Game Night Reviews: Fauna/Terra

And we’re back with another Game Night Review. If you recall from last time our current focus is games with an educational bent. Friedemann Friese is probably best known as the inventor of Power Grid, a somewhat dry, medium weight euro game about powering germany. It’s great, but it doesn’t scream “Fun”. So when someone recommend I try one of his other titles I was a little hesitant.

Fauna has nothing in common with Power Grid. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s colourful and in essence it’s a party game, you know, wine and cocktails party rather than tequila shots out of a naval party. In a short span of time Fauna has spawned a series of titles including Terra and America with others sure to follow. Each game uses the same basic mechanics but allows you to tailor your experience to the theme most suited to you and your players.

A Quick Overview

Fauna is played over six rounds, each round a card is drawn that depicts an animal, the rest of the card is hidden below the holder. Players take turns betting on various statistics, such as height, weight and tail length or where on the map the creature lives. Each player has up to six cubes with which to bet, depending on how well they did in previous rounds.

After everyone has passed or run out of cubes the scores are tallied. On the statistics players score 7 points for a correct answer and 3 points for an adjacent answer. On the map the scoring system is the same but the points vary based on how many locations the creature can be found in.  

If a player’s bet was correct they get their cube back, if it was wrong the cube is lost. Then each player receives one cube from the lost pile in their colour, if at that point they still have less than 3 cubes they take cubes until they have 3.

After six rounds the player with the most points is the winner.

Differences with Terra

We have also played Terra and as the two games are so similar it would seem pointless to review them separately. There are two primary differences with Terra, the first is the question cards which focus on a broader general knowledge which also includes animals but is not limited to them. The second is that the map scoring follows the same pattern as the statistics scoring 7/3 as opposed to being varied depending on the number of possible locations.

Why Choose It?

Fauna falls into that category of Trivia games where knowing the correct answer is not necessarily the only path to victory. If you think someone else has a better knowledge of the subject than you then you can follow their lead (sometimes with disastrous consequences) or you can make appropriate guesses. As Fauna asks you to guess various statistics you can make informed guesses based on what you already know or based on what has been revealed in previous rounds. For example if the animal is a kind of mouse you can guess that the height/length/weight will be towards the lower end of the scale. If however the animal is a mountain goat you can limit your guesses to mountainous regions.

Because Fauna allows you to make educated guesses or to game your group by following the leader it doesn’t leave anyone out in the cold. It is also a great educational game, although Terra might be even better for that given its wider scope. It plays fast and it’s light and easy to teach.

Did They Like It?

They asked to play again immediately and we have since played Terra a few times too so I’m going to say that this is a big yes. The simplicity coupled with the tactics of where to place your bets first seemed to really resonate well with the group.

Some players at the table suggested that the cube system (losing cubes for incorrect guesses) allows the good players to pull ahead while the weaker players are punished. However I feel that could be easily fixed by removing that system entirely for a more party game atmosphere and just have each player get six cubes for each round. That said I don’t think that losing cubes is so much of a problem and it forces you to consider your moves and save cubes rather than guessing wildly in the hope of getting points.

Another issue we raised when playing Terra was that the points could ratchet quickly using the new map scoring when there were lots of areas that could be scored, causing players to perhaps ignore the harder to guess statistics answers. This I would agree with and although I see why the scoring was simplified in the later iterations I do prefer the variable scoring from Fauna.
"Fun & challenges knowledge - range of topics more appealing than the animal version. Simpler scoring may actually imbalance the game slightly if any one player acquires several regions on a turn (or maybe I just suck at geography)" - The AP Gamer

Final Thoughts

It’s a hit. Fauna, Terra, America are simple games that you could pull out at any gathering and have fun with. The player count supports six but with more players you could form teams. For a longer game you can simply add more rounds, for a short game, less rounds. This game takes the concept of betting on Jim’s superior knowledge from Wits & Wagers but adds an actual game onto it, with tactical voting and far less wild point swings. So if you are looking for a fun, family friendly, educational trivia game this would be my choice.