The Swiss Alps. They are sweeping and majestic, inspiring songs, paintings, poems, and stories.
And animal acrobatics.
The animals of the Alps, in homage to their home, have decided to make an animal mountain. Can you get your animals onto the mountain without making it tumble?
How It Works
Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers is a stacking dexterity game for two to four players. Players place their animals on the central Alpine display, ideally without making it fall. The first player to get rid of all his or her animals is the winner.
The rules for Crest Climbers are identical to the rules for the standard Animal upon Animal game. Each player takes one of each of the seven different animal pieces included in the game, and players set the long Alps piece in the center of the table.
On their turn, players will roll the die, which tells them where, how, or how many animals to place. A player may use only one hand to place animals onto the tower. If any animals fall off the tower in the effort, the player must take them into his or her personal supply (up to a maximum–two for young players, five for adults).
The die specifies placing one or two animals on the tower, handing one of your animals to another player to place for you, letting the other players choose which animal you have to place, and expanding the base with an animal.
The game ends when one player has no more animals left. That player wins.
Climb Every Mountain?
I’ve already revealed that I think Animal upon Animal is great. In fact, I’ve gone on record as saying it might be the best dexterity game available that’s under $150 dollars. And it also seems eminently expandable–all you need is more animals.
When I first discovered Animal upon Animal, I immediately went on an expansion hunt, and Crest Climbers looked like the best fit. Cows, goats, Saint Bernards–and even better, it was a localized Swiss version! The nostalgia of attending Swiss Days as a child enveloped me, and the Swiss in me rejoiced.
Alas! As a localized version, it was unavailable. Very unavailable. Annoyingly unavailable. So I was thrilled when Haba announced they would bring a special printing of Crest Climbers to Gen Con 2015 and enlisted @Futurewolfie as my mule.
Part of the fun of every hard-to-get game is the thrill of the chase. Now that I have Crest Climbers in my possession and have had many chances to play it, was it worth all that pining? (Forgive me: that pun was intentional.)
The short answer is, yes, it was very worth it, both as an expansion to a game I already love and as a new, stand-alone way to enjoy it. The long answer is…well, this review.
Crest Climbers is in many ways similar to the original Animal upon Animal. The die features a profile view of the Alps rather than a crocodile, and the dice pips are white rather than black. There aren’t any rules differences. So if you like the original, getting Crest Climbers should be a no-brainer if you want to add new animals without adding rules. Only one animal overlaps between the two sets–the snake–and the addition of cows, goats, beavers, squirrels, Saint Bernards, and pine trees more than makes up for this. The Alps base is also fun to try to stack things on. So what you’re paying for here as an expansion is mostly new animals.
But new animals is kind of a big deal for Animal upon Animal. The reason is that each animal has a distinct shape with its own quirks that make it both easier and more difficult to stack, depending on the situation. The cows, with their enormous girth, seem nigh impossible to stack on an already wobbly tower, and yet it’s possible. (Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.) The Saint Bernards seem friendly, but their rounded backs make it difficult for other animals to stay in position when stacked on them. The goats seem small and nonthreatening, but just try to make the wooden pieces behave like their real-life kin. And then you’ve got the craggy Alps, jagged and unforgiving. And our old nemesis the snake. And, ugh. Don’t get me started on the pine tree.
If there’s one thing to note about this set in reference to the original Animal upon Animal, it is that these animals are more difficult to stack. Part of this is that most of them have the full thickness that was reserved in the original game for only the sheep and the crocodile, and part of this is the necessary process of familiarizing yourself with the curves and juts of new animals. It is hard to arrange these animals into any semblance of order. But, of course, that is why we play the game in the first place.
As I said in my review of the original Animal upon Animal, while I do play and enjoy this game with children, my primary group for this is adults. The game is charming, but more than that, it’s challenging–even for adults–and it gives players a sense of accomplishment when they see the animal tower grow taller and taller. The game is competitive, but it almost fosters a sense of camaraderie as players are amazed at what their friends can do. Rather than cheering for them to knock over the tower (…okay, there’s a healthy dose of that too), players want them to succeed to make a cool showpiece because it’s something we’ve all built together.
My kids are a little too young to play Animal upon Animal as it is intended to be played. My son is still in the knock-every-tower-down phase, and boy, does he enjoy ruining what I build, but my kids still enjoy playing with the well-made animal pieces, and I enjoy playing with them too. Of course, other kids who are old enough to play the game love it, and the rules handicap helps overcome the skill gap between adults and children.
Crest Climbers’ pieces are of typical Haba quality: thick, chunky wood that is well crafted, and made to withstand the abuse of children who like to destroy things. It, like its predecessor, is billed as a game for two to four players. Playing with adults, I like it with all those counts, provided all the animals provided in the box are used. (For two players, each player gets two sets of animals; with three players, each player gets one full set and then drafts animals from those remaining.) Crest Climbers works well as an expansion to the original game in that it’s fun to mix and match the animals and stack them together. I’ve not played with more than four players, but I imagine you could add the sets together to create a larger game, probably instituting an animal draft so one player doesn’t get stuck with all the cows or snakes (or trees). It’s also fun to play with just the Crest Climbers animals, so it’s a good stand-alone set if you’ve not yet entered the dexterity fun that is Animal upon Animal. And good news: all of the animals fit inside one box if you remove the insert, so if you get both games, they won’t take up a ton of space on your shelf.
Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers is an excellent addition to the Animal upon Animal family. It’s a good entry point for new players to the game (although, again, it’s a little tougher to stack the animals than the original game), and it is an excellent way to add new and interesting animal shapes into the game if you already have the original. The question isn’t whether to get Animal upon Animal. It’s a dexterity game that just about everyone should own. The question is whether the original or Crest Climbers is the right choice for you. I’m probably biased in favor of Crest Climbers because of my Swiss heritage, but if you’re considering whether to get the original or Crest Climbers, I don’t think you’ll go wrong either way. And you certainly won’t go wrong to get both.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Haba USA for providing us with a review copy of Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers.