A to Z Gaming: Savannah Park

We tried to organize safari animals in Savannah Park, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Savannah Park
Players: 1-4
Time: 20-40 Minutes
Designers: Michael Kiesling, Wolfgang Kramer
Artists: Annika Heller, Andreas Resch, Fabrice Weiss
Publisher: Deep Print Games, Capstone Games

Savannah Park is a simple tile-placement game where players are trying to group together different types of animals on their player boards. Each turn a player chooses a tile that everyone else will move to an empty place on their board. Once all of the tiles have been moved, whoever has gathered the largest groups of animals with their watering holes will have the best time on their safari … and win the game.

Game play

Savannah Park is set up with the score track placed in the middle of the table. Each player takes a player board, the matching meerkat and scoring meeples, and box of animal tiles. In the basic set-up, players use the side of their board with pre-printed trees and burning bushes. They place out all of their animal tiles at random on the board, leaving the rock, trees, burning spots, and grass spaces blank. The tiles are placed with the yellow side up (not the player-color-side up). They’ll have two extra tiles, which should be placed on two space of their choice that show grass.

Then a start player is chosen. On each turn, the active player chooses a tile form their board — one of the tiles that is yellow-side up. They call out the tile, everyone finds the same tile on their own board, and places their meerkat token in the empty spot. Then they choose a place on their board to place the tile, turning it over to their player-color-side. The tile can be placed on an empty space, a space with grass or a tree, but cannot be placed on the rock, the burning spaces, or the space with their meerkat token. Then they move their meerkat back to its burrow to indicate that they’ve finished their turn. Once everyone is finished, then it’s the next player’s turn to choose a tile for everyone to move.

The game ends once all of the tiles have been flipped over to the player color. Then players follow the game-end steps and score their boards. First, any tiles showing just one animal immediately adjacent to the space with the single burning bush are scared away and removed from the player’s board. Similarly, tiles showing two animals are removed from the spaces next to the double burning bush, and those showing three animals are removed from around the triple burning bush.

Then players get one point for each visible grass space and three points for each visible tree. then they go animal-by-animal tallying up their highest scoring group — points are equal to the number of animals multiplied by the number of watering holes with that animal in the group. The player with the most points wins.

My Thoughts

I was instantly drawn into the theme of Savannah Park. I love animal-themed games, and safari-themes have a special place in my heart. We demoed it at PAX in 2021 and picked it up as soon as it showed up at our Friendly Local Game Store.

While the game-play is super simple, it presents a fun puzzle to wrap your head around. When you first look at your board and start moving animals, it’s easy to forget that every single tile is going to move. So I often place a few tiles near other tiles that have the same animals, but that aren’t showing my player color, so they’ll have to move at some point. Then I realize that I’ve boxed myself into a corner with that animal. On the other hand, I pay special attention to the elephants and try to be extra-specially-sure to get them all together … because elephants are my favorite animal.

This is a really good family-weight game that can be introduced to many audiences and played very quickly.

Three Quick Questions

How is it as a 2-player game? Savannah Park works great as a 2-player game. With more players, you aren’t in control of which tiles move as often, which can feel more chaotic. With just two players, you get that chance every-other turn. That’s not to say it’s bad with more players — it just feels different.

How about the art and component quality? The boards and chips are fine, but the art is where this game sings for me. I love looking over my board and seeing all the different savannah animals. I also really like the center of the score track where the steps for the end of the game are clearly laid out, so you can remember that animals get chased away from the burning bushes before you score the trees, which means you can strategically use those tree spaces to get pieces out of the way that you know aren’t going to score anyway.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely yes. Savannah Park is a great welcoming game that has appeal for a number of different audiences. I love the safari theme and enjoy puzzling out how to best move my tiles each turn.

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