In the base game of the Champion of the Wild, players are given seven animal cards and must choose one to compete in three randomly drawn event cards. Players must argue for their chosen animal in each of the events (ranging from serious sports, like 200m sprints, to more wacky competitions like Cake Decorating) in an open discussion. For each event, players rank others’ animals anonymously by distributing ranked tokens. Once the three games are over, players count their points based on how well they were scored and find out which animal is the true “Champion of the Wild”.
More advanced gameplay instructions are included, such as drafting and different sequences of events, and these add variety to the base set of rules.
The Champion of the Wild is a fun party game for kids and adults alike. It’s similar to Apples to Apples, but everyone gets to participate equally in each round. The fun part of this game is choosing one animal that will do well in three different events. Some members decided to specialize and picked animals that would clearly win one event and lose others. While this strategy sometimes paid off, if they didn’t entirely win their chosen event they lost a chance to effectively argue in the following games.
The cards have great graphics of the animals, however, they do bend fairly easily after one use. Our group enjoyed the animal statistics on the cards, like height and weight, but we argued whether these statistics helped or hurt our discussions. On the one hand, we learned more about the animals from the statistics, and without statistics like “speed”, I was left trying to argue that a honeybee would fly faster than a cheetah. On the other hand, this is a game about fun “what-if” discussions and the lack of statistics gave my honeybee a fighting chance in the sprint. The statistics that are given, like weight, can make the “strength” challenges a game of numbers, instead of words.
Personally, I like that the game encourages creativity. When we played, we forbade looking up facts about our animals, and I would recommend this for more inventive arguments. Given the bizarre nature of most of the events, the group can get hung up on technicalities. This is why there are placards that indicate when the group is ready to vote. When a majority of the group is ready to vote, all discussion stops. We did not use these in every game, but they add a strategic element of when to start voting, and they also stop long arguments.
One advantage of the drafting system introduced in the advanced gameplay instructions is that everyone can craft a hand of unique animals that they feel prepared to argue for. Without drafting, one round I received powerful cards like a Grizzly Bear and a Great White Shark, while my opponent received cards like a Flamenco and a Beetle, which made strength challenges feel impossible. However, with drafting, you can pick cards that apply to every category of event, from tactical to team events.
Ultimately, our group really enjoyed this game, as it is a fun social game without much stress or strategy beyond your rhetorical appeals. However, with a group of friends – young, or old – you may just learn a few facts about animals, or invent a couple of facts of your own!