You perform actions by playing dice.

The game, at its core, is a dice-placement game.   The game starts with a few Locations in play, but as you play, you can add more action cards.  The game is interesting, because each role has a different set of action cards!  On your turn, you have to make the hard decisions!  You have three dice, and each die is placed on a card to perform an action.  NOTE: you can only place a die on a card if it is GREATER THAN all other dice already on the card!

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All the actions cards the zoologist COULD play, but hasn’t yet!

The game is replete with conflicting decisions:

  1. Do you spend an action to help the Tigers (in the jungle) mate so their numbers soar?
  2. Do you get spend an action to get money?  (Money is important for so many things)
  3. Do you spend an action to gain influence?  (Influence is spent on some ambassador/nation to try to get them enact protection laws)
  4. Do you spend an action to put out an action card?   (At the start of the game, there’s only a few actions out, so you have to spend actions to put out more actions)
  5. Do you spend an action to stop the encroachment of society into the jungle?  (This is represented by tiles in the jungle, blocking places where the tigers can go or mate)
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In the end game: only two tigers alive and the encroachment has taken over most of the map!

Every action is precious.    In the early game, you tend to try to put out actions to try to get better actions out.  In the late game, you are doing everything you can to keep the Tigers alive!

Bad News/Impact Cards

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Bad News/Impact cards

Like many cooperative games, there are Bad News cards which make the world worse for the tigers.  In this game, they are called IMPACT cards (see above).  Each animal type has its own IMPACT deck (above is the Tiger).  Some of the IMPACT cards are persistent, (which means they stay out the whole game (unless you do something)) and some are one-shots (one and done).  After each character plays a turn, an IMPACT card comes out.

End of First Game

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A losing first game!

In my first game, I lost.   There is only one way to win the game: Get 4 or more Yes votes from the Ambassadors in either of your two Voting Years.

There are three ways to lose the game:

  1. If the Animal population on the board is ever reduced to 1 or 0 Animals, the group immediately loses the game.
  2. If the group is ever required to place a Destruction tile on the board and there are none left in the supply to place, the group immediately loses the game.
  3. If the group fails to get 4 or more Yes votes from the Ambassadors in the second Voting Year, the game is over and the group loses the game

I lost because I ran out of time: I didn’t have enough Yes votes from the ambassadors.  It was a rough game.

Sources of Randomness

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Five persistent IMPACTS!!

I was frustrated in my first game because I lost so hard.  At the end of the game, there were so many persistent (5!) IMPACT cards, it was a bit of a slog dealing with the Bad news every turn!!!  I was thinking about why I was frustrated: there were a number of sources of randomness and I had trouble mitigating those.

  1. IMPACT cards.  The persistent IMPACT cards didn’t seem to have a way to mitigate them.  After I finished, I realized that SOME of the IMPACT cards allow you to spend money to get rid of a persistent card, but those didn’t show up for me in my first game until after ALLL the persistent cards came out.
  2. Tigers Mate.  To see if the tigers mate, you roll a 6-sided die.  The more tiger-pairs that there are, the better your chances  (Basically, you have to roll under 1+n, where n is the number of tiger-pairs).  You can mitigate this by keeping the Tiger numbers up.
  3. Action cards.  At the start of the game, you only have two of your action cards from you deck available. After every turn, you get to draw another one, but the action cards from the decks tend to come out very slowly.  (Some of the decks have actions which allow you to draw 3 action cards instead of one as a mitigation technique).
  4. Destruction tiles.  Each turn, you have to place a destruction tile.  You choose a row (or column) and you roll a die.  If the destruction covers a tiger, oh well!  (You lost that tiger).  The mitigation technique is basically you get to choose a row/column (that has a tiger).  But you still have to roll.

Although there were ways to mitigate the randomness, I felt like I didn’t have a lot of control over that.   Now that I know the game, I think the most important thing is to get some better actions out quickly.  I realize that I had bad luck: my action cards weren’t great in the beginning, I rolled terribly in the “Tigers Mate” and the “Destruction”,  and I drew all the persistent cards without the mitigators.   So, I was frustrated.  I suspect my second play will go better … it has to!  I am a little  worried about there being too much randomness, but now that I know the game better, I’m hoping the next game will go better…

Conclusion

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In the end, this game reminded me a lot of Pandemic with perhaps a little more randomness.  The rulebook was excellent, the game looked great, and there were lots of interesting decisions.  In general, I had fun.   My only worry is the amount of randomness in the game might be frustrating: we’ll have to see with future plays.

In general, this a good game: I am glad I kickstarted it, and I look forward to playing this with my game group(s) to see how it goes.

One thought on “Endangered: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Play, and Initial Impressions

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