The Lamont Brothers


No. of Players:
2 - 5



The origin of the word "Meeples" always has left me figuring, and I wonder where this word actually first appeared. As far as I remember, I heard it first in reference to the small figures used as playing pieces in Carcassonne, and indeed the website wiktionary.com lists Alison Hansel as the person who has first used "meeple" as a fusion of "my" and "people" in a game of Carcassonne. However, the Lamont Brothers of FRAGOR GAMES now have developed the word even further, and so their new ostrich-racing game Savannah Tails actually uses the world's first "Meep-meep-meeples". Roadrunner would be proud of this!

I couldn't keep a smile from my face after I stumbled over this pun while scanning through the rules, and I guess that Fraser and Gordon Lamont just intended this to happen. As a matter of fact, Savannah Tails is a game which should be played with a wink and in good humor, since the game is rather fast paced and allows players a rather speedy performance of their turns. Thus, although the game's title bears some semblance to last year's Snow Tails, the strategic impact of Savannah Tails is lower in order to increase playing speed even more.

The game is prepared by setting out a winding path of Savannah boards which show four different coloured lanes of ostrich tracks. The lanes are continued from board to board, and each of the players will use his own set of ostrich cards to move his cute wooden ostrich along the path. The movement of the ostriches is fairly easy, with each player possessing a hand of four movement cards of which one card is played to move the ostrich each turn. The movement cards show both a colour and a number, and while the number represents the number of spaces which the ostrich must move forwards, and the colour represents the lane of tracks on which the ostrich must end his movement. Some details are given regarding the facts that an ostrich may not move through an occupied space and that lane changes only may be made towards the lane on which the movement must end, but otherwise movement is as easy as it sounds. Following the current ranking in the race, each player plays one of his cards, moves his ostrich and draws a new card to end his turn.

But hey, this would not be a FRAGOR game if the rules would stop here, and so the path actually brings up some difficult boards which the unsuspecting ostriches have to face. Thus, a rope bridge narrows the path's width down to one lane, with this bottleneck causing some crushes, whereas the dune may either throw an ostrich backwards or give additional momentum, depending on the fact whether an ostrich succeeds in getting over the top. Quicksand spaces will slow an ostrich down, and different kinds of animals may cause all kinds of troubles. Thus, a space with a porcupine means a painful instant ending for an ostrich's movement, a warthog causes chaos forcing the player to draw a new hand of movement cards, and a cheetah actually steals one of the ostrich's bonus cards.

Talking about bonus cards, six different kinds of bonus attributes exist of which three must be chosen for a game. Each player receives an identical set of three bonus cards listing the chosen attributes, and whenever a player's ostrich passes through a waterhole on its way through the hot Savannah the player may place a token on one of the attributes to represent the boost provided by the refreshing water. An attribute which has been activated this way may be used once before it must be activated again, and the available attributes range from a "Neck Stretch" which offers two extra spaces for movement to a "Leapfrog" used for jumping other ostriches or even a "Bird Brain" which permanently increases the players hand of movement cards to five.

These attributes may be used for enhancing an ostrich's position in the race, but more often the players will be tempted to keep attributes like "Neck Strech" right till the end in order to gain a possible advantage while going for the finish. To prevent an ostrich's race to go awry from bad luck while drawing cards, further rules have been introduced concerning the value "2" racing cards so that an ostrich who makes such a slow, sneaky movement may pass any dangers and difficulties unharmed. Likewise, any card may be discarded for a one-step movement into any direction to help a player stay in the race and to get rid of an unwanted card.

On first glance Savannah Tails seems to be a simple racing game which may not appeal to seasoned gamers, but when you give the game a try you will discover that there is more to the game than expected. While it is true that the hilarious ostrich race first and foremost is a fun game, Gordon and Fraser actually succeeded in creating a light-footed race atmosphere while at the same time introducing some challenges through different kinds of hazards. It may be countered here that the idea for hazards in a racing game is not new, and some first hand similarities with Snow Tails actually might suggest that Savannah Tails possibly is built on rules which were discussed in the development of the former game. However, I have rarely seen a racing game which gears up as fast as Savannah Tails, and so the real merit of the game lies in keeping its entertainment value without drifting fully into the area of Beer'n Prezels games. Only one thing is necessary to enjoy the game at its best, and this is a full cast of five ostriches in the competition. The lanes get much more crowded with an increasing number of participants, and this in turn creates difficulties and blocking possibilities from which the game draws much of its player interaction. GO MATHILDA !!! (there isn't a braver ostrich racer to be found)

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2010 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany