Our Big Bean is currently 5 years old. Nearly every morning, she wakes up and announces that she will be hosting a party for all of her friends, family, and neighbours. If left unchecked, she will then step out onto our front porch and loudly invite all of our neighbours to the party! Little Bean loves a good shouting match, and is happy to join in with a hearty “HEY! HEY! COME TO OUR PARTY!”
We’re very fortunate to have not received any neighbourhood complaints, and perhaps even more so that no one has answered the call for those 7am house parties!
Speaking of parties, The Champion of the Wild is a family-friendly party in a box for ages 6 and up, which can be played with up to 8 players. It aims to answer the age-old question of animal kingdom superiority – who would win between a Peacock Mantis Shrimp and a Polar Bear? In a triathlon of competitions including Cheese Rolling, Capture the Flag, and a good ol’ Staring Contest?!
Of the five competition categories (Endurance, Technical, Power, Speed, and Team events), three are chosen to form the Triathlon. Once the events have been determined, players will be dealt a hand of seven creatures, from which only one will be selected to compete in all three events. Once all animals have been selected, a period of debate commences, where players will grill each other on how their chosen animal would fare at the specific events. Following this phase, players will secretly rank how the others would perform in each competition. Points are awarded for each ranking token, and whoever has the most points wins the game!
The team behind Champion of the Wild has also provided several variants to play to the strengths of any group dynamic. Does your group have a strong social game? Have three players each select one event, and allow the others to grill them on the specifics of that competition before animals are chosen. Want to add a bit more strategy? Draft the animal cards to build a well-balanced squad of potential competitors.
However, the variant recommended for younger players is where we’ll dig in a bit deeper. Rather than choosing one animal to compete in three events, players will instead choose a different creature for each event (from a hand of 5 cards instead of 7), allowing for shorter and less confrontational conversation about who will succeed. In our experience, using this one event / one animal method, the dialogue shifted from “why my competitor is the best” to “which competitor is the best”. We all still advocated for our own animals, but the tone shifted to something more wholesome and collaborative.
It’s in this zone that Champion of the Wild begins to really shine as a game for children and families. While each way of playing encourages creativity, leaning more into the players driving that exploration is both really fun, and a wholly fulfilling experience! Listening to my Big Bean explain why her Kangaroo was best suited to compete in a Hole Digging contest gave me a glimpse into how brilliant her little mind already has become. Not that I’m biased at all!
(By the way, it’s because the Kangaroo already kicks up a lot of dirt when running, and as such already has lots of practice with digging.)
Some of the events had to be explained to her, such as what a Home Run Derby is all about, but once the parameters of the contest were understood, she quickly made a case for which of her animals would win. It was also heartwarming to watch her eyes light up, realizing that she knew most of the creatures popping up in the game. We left out the voting tokens in our family plays, but we’ll definitely be adding them into the mix in due time.
The sheer amount of content provided in this relatively small box is kind of staggering. 75 event cards, each with detailed instructions, beautifully hilarious illustrations, and clear limitations (birds can compete in the rock climbing competition, but flying is absolutely not permitted). 58 animal cards, which look like photos at a glance, but upon closer inspection are also gorgeous illustrations. These competitor cards also feature details such as height, length, width and weight, along with a brief sentence about the animal featured. The game also includes a weather die, to provide another potential variable for each event, and offers further fodder for debate and discussion. Between the game modes, weather/animal/event combinations, and the creative instincts of the players themselves, this is a game that will likely never play the same way twice.
It’s worth noting that this review refers to the second edition of the game. The number of animals and events are increased from the first edition, and several game modes are new to this edition (some of which may have been from suggestions from this great Shut Up and Sit Down review). If you own the first edition of the game, and aren’t bothered by missing the new content, this is probably not a must buy. If you’re new to the game and it seems like it might be up your alley, you can order it directly from Big Imagination’s website, or request it from your local retailer!
Many games have come before this one asking players to pitch an idea to everyone else at the table – Snake Oil is probably the best of these, and even all of the Apples to Apples clones fall into this ballpark. Most of those other games, unfortunately, have a tendency to tilt in the direction of lewdness in the hands of certain players. The Champion of the Wild is a game that will remain on my shelf for many years to come, because it engages my children in a unique way, and also has the potential for riotous arguments once the littles have gone to bed.
OUR VERDICT: Two Little Thumbs Up AND Two Big Thumbs Up!
The Champion of the Wild (second edition) is a card-based party game for 3 to 8 players, with a playtime of approximately 30 minutes. Published by Big Imagination Games, and designed by Tom Clare, with artwork from Kevin Chapman, Dave Heaton, and Dan Misson. Thank you to Big Imagination Games for sending us a review copy of the game!