Buzzworthiness: Animal Upon Animal

A quick review today of a kid’s game called

image by BGG user kaylex
image by BGG user kaylex

Animal Upon Animal was first published in Germany as Tier auf Tier in 2005.  HABA is the publisher, and the game was designed by Klaus Miltenberger.  Animal Upon Animal is a 2-4 player game for ages 4 and up that takes around 15 minutes to play.  This is a basic stacking game where you are trying to get all of your animals on top of the pyramid.

The game comes with one wooden die, one wooden crocodile, and four sets of seven other wooden animals – monkeys, penguins, sheep, lizards, hedgehogs, snakes, and toucans.  Each player gets a set of animals, and the crocodile is placed in the center of the table.  This is the base for all animal placements.  The player who can stand on one foot for the longest time (like a flamingo) is the first player.

On your turn, you roll the die.  There are five different symbols that may come up.

  • A single dot means you must place one animal on the stack.
  • Two dots means you must place two animals on the stack.
  • A hand means you must give one animal to another player, and they must place it on the stack.
  • A question mark means the other players determine which animal you must place on the stack.
  • A crocodile means that you add an animal to the base, with its nose or tail touching the front of back of the current base.

If you knock any pieces off the stack, you take them into your hand (no more than two – any more than that goes out of the game).  The player to get rid of all of their animals first is the winner.  The rules don’t say as much, but we always play that the winner then gets to knock over the entire stack.

image by BGG user Count_Zr0
image by BGG user Count_Zr0

COMPONENTS: The pieces in Animal Upon Animal just consist of the 29 animals and the die.  The animals are really well made – they are wooden, for one thing, and they are in irregular shapes to make stacking ultra difficult.  The die is pretty lightweight and probably not at all balanced if you care about that stuff.  But it all works together very well.  The animals are very cute, as you can see.

THEME: There’s a tacked on story to go with the game about the animals climbing onto each other’s backs, but not much of a why.  However, if you’re looking for an immersive theme, you’re looking in the absolute wrong place.  The animals all look like what they represent and are all shaped like what they represent, so what more do you need?  If you feel like you really need a story, I’d adapt Yertle the Turtle.

MECHANICS: This is a stacking game, and there’s not a whole lot more to it.  Play is driven by the die roll which determines what what action can be done this round.  One dot allows for one animal, two dots allows for two – you’d think that the more you get, the better, but that’s just more animals you’re stacking on an already precarious pyramid.  The hand and question mark offset each other – one lets you give an animal of your choice to another player, and the other lets the other players decide which animal YOU must place.  I like that the crocodile side exists as well – young children in particular may get frustrated with a small area to build on, so adding to the base helps with that.

STRATEGY LEVEL: There are two strategy points in this game – what to stack and how to stack.  Looking at the current position of the pyramid, you need to determine a) the best animal for you to use and b) the best position that will make things tough for your opponents.  You have to be careful, however, because you could be given the next animal.  Deciding what to give or what to make someone else stack follows these same guidelines.  OK, it’s not heavy strategy, but it does require you to think spatially.

ACCESSIBILITY: It’s a kid’s game, and one that is engaging even for adults.  In fact, I’d say this is a really good bait game – one you can set up and play quickly to draw people in before hitting them with more gateway style games.

SCALABILITY: This is a 2-4 player game, and I tend to think that it’s better with more.  The stacks can get really crazy the more players you have.  With two, I’d suggest having 14 animals each.  At least for adults – for kids, 7 is still fine.

REPLAYABILITY: There’s a lot of replayability here.  There are infinite ways the game can play out, and who knows how spectacular the crashes will be when they happen.  I’m not saying it won’t get old, but I think there’s a lot of life in the game.

INTERACTION: The interaction here is largely in the placement of your animals.  There’s some in giving animals to others and in deciding what animal someone must use.  Indirectly, the game also provides opportunities for trash talk and/or encouragement.

FOOTPRINT: This game takes up a very small amount of space.  Really, you only need space for the crocodile and maybe a few animals on the end.  I’d recommend NOT using a wobbly table – you’d be better off to use the floor.

LEGACY: In the pantheon of children’s dexterity games, this one rises straight to the top.  It’s a wonderfully made and wonderfully fun game.  It’s certainly MUCH better than Jenga, and I think if it found its way onto mass market shelves, it would absolutely DESTROY the children’s game competition.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  It’s fun, it works for kids AND adults, it’s portable, and it’s fast.  I have zero complaints about this game, other than I’m not great at it.  On my Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale, I give this one an enthusiastic


Thanks for reading!


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