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Nimalia Card Game Review

WBG Score: 8

Player Count: 2-4

You’ll like this if you like: Kingdomino, Rune

Published by: Lucky Duck Games

Designed by: William Liévin

This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.

Nimalia is a tile laying game with a cute animal theme from a first time designer. It does not scream out "BUY ME!" At first glance is does not look like it is offering anything new or original. However, packaged within this tiny box is a joyful array of fun that packs a punch far mightier than you may expect. Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.

Set Up

Set up, like everything in Nimalia, is very simple. Place the five scoring tiles out like below, alongside the round tracker. Select four round cards, one of each colour, and place them on their corresponding spot on the tracker. The game suggest four specific cards for your first game, but then after that, pick however you like. Shuffle the main cards and deal three to each player, giving them a score marker of their own player colour, placed on the zero space of the score tracker. Finally, place the round marker onto the number one spot of the round tracker. You are now ready to play.

How To Play

Each player will choose one of the three cards in their hand to place in front of them. The first card can go anywhere. Each player will then pass the remaining two cards in the direction shown by the round tracker. This alternates between rounds, clockwise and anti-clockwise as the game progresses. Each player will then choose one card from the two they have just been given. This second card must cover at least one of the four areas on the first card played. It can cover all four spaces if you wish, or just two. But not three, unless you get out some scissors. But it has to cover at least one. Through the game you must stay building within a six-by-six grid. Finally, each player will play the final card handed to them. This is round one done. Simple right?

Players will now score for the blue and green score card as indicated by the black lines connecting them to the first round on the score tracker. In round two players will score the green and yellow card. In round three the blue and red. Then in rounds four and give you will score three cards. The green, yellow and red in the fourth round, and the yellow, red and blue in the final fifth round.

Soring will be based on grouping certain tiles together, placing certain animals into specific positions, or creating rivers. After every round, each player will be dealt three more cards and the next round will begin as before. As you play through each round, you will need to find a balance between scoring for the current round, and planning for future rounds.

Some of the scoring cards reward points based on your relative position against other players. You will need to be mindful of the cards they are laying, and the cards you are handing over to them. The choice you make when drafting cards is not just about what works best for you, but what cards do you want to give to the other players.

Is It Fun?

Playing Nimalia is surprisingly engaging. Considering you are only every choosing one card from three, and placing it into a six-by-six grid, the choice feels quite complex at times. Do you want to build up your savannah as much as possible for scoring this round at the sacrifice of other rounds. Will that mean blocking a friendly looking penguin which was set to score you three points in next round if you had left it out uncovered. You can see your neighbour is building a long river, and you don't want to give them more river pieces but the card with the river square in your hand doesn't work so well for you and the other one in your hand does.

The balance between building your own area and monitoring the other players is one thing. But adding to the that is your focus moving from what you are scoring this round as well as what is potentially possible for you in subsequent rounds. It all makes this game move from a generic filler to something of genuine substance.

I very much enjoy this balancing act, and find the game both soothing, and challenging at the same time. Its a game I have been able to share with my children (ten and seven) who found the game to be approachable, but entertaining, and "cute!"

Being forced to cover something up each time is a clever addition to the rules. Simply being able to build out like Kingdomino would be a mistake for this game. You need the jeopardy of losing something each time to gain something later, to make the balance of this game work.

Within the box there are multiple scoring cards to choose from. There is a lot of variety here. It will take a long time, and a lot of plays to grow tired of these. They are double sided, and create an almost infinite number of possible set ups to the game.

Some work better together than others though. I like the bottom two together, rewarding you for placing Giraffes as well as growing your savannah, where the Giraffes of course live. They all explain themselves very well too. The rule book will give you detailed information on each card, but I found after a game or two, they all started to make sense in what they were saying. The iconography is very clear.

I would recommend this game to any family who enjoys games like Kingdomino and are looking for a game that has just that little bit more interaction. Nimalia looks great and plays very simply. But I found it to be far more substantial than I first thought when I learnt the rules. As each game went by, I saw more and more complexity to this game. The choices are simple in terms of your options. But they always feel significant. This means the game plays very quickly, even for beginners. But you always feel like you are making important decisions despite the fast pace.

Each game takes just 15 minutes, even with new players. And with all the variety in the scoring cards, it is hard to play this game just once. It certainly sits within the filler category, but could end up taking a lot more time at your table than you first thought.

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