Whether you’re reading this with a cat on your lap, walking the dog, or watching some Blue Planet, it’s always a joy to interact with animals. And if you’re looking to add some beast to your next board-gaming session, you can quickly find yourself spoiled for choice.

So, here are eight of our favourite games that have the wonderous world of animals at their core (well, at least as a fancy wrapper anyway). Starting with-

8| Fox in the forest (2017)

A certified classic from the publishers at Renegade, Fox condenses all the fun of trick-taking card games into one gorgeously illustrated package. Paying homage to generations of fairy tales, the aim of the game is to acquire enough points to win. However, if you get too greedy, you can be subject to what can often prove to be crippling penalties. Throw in some ‘special’ cards that activate when played, and you have a stunningly designed game with a world of animals and fantasy at its core.

7| Zooloretto (2007)

Let’s be honest, is one panda ever enough? Feed your lust for animal acquisition in a classic set-collection game from Michael Schacht. Simple enough for kids and adults to play, Zooloretto puts players in charge of their own zoo. Driven by points, players are asked to fill their enclosures with animals from a central bag – letting you load them into trucks and drive them to your zoo. Though this does sound admittedly grim, the acquired animals (all cared for, it’s your zoo after all) land you with more money to upgrade your site and produce the best damn zoo in town!

6| Cat Lady (2017)

Assume your true form with this fun little game about drafting kittens. Marrying set collection with careful card play, Cat Lady pits you against your fellow feline fanciers in a lightweight filler that plays perfectly up to four. Each turn sees players draw up to three cards from a central tableau to acquire cats (naturally) along with accoutrement like food and toys. This adds a management element to the game and brings just the right amount of grit to your table. With a simple teach and reduced running time, it’s well worth picking up for friends, family, and even the most demanding of game nights.

5| Bärenpark (2017)

Ok, you’ve tackled pandas…but can you take on bears?! We mean, the answer is obviously yes – this is an infamously easy to learn game from Phil Walker-Harding that is an absolute joy for nature lovers from all backgrounds. Letting you play as managers; players carefully choose from a selection of tiles that allow them to build their own park. Constructed using polyominoes, players have to juggle the size of their park, optimising their layouts, and keeping their visitors satisfied. But if you’re looking for some truly bloodthirsty beasts, it may be worth considering-

4| Bullfrogs (2015)

Combining cutthroat combat with the least threatening creatures imaginable, Bullfrogs is a quiet gem that is perfect for any fans of tiny toads and the wars they wage. Combining area control with card drafting and movement, the game asks players to hop from lily pad to lily pad as they take out their opponents. Here each tactical decision impacts the next, leading to positions shifting, frogs getting pushed into the drink, and acts of incredible spite being delivered by pushing a tiny wooden amphibian from one space to the next. Simple to learn and with much more depth than an ordinary pond, it should come as no surprise that this robust little gem has real legs.

3| Isle of cats (2019)

From the moment you realise that the title is a pun (say it out loud), Isle offers a fantastic fantasy experience that is unparalleled for animal lovers everywhere. Combining card drafting and tile placement, you take the role of local residents trying to save the residents of the Isle of Cats from the return of an evil sorcerer. This involves making agonising decisions about the pets you choose to save, how much of the island you explore, and how to passive-aggressively jostle with the opposition. And let’s not bury the lede on the art. Each cat is uniquely designed and named, letting you rejoice over the moggies you save and sweat bullets as you try to cram every member of the cat family onto your boat. Proving to be the perfect melange of a multitude of styles, there’s something for everyone in this fan-favourite pick.

2| Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (2012)

Now, we’d like to remind you that nothing on our list specified what was going to eventually happen to the animals in your care. But for those set on the path of animal husbandry, there are few games that do a better job of allowing you to raise critters and accumulate points as a result. The game is a stripped back version of Rosenberg’s classic that allows you to breed all the tiny wooden pigs, chickens, and sheep that you can cultivate – letting players build their infrastructure up around their new charges. The sedate pace and lack of direct conflict makes it perfect for players with a bucolic bent. And all those wooden pieces are adorable enough to be worth the price of admission alone…

1| The Champion of the Wild (2018)

Ever had a heated discussion about how a gorilla would absolutely be the best animal to compete in a sumo wrestling tournament? If not, there’s no time like the present is there? A Kickstarter success story, Champions provides a framework to allow you and your friends to debate about which animal would be best at completing a series of baroque tasks. Playing up to eight, this provides the perfect fodder for any animal loving group of social gamers to dissolve in laughter while determining just how good a squirrel would be at a caber toss, a squid would be at curling, and how an emu would clean house at tag. A joy from start to furry finish.

What is your favourite game for animal lovers?! Tell us in the comments below :)

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