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  • Writer's pictureJared Neal

Food Chain Island - Manage Your Appetite


(The pictured copy of the game is a print and play version I made, from a file I purchased from PNP Arcade. If you want to learn more about my process for making print and play games, check it out here)



Retail Price: $12

Player Count: 1 (for an extra challenge, sometimes we play with multiple players alternating turns)

Age Range: 8+ (consistent with our experience)

Play Time: 15 mins. (consistent with our experience)

Complexity: 2.5 out of 10 (consistent with our experience)

Mechanisms: Chaining, Network and Route Building

Designer: Scott Almes

Artist: Annie Wilkinson

Publisher: Button Shy Games


Educational Value:

  • Strategic Thinking

  • Problem Solving

  • Spatial Reasoning

  • Ecosystem

Flavor Text:


“On this forgotten island in a tiny corner of the ocean the animals are hungry! Your goal is to influence the wildlife - and arrange their meals - so there is only one animal left!”


Overview:


Food Chain Island is a strategic puzzle game, where you are moving higher cards on top of lower cards “consuming" them, with the goal of leaving as few card piles remaining when you are done. The premise is simple, but you also have to manage the special abilities that are activated each time an animal eats.


Setup:

  • Shuffle the 16 land animal cards, and then place them out into a 4 by 4 grid on the table.

  • Place the 2 sea animals next to the grid.

Gameplay:


You may move any card (“predator”) orthogonally on top of another card (“prey”), so long as the predator is 1, 2, or 3 higher than the prey. You must then carry out the special ability listed on the bottom of the predator card.

  • 0 - Plant - no ability

  • 1 - Ant - move one animal 1 to 3 spaces

  • 2 - Spider - move two animals 1 space each

  • 3 - Mouse - move one animal 1 to 2 spaces

  • 4 - Lizard - discard any one unstacked animal

  • 5 - Rat - move one animal 2 spaces

  • 6 - Bat - after the bat eats, move it to any other space

  • 7 - Snake - swap the locations of two cards

  • 8 - Raccoon - next turn, if the predator eats prey valued exactly 1 less, discard any one unstacked animal

  • 9 - Fox - next turn, the predator must move diagonally to eat

  • 10 - Lynx - next turn, the predator must jump over an animal (moving two spaces in a straight line) to eat

  • 11 - Wolf - after the wolf eats, move it 1 space

  • 12 - Tiger - next turn, the predator must move 2 spaces to eat

  • 13 - Gator - next turn, instead of moving the predator over the prey, slide the prey under the predator

  • 14 - Lion - next turn, the predator must eat prey valued exactly 1 less

  • 15 - Polar Bear - next turn, the Polar Bear cannot eat

At any point you may discard one of your two sea animal cards, in order to use it’s ability.

  • Shark - move an animal 1 space to eat an adjacent animal of any lower value

  • Whale - move one animal to any other space

If you are unable to move any additional predators to consume prey, then the game ends. If you have 3 or fewer card piles left you win, otherwise you lose.


Luck/Strategy:


There is a little bit of luck in this game, because you are randomly laying out the cards at the beginning. For the most part though, this game is very strategic, and if you are good at spatial puzzles, you can really play out several moves ahead in your mind before you ever make the first play.


Artwork:


The artwork isn’t something you are going to praise for being sophisticated or beautiful, but it is very endearing. Especially given the game is all about animals eating each other, the artwork really compliments this game and makes it feel much lighter and more humorous than the conceptual basis of the game might imply.


Theme:


The theme in this game is actually pretty strong, as not only does the mechanic of eating other animals feel very thematic with the pictures provided, but the special abilities often are highly related to the actual behavior of that animal.


Replayability/Fun Factor:


Based on the fact there are 16 cards randomly laid in a 4x4 grid, there are more possible starting layouts than you will likely ever be able to try. In addition to the random layout of the cards at the beginning of the game, the rules supply you with 6 alternate layout patterns to try out as well. Coming from a family that immensely enjoys puzzles, we had a blast with this game, and the humorous art only added to that enjoyment.


Expansions:


Friendly Waters - you gain 3 new sea animals to shuffle in with the two from the base game, and then you draw 2 to play with at random.

  • Manta Ray - prevent the next predator’s ability from being activated

  • Octopus - discard an unstacked animal and activate its ability

  • Dolphin - move an animal 1 space to eat, place the predator below the prey

While I already mentioned above that the base game has plenty of variability, it is pretty fun to be able to throw these in to mix it up a little more.


Tough Skies - you get 3 flying animals, which are intended to increase the difficulty of the game. You shuffle them together, and select 1 of the 3 to play with, or more if you are trying to increase the difficulty even more. The flying animal may be used whenever you choose, but it must be used during the game or you lose.

  • Eagle - use only if there are nine or fewer animals on the map. Take three adjacent animals in one row or column, shuffle them and randomly deal them back to the original spaces

  • Owl - shuffle a stack of three or more animals. Randomly draw one and place it back in the same space. Discard the rest.

  • Buzzard - the next three predators must have odd numbers.

The game is by no means easy to beat as it is, but you do begin to recognize patterns that allow it to be a little easier over time. This expansion does a good job of keeping you on your toes, and not letting you settle in to too much of a consistent strategy.


Conclusion/Audience:


This game is not going to be for everyone, as playing puzzly games by yourself is not everyone's idea of fun. However, if you enjoy sitting down to do a good puzzle, this game packs an immensely fun and satisfying experience into a very condensed time frame. I can almost guarantee, you will set it up for a second round as soon as you finish the first. Other than the fact you have to be able to read the special abilities on the bottom of the card, pretty much any elementary age kid could play this if you are willing to help them with those, or if they have them memorized. I honestly play this as much if not more than my kids, so there is definitely not an upper age limit on who will enjoy this game.


+ Easy to learn and quick to play

+ High replayability

+ Challenging puzzle


- Only plays solo, if you don’t like playing alone


Final Score:


Jared - 8.5

Abigail - 7.5


Other Games You Might Like:


The Lost Expedition, Onirim, Pentaquark, Sylvion, Ugly Gryphon Inn


This game was purchased from PNP Arcade, and is available for print and play here or the retail version is available here (this isn't an affiliate link).

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