Ark & Noah By Eagle-Gryphon Games
Until I started reviewing board games I never gave much thought to the impact of a game’s theme. I never cared why certain board games had more appeal than others. I just bought the games I thought were cool and never paid attention to why. Was it the theme, mechanics, components, play time or some combination that was the decision maker? Reviewing board games is completely different. I am playing games outside of my normal selections and so I pay closer attention to what I like and dislike. An energetic designer will want you to review their new worker placement game that takes place in an orchard. Um, I like worker placement games, but how fun can picking fruit be? Suddenly a game you wouldn’t even spend 10 seconds looking over in a store is sitting on your table. Theme can really excite me or turn me off. So when a worker placement game about building Noah’s Ark came along, well, let’s just say the theme didn’t really excite me. Can building Noah’s Ark really be fun? How much variety or strategy can you incorporate into this very specific theme? As it turns out, you can create a very fun and strategic game. For those of you, like me, who would normally pass on a Noah’s Ark theme game, please keep reading!
Ark & Noah is a semi-cooperative worker placement game where the players take on the roles of Noah and his sons trying to complete the Ark before the great flood. Worker placement, action selection, resource management with an element of set collection drives Ark and Noah. You must work together to build and fill the Ark with animals, but only one player will win. You can only select one of the seven actions each round, with two actions for a two-player game, and penalties for holding resources at the end of the game, make each decision meaningful.
Game setup is simple. The board is assembled according to the number of players. Each player picks either Noah or one of his sons, gathers the starting resources, and then places their workers on the completed action space of the action board according to the rules. First player puts his worker on the left most space followed by the next player placing his worker on the next space and so on.
Once the game is setup the first round starts with phase 1: choose actions. The player with his worker on the left most space selects the first action followed by the player with the next worker in order. There are seven actions to choose from and once an action is selected by a player another player may not use that action. The actions to choose from are: Make Pitch, Collect Animals, Gather Food, Exchange, Cut Wood, Build the Ark, and Load the Ark. Although only one worker can be placed on an action space everyone will benefit from each other’s workers. For instance, the player that selects Cut Wood will get four wood boards and all the other players will get two wood boards. The only action that does not benefit everyone is the Exchange action. This allows only the player with the worker on the Exchange action space to perform this action. Let’s look at the actions in more detail.
Make Pitch: Allows the player to take three brown pitch cubes from the supply. All other players will receive one cube. Pitch cubes are used to help build the outer frame of the Ark.
Collect Animals: Allows the player to draw animal tiles. The player draws animal tiles equal to the number of players. He keeps the one he wants and then the other players select the remaining tiles.
Gather Food: Allows the player to take three food tokens from the supply. All other players gain one food token.
Exchange: Allows the player to choose either a victory point, food tile, wooden board, or pitch cube, plus make an exchange of either animal tiles or wooden boards on the Ark. This is where a little “take that” can come into play as players can swap out other player’s boards for their own. This could stop a player from loading animals on the Ark.
Cut Wood: Allows the player to take four wooden boards of their color from the supply. All other players get two wood boards of their color from the supply. Wood is used to build the Ark and corrals inside the Ark.
Build the Ark: Allows the player to add up to eight wooden boards /pitch cubes to the Ark. All other players can add five wooden boards/pitch cubes. This action is where the corrals that hold the animals are built. One victory point is scored for each wooden board/ pitch cube placed on the Ark.
Load the Ark: Allows the player to have eight loading points to load the Ark with food and/or animals. All other players get five loading points. Each animal tile has a loading value and corral size number on it. A corral the exact size of the corral number must be built and have food in each space before animal tiles can be loaded. For example, the lions need a corral of exactly three spaces. If there is a corral of three spaces already built with food in each space, then you can load the lions. This is assuming you own one of the lion tiles, and the other lion tile is either owned by you or another player. You can’t load animals on the Ark if you don’t own at least one of the animal tiles. If you own both tiles then you will score points for both tiles but if you only own one tile, and another player has the matching tile, then you only score points for your tile. In the case of the lions, you would get 6 points for owning one or 12 for owning both the male and female. You may also load food in completed corals. Placing one food costs one loading point and results in gaining one victory point.
