This clever card game gets players' animals to cooperate or compete with one another, while foraging for food and raising offspring.
In a world saturated with electronic devices and a surfeit of addictive apps, time spent on a screen is increasing – both for kids and their parents. Unfortunately, we're also hearing from experts about how this increased screen time is negatively affecting our collective well-being, from the rise of nature deficit disorder, to alarming developmental delays in children.
So it makes sense to offset these modern-day impacts with some old-fashioned leisure activities, like board games or playing cards – preferably ones with an ecological twist. That's the idea behind Wildlife Web, a dynamic ecology strategy game that engages players to experience what life is like for a red-tailed hawk or yellow-bellied marmot – foraging for food, raising young and defending against predators.
Incidentally, the game is inspired by a popular children's card game, as its creator, Montana-based author and educator Thomas J. Elpel, explains:
While enjoying Pokémon card games with my son, I discovered that he knew the names and life histories of countless imaginary animals. That was the inspiration for Wildlife Web. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if kids could get this excited about real wildlife?' The final product is vastly different from Pokémon... and a lot more fun!
Here's how the game works: each player will build a starting pack of Wildlife cards. As you can see in the image below, each Wildlife card depicts a certain animal, along with its quantified attributes, such as its size, strength, agility and special powers. Animals are categorized according to whether they are diurnal (active during the day) or nocturnal. Similar to Pokemon, these animals can interact with each other, either as prey or as predator, with the goal being to survive and raise offspring successfully. The quest for food is incorporated via the game's Forage cards, while mating and reproduction are represented through the Offspring cards. However, random events like hailstorms, or bird calls that alert prey to the presence of a predator – as represented by the game's Event cards – can affect the outcome.
The game strives to be as realistic as possible, while adding an element of luck. For instance, in real life, ecosystems are a complex web of competing and cooperative relationships between various species, tempered by more random events. All of these diverse aspects are reflected in the game, where a mountain lion might attempt to hunt an elk through a roll of the dice, but fails because a bird alerts the elk with a warning call. To highlight humans' impact on wildlife, the game has a Road running through it, where there's a possibility of scavenging roadkill, or one's mate becoming roadkill in the game.
Wildlife Web presents a neat concept that stands in stark contrast to strategy games set in fantastical worlds: it's more educational than escapist, and offers an intriguing way to re-imagine and more directly experience the intricate inter-relationships that are found right outside in natural environments. By engaging people in this kind of play, the game provides a hands-on (and fun) way for us to appreciate and reconnect with the real world in all its wild beauty.
To find out more, head on over to Kickstarter, where the game is currently being crowdfunded.