#545 – Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers

Box

Base price: $25.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: ~15 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas

Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 3 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers was provided by HABA.

Back with more from HABA! I think I have enough to keep this train rolling for a few weeks, so I’m explicitly going to try my hardest to do that. Means we should be covering Karuba the Card Game, Valley of the Vikings, and Dragon’s Breath, before too long. Anyways, one title they passed to me was Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers, a variant of the classic, so let’s dive into that and see what’s going on.

In Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers, you’ve taken your animal-stacking passions to new heights, literally. With a whole mountain to play with and some all-new animals, you’re going to … well, you’re going to stack them again and see what happens. It’s been working pretty well for you so far, so, why stop now? Will you be able to keep this stack rising higher?

Contents

Setup

Pretty much zero setup. Place the Mountain in the middle with the die:

Mountain and Die

Then pull out the Animals!

Animals

Give each player one of each. If there are fewer than four players, randomly distribute the remaining ones so that everyone gets roughly an equal amount. You’re all ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

The game is pretty straightforward; like most stacking games, you seek to stack the animals as best as you can. The player who runs out of animals first wins. On your turn, roll the die:

  • One dot: Place one animal on the mountain or on top of any animal on the mountain.
  • Two dots: Place two animals on the mountain or on top of any animal on the mountain.
  • Hand: Give one of your animals to another player; they must place it on the mountain.
  • Question Mark: The other players must agree on which animal you must place on the mountain this turn.
  • Mountain: You may place an animal such that it’s touching the mountain panorama (or an animal already touching the mountain panorama). It must be touching the table, as well. Players may continue to build their stack of animals from that.

Gameplay 3

You may only stack animals with one hand. If animals fall off, you must take up to two of the animals that have fallen and add them back to your animal collection. Place the remainder back in the box. If you are an experienced player, take up to five if they fall. Rough!

Gameplay 6

If you are left with one animal, place it normally. If you place it successfully, you win!

Player Count Differences

There aren’t really any. There’s no real player interaction beyond the animals you get assigned at fewer than four players, and other players don’t have a major impact on your game beyond placing animals that you have to deal with. The mountain will likely collapse eventually, so, having more people means there are frequently more animals on the mountain, but also that there are now more people who aren’t you that the mountain can eventually collapse on. I’m pretty sure it evens out on a long enough timetable, so I’m not particularly bothered by Crest Climbers at any player count. It’s all fairly silly.

Strategy

Gameplay 2

  • If you’re building for yourself, build a strong foundation. If you’re building for someone else, build really, really nasty structures that challenge the very meaning of stability. This really only matters if you’re playing two animals in one turn; generally, if you do that, you want to place the first one without much fanfare so that you can make the second one a mess for the next player. If you’re only placing one animal, you should always work to mess up the next player. You don’t care
  • Watch for sliding. This is the primary vector by which the mountain falls, in my games. Players aren’t paying attention to where the weight is; they’re only paying attention to whether or not the animals are lined up on the same axis. that’s fine and all, but that’s not going to stop them from just sliding horizontally and falling off the mountain. This isn’t Catch the Moon; you can’t just brazenly rely on friction.
  • Hook animals together, if you can. Try to use the animals to stabilize each other. The mountain’s going to introduce some lean anyways; if you can get them to lock in and kind of stay in one spot, you’re going to have a much better time overall. Just make sure your attempts to do so don’t cause those bad boys to start sliding and topple the mountain.
  • Watch out for the squirrel and the beaver. They’re the roundest ones. Most people suspect the snake is the foulest to play, but it’s mostly flat, just bendy in unexpected places (it can nicely sit on top of another snake, for instance). The squirrel and beaver have really aggressive rounded edges, so it is much easier for the weight to start working against you and bring down the entire structure, if you’re not careful.
  • This game is much more about weight than positioning. Unlike Catch the Moon, there aren’t any clever positions you can really create to start building braces for future structures. Everything’s pretty much built on a 2D plane, and if you prep for that you’ll likely end up having a better overall experience. It just means sometimes the

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Gameplay 4

Pros

  • Cute animal tokens. I mean, this is a very cute game, which is to be expected from HABA, but I particularly love the snake. Everyone just kind of looks so goofy in this one and it’s a very endearing aesthetic.
  • Very kid-friendly. The pieces are nice and chunky, the rules are simple, and the whole thing kind of is easy to pick up and play. This tends to be true for stacking games in general, but it’s nice to see that it’s still bearing out. Plus it’s just a very cute game.
  • Being able to extend the mountain is an interesting playstyle. I like that it broadens the base. Though, I’m not going to say it makes the game easier; it does give you more first places to go, though, which is pretty helpful. Plus it’s just a neat option.
  • Since you can only keep up to two animals, the game moves pretty quickly. The basic game, at least. You’re going to see a lot of animals end up back in the box, but that’s part of the experience.
  • Pretty portable. You could throw it all into a bag and just kinda … go. The box isn’t entirely necessary, which is nice.

Mehs

  • Those animals are slippery suckers. There definitely aren’t Complex Friction Mechanics at play like there would be in Catch the Moon, but that’s probably fine for this game. It’s nice to have a diverse array of stacking games available. It’s possible that that’s going to be a point of frustration, but, you know, it’s just worth knowing.
  • Nothing really to keep the animals in, inside the box. I’m a big fan of inserts, and there’s just … not one here. There’s not even a bag for the animals. Maybe because it’s a kids’ game? Not sure.

Cons

  • It’s a bit more about managing weight than playing with interesting physics, which is always my favorite part of stacking games. This is more of a personal preference. Other people will likely not care as much as I do. I just like games with a bit more like, complexity to them than “just stack these”. That’s part of why my opinion of Cat Tower also declined a bit.
  • Often, being able to place two animals is a pretty significant boon, so it’s kind of frustrating when it’s randomly determined. I think Cat Tower actually also does this, amusingly. I get that there’s an enhanced risk, but it’s a huge boon, especially if players can repeatedly get that. While there should be an element of luck in games, it’s frustrating if there’s no real way to mitigate it beyond hoping that that player sneezes.
  • The experienced player version can take a decent amount of time, since so few animals are removed from play. You may just end up passing animals around for a while if you’re not particularly careful.

Overall: 7 / 10

In Progress

Overall, though, Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers is pretty fun! The name’s kind of a mouthful, now that I get around to typing it, but the game itself works pretty well. I think it’s less my thing in particular because I like the stacking games with Needless Additional Complexity, but I could see this being a great way to introduce younger players (or new gamers) to the genre. For one, it’s super endearing; the pieces are adorable and the whole game looks super cute. It’s also extremely simple. Roll, and place. There’s not much else to it. I particularly appreciate that the pieces are fairly chunky; similar to Topito, another stacking game I’ve played, I think that makes them easier to grab and manipulate for players with a bit less manual dexterity. And it’s very portable! Just bag it and you’re essentially good to go. All of that said, a bit less randomness might make it more my speed (I’d love, for instance, rolling to determine how you place the animal, rather than how many animals or which animal you place), but also, not every game is designed for me personally, so, whatever. If you’re an experienced player, I think you can still have a fair bit of fun with this one, but if you’re looking for a game for your newer gamers to dig into, Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers might be right up your alley!

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