Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Wild Kingdom Rummy

Posted by sodaklady on March 16, 2010

I was browsing the newest Reviews the other day and came across The Gaston Game, a rummy variant. This in turn led me to an article about a contest for people to design a rummy variant. I love rummy so I read through all of the entries, marked a few to try, and picked Wild Kingdom as my first to try for a couple of reasons.

First, the cards have 3 characteristics so that melds can be of varying strengths allowing them to attack other melds of lesser or equal strength. Oh, yeah, lets add more conflict to rummy.

The second reason is that you can pick up anywhere in the discard pile, adding everything above that card to your hand and using the card you picked up, 500 Rummy-style. I’ve always preferred 500 to vanilla rummy with the added tension that a wrong discard can be fatal. That, and grabbing a handful of cards – mmwwaahaahaahaa!

RULES
I had no problems understanding the rules, and no unanswered questions. There were examples for everything that is unique to this rummy variant. And I thought the addition of a glossary for theme-related game terms was very nice touch.

DESIGN
The card design is very good, the subtle colors, the lovely pictures of the animals, the iconography, and the paragraph at the bottom giving a brief description of the animal, which I think is a nice addition. The one problem we had was finding a way to see which animal we were holding since the animal name is at the top right and all the way at the bottom left, and that in tiny-sized font. I would have preferred the name to be under the icon at the top left.

Some cards from Wild Kingdom. Image by Rebekah B., the designer

GAME PLAY
The theme of the game is groups of animals battling each round to see who is superior.  The Land Group have green borders, Sea Group has blue, Air Group has yellow, big Cats are Orange, and King of Beasts are purple. There are only 3 King of Beasts cards and if you manage to make a meld of them, it’s an automatic win for that hand, leaving your opponent with zero points.

Melds are made up of any 3 cards of one Group, regardless of animal. But within the Land, Air and Sea Groups are 3 Families, each with 3 distinct Animals. The more characteristics your meld has, the stronger its Rank. So a set made up of a Gorilla, a Polar Bear and a Frilled Lizard is the weakest set being made up of three different animals from different Families (apes, bears & lizards) of the land Group. If your set is Polar Bear, Grizzly Bear and Brown Bear, it’s a higher Rank, being made up of all one Family. The King of Beasts (male lions) is the highest meld.

The Cat Family is a special Group which can be used either for a meld OR discarded to the Carrion pile to use its special ability. An Eye of the Tiger card lets you peek at your opponent’s hand, the Fast Mover with a cheetah on it lets you play two melds instead of one this turn, and the lion cubs on the Bonus cards are set aside for extra points to the player who has the most cards in the Group that wins the battle this hand.

In keeping with the theme, when played, melds of a particular Group can attack any other Group that is of equal or lesser Rank. A card is taken from the attacked meld and placed in the Carrion pile. This can be useful not only to cut down your opponent’s field but to strengthen one of your own meld’s Rank by eliminating an odd animal from your set. A set is never more than 3 cards but can be attacked and herded so as to leave only a single card in the “set”. It can then be strengthened as long as you do not decrease its Rank.

Herding is an interesting ability which can help both yourself and your opponent.  You can take one or two cards from any lower-ranked melt to form a new higher-ranked meld. You can rearrange your own field with this ability OR steal animals from your opponent. In the latter case, you could very well be increasing the strength of his meld, making it harder to attack in future.

OPINION
First, there’s a lot of rules here to give Wild Kingdom its special twist on rummy. This makes it both a unique and interesting game but also challenges you when it comes to teaching it. It also means it may take a hand or two to come to terms with all you are able to do, how you can manipulate not just your own sets but your opponent’s to your advantage. In my opinion, it’s worth the effort.

I loved the theme, and the rules supported that theme very well. I loved the extra depth of card play and think there’s a lot of game here for a rummy variant. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys card games and is looking for rummy with punch.

My husband’s opinion? He wanted to know if this can be bought or is it just for download? From my non-gamer spouse, it won’t get any better than that.

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One Response to “Wild Kingdom Rummy”

  1. Gerald said

    Nice review (and I gave it a Thumbs Up on BGG). If I played 2-player games these days, I would certainly take a look at this one.

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