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New Game: Animal Houses

Animal Houses - Animal Icons v2
Animal Houses - PnP Version

I purchased a set of 6 Woodland Creatures Dice from The Game Crafter not too long ago, and decided to use them to make a game for my twin nephews (age 7).

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring to you Let-Off Studios' ANIMAL HOUSE(S)!

Last Update: 25 Dec 2020

Download this ZIP for all files needed to play the game:
https://let-off.neocities.org/games/losah/losah.zip

Separate instructions available for download as a PDF here:
https://let-off.neocities.org/games/losah/animal-houses.pdf

Separate print-and-play game pieces are available as a PDF here:
https://let-off.neocities.org/games/losah/animal-houses-pnp.pdf

Enjoy...!

EDIT: 7 April 2021
I drew new icons for the different animals. I'll be using these for the next update, which will include new rules for room decorations (implementing the suggestions noted below). Please see the attached image for details.

Comments

I didn't have the chance to read all the rules...

But I was thinking that maybe there could be rules with the animals. What kind of rules??? Like the skunks can't be in the same house as the dog (because he has very keen sense of smell...) And maybe there are other pairings that don't work together... Just to spice up the contention between the animals... Just a thought. Cheers!

Responses

I have a response and an update.

Quote:
Like the skunks can't be in the same house as the dog (because he has very keen sense of smell...)
Well, there's no dog in the game, since I'm sticking with only the animals shown on the dice, but it might be interesting to have a couple of the houses with a dog hanging out on a particular floor - like, maybe a room already filled with an animal - and a skunk can't stay in that house.

As this is for relatively young kids, I didn't want to throw too much at them at once. I'm cool with sacrificing complexity in this first version.

Regarding an update: I made some slight changes to the game after today's playtest.

  • The Raccoons & Opossums earn 10 bonus points to a player if they can draw a straight line up and down in a house with 3 matching animals (the score bonus requires 3 matching animals in a column).
  • Similar to above, the Beavers & Rabbits score a player a 10 point bonus if 3 of that same animal are in a row.

I elected to add these in so that although there's still competition for the Skunks, and the Squirrels are an attempt to "split the difference" in Animal Token utility, this adds an interesting wrinkle and possible competition for some of the other Animal Tokens.

Here's an IDEA... Because there is no DOG...

Maybe you have a DOG tile and somehow that prevents other animals to be added to a row (or maybe a floor)... The tile isn't one that you roll ... but something you pass around each turn from one player to another... It adds a bit of "Take-That" to the game... You were going to play 3 Skunks in a row and darn it... Your cousin plays the Dog tile and foils your plans on that turn.

Granted you could wait an extra turn and play your skunks once you are rid of the Dog...

IDK just offering up ideas. Cheers!

Note #1: Sort of a "Hot Potato". This introduces some, I know it's not really too deep "strategy", kind of way of "messing" with your opponent's well thought up plan!

Play Without Dice

I considered a few ways to play this game without dice. There's more of a strategic element to at least one of the variations.

  • Flip all the animal tiles face-down. For the next round draw at least 2 per player: somewhere from 4 to 8. Flip the chosen tiles face-up, and let players "snake draft" their animals for that round until each player has chosen two animals. Set any animal tiles not chosen off to the side. Don't add these non-selected tiles back into the animal supply until the original animal supply becomes exhausted.
  • For a further strategic element, choose a distribution of animal tiles, and label the backs all the same letter/number/symbol. At the start of a round, select a matching set, and choose animals only from that set. Do this until all sets have been run through at least once, then return them to the animal tile pool face-down.

The advantage of the second method is that you can ensure that there's an even distribution of all available animal tiles. This could be useful for players who are attempting to determine their optimal strategy with the default probabilities of using the two dice.

The advantage of the first method is that there's still luck and tactical thinking involved. Players will have to choose tiles in a way that seems more similar to the dice-throwing method, since there's no guarantee that every type of animal will come out every single round. Of course, since there's a limited number of tiles, the distribution is still there anyway, and players may still want to hold out for a few more Skunks before they completely fill in their Animal Houses.

Personally, I like the tactical thinking required for the second method, but the first method also has its merits. Each variation lends a different, distinct flavour to the game as it plays out.

Hmm... I like Method #1.

But let me be sure I understood correctly!

Basically what you are saying is to flip 8 tiles over (for 2 Players). Players DRAFT 2 tiles each, knowing fully well what tiles will go to the discard until the tiles are all exhausted and then all discarded tiles go back into the possible draw pile.

Am I right? If yes... This has a couple of interesting strategies.

questccg wrote:

1> You know what you and your opponent are competing for. Which means that you could upset his/her plans a bit by taking one of their tiles...!

2> The delay when you could use like "3" tiles out of 8 (or maybe even 4 tiles) is a real concern... And will force players to make meaningful decisions.

Now that is all fine and dandy for method #1 of play. Let me just briefly touch on method #2... (Which I am unsure how it plays).

This is a "semi-blind DRAFT", right? Meaning all the tiles remain inverted and players choose according to the "Letter" or "Number" on the back of a tile... (Is this correct???)

Assuming that this is correct, you explained further say that the tiles are an "assortment" of animals per letter/number. Meaning their content is a bit "random" and YOU the designer "control" what the distribution will look like. (Am I understanding correctly??)

This BLIND (even if "semi") to me sound TOO RANDOM. You are taking out all of the "strategy" found in Method #1 and replacing it with some kind of "pseudo" distribution that only you are aware of. Furthermore, this leads to RANDOM tile selection, because per letter/number you are NOT sure what it is you are going to get.

All this RANDOMNESS will lead to a very weak design, especially in the "strategy", "depth of play" and "out-thinking" your opponent departments found in Method #1.

Perhaps I have not understood Method #2 correctly which could affect this analysis. Like I said, I may have misunderstood Method #2 while I am pretty sure I understood Method #1...

So please feel free to respond with questions/comments/feedback/answers to my concerns in what I call Method #2 too reliant on randomness. Cheers!

Note #1: Re-reading your COMMENT made me realize that you PLAY per "letter/number" and FLIP over only those animals. It is very similar to Method #1 ... But you introduce another layer of distribution in terms of the "letter/number"...

I personally prefer Method #1 ... Because it can go swing-y a bit... With the RANDOM selection. But now I better understand Method #2 which aims to CONTROL the flow of tiles to SETS instead of randomness.

IDK ... Now thinking the SETS are cool BUT STATIC. This could affect REPLAYABILITY in that players can become "familiar" with various SETS and maybe have knowledge about what animals to draft from which set... Hmm. I guess it would still be hard to predict... But do you really NEED this layer??? I guess that's my question to you ATM.

Responses, Clarifications

questccg wrote:
Basically what you are saying is to flip 8 tiles over (for 2 Players). Players DRAFT 2 tiles each, knowing fully well what tiles will go to the discard until the tiles are all exhausted and then all discarded tiles go back into the possible draw pile.

Am I right? If yes... This has a couple of interesting strategies.

Well it's doubtful I would allow 8 tiles for a two-player game (I see that as more appropriate for a 3- or 4-player game). But yes, the tiles not chosen during a round are pushed off to the side until the rest of the drafting pile is exhausted.

questccg wrote:

1> You know what you and your opponent are competing for. Which means that you could upset his/her plans a bit by taking one of their tiles...!

2> The delay when you could use like "3" tiles out of 8 (or maybe even 4 tiles) is a real concern... And will force players to make meaningful decisions.

That's definitely what I am going for. The dice version provided the same kind of distribution, with the added feature of no limit to the number of tiles showing any given animal.

I'll also skip ahead a bit in your response, because it seems your notes show that you do understand what I was trying to describe for option 2: you pick tiles only after they are face-up.

To clarify for other readers: imagine something like a deck of standard playing cards where - instead of dealing cards at random - you would deal only the Diamonds, or only the Clubs. Any of those cards not chosen are set off to the side until the rest of the suits have been picked through. Then they would be brought out on future rounds, one suit at a time, for players to pick from again until the game is over.

questccg wrote:
IDK ... Now thinking the SETS are cool BUT STATIC. This could affect REPLAYABILITY in that players can become "familiar" with various SETS and maybe have knowledge about what animals to draft from which set... Hmm. I guess it would still be hard to predict... But do you really NEED this layer??? I guess that's my question to you ATM.
I do think some playtesting is required to determine what works best. I do completely agree with you that the second method (which I compared to suits) is more fiddly and that it affects replayability (in a negative way). It was a method to provide more control and predictability to the player.

Maybe that method would work best in a solo game, where optimal strategies would need to be sorted out based on the buildings players had to fill with occupants.

In a multi-player game, choosing would be influenced by:

  • Building layout
  • player order
  • set order (Diamonds first, or Clubs first, etc.)

...So I'm just not certain.

Coloretto

This game kind of reminds me of Coloretto for some reason, though perhaps I need more coffee at the moment to properly articulate my thoughts. :)

Explaining the tile-drawing methods above to questccg brought this comparison bubbling up to the surface, for whatever reason.

I took a look at Coloretto... and ...

I think you should have different COLORS for the rooms in each the homes for the animals. And do something LIKE "Coloretto" and cut-out shapes which require different Animals with the MATCHING color.

Yes, I am suggesting "borrowing" the Color-Matching Mechanic in "Coloretto" and using it for your animals and the various homes.

But here's an IDEA:

questccg wrote:

For every color, there are TWO (2) Animals that match that color.

So if you have WHITE for the Skunks (the stripe is cut-out) and a Polar Bear Arm (is cut-out for white too)!

If you get RID of the DICE... You can add more variety to the TILES and use the Color-Matching Mechanic for a LEARNING Experience ... Making you game FUN and EDUCATIONAL (because you practice recognizing color matches).

You've already said that you have a dice-less version of the game... So maybe you add "Coloretto" Color-Matching Mechanic and really PUSH the boundaries of this small but FUN game!

Just a couple things to think about... I had my morning coffee too ... So I am thinking straight. And I think you should "go the extra step" IMHO.

Tweaking draft to create interesting decisions

I think including a draft in your game is definetlty a step in a strategic direction. Can you tweak the drafting mechanic to give players some interesting choices? One possibility I can see is drawing tiles in pairs and both tiles have to drafted together.

Feel free to disregard, use or improve upon. Good luck with your game.

Housemates

Fri wrote:
I think including a draft in your game is definetlty a step in a strategic direction. Can you tweak the drafting mechanic to give players some interesting choices? One possibility I can see is drawing tiles in pairs and both tiles have to drafted together.
Sure, I could see this working.

  • Draw four pairs of face-down tiles. [EDIT: then, of course, reveal the tiles so players know what they're choosing.]
  • Players choose one pair to add to their houses on each turn.
  • Any tiles not chosen are discarded face-down, and then once the draw pile is exhausted the discards are mixed/shuffled to create the new draw pile, where new pairs are drawn - likely in new pair combinations.

In this scenario, the animals want to be neighbours, or perhaps housemates.

This definitely seems like a much-less-fiddly way to integrate decisions that are more interesting. I'd also likely want to provide players with both houses at the outset of the game instead of one at a time, to maximize player options - particularly when they choose a pair of incompatible animals.

Since this elegantly applies the decision-making layer into the game, maybe I can also experiment with the colour-related mechanics that questccg had mentioned earlier.

First however, I want to update the current ruleset with what's been discussed here. It seems a worthwhile direction it can go.

Thank you both for your feedback and suggestions, questccg and Fri! :)

Another small comment...

If you use the "color-matching" mechanic ... This means that only some of the ROOMS in the "Houses" need a matching Animal. Why is this important???

Well it controls the "strategy" and pace of the game.

In a NON-Colored game, you try to match based solely on scoring rules. In a COLORED game, you have an extra requirement to match with what is available to a player.

This can dramatically change the pace of a game and how you try to score a corresponding "animal".

Just something to think about. Cheers!

P.S.: This sets up some interesting HOUSES. Instead of them being YELLOW, you can now have all kinds of COLORS and what appear to be DUPPLICATES of a HOUSE. BUT the COLORS can be different, making those condos (6 rooms) look similar but different in reality. This adds great replayability to the game.

Pair drafting is one suggestion for drafting

So I thought about it so more and came up with some other drafts you could try.

Serptine draft like sagrada.

A draft similar to the one in dragon castle, but only one story.

If you are still trying for a game to play with your nephews, you could "jenga" draft where each block has an animal and when you get the corresponding pull and replace block you get an animal of that type. The game is over when the tower falls, and if you knocked over the tower you cannot win.

As you know there are lots of other possible drafts out there too.

Perhaps, you could also morph the game into a roll and write or flip and write. Every turn the players are presented with three options and must choose two.

@questccg some color dependent scoring could add something to this game. Good idea.

Feel free to disregard, use or improve upon. Good luck with your game.

Next Update

I've adjusted a hard copy of a prototype with illustrations depicting the interior of rooms. I opted for patterns instead of colours: it still works out all right when printing in black n' white. There are three categories players can match for extra points:

  • Stripes
  • Spots
  • Windows

Stripes and spots are relatively common and provide any animal that wants them with +1 points. Windows are rare in comparison, and provide +3 points (maybe, as testing will determine if +2 is more in-line, or if windows should just stay simple and provide the same score bonus).

Each category of animal has five animals each that like stripes or spots, respectively. Those that prefer windows are numbered at two per category.

If an animal has a preference, then one corner of their tile will have a symbol with the pattern or the window on it, letting players know they are distinctive and can earn them additional points.

My next version of the game will include these additional illustrations.

Thanks again to questccg and Fri for the suggestions and input! It was a while in coming but I hadn't forgotten them. :)

New Icons

I created new icons for the different animals.

For the tiles, I'll combine these with the three different options: stripes, spots, and windows. Animals can earn players additional points when they match these patterns between animals and their rooms.

https://www.bgdf.com/image/animal-houses-animal-icons-v2

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