I knew right away, what my job is. Even before He personally came down and spoke into my ear while sleeping. We have sinned and it is time for humanity to expiate. Rain will come, there will be water the world has never seen and it will flood every living thing. Waves are hitting across the world and spilling over the edge. But I’m not afraid, because I am building an ark. Ship, which has the largest mission a vessel could ever get. It will be saving lives.
And all of us are given the honor to participate in its construction in the board game Ark & Noah. The game comes from workshop of a small publishing company Placentia Games and was first unveiled in all its glory illustrated by Paolo Vallerga and Ivana Zoni to players in 2012. Author is same as with the previously reviewed Florenza: The Card Game (review) and his name is Stefano Groppi.
Already a lid clearly speaks with its apocalyptic language and gives us a taste, what this drama of biblical proportions will be. We see here not only Noah and his family, but above all animals, waiting to be rescued.
And inside the box is really such a boon. It is divided into four large boards, which creates together a huge ship sitting on the water, surrounded by a wooden bridge serving as point scale. Other board is an action one and you can found colored squares on it and underneath them are columns corresponding to that action. Up above it all is a series of ten boxes from bright sun to overcast skies, which will begin to gush streams of water from the sky. It is clear, that this is turn counter.
But the game does not end with this. Packaging also includes a number of tokens, that you have to break free from their captivity in cardboard sheets. There are 26 basic species and two from each of them – blue males and pink females, but the back is always the same, so you do not know the sex at first glance. Among tokens are also included small food tiles, which are a necessity on water with animals, but also bonuses and especially four main characters – Noah and his three sons Sem, Cam and Jafet.
Remaining components are made of wood. There are round chips for each player and their colorful figures of the same shape, as you know from Carcassonne. Black squares represent pitch, used to glue parts of the ship together and four colors timber. Our listing is ended by a pair of canvas bags.
At the beginning of the game, males and females are sparated and put each into one of bags. Game board should be completed with regard to number of players, which also corresponds to the amount of related ship tiles – there are always two marginal sides starting with two rivals and the ark gets bigger with more players, when other tiles (one or two) are put between. You put special action board above the ship, with brown counter starting on the first spot of turn track.
Each player chooses his character and gets one piece and three timber from his color. Players put their characters in randomly decided order to bottom action line. Everybody also gets to the beginning two cubes of pitch, two food tokens and draws a random one male and one female, who came to the boat with him. Scoring token is placed near first field of scoring scale. All other pieces and rest of the colored timber creates a supply next to the board.
In each round, players get to act gradually in the order, in which their pieces are lying on the board from left to right. They can take their character and move it to one of the available seven action spots. These places are always above a colored column, which clearly indicates, what benefits will the player get during evaluation. Each player successively sends one piece, but no field should host more, than one worker at a time.
Only then players together from left to right evaluate all their selected actions. Fortunately, each such activated option gives a chance to act not only for player, who chose it. In the lower part of the column, there is also impact on other players shown. They can also use this activity, but in a less favorable version, than the player, who really chose this action. Once the player completes his action, his figure jumps down a row in the same column.
So what actions are on offer to choose from? A game about Noah’s Ark, must be first and foremost about building the ship. And that’s, what is here in first place. Players can obtain pitch (first player gets three cubes, everybody else gets one) or their wooden timber (first player four boards, other players two) and these will help them to start building the Ark. Building blocks are ready to be put on the board, so players can play several of them and connect them using pitch. For each such board played, lucky builder immediately gets one victory point.
Players can also swith boards on the Ark (there is also a one-time incentive bonus for doing so), obtain food for animals, but also collect these animals and put them on the ship to sail away. In the search for animals, player simply draws some males and females from bags. He can keep one of his choice, while all others are split among his rivals clockwise.
And yet here come corrals into play, which are build out of wooden boards and create squares or rectangle shapes. Such rooms are usually composed of planks of more colors, as players gradually attach timber to the ship. Now players do the latest action – loading the Ark – to yard animals and thus obtain large sum of points. As soon as participant activates this option, all other players may do the same after him.
Player has a certain number of loading points to spend on transfer of food and animals. But it is not so simple, because animals can only be send on Ark in pairs, regardless of who owns a male or female in the pair. Such cubicle must be also stocked with food first and its size must correspond exactly with the requirements of animals. These are printed on the tiles. In top right of each animal tile, there is symbol of rainbow indicating number of victory points, which gets its owner for saving it. In addition, each of the players, who participated in the building of cubicle gets a point for each of his timber, which contributed towards its completion.
Once all players have taken their turns and all the action were selected, figures are moved to the left and this determines the new order for next turn. Round counter is moved one step further. Once the tenth round or the entire outer hull of the Ark is build, whole game ends. At this point, players have one last chance to load everything in their possession to the ship. Player, who has the least points goes first. Although players do not get any more points for doing so, they will save themselves from subtracting points, which will occur in a while. This is done for all animals, that player had and was not able to save, as well as unused timber or wasted food. Conversely, player who built the largest part of the hull, gets a reward. After that, simply look at the counter, as the player with the highest point gain is winner of the game.
Ark & Noah arrives on our tables and wants to make a revolution. A game, that really thrives, because you will not be bored for a moment spent with it. There are almost no empty moments, when you are waiting, what others will do, because almost always everybody takes part on each action chosen. It is very important to plan ahead, but you can be sure, that each of your efforts will be well rewarded.
A great moment, that makes Ark & Noah unique, is the very choice of actions. First, it is important to note, that the selection itself directly determines order of players for next round. The more advanced operation you want to perform (= more right), later the piece gets its go in the next round. This guarantees hard decision making at the beginning of each round.
It may seem, that this is a classic worker-placement (= sending of workers) game. Simply, you have two pieces, which are used to select your actions and then make them true. But this time, everything is completely different, because you will participate in the construction of Ark even outside your own turn. Most actions are rewarding not only the one, who chose it, but also the other players. The only difference is amount profit or possibilities, where active player is favored, geting more raw materials or action points to spend. In any moment of the game, you have complete control of its progress and action always rewards you for your choice. Yet you should have an eye on the others, so you do not play them in their cards.
Construction of the Ark is important, because you get quite a pile of points for the surrounding timber tiles. But it’s all about the animals in the end, whose salvation is the whole point of building this boat. Their scores are even higher. But just the mere fact, that players earn victory points in many ways, is great for the overall experience of the game.
The game is surprisingly balanced for a whole hour of time, which it usually takes up. Opponents are fighting over the leading position until the end. Rescued animals can not be stolen, because even if it ultimately is yarded to ship by someone else, you get those points. Interesting fact is, that you do not pay anything for loading of enemy animals. And although there is no obvious element of rivalry, some areas on the ship will have a great battle on them. Value in victory points is determined not only by the animals, but also cubes of pitch.
Our only concern thus goes to replayability. Game does not change that much between matches and the path to victory could be given, since the only variation is the animals draw. Although you have to prepare corresponding cubicle, but after more matches, this is not enough variation. But even then game is entertaining and fun.
Processing of the game is excellent and it can not be beyond reproach. Animal illustrations are nice and clear layout of a folded sheet looks great on the table. Action board is designed perfectly and all the important options are clearly visible thanks to icons. And wooden components can hardly disappoint anyone.
Ark & Noah game flies a bit under the radar of many players. And it’s a shame, because it contains a lot of hidden potential. It includes mechanisms and actions, that are entertaining to use. But above all, you will not get bored anytime during play, even when its your opponent turn. Thereby, although the game stretches a little, it feels paradoxically as gaining momentum. Ark & Noah is for us a very pleasant discovery, that we can recommend to less experienced players and to all fans of worker-placement games.
+ its about building an Ark
+ enough actions to choose from
+ even other players are allowed to take action selected by their rivals
+ choice of action affects players order for the next round
+ two endings
+ nice processing
+ fighting for cubicles on board
+ victory points for various activities
- insufficient variability