Ryan takes a look at the real-time dice game, Rescue Animals from Strawberry Studio.

Rescue Animals is a real-time dice game (designed by Przemek Wojtkowiak), where players are playing as Wildlife Conservation Specialists, trying to rescue endangered, critical and vulnerable listed animals. It’s for 2-5 players and plays in about 15 minutes. 

What do you mean it is ‘real-time’? If you are new to games or hobby games, you might not know what real-time means – that is when everyone is playing at the exact same time. In Rescue Animals, each animal needs players to roll certain dice combinations to capture an animal, everyone is rolling their dice at the same time trying to capture a card first. Depending on the number of players depends on how many cards are laid out at a time. In a 3-5 player game, you lay one less card as there are players – for example in a 4-player game only 3 cards are laid out at a time. Anytime an animal is rescued, all players stop and check to see if the dice criteria are matched and then the rolling frenzy beings again with whatever is left. In any given round, a player can only rescue one animal, and once all animals have been rescued then a new round starts. We should also note that players get a black die and some white dice. Some animals require a black die that has a specific number on it or white die with a specific number. There are also some special cards that require you to roll 3 of a kind or 3 white dice that add up to 10. 

Now, you may ask – what about the player that doesn’t rescue an animal, if in a 4-player game there are only 3 cards. Well, they are out of luck, however, in the next round, they get to roll with an extra die (a gray die that acts as a white die)  to help them rescue an animal the next time around. There are of course rules about ties, etc if people claim something at the same time – which basically is whoever is the current 1st player (changes each round) and then whoever is closest to that player (if they are not in the tiebreaker) clockwise order breaks ties. 

The game ends when the deck of animals runs out. Then you score the number of protection points on the card per card. Then, for every pair of an animal (i.e. every two Ethiopian wolf cards you have) cards, you have you receive bonus points. Finally, the player that has the gray die this last round receives 2 extra points. The winner is the player with the most points. 

Also, keep in mind there are 21 different animals included in the game, spread over 54 animal cards. Animals can show up anywhere between 1 to 6 times in the deck. The card does have a way of relaying this info to players (a number of dots on the bottom left corner of the card). A set number of cards are taken out of the game without looking (depending on player count) at the start of the game, so you can never know for sure if there will be a card you are counting on in terms of sets until the animal comes out. 

2-player rule changes: There are some 2-player rule changes. In two players, 3 cards are played out and one of the players will instead of claiming just one card be able to claim two cards. 

Gameschool Note: Before we go into my thoughts about the game, I will say all the animals depicted in the game are real animals. The back of the rule book even has some basic info for each of the animals. From a gameschool point of view, you could have your child or student pick out an animal found in Rescue Animals and do research on an animal – be it just reading a book, watching a video, doing a research paper or oral report, etc. Or just have them learn more and ask them – Why is this animal endangered (critical or vulnerable)? What kind of things can we do to help them? What kind of habitat does it live in? Was there anything cool you learned about the animal? those kinds of things. 

As note that in Rescue Animals players have to decide which card you are going to go for, what dice you want to reroll, what dice to save, and sometimes fast calculation of the dice (ex. 3 white dice that add up to 10) all of this is done as fast as you can, as you are racing against the other players. I’m not sure it teaches per se fast choice making and calculation, but it enforces it.  

Yeah yeah yeah, but how does the gameplay you ask? Did you like it? Is it for my family or group? 

For me, what drew me to want to review the game was the theme of rescuing endangered animals (and that they used real animals as opposed to fantasy ones) and while not my type of game, it is right up the rest of my family’s alley. I am not a huge fan of the roll as fast as you can real-time dice games, so for me, I thought the game was okay, it doesn’t change my mind on those types of games. I will play it, however, the rest of the family (at least the ones that play board games regularly) are fans of these types of games, and I knew they are the ones that would really potently love this game. Did they? Well, my wife, who loves real-time dice rolling racing games like this, has fallen in love with it. After playing recently, she was going on and on about all these positives I should add to this review. My son seems to really like it as well. They are whom I really wanted to try this game out for, so, I will share their positives further down. 

I will also say before we get into this – the age group of 8+ is probably spot on. Possibly it may work with 7-year-olds, but you have to be able to roll the dice fast and add up them to 8 or 10 or has 2 dice sum equal another 2 die sum. That isn’t going to work with say Kindergarteners (much to the chagrin of our Kindergartner). Also, if you are thinking of playing with anyone that is mental or physically impaired you have to keep these things in mind and that it is a racing game. Roll as fast as you can. These are not negatives or positives just how the game is built. I just wanted to make this clear, since we cover family games with all ages. 

As for negatives or annoyances, really I cannot think of any if you like these types of games. Whoever lost the last round, gets the gray die at the end, and scores 2 points for having the die at the end of the game (instead of getting an animal), that is a little easy to forget, but not a negative.  

So here are the positives from the lovers of fast dice games that they told me. 

My wife shares “Since all plays occur simultaneously, there is little downtime in this game.  The only time players are inactive is when checking to see if someone accurately rescued an animal.  For competitive players, especially in close friends or family settings, the fast play leads to an adrenaline rush as you try to beat the pants off the ones you love the most. The artwork on the cards is very cartoony and beautifully drawn.”

My 5th-grade son adds, “It was fun. It was cool how you had to race against each other with dice and that they have lots of different types of animals in the deck. It also cool they put some facts about those animals in the rulebook.”

So there you have it, Rescue Animals with a hit with them. Will it be a hit with your family? I think it depends on if they would enjoy a real-time dice rolling frenzy, if so, then this is one you really want to look into. 

Rescue Animals is out now from Strawberry Studio. You can find it out Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Strawberry-Studio-Rescue-Animals-Game/dp/B07T81K5PD

Strawberry Studio sent me a copy of Rescue Animals for an honest review.