Lions and Tigers and Bears: Oh, My! on Food Chain Island

November 27, 2020 | Sessions | 2 comments

Give every hungry animal a proper and realistic meal from its fellow inhabitants on Food Chain Island.

With Thanksgiving in the United States, Food Chain Island seemed like a somewhat fitting solo game choice! Although the idea of making animals eat one another goes against my usual Calico Critters adorableness, this one makes sense and acts as an interesting puzzle. I set out to quickly learn the game and play for the first time! And get hungry? Ha ha!

Game Overview

Game Name: Food Chain Island
Publication Year:
2020
Designer:
Scott Almes
Artist:
Annie Wilkinson
Publisher: Button Shy
Solo Mode: Designed for Solo (Included in the Base Game)

Maybe the idea of feeding animals to others isn’t appealing, yet the artwork is endearing! It isn’t even the top predators who are the best. Each animal has a unique ability that can be useful in different situations. The goal is to end up with a single animal and a perfect food chain.

Examining the Full Selection of Animals in Food Chain Island
R

First Play

November 25, 2020

Complexity

1

Latest Play

November 25, 2020

Expansions

2

Setup Time

Almost None

Lifetime Plays

6

Play Time

5 Minutes

:

High Score

1

1

Game Area

20" x 16"

;

Low Score

4

No Wasted Animals

Yum! Aside from the plant at the very bottom of the food chain, every card shows a meal in progress. I admire this artwork for getting the point across in a pretty nice way.

Imagine this with some realistic artwork… No, thanks! I particularly like the raccoon cooking a snake. Ha!

An animal may only eat another animal with a value of 1-3 less than it, which is conveniently printed on each card. Yet the puzzle is much trickier than it may first appear.

The smaller animals have excellent abilities. It pays to avoid having the large predators go on a feeding frenzy!

Adorable but Very Hungry Animals from Food Chain Island

Help from the Seas

All of the action happens on the land grid, but there are some friends off the island’s coast! This pair of water creatures provides single-use abilities to help out.

The easiest way to increase the difficulty level is to remove these options. I wasn’t ready for that, though! Besides, they looked so very happy to be included in the game.

In a nutshell, I had to move and stack cards to get the fewest number of remaining cards. Very straightforward.

Yet the theme matched the mechanics in ways I didn’t completely expect. Suffice to say I loved the experience!

A Fun Way to Move Land Animals with the Whale and Shark in Food Chain Island

Separate Food Chains

So close! My first attempt actually went very well, although I couldn’t pull off the victory with a single stack. The polar bear couldn’t eat twice in a row. Almost!

In effect, I had a selection of lions, tigers, and bears out there. Oh, my! This must be an interesting island with a unique selection of animals all in the same place. Ha ha!

Empty spaces forced me to think creatively. Some moves had to wait for me to move other animals around.

There were a couple of moments when I had to think, yet my play time was still really quick and satisfying!

A Very Near-Win with Lions, Tigers, and Bears in Food Chain Island

A Crafty Lizard

As I continued to play, I learned more about every animal. None was more powerful than the others since the card arrangement made a huge difference. What a puzzle!

However, I started to make use of the smaller animals. Although they wouldn’t stick around for long, they had some powerful abilities. The lizard was my secret weapon.

I got lucky and had him or her eat 3 animals, thereby removing 3 other animal cards from the island.

After trying, trying, and trying some more, I managed to end this play with a single stack for a resounding victory!

A Fortunate Way to Pull Ahead with a Hungry Lizard in Food Chain Island

Session Overview

Play Number: 1-6
Solo Mode: Designed for Solo (Included in the Base Game)
Play Details: Easy Difficulty Level
Outcome: 2, 4, 2, 2, 2, 1 (1 Win and 5 Losses)

What a challenge! This remained on the lighter side, yet the decisions weren’t all that obvious. I definitely haven’t mastered gameplay. Don’t let that lone win fool you. Ha ha! I also picked up the currently available expansions to add more variety and possible challenges in the future. This was a lot of fun and felt like the perfect sort of game to end the day with. And I may be hungry now… Ha!

Looking Ahead to New Expansion Animals and Challenges for Food Chain Island

%

1 Play

Affordability

Price & Value

8

Functionality

Challenges & Mechanics

9

Originality

Design & Theme

7

Quality

Components & Rules

10

Reusability

Achievement & Enjoyment

9

Variability

Distinctness & Randomness

7

+ Pros (Positives)

  • The theme is all about animals eating other animals, but it makes sense and is presented in a pleasant way.
  • Every animal is important in some way to mirror a real food chain, thereby tying in the theme and mechanics.
  • Play time flies by and takes a matter of minutes, while still providing meaningful and challenging choices.
  • Ways to change the difficulty level are included with the base game, as well as in interesting expansions.
  • It’s important to see the big picture and how each area can create stacks, but the 4×4 grid is far from enormous.
  • The card design presents important information in an easy-to-read format, including food requirements. 

– Cons (Negatives)

  • It’s important to remember which animal’s ability is in use during a turn, yet this can be easy to lose track of.
  • A few abilities are a little ambiguous and rules clarifications take a little extra time to look up online.
  • Although there is a lot of setup variability, the overall variety in gameplay may become repetitive over time.
  • The placement of cards must be done so that empty spaces are obvious, and this can be tricky without a board.

More Food Chain Island

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Victory Conditions

End with 1 Stack of Animals

  • Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%

Goals and Milestones

R

Score 1 point.

R

Win at least 1 game at the easy difficulty level.

Continue the Conversation

What do you think of Food Chain Island? I thought the idea of animals eating other animals would be appalling, yet I enjoyed the experience. It’s not about devouring everything: More like understanding how every animal has a place. Which is your favorite animal in the game? I’m looking forward to trying out some challenging plays in the future!

2 Comments

  1. Plants! You can’t trust ’em. They can’t fight you or run away; all they can do is poison you.

    How do you keep track of those “next turn” effects – is there a marker on the card?

    Reply
    • So true about the plants! There are a lot of horror and sci-fi movies about them… Usually pretty funny, but still terrifying!

      The lack of a marker on the cards can be a little confusing. It’s easy enough to substitute something, though this is often necessary as you plan out a few potential options. Not a major problem, though!

      Reply

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