Wooly Whammoth: Eating Good in the Pleistocene Neighborhood
Your tribe is hungry. Very hungry. You’ve been foraging for weeks and the acorns just aren’t cutting it. Then you see it. Standing right at the edge of the cliff is a massive, fearsome (and tasty) woolly mammoth. As your tribe tiptoes forward for a closer look, you hatch a plan to push the big guy over the side and eat like kings for a week. Who’s going to try first?
Wooly Whammoth is a light strategy and bluffing game for 2-4 players lasting 30-40 minutes, brought to you by Smirk & Dagger Games. In this playful and fast-paced game, each player controls a small tribe of Cave People eager to hunt woolly mammoths, who for some reason enjoy hanging out on the edge of a cliff.
You’ll compete with other players to shove the mammoths off the edge, or perhaps trick one another into careening right off the edge as well. Dangers abound, including nasty little tar pits in your path, so this game is as much about prehistoric survival as it is about getting your next meal. Be the first tribe to collect six Mammoth Meat tokens and you win! Or, just be the last tribe standing.
Hand a tribe of four Cave People, a deck of Movement cards, and a Hunting Path board to each player. The Hunting Path is made up of two boards that work together ingeniously to make the game more difficult after each successful mammoth hunt. Place a mammoth at the end of each player’s Hunting Path (representing the edge of the cliff). Players choose one of their Cave People and put them on the “Start” space of their Hunting Path. Set the Mammoth Meat tokens and the CHARGE! cards nearby.
Playing Wooly Whammoth is quite simple. Take up your deck of Movement cards and secretly decide which one you will play. Each card will move all players’ Cave People forward or backward a specified number of spaces along the Hunting Paths. Once all players have decided which card to play, reveal them all at once, and add the Movement points on all the cards together. The total is how far all players will move their Cave Person this turn.
The goal is to land your Cave Person on the final two spaces of your Hunting Path (marked with a tusk icon), and topple the mammoth over the cliff. Your reward is one Mammoth Meat token (collect six for a win). Each time you do this, extend your Hunting Path board by one space, and return your Cave Person to the start space.
Before this all sounds too easy, let’s get a few things straight. Along the Hunting Path are a number of tar pits your Cave Person must navigate. Land on one of these and your Cave Person dies. Also, go too far and you’ll topple over the cliff side with the mammoth. And yes, that means your Cave Person dies. Players can also play certain Movement cards that will cause the mammoths to charge at all players. Get stomped by the mammoth and, you got it, your Cave Person dies.
All players have the same set of eight Movement cards to work with. Once used, however, they cannot be taken back into your hand. Eventually you have only a few (or none) to choose from, so simply pay one Mammoth Meat token and take all of your Movement cards back into your hand. You need those tokens to win, so you must be a wise manager.
And, one more thing to mention: If you do not have a Mammoth Meat token to pay to get your Movement cards back, your entire tribe starves and you’re out of the game. It’s a tough gig trying to get a meal in the prehistoric era!
The fun of this game comes down to the Movement cards. You need to anticipate the other players choices and how the total movement will affect your Cave Person. This is the part of the game where your kids look at you with a gleam in their eye, so make sure you raise an eyebrow back! This aspect of strategic choice and mild bluffing truly makes the game fantastic. The moment when all the cards are revealed often produces despairing groans or cries of joy. It’s quite the fun romp with the kids, and a good exercise in making a sum, as well.
The box says ages 10+, but my eight-year-old son played it easily. This is the same son who is eager to time his CHARGE! Movement card for when I’m most vulnerable to a stomping. And he grins when he plays it…
I also really enjoyed the innovative mechanic of the Hunting Path board itself. Every time you defeat a mammoth, the board extends one step further. The more this happens, the longer you must go to reach the mammoth, and the more tar pits appear. It’s a simple yet effective way to heighten the difficulty for players in the lead.
A minor quibble might be the knockout rule in the game (lose all four Cave People and you’re out). There are plenty of ways to die easily, and sometimes a player will just hit some bad luck and quickly lose their entire tribe. It’s not much fun to watch other players finish the game, obviously. The designers provide a variant in the back of the rule book to help speed up the game in this situation, but if you’re bothered by player elimination games like this, you may want to pass on this one. Still, things move quickly enough that you can usually wait for the next match to start.
If the knockout rule doesn’t bother you, don’t hesitate to pick this one up. It was a quick hit with my both myself and my kids. Get the stress of the workday out of your system by shoving some mammoths over a cliff!
Smirk & Dagger Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Wooly Whammoth for this review.
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Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 10+ (we’d say 8+)
Playtime: 30-40 minutes