After every player has chosen an action by placing their worker on the corresponding action space the second phase begins. The Action Phase starts with the worker on the left side of the board and works its way to the right. One at a time, each worker is placed in the action completed space and the corresponding action is resolved. Once all actions are resolved the round is over. The round tracker is advanced by one and players select their actions for the next round starting with the player that has the left most worker on the Action Board.
The game ends any time after 10 rounds once the entire outside of the Ark is completed. Score is kept during the game by the score tracker located on the Ark board. Besides scoring during the game, there are three end game scoring modifiers. The player with the most boards on the outside edges of the Ark receives five additional victory points. Players also lose one victory point for each wooden board, pitch cube, and food tile they are holding at the end. Players lose victory points equal to the animal’s corral size for each animal tile they hold at the end of the game. The player with the most victory points wins.
I really enjoyed playing Ark & Noah. It is an easy game to setup, learn, and play. It has more depth to it than I originally thought after first reading instructions. I like the fact that you lose points for unused resources, and extra animal tiles you are holding at the end of the game. While it may look like getting resources on another player’s turn is beneficial, and sometimes it is, it can be a strategy that affects the other players. There is a fine line between the cooperative aspect and the competitive aspect of this game. You need help building corrals to load your animals, but completing a corral at the wrong time will usually end with your opponents loading his animals into it. Every round is a mind game filled with trying to guess your opponents plans and deciding the right time to perform each action. There was nothing more devastating than watching my opponent load my high value animals onto the Ark because of my lack of planning. Anticipation is the key to winning Ark & Noah.
As great as this game is it was difficult to get my boys to play it with me. 16 and 20 year olds aren’t really interested in building an ark. They want to conquer the world (Attack! and Scythe), slay monsters and find loot (Ravingspire and War Hammer Quest ACG), or just about anything else that isn’t building an ark. I kept thinking to myself…if we were building a spaceship headed to Mars with these exact same mechanics this game would never leave the table. Ok, so maybe it would leave the table, but it would get tons of play time. It truly is that fun! While it may not resonate with young adult male gamers, Ark & Noah is a great family game. An alternative simple rule set is provided which is geared toward playing with children, and beginners. If you like worker placement, action selection, resource management, or games that will boggle your mind guessing your opponent’s moves, then I highly recommend Ark & Noah...if you don’t mind building an ark! This game would be wonderful for families with tweens, or perhaps to have on the shelves for church lock-ins, or other events where the theme would be more relevant.
Tony’s Pros and Cons
Pros: Easy to learn and quick to setup. Games take under an hour. The competitive/cooperative aspect keeps you guessing your opponents moves and motives. Good replayability. Lots of player interaction with a nice little “take that” aspect. An instruction book that was clear and concise!
Cons: The theme was hard to sell to my boys. We would rather be building a spaceship, submarine, or 15th Century exploration ship.
Tony’s Epic Scale:2 (Easy to learn. A handful of components for each player. Small game board.)
*Epic Scale is on a scale of 1 to 5 and is a combination of number of components and ruleset)*
VALUE: 6 (If you can find it under $50 then this goes up to 8!)
ART: 6 (The game board and pieces serve the theme well but are a little bland.)
SETUP/TEARDOWN: 9 (The game time to setup/teardown time is phenomenal! Close to a 10!)
RE-PLAYABILITY: 7 (I don’t see this game stale after 10 or 15 plays.)
FUN-FACTOR: 6 (A solid 9 with a better theme!)
A software developer by day and avid game player by night.KickStarter has recently rekindled my love of board games. Now I am looking to help the little guys of KS get their games noticed and funded as well as demonstrate how easy or difficult a game is played its first time through.