SavannaScapes™ is a wildlife and ecosystem game for ages seven and up that is based on the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem that is primarily located in Tanzania, Africa. The game includes a Serengeti-Mara Fun Facts booklet with information about the ecosystem, each type of habitat, and the wildlife found in each one. You might want to use this game when you are studying about Africa. It’s a great way to tie the study of ecology and wildlife to an actual setting.
Players select tiles with the various types of wildlife and flowers and then match them with habitats: grassland, dry land, woodland, and wetland. Some creatures fit more than one habitat and can be scored for extra points if they are played strategically. Tiles are laid out in grids, matching them both vertically and horizontally.
The game requires strategic thinking to select the best tiles for your layout to score the most points. You are competing with other players to acquire tiles. You can plan a strategy, but another player might take the tile you want before you can get to it. This is very likely to happen if there are three or more players.
You can add another layer of complication by using the event tiles. Wildfires, drought, short rain, and long rain tiles have beneficial effects on all players who have tiles showing particular habitats. For example, wildfires benefit grasslands since fires allow fast-growing grasses to sprout more quickly than other plants. The event tiles can be used to a player’s advantage if they have more tiles of a particular habitat than other players.
Players only gain points; they never lose them, an important aspect when playing games with younger players.
Like most SimplyFun® games, it can be played in about a half-hour. You play the game for a set number of rounds, determined in advance by the number of players. You can increase or decrease the number of rounds to be played, but that needs to be determined before you start since the number of rounds left in the game affects your strategy. A board showing Serengeti National Park is included for you to keep track of which round you are on.
The game seemed a little confusing at first as we tried to figure out the various ways the tiles could be matched. Once we started playing, it all made sense. An instruction guide comes with the game, and there’s a video online explaining how to play.
The game is beautifully designed with sturdy playing pieces and lovely artwork. Even the pawns—wooden squares with animal or bird footprints—are higher quality than those in many games.
The strategic thinking required for SavannaScapes makes it challenging for younger players. I would skip the event tiles until they seem confident playing the regular tiles. Adding the event tiles (even though players can still choose whether to play them), makes the game complicated enough to hold the attention of adults. From two to five can play at one time, and the game is fun whether played with only two or with a larger group.